Wednesday, September 28, 2011

5 GLBTQ graphic novels you might not know we have (that I've read and enjoyed recently)

List by Tosca

"My sexuality is a part of me that I really like. But it's not the totality of me."
- Portia de Rossi

A message on our work tweetstream the other month made me realise that I take my sexuality for granted. I often tweet funny haha (and sometimes funny weird) romance book covers and titles I've seen or am reading at the time, but it's only just occurred to me recently that all of those books feature male/female characters. In my taken-for-granted-mostly-straightness I hadn't considered that before. I'm guessing that the reason for that is because my sexuality is much like my gender, or my name, or seeing my face in the mirror each morning (messy hair, bad breath and all): it's not something I consciously think about. I don't say to myself each morning, "My name is Tosca, I'm a female and I'm bisexual." It just is. So I set a personal goal to celebrate Comic Book Month by requesting and reading a whole bunch of graphic novels featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) characters. Some of my books were parts of series (such as Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore, Love and Rockets by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Alison Bechdel and various manga series like Antique Bakery and Ghost talker's daydream). Some were standalone titles. All of them exceptionally beautiful in their own way.

This isn't one of our tongue-in-cheek top 5 lists, after all, why would you rate someone's sexuality? It's more in the manner of highlighting parts of our collection you might not know about. Possibly I haven't listed titles that you expected or hoped to find here, and I'm more than willing to read any recommendations you leave as a comment. It was exceptionally hard to limit myself to such a small number but, here it is, my list of 5 GLBTQ graphic novels that I read recently and enjoyed. Viva la Comic Book Month!

How loathsome [graphic novel] / created and written by Ted Naifeh & Tristan Crane
I awoke before her and found myself staring at her beautiful face for an hour.
I wondered how she had looked as a boy...
...marveled at the exquisite perfection of her bone structure, here feminine, there masculine.
Little by little I began to drown in obsession.

"Catherine Gore is an outsider. Catherine finds companionship among people who delve beyond the limits of the status quo: gay, straight, transgendered, and everything in between. However, Catherine's tales encompass lives not as familiar as they might seem at first glance. Within the pages of How Loathsome is a world of seediness, and one of unexpected truth. Suspend your preconceptions as Catherine shares her daily reality, her dreams, and her private myths. How Loathsome is an exploration into the fluid and sujbective nature of gender."--p. [4] of cover.

Tosca's comment: Loved the artwork. Quite stark. Makes you think about gender and how maybe it's more fluid than we try to make it.

The essential Dykes to watch out for [graphic novel] / Alison Bechdel
By drawing the everyday lives of women like me, I hoped to make lesbians more visible not just to ourselves but to everyone.
From the author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic -- the lives, loves, and politics of cult fav characters Mo, Lois, Sydney, Sparrow, Ginger, Stuart, Clarice, and others For twenty-five years Bechdel's path-breaking Dykes to Watch Out For strip has been collected in award-winning volumes (with a quarter of a million copies in print), syndicated in fifty alternative newspapers, and translated into many languages. Now, at last, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For gathers a "rich, funny, deep and impossible to put down" (Publishers Weekly) selection from all eleven Dykes volumes. Here too are sixty of the newest strips, never before published in book form. Settle in to this wittily illustrated soap opera (Bechdel calls it "half op-ed column and half endless serialized Victorian novel") of the lives, loves, and politics of a cast of characters, most of them lesbian, living in a midsize American city that may or may not be Minneapolis. Her brilliantly imagined countercultural band of friends -- academics, social workers, bookstore clerks -- fall in and out of love, negotiate friendships, raise children, switch careers, and cope with aging parents. Bechdel fuses high and low culture -- from foreign policy to domestic routine, hot sex to postmodern theory -- in a serial graphic narrative "suitable for humanists of all persuasions."

Tosca's comment: If you'd like to read more by Blechdel why not try Fun home: a family tragicomic? This was my morning bus read for a few days and I found it darkly funny and bittersweet.

More recommendations:

  • Paris / written by Andi Watson ; drawn by Simon Gane
  • Strangers in Paradise series by Terry Moore
  • Ghost of hoppers / Jaime Hernandez
  • Ghost talker's daydream. Vol. 1 / Saki Okuse

  • Stuck rubber baby [graphic novel] / by Howard Cruse
    I'd never seen two men doin' a slow dance together before...much less one of 'em white and one of 'em black.
    The groundbreaking, award-winning semi-autobiographical graphic novel returns in a new edition featuring an introduction by Alison Bechdel, awardwinning author of Fun Home. In the 1960s American South, a young gas-station attendant named Toland Polk is rejected from the Army draft for admitting "homosexual tendencies," and falls in with a close-knit group of young locals yearning to break from the conformity of their hometown through civil rights activism, folk music and upstart communality of race-mixing, gay-friendly nightclubs. Toland’s story is both deeply personal and epic in scope, as his search for identity plays out against the brutal fight over segregation, an unplanned pregnancy and small-town bigotry, aided by an unforgettable supporting cast.

    Tosca's comment: I'm drawing a blank when contemplating further recommendations along these lines because Stuck Rubber Baby is unusual in that it also covers civil rights.

    The book of boy trouble / edited by Robert Kirby and David Kelly
    Showcasing 10 years of alternative gay male comics from artists featured in the popular alternative zine, Boy Trouble - the world's first forum for alternative gay comic artists. Boy Trouble is a 'zine with a unique character - gay comics with attitude, ranging from sex, love and longing to alienation, porn shops, drugs and punk rock. The most recent edition (distributed by Top Shelf Productions) was applauded in national magazines such as Out, Instinct, and Utne, and was included on The Advocate's list of 'Hot Reads' for Summer 2004. This 10-year celebration includes reprints of fan favourites such as Fahy's Valentine's Day Love Poem and Cole's The Boy Who Loved Ben Affleck, as well as 24 pages of new colour work. With the first edition of Boy Trouble now regarded by many as a defining moment in the public recognition of alternative gay male comic book artists, this is an equally important milestone - a first collection of one of the most important and influential gay boy 'zines around.

    Tosca's comment: Contains a mix of stories. Some sexually explicit, some not.

    More recommendations:

  • The book of boy trouble. Volume 2, Born to trouble / edited by Robert Kirby & David Kelly

  • Only the ring finger knows [graphic novel] / Satoru Kannagi, Hotaru Odagiri
    At Wataru Fujii's high school, it's all the rage to wear paired rings with the girl you love. Wataru wears one though he is single, and one day inadvertently discovers that his ring pairs up with that of tall, handsome, and smart Yuichi Kazuki, the senior classman idolized by the entire school. Though Kazuki has a reputation for being kind to all, when dealing with Wataru, he is strangely harsh. Their paired rings somehow draw them together and the two alternately clash and attract, as they must sort out their budding feelings for each other.

    Tosca's comment: A couple months back I read everything we had in the way of m/m (male/male) manga and I saw it all: the sweet, the romantic, the supernatural, and the sexually explicit with characters who were tentative, willing, cajoled into a sexual relationship and, sometimes, totally overridden. I didn't enjoy the stories that involved dubcon (sexual situations of dubious consent) or noncon (sexual situations describing nonconsensual sex). It reminded me too much of the whole desert barbarian/virginal heroine romance theme of olde. Personally, I've never been a fan of the 'You will have sex with me and you will like it or else!' theme. That doesn't make me think, 'Ooh, how romantic!' A lot of the other m/m manga I did enjoy. I do think, though, that something gets lost in translation from Japanese to English because a lot of the lines came across as slightly hokey and really quirky. I now have a yen to brush up on my highschool Japanese and read manga in its original script/text, instead. If you are going to read any of our manga titles, check each library catalogue record carefully for the rating. It should give you some idea of the level of nudity, sex and action (violence/fighting action) each book contains.

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