For the newbie: a well-rounded introduction to LGBT comics via the anthologies No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, edited by Justin Hall (Fantagraphics Books), and Anything That Loves, edited by Charles Zan Christensen (Northwest Press). The 2013 Lambda Literary Award–winning No Straight Lines is a 300-page exploration of the 40-year history of queer cartooning, featuring pioneers like Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Ellen Forney, and David Wojnarowicz. Anything That Loves is a 200-page collection of comics by bisexual artists and comics addressing bisexuality.
For the connoisseur: One of the Best of 2013 (see our full list next week), Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics) is a remarkable literary work that compresses 100 years into 100 pages and demonstrates how dramatically life changed for gay men between 1900 and 2000.
For the hip pop-culturalist: Inside Mad, edited by John Ficarra (Time Home Entertainment). From the moment you notice that the introduction was written by some dude named Judd Apatow, you’ll begin to suspect that this isn’t just another Mad Magazine anthology. It started as project in which Mad contributors wrote about their favorite material or mused on the collaborative process between writers and artists, and quickly morphed into something more. Interwoven between contributor reminiscence are pieces by Hollywood celebrities reflecting on their favorite Mad panels and how Mad influenced their careers and changed their lives. From Survivor host Jeff Probst to comedian Roseanne Barr, from L.A. Law actor Harry Hamlin to quirky director David Lynch, from talk show host George Lopez to Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, the contributors run the gambit of pop-culture icons.
For those who prefer their graphic novels triple-X-rated: The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: Master of Gay Erotic Manga by Gengoroh Tagame (PictureBox). Marking the first time work by this gay erotic manga legend has been available in an English translation, this anthology, edited by Chip Kidd and Graham Kolbeins collects 10 short stories dating from 1990 to 2012. The introduction by Edmund White is just icing on an already delicious cake. Then there's Big Loads: The Class Comics Stash, Volume 1, edited by Patrick Fillion and Robert Fraser (Bruno Gmunder Verlag Gmbh). A collection of six of Class Comics' hottest gay adult titles from 2012, this anthology features the comics in their entirety, not to mention some of the hottest art in the business.
For manga fans: The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics). The stylistic graphic novels known as “Boys Love” manga are enormously popular, known for their boys' school settings, stirring same-sex attractions, social formality, and repressed homoeroticism. Those tropes — and imagery familiar in manga, anime, and Japanese comics — all owe their existence to Moto Hagio's pioneering The Heart of Thomas. Now issued for the first time in America, Heart of Thomas may have sprung from the mid-1970s, but it remains remarkably engrossing, moving, and relevant. The love story is also a mystery, slowly revealing why a young boy fell (or jumped) to his death.
Wandering Son, Volumes 1-4 by Shimura Takako (Fantagraphics): These four installments of a wonderful graphic novel series out of Japan feature two grade-school friends navigating their emerging transgender identities while dealing with the perils of childhood: bullies, unrequited crushes, physiological changes, dress codes, dramatic fights with best friends, moral dilemmas, and interfering (or oblivious) parents. An amazing series, Wandering Son offers an unusual glimpse into the lives of gender-nonconforming kids. Suitable for readers 13 and older and engaging enough to keep readers of all ages impatiently awaiting next year’s Volume 5.
For fans of sci-fi/Fantasy: Artifice by Alex Woolfson (AMW Comics) and Flutter: Volume One: Hell Can Wait by Jennie Wood (CreateSpace). These two self-produced graphic novels are proof that independent comics can produce unique and inventive storylines. Artifice’s gay android and Flutter’s shape-shifting bisexual teen offer unique viewpoints for examining the LGBT experience. Both works are also noteworthy for their compelling artwork and their complex stories, which explore issues like genetic engineering, environmental pollution, and the potential perils of identifying a “gay gene.”
For fans of grrrl power: God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls. by Jamie Hernandez (Fantagraphics) In this nontradional superhero yarn, Hernandez expands on a Love and Rockets storyline. Maggie’s new roommate attempts to join one of the all-girl bands of superheroes, but she keeps getting rejected for not being super enough. The butchy fat girl eventually finds her home among the previously retired Ti-Girls. As usual, Hernandez does a great job of creating female characters of all sizes, ages, and sexualities, and it’s refreshing to see these women don their costumes and save — or possibly destroy — the world.