It’s Pride Month folks, and this year marks six years since I first understood I was queer. Given that Naoko Takeuchi’s Japanese manga Sailor Moon was the catalyst for understanding my suppressed orientation, I wanted to take some time to share the other manga, graphic novels, and webcomics that have made me proud to be queer.
Power and Magic: The Queer Witch Anthology
Joamette Gil (editor)
Power & Magic Press
Released by Power and Magic Press in 2016, Joamette Gil recruited a bevy of talented women of color creators to create a fantastic anthology with the themes of magic, witchcraft, and power. The witches depicted in this black-and-white anthology vary along the spectrum of queerness and experiences. One comic that is memorable to this day is titled “Def Together” and features a deaf, dark-skinned Black woman trying to get the romantic attention of a blind, dark-skinned Black woman. There are no speech bubbles in this comic, but the images tell the story with amusing results.
This anthology is probably the first anthology where I’ve enjoyed every single comic in some capacity. It is a comfort read comic book-wise because it showed me that everyday experiences can have a little magic with faith, another person’s kindness, or your own personal creativity.
Mahou Josei Chimaka
Sparkler Monthly (Chromatic Press)
Originally published in 2016 the online magazine Sparkler Monthly (RIP) before becoming a graphic novel, this black and white comic tells the story of what happens when the magical girl grows up. After Chimaka Shi failed to defeat her greatest enemy and broke up with her destined boyfriend fifteen years ago, Chimaka is now muddling through life as a jaded adult. When Chimaka’s enemy returns, she must turn to her best friend Pippa to remember what magic means and regain the power to save the day.
This comic parodies and subverts certain tropes unique to the mahou shoujo genre, such as the transformation phrase and the notion of a predestined boyfriend and life. It also brings together slice-of-life and fantasy elements to create a down to earth, heartwarming comic that tackles the reality of adulthood. Lastly, the art is gorgeous and really enhances the growing relationship between Chimaka and Pippa.
Agents of The Realm
This ongoing comic series takes the simple premise of magical girls in college and ramps it up with compelling lore, a fun cast of characters, and grounded interpersonal moments. It begins with Norah, a Black young woman attending Silvermount University, finding a mysterious brooch on the way home from work. From there, she is thrust into an ongoing battle involving the warriors known as the “agents of the realm”.
In fact, the art and lettering are what drew me into this story and why I have reread Vol. 1 and recently bought Vol. 2. Louis’ facial expressions are unique and her colors are stunning in a way that really makes the action and magic pop. Of course, it certainly helps that almost all the main female leads are bi or lesbian.
Our Dreams at Dusk
Seven Seas Entertainment
If I had to pick one LGBTQ+ manga series to take with me to a desert island, it would be this series. The comic begins with a teenaged gay school boy named Tasuku preparing to kill himself after inadvertently being outed as gay. Before he can do so, he spots a mysterious young woman seemingly preparing to do the same. When he visits a nearby drop-in center for help, he learns that the young woman is okay and that the drop-in center is a haven for LGBTQ+ adults and kids.
This is one of the few comics that I’ve read with both adults and minors who are LGBTQ+, which is meaningful for a few reasons. Not only do the adults serve as a source of guidance and support for the kids, but every character also has a different queer identity and their own arc or backstory that allows for themes beyond coming out. Some examples are standing up for yourself, internalized homophobia, and how one queer experience doesn’t necessarily make you an expert on others. Not to mention, the gorgeous abstract art enhances the character development and the different relationships depicted.