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LGBT Themes in Graphic Novels and Comics

In the not-too-distant past, if you were gay, you were underground, and if you were in the arts, more than likely gravitating towards the avant-garde. But by the 1980s and 90s the better comic bookstores of the world included talented authors such as Howard Cruse, Roberta Gregory or Alison Bechdel, who included gay characters, wrote about coming out, and slowly but surely brought LGBT themes into mainstream comics and literature. Today, whether in the graphic novel arena or even in traditionally macho mainstream comics, LGBT characters increasingly populate the pages of this genre. Even The Walking Dead #68 introduced the gay character Aaron in 2009 and his boyfriend Eric. Following are a selection of graphic novels to begin with, keeping in mind that there is an entire universe of LGBT-friendly comics and graphic novels to delve into.

    Fun Home

    Alison Bechdel began her comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For in 1983 and it ran for 25 years, becoming a countercultural institution for many. Her 2006 Fun Home, a Family Tragicomicis a dark, comedic account of her closeted bisexual father who committed suicide. It was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award and was adapted into an award-winning Broadway musical in 2015.

    Blue Is The Warmest Color

    The film that won Cannes Film Festival’s most prestigious prize in 2013, the Palme d’or, was actually inspired by Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, Blue Is the Warmest Color. Maroh began working on Blue when she was 19, and finished it five years later. Using sequences in color to indicated the present, and black-and-white sequences taken from a diary to indicate the past, Blue follows a teenager called Clementine who falls in love with blue-haired Emma. The story, about varying approaches to love depending on one’s background, tracks the impact and reactions to being gay in different environments.

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    THE heart of Thomas

    Moto Hagio is one of Japan’s most beloved manga artists, and was part of a pioneering movement of authors who began writing comics for girls about love between young men, that became the shounen-ai genre. Her classic work, about a love story in a German boarding school published in 1974 became available in English translation in 2013 as The Heart of Thomas. The romantically complex story begins with the suicide of the thirteen-year-old Thomas and works its way backwards in time

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    The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded

    Award-winning authors Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis joined forces to recreate the story of the father of modern computing, Alan Turing, the pioneering British scientist and mathematician who was ostracized because of his sexuality at a time when being gay was a criminal offense. The Imitation Game, Alan Turing Decoded, published after the film, is a factually detailed account of this 20th century hero, unsung during his lifetime, who was punished for being openly gay. 

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    Olivia is a Paris-based journalist and editor.


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