Stella Maxwell
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The Best LGBTQ Graphic Novels of 2019

Top Graphic novels of 2019 cover images

The number of LGBTQ graphic novels — both fiction and nonfiction  — continues to grow, and this year that was particularly true in the young adult category. Many of these illustrated works may be aimed at younger readers, but that won't stop the rest of from enjoying them as well.  Here are the best LGBTQ graphic novels of 2019 (in alphabetical order):

Bloom by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau is a sweet coming of age love story about baking and two boys falling for each other. Ari has just graduated from high school and is ready to escape his sleepy beachside town for the big city with dreams of making it in a band. Instead, he’s stuck helping out in his parents’ Greek bakery. When the recently heart-broken talented baker Hector moves to town, Ari convinces his dad to hire the young man, thinking it will aid his escape. But as Ari trains Hector their relationship blooms, and it becomes clear Hector is actually an impediment to Ari’s efforts to leave. Then a tragic accident puts all of their futures at risk, and everything is made worse when Ari blames it on Hector instead of telling the more complicated truth. Can Ari grow up enough to admit what he’s done—and that he’s fallen in love, both with Hector (and through him) with baking itself? The engaging and cute illustrations demonstrate how far a single color can go. (First Second)

Cover of Bloom graphic novel featuring two young men on a beach

 

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn (Bad with Money) and illustrated by Claire Roe When cub reporter Madison Jackson digs into a grisly murder she uncovers more than she bargained for. The noir mystery is rich with complex characters from bisexual Asian-American Madison to fellow reporter and butch African-American lesbian Lexington Ford to Paris-born sexy siren Dahlia Kennedy and bisexual Irish detective Dominick O’Shane. Madison gets the story of a lifetime, but she goes to questionable lengths to get it, and it has unintended consequences to those Madison cares about most. (Simon & Schuster/Boom! Studios)

Cover of Bury the Lede graphic novel featuring a blue image of Asian-American woman with glassesB

 

Catboy by Benji Nate is a collection from the hit webcomic from Vice as well as additional unreleased comics, Catboy fashion, and bonus artwork. Olive wishes her black cat could be her best friend, and he magically becomes a cat boy, who speaks English and stands on two feet but is unfamiliar with human customs. After his transformation, Olive thinks her cat Henry shouldn’t be naked, so he puts on her clothes and continues to raid her closet throughout the story. Henry is adorable in dresses, skirts, and shorts; and his gender-bending sense of style mostly goes unremarked-upon in a lovely, normalizing way. He’s just a boy rocking cute dresses. Sometimes Henry is better at being human than Olive (he becomes friends with the popular girls) but other times Henry is utterly cat—gifting Olive a dead bird and shredding all the toilet paper. The muted four-color pastels and big head, big-eyed characters make Catboy all the more endearing. (Silver Sprocket)

Cover of Catboy graphic novel featuring a girl and a cat boy wearing matching clothes

 

Dragtastic: The Legendary Book of Fun, Facts, and Fabulosity, written by Crystal Rasmussen OBE and illustrated by Richard Williams, is one part illustrated biography about famous drag performers, and one part activity book which includes paper dolls and glorious wigs and outrageous outfits fit to dress the queens. It's light reading, but the fact that you can buy a book on drag at Walmart is a sign of changing times. (Bloomsbury Caravel)

Cover of Dragtastic: The Legendary Book of Fun, Facts, and Fabulosity featuring a drag queen

 

Gender Queer: A Memoir Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns. This compelling graphic memoir reveals Kobabe’s search for a gender identity and expression (and sexuality) that feels right. The nonbinary comic artist struggles with gender dysphoria but ultimately discovers that eir is happiest presenting as a feminine masculine person (the skater Johnny Wier and designs by Alexander McQueen become eir touchstones). Kobabe also shares eir sexual journey — from eir arousal over gay male couplings, eir (not always successful) attempts at masturbation, making out and having sex the first time at 25—as part of research for her gay shipping fanfiction—and ultimate ambivalence over future encounters. Along the way Kobabe tackles questions about misogyny, introduces us to other queer and gender-nonconforming comic artists, and delves into neurological (versus genital) fetal development. (Lion Forge)

Cover of Gender Queer: A Memoir featuring a masculine girl looking at eir reflection who is a feminine boy

 

Gravity's Pull by MariNaomi is the second in the Life on Earth young adult trilogy in which a high school student may have been abducted by aliens. MariNaomi effectively alters her graphic style each time narrators change, expressing her artistic skills. In an interview earlier this year MariNaomi said "those of us living in liminal and marginalized spaces, by the very nature of our existence, have plenty of forced experience pushing societal boundaries,"  and added, "that's the thing I love about working in the comics medium — there are plenty of boundaries to push, lots that has never been done before." Gravity's Pull is a great example of MariNaomi's boundary busting. (Graphic Universe/Lerner)

cover of Gravity's Pull featuring illustration of silhouettes of five people with big eyes

 

Kiss Number 8 is written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated in black and white by Ellen T. Crenshaw. It’s 2004, and Amanda has a comfortable routine between attending Catholic high school and church, watching TV with her dad and spending time with her best friend, Cat. Then two things disrupt her life—she realizes she’s probably in love with Cat, and she learns she might have more in common with her dad than she imagined. Woven through the story about Amanda’s eighth kiss is a comparison of LGBTQ experiences across generations and the understanding that while it can still be difficult today, there’s more hope for eventual happiness than there once was. There are real-life consequences to the decisions Amanda makes and the actions she takes, and some of them create complications not easily resolved, a refreshing complexity for a young adult title. (First Second/US MacMillan)

Cover of Kiss Number 8 featuring a girl whispering in another girl's ear

 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. Laura Dean is the hottest girl in school and Freddy is obsessed with her. Her love seems to be requited, and then it’s not. Every time it seems like they are back together Laura dumps Freddy. Laura ignores Freddy for weeks then demands her full and undivided attention and Freddy eagerly complies. Eventually, Freddy realizes Laura isn’t good for her, and worse, being with Laura has turned Freddy into a bad friend: she wasn’t there when her BFF needed her most. Fabulous art and additional queer characters help make this graphic novel one of the year’s best. (First Second)

Cover of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me graphic novel

 

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu follows childhood friends Nova and Tam who reconnect as adults. Both Chinese-American, queer, and from unconventional families. Tam is nonbinary, Nova is hard-of-hearing—both characteristics that aren’t so much pointed out, as they are simply noted: Tam uses the pronoun they, Nova mentions her hearing aids in passing (the hearing aids later play a role in the story too). While investigating supernatural happenings in their hometown, the two fall in love and develop their own magical powers. Nova is from a long line of witches, and Tam a werewolf under attack by dark forces that want to harness her wolf magic for evil. (Roar)

       

Cover of Mooncakes graphic novel featuring a girl witch and girl werewolf
                               

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G. & J.R. Zuckerberg. This primer for young readers offers a quick introduction to a variety of gender and sexual identities and the difference between them. Perhaps more compelling if the main characters were human rather than snails and genderless forest creatures, but that choice probably helps it feel less threatening to the adults who police the reading materials for tweens. (Limerence Press/Simon & Schuster)

Cover of A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities featuring pink mushroom and snails

 

Resistance: The LGBT Fight Against Fascism in WWII by Avery Cassell is part queer history, part coloring book, part inspiration for today’s resistance to the Trump administration. Biographies of World War II resistance fighters are illustrated with colorable portraits from LGBTQ comic artists like Tara Madison Avery, Jennifer Camper, Jon Macy, and Justin Hall. (Stacked Deck Press)

Cover of Resistance: The LGBT Fight Against Fascism in WWII featuring woman resistance fighter

 

Dedicated “to our queer and trans ancestors,” Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman is a historical young adult graphic novel set in the Old West. During the Civil War, Ghost Hawk, a young Native American woman, robs stagecoaches in New Mexico Territory, and kidnaps a Georgian debutant who turns out to be a trans woman. While the illustrations don’t shy away from revealing masculine details like her 5 o’clock shadow, Grace is never presented as or responded to as anything but the lady she is. The two women team up and, in the process of robbing a Confederate party, fall in love. (Graphic Universe/Lerner Books)

Cover of Stage Dreams featuring a Native American woman and white trans woman on a horse

 

Puberty can be confusing. Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up by sex education expert and Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna and illustrated by Isabella Rotman offers a quick guide to the uncharted waters as five friends of different races, sexualities, and genders explore the turbulence of adolescence. With advice like “genitals ARE weird, but that’s okay,” the book encourages “emotional maturity,” mutual respect, and relying on friends. (Oni Press)

Cover of Wait, What? featuring a diverse group of teens

 

When I Arrived at The Castle by Emily Carroll. This gothic encounter between a lady vampire and a catwoman may be a lesbian love story or a gory revenge tale. The text is sparse and the vivid illustrations are poetic in their openness to interpretation. But either way, it’s a bloody good tale.  (Koyama Press)

 

Cover of When I Arrived at the Castle featuring catwoman and vampiress embracing with blood dripping from their mouths

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