Pride Month: LGBTQIA+ Representation in Comics!

SJPL Graphic Novel Contest

The SJPL Graphic Novel Contest began on June 1st! The last day is July 31st. The contest is open to people of all ages. Prizes are given out to the winners for each age group, all San Jose residents are encouraged to participate!

Queer Representation in Comics

As a queer person, the fact that I can go into a comics shop (or the library) and see positive representation of LGBTQ+ people among the materials available has only been a possibility since the 1990s. The comic industry has not always been welcoming, including the establishment of the 1954 Comics Code Authority which prohibited any suggestion of homosexuality, among other things. As I reflect on PRIDE and the role of LGBTQ+ representation in comics, two moments stand out for me personally. 

The first moment occurred when I was a kid in 1993, reading For Better Or For Worse in the comics section of the newspaper. I remember a teenager named Lawrence tell his mother that he was gay. It was an authentic moment, a kid admitting he liked boys. Lawrence's friends and family let him know he was loved and accepted for who he was. Yet this storyline got the strip pulled from newspapers and the creator received death threats.  For many people, however, this was an important story to tell; a comic strip became a turning point in their lives, whether because they saw themselves as Lawrence or as Lawrence's friends & family. 

There is a second important moment for me in comics.  Back when I was an "egg" (a term used to describe a transgender person before they are aware they are transgender), I read The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. It had queer characters of all varieties, including a transgender woman named Wanda. In the story A Game Of You, Wanda stood up for who she is and helped her friend Barbie fight The Cuckoo. Although Wanda doesn't survive the battle there is a powerful act of defiance by Barbie against Wanda's former family. They had "deadnamed" her (in this case literally) by putting Wanda's former name on her tombstone. Barbie crosses out the deadname on the tombstone and writes "Wanda" in bright lipstick. Gaiman made Wanda sympathetic, and more importantly, he showed she was just another person worthy of respect and love. Gaiman was once asked by a fan why he included a transgender person in The Sandman, to which he replied, “because no one else was doing it.” I thank Mr. Gaiman for that. 

San José Public Library strives to make sure there are materials representing all the wonderful people in our diverse city. In celebration of Pride month, I'd like to share a list of some of the great new comic titles that the library has to offer! 

New Queer Comics to Check Out!

Cover of the book Gaytheist: Coming out of my orthodox childhood

Gaytheist by Lonnie Mann

A coming-of-age graphic novel memoir about a young man who, growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community, realizes he's gay and struggles to reconcile his faith with who he is.

Cover of book: I'm So Glad We Had This Time TogetherI'm So Glad We Had This Time Together by Maurice Vellekoop

Meet little Maurice Vellekoop, the youngest of five children raised by Dutch immigrants in the 1970s in a middle class suburb of Toronto. He loves watching Cher and Carol Burnett on TV, making clothes for his best friend's Barbie dolls, and helping his mum with her hair salon which she runs out of the basement of the house. In short: he is really, really gay. Which is a huge problem, because his family is part of the Christian Reformed Church, a strict Calvinist sect, which is not accepting of homosexuality to say the least. 

Cover of book MimosaMimosa by Archie Bongiovanni

Best friends and chosen family Chris, Elise, Jo, and Alex work hard to keep themselves afloat. Their regular brunches hold them together even as the rest of their lives threaten to fall apart. In an effort to avoid being the oldest gays at the party, the crew decides to put on a new queer event called Grind-specifically for homos in their dirty thirties. Grind is a welcome distraction from their real problems: after a messy divorce, Chris adjusts to being a single parent while struggling to reconnect to their queer community. Elise is caught between feelings for her boss and the career of her dreams. Jo tries to navigate the murky boundaries of being a supportive friend and taking care of her own needs. And Alex is guarding a secret that might change his friendships forever. While navigating exes at work, physical and mental exhaustion, and drinking way, way too much on weekdays, this chosen family proves that being messy doesn't always go away with age.

Cover of book: The Color of Always: An LGBTIA+ Love AnthologyThe Color of Always 

The Color of Always is a collection of personal stories, testimonies, heirlooms, evocations, and evangelisms for queer creators and readers that celebrates feeling good about who you are and coming into your own at last.

A graphic novel anthology of slice-of-life romance stories from across the spectrum of LBTQIA+ experience.



Cover of book: !Ay, Mija!

In this memoir, Christine Suggs explores a trip they took to Mexico to visit family, as Christine embraces and rebels against their heritage and finds a sense of belonging.

Cover of book Project Nought

Project Nought by Chelsey Furedi

Ren Mittal's last memory in the year 1996 is getting on a bus to visit his mystery pen pal Georgia. When he wakes up in 2122, he thinks he might be hallucinating...he's not! Tech conglomerate Chronotech sponsors a time-travel program to help students in 2122 learn what history was really like...from real-life subjects who've been transported into the future...and Ren is one of them. In 2122, Ren's life in the 1990s is practically ancient history--and Ren's not sure how to feel about that. On top of it all, he learns that his memory will be wiped of all things 2122 before he's sent back to the '90s. Adding to Ren's complicated feels, he's forming a crush on his student guide, Mars. And when he crosses paths with the absolute last person he expected to see in the future, he has a bigger problem on his hands: What if Chronotech isn't the benevolent organization they claim to be, and he and his fellow subjects are in great danger?

Cover of book Boyfriends: Refrainbow, Volume 2

Boyfriends by Rerainbow

Boy meets boy . . . meets boy . . . meets boy! It's the start of senior year in college, and Jock, Goth, Nerd, and Prep are officially boyfriends! With the support of cute boyfriends, school should be a breeze . . . right? With their powers combined, the polycule might just be able to talk Nerd out of overloading his schedule and help Goth finally learn what a credit is. Through navigating the adventures of dating life, the boyfriends come to understand themselves and each other in new and profound ways.

Cover of The Ojja Wojja

The Ojja-Wojja by Magdalene Visaggio

While working on a school project about Bolingbroke's supernatural history, best-friend eighth graders Val and Laurie accidentally unleash a demonic presence connected to a series of mysterious tragedies throughout their town's sordid history and must find a way to return things to normal.
Welcome to Bolingbroke. It's a small town just like any other . . . or so eighth graders Val and Lanie think. They're the best of best friends--they love the same comics, they watch the same shows, and they're always there for each other. Which is important when you're queer, like Lanie, or on the spectrum, like Val, and just don't seem to fit in anywhere. When a school project about their hometown's supernatural history leads to a for-real ghost sighting, Val and Lanie realize Bolingbroke might not be as boring as they'd always thought. But after a run-in with the resident middle school queen bee (who also happens to be Lanie's former friend), they decide to take things to the next level . . . and accidentally summon the Ojja-Wojja, a demonic presence connected to a slew of mysterious tragedies throughout Bolingbroke's sordid history. Now all heck has broken loose. With the whole town acting weird and nowhere left to turn, it's going to be up to Val, Lanie, and their small group of friends to return things to normal--if "normal" is even something they want to return to.