Nearly 1200 webcomics populate the online library created and managed by Luma Lilac, a 21-year-old "genderly queer" asexual archivist who maintains the library in their spare time. Most of the webcomics featured include at least one LGBTQ character. Others include disabled characters, are women-led, or feature people of color.
The archive has its roots in a 2014 Google spreadsheet of links Luma created of comics, TV shows, and other things friends had recommended that Lilac kept, "so when I had free time, I could find something new to entertain me." Then one friend began recommending webcomics, and, Lilac says, "the moment I started reading them on a whim I got hooked. I fell in love with the medium and the community that made it all come to life."
It wasn't long before Lilac switched from just tracking recommendations to sharing information with others. They launched a blog, The Link Librarian, which was dedicated to sharing information of interest to the LGBTQ and disabled communities. Lilac is themselves neuro-atypical.
"I work with anxiety and have a generalized neurological processing disorder," they explain. "My disability is on the same spectrum of disorders like autism, ADHD, and the dyslexia spectrum, but my symptoms don't quite fit any of those terms. Specifically it affects my short-term memory as well as my ability to process information."
Lilac says TheLink Librarian was spawned in part by what they "found helpful in my own discovery of identity. A lot of this expansion came from personal events going on in my life and in the lives of my friends and family. It came from an aching need to do something that helped others when I struggled to help myself and those closest to me. While it was done with good intentions the reasons behind it made this a very dark point in my life."
But out of that darkness came Lilac's embracing their queer identity, which they define as "my gender matching up best to genderfluid and nonbinary and sexual/romantic orientation being on both the asexual and aromantic spectrums."
Lilac dove into the ace community, becoming a part of an asexual chatroom, where they eventually served as a moderator.
"People would often come to me for links for information on LGBT+ topics as well as where to find representation of their identities," Lilac recalls. "Webcomics were often my go to as they were my main source of reading and I found that sharing stories I found with others brought back a happiness and intimacy I hadn't felt in a long time. I made an entirely different spreadsheet dedicated to sharing only webcomics for reference in the chat as well as for myself." Then, "On November 26th 2016, Ace Day," Lilac unveiled a new blog "to share the webcomics that I loved and help others find the stories and representation they were craving."
Lilac says they've found that LGBTQ representation is fairly widespread in the webcomic world. "From what I have seen having at least one queer character in a webcomic is pretty common in the webcomic community! You'll find queer characters shown in a variety of ways, ranging from being a focal point of a story to casually being mentioned by the characters to being confirmed though the creators themselves. With so many LGBT+ people both reading and creating comics it makes sense to have that type of representation be so commonplace."
"In the comics themselves, you find a vast variety of stories and characters from so many different backgrounds," Lilac says, about the diversity within the milieu and why they find it compelling. "Within the medium of comic reading you find it more accessible than other mediums through the use of visual and textual cues."
Webcomics are also more accessible for creators than the traditional print comic industry. "In their creation there's the ability to take it all at your own pace. One page at a time you look back and see not only how much you've created but how you have improved overtime. In the community of creators you find people who are LGBT+, disabled, people of color, and unique for so many different reasons all coming together to tell their own stories through the same song and dance made entirely their own. Finally, in the webcomic community as a whole you find an amazing group of people cheering one another on and inspiring each other to do more than they ever though they could at their own pace. There's an accessibility and openness to webcomics as both a reader and creator that makes being yourself feel accepted and sometimes even celebrated!"
While Lilac does see online comics as offering "new platforms and mediums of expression," they are quick to point out that comics have long been an industry where outsiders can thrive. "Comics," they say, have "often been a medium for showing perspectives you don't often see. Captain America was written by Jewish men and Wonder Woman was written by a man in a polyamorous relationship with two women just to give a couple of examples. Now we have a new generation taking the medium and making it their own with new tools and a new perspective. This perspective not only includes unique takes on all types of genres but a desire to push the envelope even further to show more LGBT, disabled, POC and other minorities in center stage."
The webcomic library is currently archived on Tagpacker.com, a site that allows Lilac to use tags and tagpacks to organize the links so they are easily searchable and sortable by readers. "I have tags describing everything from when a comic was made to trigger warnings to LGBT and disabilities represented," Lilac explains. "When it comes to LGBT+ representation, I have a variety of tags ranging from being more specific like 'Demi-Gender' and 'Heteroflexible' to more broad descriptions like 'Trans Spectrum' and 'Queer/Questioning.' I try to be specific when I can for the people looking for specific types of representation but there are times when someone's identity isn't so clear cut, so I make sure to make tags for those peeps as well!"
Although they have a system that other people can use to suggest additions to the library, Lilac says, "Out of the 1186 comics in my library, about 136 of those were submitted by others, making up about 11 percent of my library. The rest is found, read, and researched in my free time."
Lilac, who holds down two part-time jobs in the food industry, does all the upkeep themselves. Still, they encourage LGBTQ webcomic creators -- and their fans -- to use the submission template or email suggestions directly to them at WebComicLibrary@gmail.com, because, "Having people submit their webcomics and fill in the gaps not only makes my work more accurate but also helps me cover more than I could on my own."
Those who want to provide financial support for the webcomic library can do so through the patronage site Ko-Fi.