2020 has shown a strong increase in LGBTQIA+ representation in graphic novels, especially in middle grade. Supporting queer youth by making them feel seen is an important endeavor, and we’ve gathered a selection of noteworthy graphic novels from this year that do just that.
Published in partnership with GLAAD, North’s collected webcomic imagines a queer futuristic romance in an alternate Australia where people change their bodies with various modifications. Sunati, who uses many mods, and Austen, who has an immune condition that prohibits mod use, cross paths and fall in love.
Goblin Beetle and skeletal, undead Kat Hollowbone used to be friends. Now, Beetle is preoccupied with saving her new friend Blob Ghost while Kat focuses on impressing her magical mentor: her abusive aunt Marla. As they work together, buried feelings blossom between Beetle and Kat. This book received a starred review from PW.
Collecting entries from webcomics site The Nib, this anthology features LGBTQIA+ millennial and Gen-Z contributors highlighting the triumphs and trials of living queer in today’s world. From navigating clueless therapists to chronicling dysphoria, these stories capture the wide breadth of the queer experience for readers.
Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Stones
Ukazu’s triumphant ending to this long-running webcomic collects ice hockey player Eric Bittle’s last two years at Samwell University. As he and his new secret boyfriend Jack—former team captain, now professional player—navigate their relationship, they work to decide how to reveal their new status as partners to their families, friends, and teammates.
Twins Hawke and Grayson flee for their lives when their cousin Reyden threatens their claim to House Sunderlay, a kingdom in a vaguely medieval world. They hide in the Communion as young initiatives, disguising themselves as “Hanna” and “Grayce,” where they learn self-defense and more as Grayce realizes she’s more herself than she’s ever been.
On a trip to San Francisco with her mother, Kiku Hughes, 16, finds herself pulled back in time to a Japanese internment camp during WWII. As she learns more about her history, coming close to crossing paths with her maternal grandmother, she develops feelings for fellow prisoner May Ide.
Fourteen year-old Aiden Navarro tries to enjoy Boy Scout summer camp before starting public high school. As he endures relentless taunts from his camp peers, he perseveres through suicidal ideation and reconciles his sexuality.
Charlie Spring—14, lanky, and openly gay—and Nick Nelson—16, burly, and a straight rugby player—become an unlikely pair in this slice-of-life graphic novel. As Charlie and Nick go through the year at their English all-boys school, they start to develop feelings for one another.
How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual
Asexuality is one of the most overlooked identities on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Burgess’s debut graphic memoir shows her experience growing up, surrounded by all kinds of media that supported the idea that everyone is supposed to want and like sex.
Nonbinary high school first-year Mogumo Ryuunosuke struggles to find friends, which leads classmate Iwaoka Tetsu to arrange a job for them at Question, his family’s cross-dressing maid café run by his trans older sister. Mogumo meets peers who also live outside society’s rigid concepts of gender.
The Magic Fish
Tiến shares his favorite fairytales with his Vietnamese parents to bridge the language barrier between them as he decides whether or not to tell them he’s gay. Nguyen dresses a memorable queer coming-of-age story in intricately woven monochrome art.
The classic ragtag-sports-team narrative evolves with Leong’s diverse ensemble of teens brought together by the new biology teacher/basketball coach. Each struggles with elements of their daily life, including difficult families and harassment; however, basketball pulls them into orbit as they learn to support one another.
Set in the early ’90s, the graphic novel follows Val, a teenager from a conservative family, who enters into the world of punk rock that eschews society’s expectations to conform. Together with Kat and Rudie, new friends from the punk rock scene, Val forms an all-girl punk band called The Proper Ladies.
Virginia “Ginny” Crane leaves her father behind as she explores a post-earthquake world in search of her mother. Her two younger brothers leave without their father’s permission to join her on the search, which complicates things. Throughout the journey, multiple queer romances are revealed.
Middle schooler Snapdragon crosses paths with a purported witch, an older woman named Jacks who resides in the woods. Featuring a trans character, Leyh’s story highlights varied queer experiences as Snapdragon learns more about her family and Jacks’ past. The book received a starred review from PW.
Som’s debut coming-of-age graphic memoir chronicles fictional trans young adult Anjali, a stand-in for Som and her own experience as a trans Bengali-American. Witty and inventive, these diary-style comics tell the tale of Anjali growing up in New York City before pursuing comics full-time.
The Times I Knew I Was Gay
Crewes’s zine-style comic reflects on her life and the times she knew deep down she was gay: identifying with Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and struggling with hetero crushes and Tinder. When she finally admits her same-sex attractions, a whole new world opens up.
Lelek, a witch, and Sanja, skilled with a blade, become an unlikely pair as they travel together making a living by challenging local witches to prize fights. As their adventures continue, a bond develops between them that blossoms into something more.
You Brought Me the Ocean
High school senior Jake Hyde dreams of studying oceanography, yet he hasn’t touched water since childhood. While exploring his budding feelings for out swim team captain Kenny Liu, Jake gets swept up in a desert flash flood that reveals latent hydrokinesis he must learn to control.