6 LGBTQ+ Comic Creators You Should Be Reading

Celebrating Pride doesn’t end when June does, so we at ComicsVerse are shining a spotlight on some of our favorite writers and artists from the LGBTQ+ community.

Despite the notion that diversity doesn’t sell, comics are approaching a golden age of inclusivity. In an industry that has been historically homogenous, writers and artists of all backgrounds are chiseling out a space in an industry where they’ve often been excluded. They’re utilizing the medium to tell stories about people who aren’t often reflected in comics. Stories featuring a diverse cast of characters from the LGBTQ+ community have won numerous awards, and some are even making their way to the big screen, like NIMONA and LUMBERJANES.

These stories are important because they normalize and give a face to people from all walks of life; the creators behind these stories are important because they’re an influential voice in the industry, regardless of the identities of their characters. They are dynamic forces leaving a powerful impression on what the comic book medium has to offer.

LISTEN: We celebrated Pride with our 93rd podcast episode discussing homosexuality in comics!

Six ComicsVerse writers gathered together, and each chose one of their favorite creators who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. They’re comic creators who have a voice in that industry, who give that voice to people who need it in a medium they love, and who show that comics are, indeed, for everybody.

The contributors for this article are Alex Bisignaro (AB), Mara Danoff (MD), Taylor Cyr (TC), Michele Kirichanskaya (MK), Jhoan Suriel (JS), and Kat Vendetti (KV). 

James Tynion IV

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Cover of DETECTIVE COMICS #948, courtesy of DC Comics

Known for his Twitter presence and his past year’s work on DETECTIVE COMICS, James Tynion IV is arguably one of the most important DC writers at the moment. Recently coming out as bi, Tynion has created a plethora of work both in the mainstream and indie scenes. His creations matter for the LGBTQ+ community for many reasons, and I’m positive that different folks have different takes on what each of his stories means to them. But what strikes me is his inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters and how natural he makes them; he writes them strongly and develops their character beyond their orientation.

Batwoman

An example of this is Batwoman (Kate Kane) in DETECTIVE COMICS. A former United States Military Academy student, Kate refuses to lie about her sexual orientation and is forced to resign from the school. While Tynion didn’t invent this origin, he fully utilizes the potential of Kate in his work. She’s not a sidekick of Batman; she’s a co-leader of the Bat-group.

READ: Need more queer representation in DC comics? Here are 10 DC ladies we think should totally come out as bisexual!

This is seen so wonderfully in the “Night of the Monster Men” story. In this arc, Kate is taking the lead just as much as Batman. But what’s best: Tynion doesn’t make a big deal of it. It’s just so natural. The two work side-by-side. There isn’t any questioning; there isn’t a scene where Kate needs to prove herself. It’s how it should be. Kate’s orientation is also simply one aspect of her many traits. She’s in no way a token character to represent the LGBTQ+ community. Like everyone in real life, there are so many facets to her.

Notable Works

James Tynion’s non-mainstream work is also something worth checking out. If you want more LGBTQ+ representation, check out THE BACKSTAGERS, a story of theater culture mixed with a bit of magic. This is a much more open book compared to his other indie books like THE WOODS (also worth checking out!), and it’s a bit more lighthearted compared to his work on the Batman titles.

If you’re looking for a young writer with fresh ideas, who also happens to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, go out and buy James Tynion IV’s work. The support we as fans give is essential for writers like Tynion to have the opportunity to continue their pro-Pride work.

– AB

Molly Ostertag

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Cover of STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST BOOK ONE, courtesy of Top Shelf Productions

Molly Ostertag is an illustrator currently based out in Los Angeles. She works on designs for the Disney XD show STAR VS. THE FORCES OF EVIL. Despite working in TV, she still draws comics. One of her webcomics is the aptly named STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST. It follows Alison Green, who recently retired from being Mega Girl, as she struggles with relationships and college. This story shakes up the typical superhero story by having the characters ponder how their actions have consequences.

READ: Here’s why Ashanti Fortson’s GALANTUS is a webcomic with queer representation worth following!

The characters also wonder if their powers actually help prevent crime or cause more damage — and if it’s all worth it in the end. I adored this because the consequences of heroism are something I always have at the back of my mind as I read superhero comics. They cause so much damage during their fight scenes — it’s a wonder why the city doesn’t just ban costumed hero-ing altogether!

The Auteur of Comics

STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST came out in 2012. Thus, it’s a bit older, but it’s still going strong to this day, updating every Tuesday and Friday. Also to this day, Molly’s art on the project really brings the characters to life. Their expressions completely overturn the classic superhero nature of the premise itself. They’re designed to act like people you’d see on the streets — a great, signature quality of Ostertag’s work. Her style, while not realistic, achieves emotional depth unparalleled by any other comic artist.

Like Scott McCloud explains in UNDERSTANDING COMICS: THE INVISIBLE ART, the less detail a character has, the more likely a reader finds themselves in the character. I’d also like to add that further abstraction allows for the expressionistic moments of a piece to really shine through, as is the case in STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST. The characters don’t feel bogged down by hyper-realistic etches. Ostertag does an amazing job in just allowing the characters’ bare-bones feelings of the characters

If you like comics with a quirky personality, definitely check out Molly’s work. If superheroes don’t quite suit your fancy, she’s also done comics like THE WITCH BOY, THE SELKIE, and DRAGON AGE. They appear to draw on her LARPing roots, where Molly herself experienced fantasy adventures chasing down mythical beasts. With such a diverse pool of stories, Molly’s work deserves celebration.

-MD

Marguerite Bennett

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Cover of DC BOMBSHELLS vol. 3, courtesy of DC Comics

Queen of the Instagram food game, owner of flawless hair, and a fan of quality memes on Twitter, Marguerite Bennett deserves all the spotlights the world has to offer.

In her Tumblr profile, Marguerite explains that even growing up she always knew she wanted to be a writer. After working three jobs and writing a novel in her spare time, she applied for grad school. During her studies, she took a class with comic writer legend Scott Snyder. Marguerite impressed Snyder so much that he eventually asked if she wanted to write comics professionally.

An Extensive Bibliography

Marguerite started out writing for D.C. comics, co-authoring the stunning BATMAN ANNUAL #2 in 2013. Her natural gift for storytelling made her an instant success, and her work now includes titles from D.C., Marvel, Vertigo, BOOM, Archaia, and Dynamite.

If you’re interested in this creator, we suggest checking out her GLAAD nominated DC BOMBSHELLS that feature diverse and empowered female characters. BOMBSHELLS takes place in an alternate reality where our favorite DC ladies fight World War II. If you like a good 1940’s pin-up aesthetic and kick-ass superhero ladies on the front lines, this is the comic for you!

READ: Need another kick-ass superhero lady to pick up? Here’s why you should be reading AMERICA!

Her list of past works is too long to mention, and her current projects are constantly updating. For DC she worked on projects such as BATGIRL, SUPERMAN: LOIS LANE and BATMAN: JOKER’S DAUGHTER. Her Marvel credits include NIGHTCRAWLER, ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN and YEARS OF FUTURE PAST just to name a few! Marguerite also has extensive history writing for independent publishers. In the past she wrote RED SONJA for Dynamite, LOVE IS LOVE for IDW, SLEEPY HOLLOW with BOOM! Studios and Butterfly for Archaia, a BOOM! imprint. She’s currently working on INSEXTS and ANIMOSITY from Aftershock, and JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS from Archie Comics. In short, she is a veritable powerhouse of comic book writing.

Why I Love Marguerite Bennett

There is so much to love about this woman. Marguerite Bennett is a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community. For one, she is the first openly queer creator to work on a Batwoman solo title. She’s also done a lot of work unapologetically queering up BOMBSHELLS, INSEXTS, and other projects. In her words, the queerness of the characters she writes comes naturally. Of course, I think the most important part of her story is her passion and her commitment to pursuing her own happiness. Marguerite worked hard to get where she is today. Her work is beautiful and impactful. She pushes the status quo and doesn’t seem like she’s going to slow down anytime soon.

Marguerite Bennett is a role model for many, but especially for young women who want to pursue their dreams. I hope she keeps inspiring and creating for many years to come!

-TC

Katie O’Neill

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Cover of PRINCESS PRINCESS EVER AFTER, courtesy of Oni Press

Katie O’Neill is a designer and illustrator based in New Zealand. However, O’Neill has worked on a variety of independent art projects, including the famous webcomic (now graphic novel through Oni Press) PRINCESS PRINCESS. The comic focuses on two very different princesses — the valiant and dashing Princess Amira and the sensitive and tender Princess Sadie — as they journey towards adventure and romance. PRINCESS PRINCESS is basically a queer Disney fantasy, complete with adorable plus-size dragons and a wonderfully cute romance. The comic’s depiction of racially, sexually, and bodily diverse young women demonstrates that there isn’t simply one way to be a heroine. One can be both a princess and heroine at the same time — and discover love and self-validation along the way.

READ: In ROCK AND RIOT straight, white, and cis are the exception and not the norm — all while set in the 1950’s! See why we love it here!

Normalizing LGBTQ+ Representation…

On her Tumblr, Katie O’Neill says, “I love comics. They’re a style of visual storytelling that spans the funny to the profound. Blending art and words in a unique way can convey messages and feelings not possible by just one or the other. Plus they’re really fun to read.” O’Neill clearly demonstrates this with her beautiful artwork, complete with a gorgeous color palette and wonderful character designs. Furthermore, her writing does an amazing job of grabbing the reader’s attention and heart. She creates characters with vulnerabilities, strengths, and plenty of heart. The romances, often starring Sapphic girls (relating to lesbians and lesbianism), normalize queer relationships, showing that tenderness and affection are not limited to boy-girl interactions. These romances also provide LGBTQ+ validation in all its adorable glory.

…and Tea Dragons

O’Neill’s latest work, THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY, is going to be published by Oni Press and centers on Greta, a young blacksmith apprentice, who discovers a society that raises tea dragons (literally dragons that grow magical tea leaves on their bodies). If you love comics featuring beautiful art and multifaceted queer characters, Katie O’Neill’s work is definitely something worth looking into. Whether it be two princesses discovering the meaning of true heroism or a young girl interacting with magically botanical creatures, each story from this wonderful artist deserves celebration.

-MK

Terry Blas

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Cover of BRIAR HOLLOW ISSUE ONE by Terry Blas

Terry Blas is an openly gay, bi-racial comic book creator based in Portland, OR. Born to an American father and Mexican mother, Blas spent time living in Mexico as well as several U.S. states.  He holds a degree in Illustration from Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA).

Blas is best known for writing and drawing the ongoing webcomic series BRIAR HOLLOW with creative consultant and colorist Kimball Davis, who is also a gay comic creator. BRIAR HOLLOW is about a group of nerds who come from all walks of life and attend the titular college.

Furthermore, Blas has done cover art for such comics as BOOM! Studio’s ADVENTURE TIME and THE AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL and Oni Press’s RICK AND MORTY. Blas’ latest comic is a graphic novel for Oni Press called MORBID OBESITY, a whodunnit set at a fat camp.

In addition to working in comics, Blas hosts “The Gnerd Podcast,” a monthly pop culture podcast. Blas is also a member of Helioscope Studio, a Portland-based artist collective comprised of illustrators, writers, and cartoonists.

Why You Should Check Blas Out

In addition to YOU SAY LATINO, Blas has written and illustrated other autobiographical mini-comics chronicling his experience growing up as a bi-racial, gay teen in Boise, Idaho. Particularly, Blas’ autobiographical webcomic YOU SAY LATINO got mainstream attention when it was picked up by several outlets including the Huffington Post, Vox, and NPR. In the comic, he addresses his experience growing up as a gay Mormon who identifies as both Latino and Hispanic. Blas also created a comic about his thoughts on last year’s Pulse Night Club shooting.

READ: Want more analysis of LGBTQ+ webcomics? Check out our piece on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR!

Because of his background, Blas constantly thinks about identity and what it means to be a gay Latino. With the projects that Blas has lined up, he will continue to represent Latinos and Latinas of various sexual orientations in a positive, non-stereotypical light. There are many stories about the Latinx experience that have yet to be told. Given the recent political climate and the way minorities are being treated by the Trump Administration, Blas is a creator who dares to tackle the challenge of giving a voice to the Latino community. Blas is someone who is making strides in opening the doors for LGBTQ+ creators of color.

For more on Terry Blas’ work, you can check out his Tumblr and follow him on Twitter.

-JS

Tamra Bonvillain

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Cover of RAT QUEENS vol. 3, courtesy of Image Comics

Chances are, you’re already reading Tamra Bonvillain’s work. A prolific colorist, Tamra’s contributions have graced the pages of numerous comics across publishers. Whether you’re a fan of Image, Marvel, or Young Animal, you have Tamra Bonvillain to thank for being part of what brings those pages to life.

READ: KIM AND KIM is a trans feminist comic and an Eisner nominee. Learn all about the series here!

After graduating from the Kubert School in 2009, Tamra Bonvillain’s career paved the way to coloring WAYWARD, ANGEL CATBIRD, DOOM PATROL, RAT QUEENS, and MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR, to name just a few. Recently, she began work on ALTERS, published by AfterShock. ALTERS follows Chalice, a transgender hero navigating through life with her newfound superpowers, in a world where superpowered people are met with prejudice. Despite the controversy surrounding ALTERS’ portrayal of a trans character, it’s notable that Tamra Bonvillain, a trans woman, contributes to the story. Moreover, the entire creative team includes people of diverse backgrounds. AfterShock themselves have acknowledged the importance of diverse creative teams to represent these stories authentically, and Tamra Bonvillain has been pivotal in reaching to those communities.

Recognizing Colorists

Tamra Bonvillain doesn’t just have an abundant coloring history — she’s also an outspoken advocate for crediting colorists for their work. “I don’t need my name in lights. I just like to be properly credited. That’s my main thing,” she said in an interview with ComicsAlliance. She explained that a large part of the problem is the lack of the option to include colorists in solicits. That information then goes towards other sources, and often times, the only way to know the colorist is to look in the actual book. “I just want it to be fair,” she continued. “I want people to know I did the work. Whether people care or not after that, that’s up to them.” Tamra Bonvillain is just one colorist among many whose talents are frequently uncredited and unappreciated for her work, and it’s time credit is given where credit is due.

-KV

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