I first started reading LGBTQIA+ webcomics around the age of 14, when I accidentally stumbled upon a Japanese genre called Yaoi and Shounen ai. Translated as ‘boy love’, these are genres that depict a love story between two males, and are quite popular in both Japanese manga (comics) and anime (animation).
At the time it was hard to find other stories that portrayed same-sex relationships, so, initially, I thought they were great. It was only in my later years, when I realized how fetishised and often abusive the stories were, that I decided to put them behind me.
(That is not to say that there aren’t manga and anime stories out there that have been great. The recent series Yuri on Ice gained massive support for being progressive in its portrayal of a realistic same-sex relationship.)
Personally, when it comes to LGBTQIA+ themes, webcomics have always been my go-to places. Webcomics can be written and drawn by practically anyone, and there are plenty of free platforms to upload them, such as Tapastic and Smack Jeeves.
What I love most about them is the freedom they give you to tell your story in your own voice, unlike the mainstream industry where plots are often dictated by someone else. I firmly believe that the stories I’ve chosen to talk about here would not have existed if it wasn’t for webcomics.
It wasn’t easy to pick just 10 webcomics, as there are many that should have made this list. I wanted to pick a diverse range of stories that didn’t portray only sexual orientations, gender identities, or stories we are already familiar with. It was important for me to include stories about healthy relationships that LGBTQIA+ people could relate to. It is no surprise that a lot of these great stories were created by authors who themselves are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Warning: Some of these reviews may contain spoilers.
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Drama (featuring all-female, women of colour and queer themes)
Illustrated and Written by Mildred Louis
This series will probably appeal to those of you who were madly in love with magical girls series like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. Agents Of The Realm boasts an all-female cast, most of them being women of colour, and on top of that, they are all queer.
It features at least one consistent love story between two women, and what’s particularly refreshing about their relationship is that they are both women of colour. During my webcomic research, it was quite hard to find stories about two women or two men of colour being in a relationship, so in this sense Agents of the Realm really sets the benchmark high for other webcomics out there.
Genre: Supernatural, Sci-fi, Psychedelic (featuring interracial relationships, non-binary and queer themes)
Illustrated and Written by Alan Kaplan
Set in the aftermath of an alien invasion, Full-Spectrum Therapy tells the story of a troubled relationship between Damien and Quin, and their friends. While they try to fix the mistakes of the past, Damien and Quin run into trouble with the school’s Paranormal Specialist when they accidentally cause a series of alien outbreaks.
Reading Full-Spectrum Therapy involves piecing tiny clues together to uncover a story, with each chapter revealing another part. Alan has definitely managed to write a clever, mind-twisting plot that will leave you wanting more. Full-Spectrum Therapy is also one of the few series’ that features several characters of colour who have an important role in the story.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance (featuring panromantic demisexual and demiromantic pansexual themes)
Illustrated and Written by Nicole Mannino
One of the longest webcomics I’ve been reading is This Is Not Fiction. It centers around the main character Julian’s obsession with anonymous romance novelist Sydney Morgan. Together with his friends they try to find Sydney so that Julian can proclaim his love for her.
However, doing the group’s journey, other unexpected friendships start to blossom. Nicole has a real flair for humor, and she leaves plenty of room for her characters to grow and develop throughout the series. Never in the story are the characters’ sexual orientation stated, as this is not the focal point of the plot. What Nicole does do is tell a story of how a relationship starts to form through getting to know someone on a personal level; at no point does it feel like the characters particularly care if the other is the same sex or not.
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Psychological Thriller (featuring transgender themes)
Illustrated and Written by Pitts
This is a series that I’ve only just started to read as it’s still quite new, but I remember being on the lookout for stories that represented protagonists who weren’t cis-gendered.
I was happy when I stumbled upon Static, which is about a transgender girl called Vivian. The opening of the story takes you right to her death, and the rest of the plot follows Vivian’s journey in the afterlife.
Vivian is faced with a world similar to her old one, but she is met with a harsh system that decides what happens to the dead depending on how they’ve lived their lives, the choices being either reincarnation or eternal nothingness of the void.
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance (featuring lesbian, gay, interracial relationships,
a-sexuality/aromantic, non-binary and transgender themes)
Illustrated and Written by Chelsey Furedi
You probably won’t find many webcomics that represents the LGBTQIA+ community as well as Rock and Riot does.
Set in the 1950’s, the plot revolves around several high school gangs competing against each other. There’s an all-women gang, featuring lesbians as well as a transgender girl; a gang full of non-binary people; and an all-boys gang, with characters whose sexual orientation ranges from bi-sexual and gay to a-sexual.
Rock and Riot has some incredibly rich characters. It’s witty, clever, and very informative. While it does touch on the issues of coming out during the 50’s, Chelsey has decided to define the characters based on their personalities rather than their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Genre: Drama, Romance (featuring homosexual themes)
Illustrated and Written by Bre Indigo
Jamie is another story where the mentioning of one’s sexual orientation is never questioned or raised. While a lot of earlier webcomics focused on the issues of coming out, more recent ones have chosen to depict relationships between same-sex couples as completely accepted within the story’s society.
I believe portrayals like this are important as it helps to normalise different kinds of relationships. Of course, it is very important to address issues that still surround the LGBTQIA+ community, but nonetheless it’s refreshing to see stories where this is not the central focus. In Jamie, the relationship that develops between Aiden and Jamie feels natural, and both their friends and families provide great emotional support.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama (featuring non-binary and same-sex romantic themes)
Illustrated and Written by Taylor Robin
Never Satisfied is about a group of magician apprentices competing for an important position within the government. The story dwells on topics related to classism and the different struggles each character faces on a daily basis.
What is nice about the story is that none of the characters are particularly liked in the beginning. They all have their flaws and differences, and they often fail to understand one another which leads to a whole lot of conflicts. Never Satisfied features three non-binary characters, which is more than I’ve seen in other stories, and on top of that, one of them is the main character, Lucy.
Genre: Drama, Crime (featuring homosexual themes)
Illustrated and Written by Toril Orlesky
Toril Orlesky’s storytelling and illustration skills really have a way of drawing you right into a world where humans and centaurs exist. Hotblood is a story about the relationship between a civil war vet centaur, James Rook, and a man named Asa Langley, who claims to be a big steel tycoon.
As the plot thickens, lies, mysteries and secrets are revealed about each character. Full of beautifully drawn landscapes, in-depth character developments, and plenty of hidden clues that reveal the plot, Hotblood is a story you’ll find yourself reading non stop.
Genre: Fantasy (featuring interracial relationships and lesbian themes)
Illustrated and Written by Strangely Katie
Unlike the many Disney princess stories we grew up with, Princess Princess challenges the notion of what a princess is and how they should live their lives.
Amira is a girl born into royalty and, just like many other princesses, will one day have to marry a prince in order to continue the legacy of a kingdom. But this is not her decision, and she feels that it is a fate forced upon her. She decides to take her future in her own hands and becomes a knight instead.
Similarly, Sadie, who’s been locked up most her life, has been made to feel that this is her rightful place. It’s not until Amira comes to break her out that Sadie starts to dream of an outside world and questions the path given to her against her will. Out of the handful of webcomics depicting lesbian couples, Princess Princess is also one few portraying woman of colour in a relationship.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Crime, Mystery
(featuring pan-sexuality, polyamory and bigender themes)
Illustrated and Written by Capp & Lin
Shaderunners focuses on a gang of people on the hunt to steal colour from the rich. Thousands of years ago the world would have been full of colour, but eventually it faded to gray. Now only the riches in the highest society have the money to buy what little colour there is left in the world.
What’s particularly neat about this story is that gender and sexual orientation is completely normalized in the society. There are themes of same-sex marriages, polyamorous relationships, pan-sexuality and bi-gender identities.
Initially, I wasn’t familiar with the term bi-gender, so it was educational to be confronted by the character called Ivo Keys who, throughout the comic, either presents themselves as a man or a woman. What is great is that no one objects or questions this. Shaderunners definitely challenges the notion of gender identity and sexual orientation, and apart from that, it has a diverse cast full of people of colour.
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There has been a surge of stories portraying more diverse representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, it is still hard to find lead characters who are, for example, transgender, a-sexual, pan-sexual, and even intersex. Most comics seem to be focused on cis-gender homosexual stories, and tellings of other sexual orientations and gender identity are often left out.
While there has been an increase in interracial couple stories like the ones above, it’s surprisingly hard to find stories centering around black, or black queer, love. Similarly, characters are usually depicted as slim and attractive, which doesn’t offer enough visibility of different body types.
There is definitely room to improve and create more diverse stories that everyone will be able to relate to. As more writers from the LGBTQIA+ community and people of different racial backgrounds take to comics, the landscape of storytelling is sure to change, but in order to sustain it, it’s important that we support these creators who are already working hard to change the current comic scene.