In Stjepan Sejic’s webcomic SUNSTONE, the reader explores a sweet, unconventional love story in the form of a lesbian BDSM relationship. SUNSTONE is a visual experience: this story comes complete with captivating characters, stunning sex scenes, and tender moments that will break your heart. Hell, even the speech balloons are gorgeous.

Many people think of stalking, unhealthy power dynamics, and abusive tendencies when they come across “BDSM.” If you think that’s what BDSM is, you’ve been fooled by bad internet sources, stereotypes, and probably FIFTY SHADES OF GREYThese false sources will make anyone who actually practices BDSM say, “ouch.” And not in the fun way.

Sure, there are plenty of porn comics on the web. Some are actually very good. I know this from…um…friends who have told me so. But what makes SUNSTONE different from all the rest?

Who Knew Bondage Could Be Beautiful?

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The art in SUNSTONE is spectacular, both in the original and final version. (Sejic smoothed over and refined much of the art after Image Comics picked up the series). Beautiful women grace the full-color pages, often wearing elaborate gear and outfits suitable for their fetishes. In line with the fiery tones of an actual sunstone, much of this comic is bathed in shades of red. From red hair to red lips to red corsets, this color runs through SUNSTONE as a motif. Because the scenes are full of these warm red colors, there is no coldness.

BDSM to many seems like a harmful, harsh act between two parties: an act full of pain. However, by keeping the atmosphere of the comic warm no matter the scene, SUNSTONE reminds the reader that BDSM is a healthy, loving act of trust.

READ: Think queer stories are cool? Check out ten must read LGBTQIA+ webcomics here!

Besides Sejic’s subtle tricks like this, he also uses the graphic medium in such a clever way. Some porn “comics” are simply comics in the sense that there are sequential illustrations. However, in SUNSTONE, the medium of the graphic novel is used in every way: from creative speech bubbles to one of my favorite panels. In this specific panel, the timeline of Ally and Lisa’s first meeting decorates a closing corset (link is NSFW). Besides being clever, Sejic illustrates this, as he does all the other panels, with obvious technical skill.

The Relationship

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There are definitely BDSM relationships that have no love or affection. There are harmful and abusive ones as well — just like there are plenty of harmful and abusive vanilla relationships. And yet, we’ve seen so much of that. What makes SUNSTONE stand out is its clearly romantic angle. The narrator makes it clear going in that Ally and Lisa are going to fall in love.

So, SUNSTONE is not just a comic where the focus is sex. SUNSTONE is a love story, first and foremost, albeit through an erotic lens. For some, certain fetishes and actions are more easily swallowed if they involve love. (If FIFTY SHADES OF GREY’s main characters did not have a reciprocal attraction, it would be a stalker crime novel.) That’s why SUNSTONE is such an excellent introduction to other types of sexual experiences. Humans see love as universal. Slogans for queer rights often use phrases like “love is love” to connect different types of relationships through a common thread. Because our two protagonists are in love, SUNSTONE is perhaps a great starting point for you or others to explore something new.

BDSM

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SUNSTONE approaches BDSM through powerful language and images. For instance, this is Lisa describing her love for being submissive: “The forbidden fruit — if you were made to eat it, if you had no choice but to taste it, could you not let go of the guilt?” This isn’t the only time she and Ally wax poetic about BDSM. It also isn’t the only time Ally ties her sexual practices with guilt.

There is an obvious guilt in our culture surrounding sex. Even more so about non-vanilla fetishes. And this shame can breed harmful consequences, from repressed desires to abstinence-only sex ed. By framing BDSM as a release from guilt, Sejic reminded me of the positive impact of destroying sexual taboo. For every reader who understands more about the world through SUNSTONE, there’s a little less guilt surrounding a common element of the human experience.

SUNSTONE is Created By a Dude?!

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It was after I finished reading the comic that I realized a man had written it. In the bonus material available with the physical edition of SUNSTONE, Sejic says that he often consulted his wife for insight into the female experience. Despite some misses here and there (there is absolutely no way to wear a thong and a pad. No. Way.), the depiction of women, queer women no less, was on the mark.

Nowadays, there is a call for diversity in writing. We need more diverse characters in the media we consume. There are also many well-meaning authors who attempt to write in another’s perspective in order to garner inclusion. Sometimes, they end up with stereotypes, inaccuracies, and bad representation due to lack of research. That is definitely not the case in SUNSTONE. Besides creating believable female characters, Sejic also treats Lisa and Ally with respect.

READ: Want to know more about queer webcomics? Check out our analysis of DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR!

Though many people might flock to a comic like this for the sex, the creator doesn’t show much of the actual sex. Though a little disappointed, I was proud that for Sejic this truly was about the story and the love between two women. The plot was not an excuse for sex — in fact, it was more the other way around.

Final Thoughts on SUNSTONE

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The fact that a webcomic like SUNSTONE is so popular shows a lot about how far we’ve come. A few decades earlier and this would be beyond taboo — probably illegal. Thankfully, for those curious about BDSM and not yet corrupted by FIFTY SHADES, this comic exists and exists beautifully. Besides the accurate representation of a dominant/submissive relationship, this comic makes strides in art, language, and cultural commentary. It’s also a success story of a webcomic turned physical comic, showing that the possibilities for webcomics are truly endless.

You can start reading SUNSTONE here.

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