Graphic Novels & Comics Roundup

We’ve probably said this before, but it bears repeating: we LOVE comics and graphic novels, and we love seeing them get due consideration in awards predictions.

So far, Medal on My Mind has covered Cardboard Kingdom, Check, Please! Vol. 1: #Hockey, Moonstruck, Vol. 1, and A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and we have a post about The Prince and the Dressmaker still to come.

Here are a handful of others we think are worth keeping an eye on:

backstagers2The Backstagers Volume Two: The Show Must Go On by James Tynion IV, illus. by Rian Sygh
BOOM! Studios, February 2018

All that prior hinting of something creepy yet to come gets fleshed out and resolved in this necessary companion to The Backstagers Vol 1 (reviewed last year by Kazia). The stage crew ventures deeper into the backstage, discovering more of its magical properties and winding up embroiled in the mystery of just what happened to their predecessors who went missing three decades ago.

Queer masculinities abound! Jory and Hunter have gone from obvious crushes to sweetly supportive boyfriends; Tim and Jaime, the senior gay couple, make a reappearance; and a significant queer relationship from a previous generation plays an important role. An encounter with the stage crew’s girls’ school counterparts gives readers insight into Beckett’s experience transferring schools, and Beckett gets some rather adorable romantic development, too. The Backstagers continues to be cute, queer, and irresistible for anyone who got attached to these lovable characters in volume one. —Dani 

bingo loveBingo Love, Vol. 1 by Tee Franklin, illus. Jenn St. Onge & Joy San
Image Comics, February 2018

Two Black women meet as teens in the 1960s. They fall in love. But when their families catch the pair kissing in front of the church it’s all over. The families keep the women apart. Societal demands lead the women to both move on and marry men. As fate would have it, though, the two meet again decades later in their sixties at a bingo hall and the spark they felt as teens hasn’t dulled a bit. But with kids and marriages, life has gotten a bit more complicated. Will their love prevail?

I reviewed this for School Library Journal and it’s pure gold. A gift for all graphic novel collections. Not only is it body-positive but it presents a really sweet love story about older queer women (a refreshing break from lovelorn teens). The colors are as dreamy as the storyline and I can’t wait for the sequel. But it’s also not as rose-colored as the cover may lead you to believe: the book tackles homophobia head-on as it looks at social change from these women’s teen to twilight years. I hope it gets some Stonewall recognition, but I wonder if it might appear in the adult awards rather than the youth ones. —Alec

deadendiaDeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele
Nobrow Press, August 2018

Pollywood’s haunted Dead End attraction isn’t doing so hot with living park guests, so its tour guide, Norma, hires a new janitor, Barney. Little does Barney know that the attraction’s elevator is actually a gateway to Hell and part of his new job involves dealing with demons, ghosts, and plenty of other paranormal entities. The characters—including Barney’s pug Pugsley—battle with not only these creatures but their own emotions as they deal with romantic crushes amidst the chaos.

This is another one I reviewed for School Library Journal. It’s kind of like Adventure Time meets The Backstagers but is set in a fictitious Pollywood. In other words, it’s brilliant. And colorfully weird. There are multiple queer characters, and their queerness often intersects with other identities to create a wonderfully diverse cast. Once you get past the “monster of the week” type formula you’ll see that the characters have pretty deep emotional arcs. For instance, trans main character Barney is unhoused and estranged from his family because they don’t accept him. In Pollywood, everyone has a place. Amidst all the realism of queer lit, we ought to prize more books like this one for adding some wackiness into the mix while still keeping it real. —Alec

hidden witchThe Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag
Graphix/Scholastic, October 2018

In this sequel to The Witch Boy, Aster’s parents have given him permission to study the traditionally-feminine art of witchery. Aster’s grandmother offers to tutor him in exchange for his help healing his great-uncle, Mikasi (a male witch who has succumbed to the dark side of witchery). Meanwhile, someone has sent a “Fetch”—a magic shadow that seeks to harm its target—after Aster’s best friend, Charlie. They track down the source to Charlie’s classmate, Ariel, a girl whose trauma has made her distrustful of anyone—including Charlie, who reached out to Ariel as a friend. Can they save Ariel before her fate mirrors Mikasi’s?

Dani wrote about the first book in this series for last year’s roundup. In some ways, I think this book is even better than its predecessor. It’s certainly queerer. Aster continues to defy the strict gender roles placed on him by his family. But, here, his cousin opts to do away with the traditionally-masculine art of shapeshifting altogether. The cousin’s defiance further breaks down the witch/shapeshifter binary, inviting the possibility that people can choose their identity beyond magic. We also see additional queer characters in the form of Charlie’s two dads, one of whom is the vice principal at Charlie and Ariel’s school. This is one of my favorites of the year, hands down. —Alec

onasunbeamOn a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
First Second, October 2018

Mia is the newest member of a crew that travels from planet to planet restoring abandoned buildings for conservation or corporate development. Though she tries to fall into step with this small, close-knit team of women and enbies, the impulsiveness that characterized her adolescence continues to threaten her relationshipsand the group’s assignment. Interwoven with the present are flashbacks to Mia’s teen years at a girls’ boarding school, where she snuck around, fended off bullies, competed in anti-gravity sports, and most significantly, fell in love with loner classmate Grace. As the details of Mia’s past unfold, they create new stakes for the present, ultimately leading the crew to a dangerous new rule-breaking mission.

I’m in awe of this book, really. It’s immersive, poignant, and visually arresting, with intricate linework that encourages the eye to linger and tight color palettes that shift to convey mood and define place. Walden crafts a big universe, full of alien vistas, crumbling architectural structures, and giant fish-shaped spaceships, with a tender, human story inside it. At the heart of On a Sunbeam is its wonderful depiction of found family, played out in the deeply felt character dynamics of the crew. What’s better than a bunch of queer people banding together and looking out for each other? I can tell you: all that, but in space. —Dani 

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