Queers Represent! Web comics with a great queer cast
UPDATE: As my (newly) faithful readers have pointed out, Jamie’s first lady relationshipish thing was not with Erin but with Angel (maybe?) and then definitely with Thea. Thanks for setting me straight…err, right!
Marginalized communities talk a lot about representation, why it matters, how it gets done when it gets done poorly or when it is done well. This conversation and an awareness of it has even entered the mainstream. Shows like South Park, known for ironic humor and sarcasm, have their infamous black character, literally called “Token”, emphasizing one of the main gripes that marginalized people have about representation when it falls flat.
Showing marginalized characters in ways that don’t tokenize can be tricky business and I’m sure each one of us can think of a number of characters in our favorite shows or comics that are painfully tokenizing or limiting (every “lesbian” relationship EVER that happens during sweeps week, for example). And of course no community is ever in complete agreement about what “good” representation is, and what is offensive.
One place where I’ve seen excellent queer characters, ones who are interesting, complex, an integral part of the storyline – and not there to be the “diversity” – are webcomics. Specifically Girls With Slingshots and Questionable Content – two comics I’ve been reading for shit seven or so years. In this article I’m going to discuss the characters of GWS is loving detail and in my next installment I’ll delve into QC story lines and why I like them so much.
So on to GWS.
GWS has a cornucopia of richly developed queer characters, as well as many other characters that break the normative mold of straight, white, and able bodied.
There is Thea and Mimi, newly married and dealing with Thea’s not so accepting mother. The current storyline is focused on Thea’s father reaching out and accepting her and Mimi in contrast to Thea’s mother who refuses to acknowledge them. Thea is an accomplished editor who has worked for a sex magazine while Mimi is an erectile disfunction drug rep and badass roller-derby player. Another recurring character is Thea’s sister, Maya, who is a single mother and cancer survivor, rocking some seriously fantastic jewelry in every scene.
Then, there is Jamie (bisexual) and Erin (asexual); Jamie works in a flower-shop while Erin is a scientist by day and a fabulous treat baker by night. When Jamie and Erin first begin to date Jamie hasn’t been with a girl before or an asexual person, and a significant portion of the comic storyline deals with Jamie learning to understand asexuality and how to treat Erin with respect. There is also time spent on them negotiating relationship boundaries so that they are both happy (they have an open relationship).
Also, there is Darren, a recurring gay character known for his very fabulous drag persona and love of the local bar. This character flirts with being stereotypical,but I think that Daniella (the comic author) managing to walk that line very well with him. Giving him a voice that feels real, authentic, and a persona that is beyond gay window dressing.
Clarice is another one of my other favorite characters, she is a librarian by day and a dominatrix by night. However, she is closeted to many in her life about her other job, leading to awkward, comedic situations when she claims that her secret job is really that of a dancer. But, contrary to the way I have seen BDSM displayed in other places, her job and struggle to tell people in her life what she does isn’t trivialized, nor is she presented as someone who needs to be fixed or someone who is broken in some way. Much to my delight her storyline has continued to develop around a romantic interest for her and how she chooses to tell him about being a dominatrix (spoiler alert: he doesn’t try to change her or act as though what she does is deviant or wrong).
There are many more characters like this, each with their own complex backstory. Danielle takes a lot of time with her characters, talking to the communities her characters are a part of to make sure she is getting it right.
That kind of careful representation matters to me, not only because I am queer and seeing other queer characters is refreshing and affirming, but also because seeing many characters who are different from me helps me to learn and appreciate different communities and the people in them.
Next up I’ll be looking at Questionable Content. And please share your favorite comics in the comments!
There has been much squeeing at my house around QC lately. Claire and Marten OTP!
Oh man! Are we talking about LGBT in webcomics?
Oh Human Star is a delightful mystery story with a inter-generational gay couple and a MTF character. Everybody feels real and realized.
Buying Time is a cyberpunk romance between a shy, working class guy and an affable middle class guy. They live in a terrible future ruled by “social credit” that lets you buy time to spend with people. Comic doesn’t shy away from the sex stuff but is not pornographic.
Oh Joy A Sex Toy is a webcomic that reviews sex toys. Very NSFW but includes couplings of a wide diversity of bodytypes and gender presentations.
Gunngerkrigg Court is about two awesome school girls in a strange, industrial school that sits across from a magical forest. One of the two main characters is a lesbian.
I have so many of these you have no idea!!!
I am not certain whether Kat is a lesbian, since she had that boyfriend earlier (who, it turns out, is a bird), but she is in a caring same-sex relationship.
Yeah you’re probably right. I don’t have a “lesbian certainty index” or something similarly clinical sounding for Kat. I really meant to say that she was in a same-sex relationship that’s super cute.
Agreed. Kat and Paz are super cute.
Yes, yes, yes! GWS is wonderful! I haven’t been keeping up with QC, but I think I need to get back on the bandwagon 🙂
Let me add a few to the mix.
Rooster Tails is a semi-autobiographical cartoon of Sam Orchard, a transman in New Zealand.
As the Crow Flies is about Charlie, a queer teenager and person of color, who ends up at an all-white Christian backpacking camp. Recently, one of the other kids was revealed to be transgender. It’s all wonderfully illustrated in colorful pencil and has been very sweet overall.
What is Normal Anyway? Is a webcomic that’s been ‘compeled’ about a young trans guy’s coming out and daily life. As a transwoman, I found some of it triggering (the mastectomy celebration, for example), but I totally get why a trans-guy would want to throw a party. There are several other queer characters as well.
Thanks for all the suggestions! So many awesome comics to follow.
I have spent the last weekend reading Girls With Slingshots. Love it!
The only one that I would ad is http://kimchicuddles.com/ which I also adore.
I love GWS a whole bunch! One niggle… didn’t Jamie give it a whirl in bed with Thea before meeting Erin? I’m flashing on Thea’s list of “Girls I turned Straight”. Which happened before either of them met their current luvs.
Louis, you are so right! I went back and reread the old comics and updated to reflect that!