Julio’s Day, Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics): Julio’s Day compresses 100 years into 100 pages and follows Julio’s life from birth to death. A remarkable literary work that demonstrates how universal some experiences are (and the global reach of events like war and economic depression), Julio’s Day is the story of how dramatically life has changed for gay men between 1900 and 2000.
Artifice, Alex Woolfson (AMW Comics): In a future where a gay gene has been identified, it is illegal to discriminate against homosexuals, but few gays and lesbians exist, since most parents choose to not to carry such children to term. On a remote planet, one teen has escaped this destiny only to become the sole survivor of an android soldier’s deadly military mission. The two unlikely partners fall in love and the android becomes the boy’s protector. This engaging graphic novel story is told in flashback from through the android’s psychotherapy sessions, in which he is being evaluated by the military to decide if he needs to be deactivated.
Flutter: Volume One: Hell Can Wait, Jennie Wood (CreateSpace): This story about a teen with superpowers and the ability to shape-shift is so much more than a superhero story or a metaphor for the transgender condition. When the teenage protagonist transforms from female to male, it exposes the gender stereotypes and arbitrary cultural rules that treat certain (particularly sexual) behaviors differently depending on if they’re from a boy or a girl. The complex story also involves transgenetic experimentation, environmental pollution, international espionage, lesbian love, and an anti-gay marriage campaign.
Transposes, Dylan Edwards (Fantagraphics): In Transposes, Dylan Edwards uses Alison Bechdel-like drawings to illustrate stories pulled from the real lives of six queer trans men. By reflecting the diversity of life paths, identities, and sexual experiences that nonhetero trans men can have, Transposes brings much-needed visibility to gay, bisexual, poly, and otherwise queer men who happen to be trans.
Anything That Loves, edited by Charles Zan Christensen (Northwest Press): A 200-page anthology of bisexuality in comics, Anything That Loves features work from well-known cartoonists like Adam Pruett, Erika Moen, Nick Leonard, and Tania Walker. The vignettes are quite varied and provide a wide range of characters in both sexual and nonsexual experiences. As in any anthology, some work is better than others, but Anything That Loves deserves applause simply for demonstrating the complexity and diversity of bisexual experiences — and their reflection in comics.
Honorable mention: Blue Is the Warmest Color, Julie March (Arsenal Pulp Press) Although not essentially new this year, 2013 did see the first English translation of the French graphic novel that inspired the acclaimed independent film. Blue Is the Warmest Color is a lesbian love story that demonstrates the long-term psychological damage of familial homophobia and ostracization on both individuals and couples.