As you probably know from following this site, Erin Ptah has been a wonderful friend of LGBTQReads, providing us with killer webcomic recommendations. And so today, we’re here to support her, and specifically her Kickstarter for Leif & Thorn!
Hey everyone — I’m taking a quick break from recommending other people’s webcomics to talk about one of mine. The strip is Leif & Thorn, and it’s on Kickstarter right now raising funds for a full-color print collection of Volume 1.
After Thorn Estragon killed a dragon, he and his team of knights expected to be put on a low-stress assignment to recover. Instead they’re sent to guard the embassy of neighboring Sønheim. (There’s a prophecy involved. He doesn’t know that part.)
As foreign countries go, Sønheim is extremely foreign. Different magic, strange food, everyone has pale skin (especially the vampires), and a lot of the labor is handled by indentured servants. Like Leif. He’s a gardener at the Embassy when Thorn arrives.
Thorn doesn’t speak Leif’s language too well at first, but he’s about to find a lot of reasons to learn.
These two are the heart of a broad ensemble of lovable characters, all facing their own struggles to communicate across cultural boundaries, deal with traumas and scars, use magic for practical solutions, and pick the perfect song for karaoke night.
In this volume: the party with the vampires, the hostage situation at the aquarium, the multi-species rescue effort after the mine collapse, and that incident with the tentacles.
For teens and up. (Don’t give it to small children — it includes adult topics like graphic violence, PTSD flashbacks, stalking, and health insurance.)
Leif & Thorn takes place on a non-Earth fantasy planet, so there’s no 1:1 portrayal of real-world ethnicities. Even the culturally-constructed concepts of identity don’t exactly map to ours. (Because I’m the kind of nerd who enjoys working out these things.)
But here’s an approximate summary:
Leif is bi/pan (his language doesn’t have separate words for the two). He comes from a snowy pole-spanning empire, with a culture heavily influenced by Sweden and Norway. He’s bilingual in sign language. And he’s internalized a lot of rhetoric about his country being the greatest in the world…in spite of economic inequality so bad that he’s become an indentured servant, working off a mysterious debt.
Thorn prefers men (that’s a translation of the appropriate word in his language). His native country is a temperate superpower, with influences from all kinds of cultures that aren’t “medieval or Renaissance Western Europe”, and his specific ethnic group reads as fantasy-Jewish. He deals with dragon-related PTSD throughout the story, plus some mobility issues from magical burn scars that will never fully heal.
For a snapshot of the diversity of the rest of the cast in this volume, check out the funding page.
But as you might’ve picked up in my webcomic reviews, I feel strongly about representation being visible in the story. So I’m only selling you Volume 1 based on things that explicitly come up within its pages.
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website, where people can band together to fund the production of things they like.
It’s widely used by comic creators who want to bring their work to print. A serious print run of a big fancy full-color book can cost a lot — but if you offer pre-orders on Kickstarter, you can raise all the funding upfront.
Backer options for Leif & Thorn Volume 1 include not just the book, but a whole range of tiers, each one with more incentives than the last. There’s something for every level of interest, from to “can’t afford the whole book, but I want to help make this happen” to “do you accept firstborn children??” (Answer: no, I don’t think PayPal can convert those.)
But here’s the important thing: Kickstarter fundraising is all-or-nothing.
If we reach our predetermined funding goal by the deadline — in this case, when the clock strikes midnight on October 17 — everyone gets their rewards! If not, all the backers keep their money, and the creator has to try again.
I’ve set a modest goal, covering a short print run. We shouldn’t have any trouble getting that far. And if you happen to drop by later in the campaign and see that it’s fully-funded, that’s the perfect time to jump in — because once we’re covered for the minimum run of books, all the extra funding can go into printing even more.
The story of Mona and her unusual friends, who must work together to defend humanity from countless horrific monstrosities! Perhaps they will succeed, and humanity will prevail as it always has. Or perhaps this will be… The Last Halloween.
Horror with funny parts, ongoing. There’s a parallel world of monsters, one for every human, and the Phagocyte — the figure who normally keeps the worlds in balance — just died without a replacement. On Halloween, naturally.
Separately, there are a bunch of your typical horror-movie creatures secretly hanging out on Earth. Vampires, mummies, that sort of thing. A group of kids from this team meets up with Mona, a ten-year-old human who is 100% done with everything, and they set out (very unwillingly, in Mona’s case) on a quest to find a replacement Phagocyte before the whole human race goes extinct.
As of the beginning of the story, Mona is being raised by a single nonbinary Parent. They get separated from Mona pretty early on, and end up forming their own mini-team-up with another parent, one of the monster kids’ vampire dad. (Also, there’s definitely a spark between them.)
The art style is perfectly fitted to the story. Expressive characters, creepy detailed backgrounds, classy monster designs, lots of areas of solid black that frequently close in around the panels. The black-and-white lineart also mutes the ick factor when things get bloody — which does happen, but this series is much more interested in being Gorey than gory.
There’s not much that goes on in the village of Lefthand Goat Way and the surrounding areas – unless you count some wholly accidental necromancy, a wizard who came by their powers thanks to a clerical error, a depressed villain with a chinchilla…
Fantasy comedy, ongoing. This one resists summaries — it jumps around between a bunch of groups, showcasing characters from different species, magic levels, social classes, moral alignments, mortality, and so on.
It’s in this rec post on account of Flea, the wizard-due-to-clerical-error, who we meet on the way to a magical Consortium with their pet teacup manticore. (They explain that, in the big city, tiny designer manticores are bred as pets for rich people who eventually get bored and dump the animals in the sewers.) They get help from Alta, a renowned dragonslayer with an anxiety disorder who speaks in high-fantasy argot when she’s nervous, and Marigold, the squire whose duties include translating for her and whose hobbies apparently include magical Candy Crush.
And all that happens after several chapters with Ru, who accidentally summoned a revenant — turns out his own blood counted as “virgin” by necromancy standards, because none of his sexual experiences, with men or women, involved PIV. His housemate Mica asks for help from the local evil wizard, who she made friends with, because she ran out of books to read when she’s bedridden with a flare-up and he’s the only local with a library.
With this much good stuff you’d think a comic would have to run out of steam at some point, right? But this one just…keeps going. It keeps dropping into new scenes and character groups, in between building up ongoing conflicts with the familiar ones, and the writing is funny and entertaining enough that you can roll with it.
Bonus notes: The artist has a great eye for expressions and body language. I’m very into the developing f/f romance. And the various critters are adorable.
broken is about a fairie general and his army struggling to protect their city-state after an alchemical anomaly brought eldritch monsters into their dimension. Warning: this comic contains graphic violence, horror, and flashing images.
Horror-drama, ongoing. To fight off a set of encroaching horrors, this high-tech fairie society has basically gone in the military-dystopia direction. Their tactics include using homunculi, genderless artificial lifeforms that do whatever task they’re assigned; and constructs, the dead bodies of corrupted citizens of neighboring countries, which can be puppeted into dangerous situations while all the living people stay at a safe distance.
Lots of scenes make great use of animated gifs to enhance the fear, tension, and creepiness. There’s a wonderful use of color overall, too — the details of fairie wings alone add so much worldbuilding and atmosphere.
Our main character is Huvrye (hoov-rai), a homunculus general who never aspired to lead murderous offense-as-the-best-defense campaigns, but he’s really good at it so it’s what he’s stuck with. Things get weird when his construct starts behaving unusually in the middle of a battle. It’s supposed to be corrupted past the point of recovery — it’s not supposed to have reactions.
In the middle of the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding, the emotional hook here is the story of a heartwarming friendship growing between two people, in a society that really doesn’t want them to be people…and will enforce that with military-grade weaponry if it has to.
Meet the members of the (someday) legendary bardic troupe, the Court of Roses!
Fantasy comedy, ongoing. Merlow the Rose is a half-elf bard traveling the world. The good news: he has both musical and magical talent, including the power to charm his way out of tense situations. The bad news: he plays the bagpipes.
In spite of this drawback, he spends the first couple of chapters picking up new friends: Diana the friendly human, Nocturne the unnerving infernal, Sven the goliath who plays war drums, and Feliks the energetic one-gnome band. (Feliks is nonbinary. Also, though so far everybody’s single, Diana has mentioned being into the ladies, while Merlow is into anyone.)
Great expressions in the art, snappy one-liners in the writing, and building shenanigans in the plot. This is laying all the right groundwork to be one of those series that starts out funny, and will eventually build to being epic-without-ever-ceasing-to-be-funny.
The escapades of a house-spirit in an old apartment building.
Fantasy fluff, ongoing. Adorable domestic adventures with the itty-bitty Alasdair (about the size of a Borrower, also magic). Doing little repairs! Shooing away spirits of corruption! Tidying up giant objects! Reading books taller than they are!
Some of the mini spirits go by “they,” inclusing Alasdair and an unnamed houseplant spirit. Others include Malcolm, who uses “he”, and Plish, a tiny aquarium mermaid who gets referred to as both “they” and “she” depending on the post.
Early on Alasdair makes friends with Alicia, the human resident of one of the apartments, who shares her books with them. She’s also the one who warns them that the building is slated to be torn down. So there’s a bit of ongoing plot, but don’t expect it to move fast — this comic is mostly a vehicle for lovingly-rendered cute scenes with tiny people.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where Timothy/Camellia is finally out of the bigender work closet) and Leif & Thorn (featuring nonbinary knights, guards, and secret agents). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
Hey everyone, check it out, I managed to finish another webcomic reclist before Pride Month ends. (As a guest-poster, I don’t know if it’ll be published before Pride Month ends, but I want y’all to appreciate the effort anyway.) (Blogger’s Note: WELL, I messed this up tremendously, so in fact, while Erin did turn it in during Pride Month, uhhh…well.)
At this point I’ve recced a lot of strips about wlw/mlm characters who have active romances — some that develop over the course of the series, some that were in place when it started. Which makes sense, since that’s the most obvious way to establish and celebrate a character’s queerness. That said…you don’t stop being queer when you aren’t dating.
So I pulled together a bunch of comics featuring characters without romantic storylines, whose sexual orientations are indicated in other ways. And the rest of the writing makes it clear that it’s not authorial bias against same-sex relationships. These people are just frankly way too busy with other things right now.
Today’s theme: Webcomics with LGBQ+ characters who don’t have romances!
(Note that, if it’s an ongoing series, I’m not guaranteeing they won’t be paired off at some point down the road. Or saying it would be a bad thing if they did! Just reccing the comics based on the current state of the archives.)
Sleepless Domain is a comic about an isolated city in the middle of a dangerous world filled with monsters. During the day, the city is perfectly safe. At night, however, the populace locks themselves inside as the city streets fill with monsters. The only ones who can combat these creatures are very special girls with the power to transform into Magical Girls!
Dark mahou shoujo, ongoing. In this world magical girls are widely-known (every costume upgrade gets gushed-over in the media), institutionally supported (they have special schools to accommodate the way they’re usually up all night fighting monsters!), and highly marketable (especially if your team has a branding manager).
But the monsters are serious, and can be fatal to a girl who lets her guard down. After a tragedy in the early chapters, the story focuses on the survivors’ struggle to deal with the grief and adapt to their changed lives.
In the face of all the other problems our heroines are dealing with, it’s refreshing that their world is so LGBTQ-friendly. There’s an unselfconsciously cuddly f/f couple in the supporting cast, and nobody finds it confusing or remarkable when a trans girl awakens as a mahou shoujo.
None of the main characters are dating, and most of their orientations could still be anything, but one was finally confirmed to have a fellow magical-girl ex. Plenty of readers already shipped her with her co-star, and that sure didn’t hurt. I do like the ship, and I can see canon going there at some point in the future…but not the near future. At this point I wouldn’t even describe their interactions as shipteasing. It’s all about friendship and recovery.
Lee lives alone, and spends most of their time watching episodes of Martian cartoons and rating them out of five stars. They have no job, and necessities like food and clothing are delivered to their apartment and prepared by various devices that Lee either rents or owns. Like most people who have been given everything they say they want, Lee is miserable.
Sci-fi, ongoing. Lee is some form of transfeminine — I hesitate to use any specific present-day labels, because this future is a “post-bio-gender setting” in which most people use they/them pronouns anyway. Into their isolated life barges Zoa, a multipurpose companionship-bot (“Legally, I’m a vending machine”) whose primary function involves blowjobs.
Lee isn’t interested in buying sex. (Although they’re not upset or dysphoric at the topic, in case you were worried.) What they really crave is genuine social interaction, which Zoa also turns out to be pretty good at, in its own special way.
So now they’re…friends, sort of? And making plans to do more friendship-things in the future. Maybe even leaving Lee’s apartment and trying to interact with the rest of society. I can’t wait.
The art is solid, but this is one of those strips I would read if it was all done in stick figures, because the writing for the dialogue is great. Clever and snappy, funny and relatable, and every once in a while it’ll punch you in the heart out of nowhere.
I’ll also throw in a qualified rec for the artist’s previous comic, Leftover Soup. There are a lot of elements that I wouldn’t blame anyone for avoiding — most notably, the deaths of two young black men, as well as one pet hamster. But if the rough parts aren’t dealbreakers for you, the good parts are very good. And it has some of the only main-character polyamory webcomic representation I can think of: a five-person unit involving two mostly-gay guys, two bi/pan women, and one straight guy, as written by a poly/pan author.
Widdershins is a series of Victorian-era adventure stories, set in the fictional town of Widdershins, West Yorkshire- England’s magical epicentre, home to bounty hunters, failed wizards, stage magicians, and more, besides.
Fantasy adventure, ongoing. Powerful and deadly spirits keep getting summoned, causing intricate havoc, and then being desummoned by mismatched groups of lovable oddballs. The first few stories seem like disconnected adventures in the same general universe, but eventually the groups start meeting each other, and have to unravel the villains’ shared backstory in order to bind them all for real.
And if the general description doesn’t hook you, try this: One of the mismatched groups consists of amazing cooks from all throughout history, who got swalloved out of their home eras and transported to the same time period by an evil magical hotel.
The world seems to have period-typical homophobia on a cultural level — all the socially-acknowledged romances, certainly all the marriages, are m/f. Still, on a personal level, none of the main characters seem to bat an eye at same-sex attractions or romances among their friends. The actual couples of all gender combinations are pretty backgrounded; most of the main cast is busy with other things. I won’t spoil you for which of the women (more than one!) turn out to have ex-girlfriends.
Bonus: one of the characters is described as asexual, and nobody has a problem with that either. And in the time travel storyline, the author makes it explicit that full marriage equality is in this world’s future.
…so you can probably guess which arc is my favorite. That said, the writing is funny and engaging across-the-board, all the stories are well-paced, and all the characters are wonderful.
Gabe and Booker are just two normal college guys, sharing an apartment and failing spectacularly at love. But one day, a talking golf ball named Hal lands in their lives and offers them magical powers…and despite it being a terrible idea, Gabe signs up immediately! Now he must don the admittedly flattering dress of a Magical and fight for love and justice, while Booker, blinded by the sparkles, wants nothing to do with any of this.
Magical-boy drama, ongoing. At first Gabe is fighting basic monsters-of-the-day, but then he gets taken under the wing of a team of higher-level magical boys with ulterior motives, and the plot starts developing layers. Although the artist never loses sight of her self-professed motivation, “I just want to draw cute boys in skirts.”
The non-magical roommate, Booker, is gay — which we know partly because he has a T-shirt that says so. We’ve gotten hints about a troubled romantic past, which makes it unsurprising that he’s avoided any love interests in the present.
A lot of the fandom ships him with Gabe based on odd-couple chemistry, but the author doesn’t seem to…and frankly, neither do I. In spite of the pink-on-pink aesthetic and overflowing enthusiasm of a standard mahou-shoujo protagonist, Gabe has a surprising amount of unlikeability. I’m hoping the plot will involve him growing and maturing, not even into a worthy boyfriend, just into a better roommate.
The original The Suburban Jungle (Starring Tiffany Tiger) is a furry slice-of-life/romantic-comedy/bad-sf webcomic created by The Gneech, which ran from February 1999 – November 2009.
Furry comedy, complete. Tiffany Tiger is a model/actress who has a small-time career in New San Angeles, and would like to make it bigger. A warmhearted mix of showbiz-industry jokes (minor characters include Jerry Springer-Spaniel and Weird Al Hamstervic), family shenanigans, romantic misadventures, and the occasional interdimensional conspiracy.
Fair warning, this one does spend a lot of time on the straight characters’ love lives — mostly Tiffany’s string of relationships and her half-sister’s dating-to-marriage arc. It’s not a “no time for romance” strip overall. It’s just that there’s only one major gay character — Tiffany’s manager, Drezzer — never gets a serious romantic storyline despite being shamelessly flirty.
But it doesn’t come across like the artist thinks less of queer couples (there’s at least one same-sex romance in the background cast), and Drezzer isn’t portrayed as some kind of lonely tragic cautionary tale. He has a group of friends he cares about, an enjoyable job that he’s good at, and a happy and fulfilling life in general. He just happens not to have a partner at the moment. And that’s okay.
(I do know there are more queer characters, with and without romances, in the ongoing sequel comic, Rough Housing. Haven’t read enough of it to go into detail. It’s set in the same universe, but follows the next generation of characters, and I don’t know if they mention any details on Drezzer’s future in particular.)
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person and Leif & Thorn, both of which have several unattached queer characters in the main casts. Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
It’s been a while since the last webcomic-rec roundup…mostly because I started to have trouble coming up with themes where I haven’t recced all my favorite examples already.
But Pride Month means promo posts all over Twitter and Tumblr, which means I’ve had a deluge of new recs to go through, and now you get to enjoy the results. Especially if you like robots, demons, aliens, and/or furries. This set is part fantasy, part sci-fi, and all wlw.
Today’s theme is: Webcomics with interspecies f/f romance!
Poppy O’Possum is a story about a mother named Poppy Odeletta Possum who lives on a world called Flora and wants nothing more than to retire to a comfortable homemaking life with her daughter, Lily. Unfortunately, living’s especially rough on Flora when you’re an opossum, and Poppy’s a regular trouble magnet. She’s moved to a little town in the Fenneclands called Eggton to try and start a new, low-profile life. This fails immediately.
Fantasy comedy-adventure, ongoing. It’s heartwarming. It’s funny. It also has some of the most engaging and complicated magical worldbuilding I’ve ever read, which gets revealed layer by layer. The main relevant part at first is that opossums are the only animals that nullify magic — which is very inconvenient when magic is the foundation of most of your tech, transportation, healthcare, and society in general.
So Poppy and her daughter are dealing with a lot of prejudice, suspicion, and avoidance. Fortunately, Poppy is ridiculously buff, strong, and durable. As long as she has ways to earn money by punching things, she’ll manage.
The rest of the cast is delightful too. There’s some cool exploration of fantasy-world disability, like the guard who uses a magical-construct prosthetic to replace a missing arm. LGBT+ characters keep popping up in the ensemble, including a fashion-designer Shiba Inu drag queen. And when one of Poppy’s friends suspects her of having a secret romance, it’s scandalous, but not because they’re both women — it’s all “b-but you’re an opossum and she’s the Queen.”
(The Queen is an adorable perky fennec magic chemist, and they are actually dating now, and I ship them like it’s my job.)
A piping hot f/f love story about longing and space aliens.
Sci-fi drama, ongoing. Cute shy butch falls for glamorous cool femme…who turns out to be a secret-agent alien fighter. Cute shy butch (Jen) gets drawn into hot space-warrior femme’s (Revonda’s) team of adventurers. (These two are human, but there are other human/alien pairings along the way.) Hot space-warrior appears stoic and closed-off, especially compared to her more gregarious teammates…but could she have more going on under the surface?
The art is slick and clean; the shading is deceptively minimalist, but used to great effect. Jen is cute and likeable, while Revonda’s style is clearly “lesbian femme” as distinct from “conventionally-attractive straight woman”, which is something a lot of artists (self included) have a hard time pulling off.
I should mention that this one sat in my “do I like it enough to rec?” pile for a long time. A few chapters later, it shot up to “rec this to everyone you possibly can.” Without spoiling anything specific, there were things in the writing that were off-putting when it wasn’t clear if they were intentional, and then it turned out yes, yes they were. So even if the early chapters don’t grab you, stick with it. There’s payoff.
Sorority sister Allison Ruth must travel to Throne, the ancient city at the center of the multiverse, in an epic bid to save her boyfriend from the clutches of the seven evil kings that rule creation.
Fantasy drama, ongoing. When a supernatural event barges through Allison’s dorm room, her boyfriend gets kidnapped and she ends up in a hell-dimension with a world-conquering magic key stuck in her forehead. At first she spends a lot of time getting dragged around and expositioned at by nominally-helpful entities who don’t want the key ending up in the wrong hands.
The amount of detail in the art is breathtaking, both in the characters — even one-off background figures — and in the urban demonic landscapes. They’re full of levels and lights and eerie architecture…frequently incorporating the stony mountain-sized bodies of earlier beings. I don’t even want to think about how long a single page must take to draw.
Eventually our heroine decides to seize the unexpected new power and go save the boyfriend, largely because nobody else is gonna do it. Along the way she ends up with more-substantial feelings for one of her female allies — a group that includes a law-enforcement angel with gender issues and an ex-monster-crimelord demon who writes fanfiction. Bonus: the fact that Allison is a long-time Sailor Moon fan is a reocurring plot element.
Heads-up, this one includes graphic violence/injury. Along with most of the other content you’d expect from a strip about demons being demons.
Androids and Humans, are we really so different? Navigating chronic illness, prejudice and a new relationship, two awkward dorks are trying to understand each other.
Sci-fi romance, ongoing. Aki is a virtual-reality pet designer, working from home in between flare-ups. Ai is an underemployed android, a model old enough to have experienced the AI rights revolution, who just moved in next door.
There’s some ongoing tension from Aki’s chronic pain and a recent breakup, and Ai’s body starting to show that it’s past its warranty date. But mostly it’s fluff, both women occupied with cute texting, pet-sitting, housewarming gifts, job shenanigans, and getting to know each other.
An adventure/romance about a Lovecraftian Disney Princess mage and her flesh golem partner in monster hunting. It’s about ladies fightin monsters and havin dark pasts and general relationship stuff.
Fantasy adventure, ongoing. Sheol’s a golem with super-strength. Lilika’s a talented human magician with a frilly fashion sense. They travel the world, hunting monsters and adoring each other.
Most of the pages so far involve the first storyline, which wrapped up relatively recently. An entire cave temple was sealed off to protect the town from the results of a summoning gone bad, and our heroines are asked to safely retrieve the bodies. After all, it’s been long enough that no one is still alive in there…right?
(Heads-up for death, PTSD, and discussion of sexual assault.)
Sheol and Lilika refer to each other as “friends” in public — possibly in response to homophobia (we haven’t seen any other open same-sex couples), possibly because a golem being in a relationship with any human would seem weird and threatening to people who don’t know her. Either way, they save the romantic stuff for when nobody else is around.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (including human/battle-monster f/f) and Leif & Thorn (no human/vampire f/f yet, but stick around). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
I am super excited about this matchup today, because rarely do novelists and comic artists cross in this space but today you’ll get to meet both! Julian Winters is the author of the upcoming YA sports romance Running With Lions, releasing from Interlude Press on June 7, and TJ Ryan is the creator of Quinn, Dreaming, a webcomic that, to quote their Tumblr, “follows Charles August Quinn, a dream witch trying to make it to graduation with minimal incident, and failing spectacularly.” Sound like a dream combo? Just wait until you read this interview…
First, let me express how excited I am about this. As a comic book geek, I have always wanted to pick the brain of my favorite artists—now I have the opportunity! Quinn, Dreaming is such an interesting take on magic, sexuality, friendships, crushes, and what things represent. Tell us about how Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” inspired the comic/story.
Thank you so much! I’m really excited too! I had been shuffling around a story of magic and witches in my mind for a while, but there wasn’t any sort of organization that I could create out of those thoughts. I was listening to Fleetwood Mac (as one does) and really focusing on the lyrics. The lines “It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and, have you any dreams you’d like to sell?” were really what started it all. I knew I wanted it to center around a dream witch who sold dreams but also sort of lived in his own.
I’m a really musical person so I get inspired by it constantly.
Can you tell us anything about the companion novel, Citrus Witches?
Citrus Witches was actually the working name for Quinn, Dreaming. It followed Arthur as a main character rather than Quinn, and really strayed far and wide from the story I ended up using for the comic. That draft exists in all its rough glory on AO3 under the Citrus Witches title. Enjoy my old Merlin fanfic too if you decide to go snooping.
The companion novel to it that I’m currently writing takes place in their first year of college and involves a whole new set of adventures, that will set it apart enough from the webcomic so that people who didn’t read it can still enjoy it, and the folks who did follow the comic will get new shenanigans with the same characters.
How far do you plan to take the webcomic?
The plan is to follow Quinn and the crew until the end of senior year. They’ve only just made it to the end of October so still lots more to come!
While I absolutely love the wonderfully awkward romance between the main characters, Quinn and Sorrel, the diverse cast of supporting characters truly lends to creating a well-shaped story. Will there be more of them in the book?
Absolutely! The book actually follows Sorrel as the main character. There’s definitely tons of awkward romance with Quinn, Arthur to lend to his bad ideas, Statice to film it, and Daphne to talk them out of it.
I’m a big fan of epic platonic loves, and Arthur really is that for Sorrel. There’s a lot of him in the story, really existing as a solid part of Sorrel’s life. I spent a lot of time exploring Sorrel’s relationship with his twin sister, Statice, as well.
There’s some fun new people too!
There’s a subplot that looks at trying to “cure” people of magic. Is this a metaphor to anything in real life?
Creating a “cure” for magic in a world where magic exists in everyday life started from a very personal place and spread to something I think is really universal. Growing up bisexual and nonbinary, I always heard “Well have you tried not being this way?” or “You should see a therapist/doctor/psychiatrist, I bet they could fix it” because I grew up in a very small conservative town. But you see it on the news and online and on talk shows all the time. People questioning the validity or the sanity of other people based on something that’s just a part of them.
Magic is just simply a part of these witches. It’s as simple as Quinn having brown eyes or freckles. He’s a dream witch, but now there’s this entire organization that’s dedicated themselves to trying to ‘fix’ that and prove it’s something dangerous. I just felt like it was a storyline that a lot of readers could find themselves relating to.
Okay, I love all the magical components of the story and a few of the dark themes, but let’s talk about all the humor and adorableness—I’m looking at you, Sorrel Seong—that is featured. Also, Quinn has this shy, uncertainty about himself and his powers. It speaks so well to how sometimes people see this admirable quality about us that we often overlook because of self-doubt. Are those the kinds of elements you always try to incorporate into your artwork/writing?
Sorrel is literally and metaphorically the light of my story!
I always try to work self-doubt into at least one character in my story, because it’s such a human trait. I know with my art I’ve often looked at other artists’ work and been hung up on how amazing they all are and how I’ll never compare. Quinn’s sort of a low-level dream witch surrounded by all these powerful witches with ‘cool’ powers, and that leads to him really shrinking in on himself. He learns though that no one else is going to do magic like Quinn does magic, and that his powers can be really beautiful and unique. It’s something we all need to learn about ourselves.
You have a tremendous following, especially from authors. Is this intimidating? Inspiring?
Both! It’s incredible. I would’ve been happy if Quinn, Dreaming had gotten five followers, but it took off and people constantly interact with me about it on Twitter, Tumblr and now on my Patreon. Having so many authors in my corner has been a dream though. You all inspire me with your creativity and your story telling so much. Ultimately, it’s what pushed me to finally start a webcomic in the first place. I’m a librarian—my first big love will always be reading. Knowing that I have these incredible authors that I respect and have welcomed me to come live in their worlds for a while, really pushes me to create something worth hanging out in as well.
You’ve done a lot of amazing artwork for other books—S.J. Goslee’s Whatever, Tara Sim’s Timekeeper series, Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Are there any books or LGBTQ+ characters you’ve wanted to draw but haven’t yet?
I drew Aiden and Shannon once from Taylor Brooke’s Fortitude Smashed, but I’m itching to draw Daisy and Chelsea from the sequel Curved Horizon. I’m weak for the southern sorority girl and punk princess relationship. I need to do some serious art for the Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum as well, because that book was absolutely beautiful, and it stirred up my imagination from start to finish.
Your artwork is so loveable. The way you capture characters is fun but precise, too. Are there any current webcomics or artists that inspire you?
Check Please! Is always the first webcomic I tell people about. It’s so fun and sucks you right in. I binge read it in a Denny’s while I was in college. I couldn’t leave my booth until I was done. It’s just so good. I’m a huge fan of Noelle Stevenson and her comics Nimona and Lumberjanes. I’ve been reading Rainbow Rowell’s latest work on The Runaways. There’s a webcomic on Patreon called Constellation Grimm by Gibslythe that’s a really amazing fantasy with some of the best art as well.
Outside of Quinn, Dreaming, can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on?
I am currently finishing up writing a book about a Canadian vampire named Steven Pancake. He decides he’s going to make the most of his afterlife and buys himself a canoe. His camping trip goes awry, he meets a broody handsome 17th century Romanian vampire named Nicolae, wacky woodland hijinks ensue! There’s werewolves, aliens, some rednecks, and kissing!
Want more TJ Ryan? Here’s where you can find them:
Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.
Good news, folks: I finally pulled together an all-canon-mlm list of webcomic recs. Even better, it goes with the Magical Lesbians list from back in January.
Today’s theme: Webcomics about magical gay guys!
(As before, some of these characters explicitly identify as gay on-panel, and the rest are shown with exclusively male love interests. Check out other reclists for guys who are confirmed-bi, or could-go-either-way.)
Welcome to Carpediem, the world of the massively popular MMORPG. When Naoto and Chris set out to find a strong attacker for their party, Kurogawa is not quite what they expected…
Fantasy RPG, ongoing (ish). The magical MMO setting is all kinds of cute and fun in general. (They hatch an 8-bit bird from a legacy version of the game! Its name is Mr. Feathersworth. That arc alone is worth the whole read.) And the game mechanics include bonuses if Naoto gets “married” to another player, including mutual HP restoration when they kiss.
So of course his hot new party companion, Kurogawa, marries him in-game for the stat bonuses, and the level-grinding and item-winning gets interspersed with immersive-vertual-reality making-out. But complications in the real world mean that Kurogawa-the-avatar isn’t quite what he seems. It’s going to take some work (and help from crossplaying BFF Chris) to sort out who Naoto’s really falling for.
Reads right-to-left, manga-style. There’s at least one NSFW scene, featuring whiteout censoring (also manga-style). On a long hiatus, but it’s come back from multiple long hiatuses in the past, so I live in hope.
She was just a regular, unwanted kid, until she was lucky enough to get a job under the best magician in the world! Unfortunately for her, her new boss is a self absorbed jerk.
Fantasy comedy-drama, ongoing. The Assistant (she has a name, but hasn’t managed to say it without getting interrupted) is one of the few people in Gloomverse who hasn’t developed magic by age 17. She gets hired by Wallis Gloom — who in spite of the official summary is a sympathetic and caring guy under the surface, and it doesn’t take much at all to bring it out.
Pretty soon Assistant is deep into a mess of international politics, historical mysteries, scholarly clashes over the nature of magic itself, and possibly an honest-to-goodness Dark Lord. Also, an attack from Wallis’s previous assistant, using a giant golem made of cake. It’s the kind of comic that slides effortlessly between “edge-of-your-seat intrigue” and “ridiculous crack.”
There isnt much active romance over the course of the comic, but two of the male main characters are eventually revealed to be exes. (Full disclosure, one of them has some issues with denial that could ultimately mean he’s bi. Or it could just mean he doth protest too much.)
The misadventures of Tobias the demon and his human boyfriend.
Fantasy comedy, complete. Lonely Guy accidentally summons a hot bara demon, and they start an interspecies relationship with lots of entertaining culture clashes. They also earn the approval of Guy’s sweet elderly godmothers, who get married themselves partway through.
Sometimes it deals with death and depression. Sometimes it gets NSFW (modified with strategic angles and conveniently-placed objects). Sometimes it just deals with pet hellhound antics. The whole thing is short, so it’s a quick read.
Superhero drama, complete. Has the typical mix of fantasy/supernatural and “this has a high-tech scientific explanation, we swear.” Closeted young hero Kyle finds himself getting hit on by a silver-fox supervillain. Is the man’s interest genuine? Or is it part of a secret evil plot? Or is it part of a secret world-saving scheme disguised as an evil plot?
There are other m/m flirtations on Kyle’s mostly-young-male superhero team, and he does actually end up in a more, uh, age-appropriate relationship in the wake of the final climactic fight sequence. (I won’t spoil you for what happens with the villian.)
Another one with conveniently-censored mature content, and there’s a more explicitly-NSFW short sequel.
Transformed! is the story of Kay, a young trans man, who finds a strange ring that changes his life forever.
Magical-boy drama, ongoing. Kay is a closeted pre-everything trans boy; he has a thing for his gay best friend, who has him firmly in the friendzone on the belief that he’s a straight girl. Then he picks up a mysterious ring that transforms him into a much-more-visibly-masculine alter ego, just in time to fling around some magic and fight off a monster…and the best friend develops a crush on that form.
So now Kay has to get the hang of his new powers and figure out where these monsters are coming from, while hopefully making some new friends in a trans-teen support group and getting to a point where he can shed one layer of his secret identities.
There’s a whole subgenre of genderbender mahou-shoujo webcomics out there, so you’d think there would be plenty to choose from where the main character is trans! But off the top of my head, this is the only one I could name.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where a magical bi guy is responsible for most of the plot) and Leif & Thorn (where Thorn has a magic sword and Leif is bound by magical compulsions). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
Welcome back to Erin Ptah, who’s here with her sixth installment of webcomic recs!
I started these recs with a set of webcomics featuring nonbinary characters, so it’s high time we got around to binary trans characters, don’t you think? Especially with Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.
As usual, I’m focusing these recs on characters whose transness has been indicated (even if only briefly) in the comic itself. Except for the first one, because it was too adorable to hold off.
13 year old Vera has recently moved to the small town of Vättered, Sweden — a seemingly unremarkable place at first, but strange things are happening and everything might not be what it seems. SpectraSpell is a story about kids and magic, and what it really means to be different.
Modern fantasy, ongoing. Vera is an autistic tween girl who’s trying to figure out how much of what she does is “normal”…and “what she does” now includes seeing creepy-cool magical effects take over the scenery. The regular art is drawn in a nice clean manga style, all black-and-white lines and tones, which makes it especially striking when things switch into subtle greyscale watercolors.
Vera and her family have met a handful of locals, but so far the only other person who’s seen the magic is Linnéa — a chatty, friendly trans girl who clicked with Vera immediately. I love the way their personalities fit together, how Linnéa can be alternately pushy and gentle in a way that works really well for Vera.
The overall plot is shaping up to be, not a traditional magical-girl story, but one that hits a lot of the same tropes and will appeal to the same fans. Not to mention fans of anything that’s utterly charming.
When Kim and her friends were young, they used to watch a show called SUPER FIGHTING MIGHTY FIGHTERS. It was kitschy and brightly colored and involved a lot of dubious costume work. After ten long years of growing up and moving on, they should be too old for such things. However, when a mysterious alien creature enters their lives, offering the opportunity to live out their childhood dreams and save the world in the process, the lure of the past may prove difficult to resist.
Sci-fi, ongoing. Cute multiracial group of kids grows up into a pack of young adults with highly #relatable levels of displacement and ennui. When a pseudo-Mighty Fighters transformation watch shows up in Kim’s room, she’s immediately on board. The rest of the group is…a lot more dubious.
Presumably they’ll rethink their suspicions when they meet their first monster.
Also, Fuchsia has figured out she’s a trans woman, Parker now describes their gender as the opening riff of “Welcome To The Jungle,” and deaf/signing Emily has gone full roller-derby lesbian. Good times.
Don’t pick this up expecting to jump right into the action scenes — it’s been updating regularly for most of a year, and our heroes still haven’t seen any aliens, much less gotten into any fights. No matter how those turn out, though, I’m really enjoying it for the characters, and how well the writing is capturing this particular headspace of [queer geeky] young-adulthood.
Attley is a young girl in the strange city of Sanity. Things become stranger when her best friend turns out to be not what she seems, and soon discovers that may apply to the entire city itself.
Fantasy, ongoing. It’s a city full of magic. People who can shapeshift into animals, although it wears down their ability to become entirely people-shaped afterward. Talking instruments who can shapeshift into people. And Scarecrows, a kind of fear-based soul-eater that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years. Until now, of course.
So they’re after Attley, for mysterious reasons. (Although in Posey’s case I’d bet there are un-Scarecrow-y Feelings involved.) She ends up scrambling all around the city, trying to stay ahead of her pursuers and picking up a ragtag crew of misfits who think figuring out the secrets of her past will help unravel their own. One’s a flute. Another has invisible limbs. Fletch is the trans one. He can turn into a seagull.
The comic has reached a point where some of the mysteries are being solved and hidden backstories revealed. Which is pretty exciting, even if it does keep raising new questions. Also, the art is lovely, with a warm soft coloring style and lots of neat visuals, in the little details as much as the big splashy action scenes.
A humorous webcomic about the every day struggles of being a gay trans guy.
Semi-autobiographical slice-of-life, ongoing.
Some of the strips are general one-off gags about trans feelings. Those are highly rebloggable, so if you’re on LGBTQ Tumblr at all you’ll probably recognize the art style — lineless and textured and atmospherically colored, way fancier than your average highly-rebloggable gag comic.
The one-offs are interspersed between an ongoing story about our hero, Vincent, figuring things out in therapy and coming out to friends and family. Also, chatting with his imaginary horse-to-unicorn sidekick. (The unicorn’s name is Packer. You might be able to guess that from the NSFW running gag.)
Venus Envy is a typical high school romantic comedy, with the welcome addition of lesbians, crossdressers, and of course transsexuals. The story follows Zoë, a teenage male-to-female transsexual, as she comes of age, tries to keep her secret, and tackles life’s challenges. Meanwhile, she makes friends with several of Salem’s most colorful residents, including an estranged lesbian, a deep-stealth female-to-male with way too many connections, and the drool-worthy bad boy who wants to reform.
High school drama, perma-hiatus. This one is a classic — it was one of the first, if not the first, webcomics about a trans character. (Also, one of the first few that introduced me to “webcomics” as a concept. So on some level, all these rec posts can be traced back to Venus Envy.) Beginning in 2001, it ran for almost 1000 strips until the regular updates petered out around 2009.
It starts off with its own set of one-off gags about trans feelings, then quickly develops into Zoë’s ongoing story, with arcs ranging from slapstick to melodrama. At the most angsty extremes, it deals with sexual assault and attempted murder. At the fluffiest, it’s “uh-oh, these two mismatched trans kids have to take care of a baby together! Hijinks ensue.” The shadows of dysphoria, transition, and outing are never far away, but there are plenty of sweet and fun scenes in spite of them.
The early art is very rough; it goes through a couple stages of evolution as the years go on. Stick with it anyway. Mostly because the writing is solid, but also because it’s a cool look into the early years of the medium, and the recent history of trans activism.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where a previously-questioning character who talked about dysphoria in 2012 has finally figured it out) and Leif & Thorn (which has an MtF vampire hunter and an FtM vampire, thankfully never in the same room). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
Welcome back to Erin Ptah this #WebcomicWednesday, bringing us Sci-Fi webcomics with same-sex couples!
More webcomic recs, because you can never have too many.
I was trying to come up with an all-m/m list, but had trouble grouping my favorites into sets of 5 that had any coherent sub-theme. So instead, here’s a mix of m/m and f/f, in a genre I could sit around reccing all day.
(As usual, if there’s a theme or topic you want to see in a future reclist, just ask! And feel free to leave your own recs in the comments.)
Today’s theme: Sci-fi webcomics with same-sex couples!
When Vinnie Smalls, a lonesome welder working for the Hyperion City Core, finds he has a crush on a fellow co-worker, he must break away from his usual loner lifestyle and dive headfirst into the inner workings of the Daily Leisure Credit system.
Cyberpunk romance, complete. In a futuristic city where everything is monitored and social interactions are automatically billed, Vinnie would love to get a music career going, but finds himself working extra shifts because otherwise he literally can’t afford to talk to his crush. (Gavin would love to pick up the cost more often, but that just makes Vinnie feel even more awkward.)
Self-consciousness aside, the romance is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated, with most of the conflict coming from the worldbuilding around them. Great integrated use of Flash animation that highlights the sci-fi setting (blinking lights! glowing neon!) without being distracting.
Sylvania is a story about three sisters who are members of an ancient clan of tree witches. As they learn to use the magical powers they were born with, they’ll each embark on their own path from the deepest heart of the forest into unknown adventures far beyond its borders.
Sci-fi/fantasy, ongoing. The official summary totally buries the lede, which is that it’s about witches getting recruited to help terraform Mars.
Earth has several different witch clans, including tree-witches, bird-witches, and fish-witches. There’s an existing Mars colony, but it’s populated mostly by star-witches and non-magical scientists, none of whom have the skillsets necessary for full-on terraforming. The recruitment effort gets complicated by a romance between Juniper, one of the tree-witch sisters, and a star-witch born on Mars.
Lovely soft textured art style, with special attention paid to natural details and magical special effects. It’s (deliberately?) more suited to the forest and undersea settings of the early chapters than high-tech spaceships and cities, so I’m looking forward to what it does with the Mars terrain.
Alastair Sterling was the inventor who sparked the robot revolution. And because of his sudden death, he didn’t see any of it. That is, until he wakes up 16 years later in a robot body that matches his old one exactly.
Sci-fi romance/drama, ongoing. Explores the future through Al’s new eyes, while using flashbacks to reveal the early development of robotics and his relationship with his partner, Brendan. Al’s unexpected death left a lot of unresolved conflicts (notably, how Brendan wanted to come out and Al didn’t), which makes everything extra-fraught when the apparently-perfect robot duplicate seeks him out.
During the intervening years Brendan has made his own attempts to build a replacement-Al, which is why he already has a robot with a similar personality…who thinks like a teenager and identifies as a girl. She treats Brendan as a father and Al as a kind of legendary hero come to life, which only makes his situation weirder.
Slow and deliberate pace — it’s been running for 6 years and we still don’t know who brought Al back, or why — but it reads like it was planned that way, not like it’s been dragged-out. Nice use of limited palette to distinguish the different time periods and put emphasis where the artist wants it.
New York City secretary Rose catches the interest of Hue, an empathetic Grey, and his funny friend, Quazky, a Reptoid alien from a neighboring mothership. Using a device, the trying human circuit, the two friends infiltrate Rose’s life and the human world.
Sci-fi drama, ongoing. Classic Men-in-Black-and-aliens mythos, complete with flashbacks to Area-51-type shenanigans in the ’40s. Rose has a human sometimes-boyfriend and keeps getting her memories wiped, but her bond with Hue keeps reasserting itself.
While Rose and Hue are developing their ambiguously-romantic friendship (insert your own “greyromantic” puns here), Longus, a Reptoid who’s been living in disguise on Earth, ends up moving much faster with a cute young human named Don. Which is lucky for Don, because if Longus hadn’t come to the rescue he would’ve been mugged, and if Longus’ interest had been slightly different he would’ve been eaten.
In the near future, Irina Novak sets off on the first manned lightspeed flight, with unexpected consequences to herself and her marriage.
Sci-fi drama, on unscheduled indefinite hiatus. It’s short, so I can’t go into much detail without spoiling all the plot that’s happened so far. Suffice to say it has time dilation, authority figures with common sense, married lesbians with an increasingly complicated relationship, and beautiful detailed realistic drawings of spacecraft.
If you like serious sci-fi and don’t mind cliffhangers, give it a look.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (with same-sex pairings and Sufficiently Advanced Technology) and Leif & Thorn (m/m-centric, mostly fantasy, but there’s a Space AU). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
The next subset of Webcomics About Women In Love recs
I grouped this batch by…broadly similar coloring styles. By which I mean, the name of the aesthetic was too literally accurate to pass up. Though it does imply tropes and themes that don’t necessarily fit them all, so definitely read the summaries before deciding what to check out or pass on.
Today’s theme: Webcomics about soft pastel lesbians!
A story about nanobots, genetic engineering, and two girls falling in love. No matter how technology changes us, we’ll always be human.
Sci-fi romance, complete. In a future Australia, where high-tech modifications are used for everything from preventing diseases to restyling your hair, Austen (Chilean/Australian) never changes her appearance. It catches the eye of Sunati (mixed South Asian), who initially thinks she must be brave and iconoclastic. Turns out she just has an immune disorder and can’t use nanobots.
Sunati asks her out anyway, and ends up falling for the real Austen rather than the girl she’d built up in her imagination. The worldbuilding has neat high-tech touches — our heroines go on VR dates, there’s a ride in a space elevator — but the plot is slow and low-key, all about these normal human emotional struggles and school/job stresses.
Dahlia Liz, a floriculturist studying a new breed of aquatic plant, moves to the scenic coastal town of Sunsea. A town filled of sunshine, romance and surprises.
Slice-of-life with a touch of fantasy, ongoing. Dahlia moves into a new town and finds herself living next to Lori, a gorgeous singer-songwriter who is also hiding that she’s a secret mermaid. As you do.
Another slow and quiet plot — it’s suggested there will be mermaid drama in the future, but so far it’s just an undercurrent (…get it?) to small-town friend-making. And eventually girlfriend-making, although the characters are still in the “sure, she just sang a whole song about how inspirational I am and then explicitly told the audience it was dedicated to me, but I think she just wants to be friends” stage.
The art is so bright. You can feel the sunlight pouring out of every panel.
Acethexis is an action/drama series about a non-binary person and an illegal android who are swept up into a life of crime in the eyes of their government.
Sci-fi drama, ongoing. Disaffected agender teen Ren sneaks out to a club and meets Lena, a runaway android programmed with emotions. That’s still the only “crime” in the story — that androids aren’t supposed to have feelings. But it was bad enough that her creator was either imprisoned or killed over it.
Well, she’s cute, and Ren is bored and reckless and not hurting for money, so they decide to help Lena change her appearance and skip town.
The story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.
Cute fantasy, complete. Tea dragons are cat-sized, domesticated, adorable, and take a lot of effort to raise. A bunch of them are kept at the tea shop owned by Hesekiel and Erik, who are also taking care of a shy amnesiac girl named Minette. Young neighbor Greta stumbles into their lives.
This one’s a quick read, only 52 pages, with a delicate mostly-lineless art style. The girls aren’t quite old enough to be interested in romance proper, but I’m including it because the first-crush setup is there — and the shop owners are a full-fledged couple, so it’s clearly not a “same-sex romance, what is that??” kind of narrative.
The culmination of everything random, fluffy, and gay.
Wacky comedy, complete. Definitely the oddball on this list, but all the art is soft and pink, so I figured it was close enough.
Otra is a depressed and uninspired designer when the eccentric Winter barges into her life and declares that Otra is her new sidekick. Also, whacks her with a human-sized dildo. Which sets the tone for a lot of their exploits to come.
It’s the kind of comic where the town’s main superhero has a fist for a head, random elephants wander through the background, Winter has a half-sister who is half-clipart, and the vet has a mindreading machine for cats. So it’s really not hard for Winter and her puzzled new sidekick to get into ridiculous adventures, falling in love along the way.
Bonus: Winter is the daughter of Wendy and The Other Girl, the main f/f couple from the artist’s earlier comic Cutewendy. It’s even more random, and the art is way less polished, but well worth reading if you liked Girly.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (featuring bi librarian Bianca) and Leif & Thorn (where Leif is into strong handsome people of all genders). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
Webcomic recs, continued! This is the roundup I promised last time.
It can be hard to make it clear when a character’s supposed to be bi/pan. A lot of webcomics aren’t long enough or romance-focused enough to give the characters multiple love interests, and there’s not always an organic way to have people just announce their preferences — especially in fantasy universes where words like “bisexual” don’t exist. (To be fair, it wasn’t a word in our universe until the ’60s. And “pansexual” is even younger….)
Here’s a set of strips that do pull it off. For purposes of this list, it’s all in-text representation. If a character’s sexuality is specified by the author but has yet to be involved or even referenced in the strip, I’m leaving those for someone else to rec.
Today’s theme: Webcomics with explicitly bi/pan characters!
As personal assistant to an international pop star, Meera Verma has her hands full trying to keep the gorgeous and talented Carina Peterson primped, polished, and mostly on time. As personal assistant to a Los Angeles-based masked vigilante, Meera has her hands full trying to keep the mysterious and reckless Skeleton alive and out of trouble
Superhero adventure drama, complete. Full of competence kink, especially for Meera — she figures out Carina’s secret superhero identity within days of working for her, and Carina learns about this when Meera has her costume clandestinely repaired. Plus: funny, snappy dialogue; identity porn with regard to other characters; interweaving of faux social-media reactions whenever their adventures make the news.
Meera is openly into women from the beginning; Carina eventually comes out to her as bi, in a scene with a realistic mix of sweetness and awkwardness. They spend a lot of the strip having mutual crushes that they’re too awkward to confess, but it feels natural and organic with the plot, rather than dragged-out for drama. It helps that they’re busy with the overarching plot (a case about a fashion designer’s work being stolen).
…And then eventually they do get together, and finish working the case as girlfriends, and it’s all-around great.
Slice of life adventures of best friends gregarious Jamie and cynical Hazel.
Comedy, complete (but currently doing full-color reruns of the original B&W strips). Mostly-realistic (there’s a talking cactus thrown in) stories about a bunch of struggling twentysomething artists/retail workers.
A lot of the cast is straight, notably Hazel, but there are a couple of lesbians in their friend circle from the beginning — like Thea, who gets married over the course of the strip. And then there’s Jamie, who identifies as straight for the first few years of the strip. Especially after one instance of f/f experimentation, where they part as friends but it doesn’t rock her world.
Some time after that, she meets Erin. Things get romantic. And intimate. And…stop just short of sex, because Erin’s on her own little arc of self-discovery, with “asexual” somewhere at the end.
Jamie’s sexuality is complicated — she struggles with pinning down the nuances of exactly what she’s into, and hesitates over all the terms her friends suggest to sum it up. (Worth noting: the phrase “biromantic heterosexual” wasn’t in wide circulation at the time.) I don’t remember if she ever settles on a single label, just that she does get back to a place of comfort and self-understanding over the whole thing. And none of this derails the writing or characterization, or undermines the strip’s ability to deliver regular punchlines.
NC-17 fantasy comic. Better have a really open mind.
Sexy magical comedy, ongoing. Mostly-disconnected short arcs and strips, about a whole range of characters and situations. You can tell the authors have a generally healthy outlook about sex, even when the characters don’t. Sometimes pokes fun at fantasy tropes. Mostly NSFW. (To the point where, in the archives, the “safe” strips are the ones that are marked.)
The sample image here is from a short arc about the Snow Queen, who needs to have sex in order for winter to end, but every man who tries to satisfy her gets his relevant bits frozen off. At last, a female mercenary shows up with a strap-on. Which gives you some idea of the tone of the rest of the series.
To be clear, this isn’t an “all about sex, therefore everyone is bi” strip, it’s an “all about sex, and all sexualities are represented” strip. Obviously not for every reader! But if you like fun dumb sex jokes, this is the motherlode.
It’s a story about some kids who are friends over the internet. They decide to play a game together. There are major consequences.
Fantasy/gaming adventure, complete. Four human kids play a video game, which turns out to be an immersive-reality experience that destroys their universe, and they have to win the game in order to make a new one. They’re joined by a group of alien kids — the trolls — who played an earlier round of the game, the one that created our universe in the first placce.
It’s a huge, sprawling, ridiculously complex series. Includes animation, chatlogs, flashing images, and mini-games. If you’re just trying to get into webcomics, it might not be the easiest place to start. Or it might suck you in so hard that it ruins you for the rest of the genre. Could go either way, really.
Troll romance is…culturally complicated. (If you’ve picked up one thing about Homestuck by fandom osmosis, this is likely to be it.) The relevant point here is that they’re default-bi, which pays off in various relationships as the story goes on. There’s also at least one human whose romantic prospects include a male human and a female alien.
(If you look at both pre- and post-Scratch incarnations, at least. And this is the point where I hit the brakes on Trying To Explain Homestuck, because if I go any deeper into the backstory we’ll be here all day.)
(5) Skin Horse by Shaenon K. Garrity & Jeffrey C. Wells
The stated mission of Project “Skin Horse,” a federal Black Ops department located in the notoriously pointless Annex One complex, is to aid and asisst the U.S. population of nonhuman sapients. Any humans willing and able to work there may be presumed deeply weird.
Supernatural comedy, ongoing. A government support agency that focuses on robots, demons, talking animals, and various mad-science experiments. Tip, the team psychiatrist, is a hot crossdressing human. Unity is a multitalented multiracial zombie, and by “multiracial” I mean “stitched-together parts of humans from multiple races.” Sweetheart, the leader and administrator, is a talking dog. Their job isn’t easy, but by golly they work hard at it.
Tip has an uncanny ability to attract women — including, in one instance, a female alternate-dimension version of himself. He’s also had at least one fling with a guy, Artie, who was human-shaped at the time but is technically a sapient gerbil, and recently described himself as “straight-ish” (before going on to seduce a mixed-gender crowd). Sweetheart has had male love interests in the past, and more recently has gotten crushes on women. Including an ambiguous thing with Unity (or maybe it’s gone unambiguous? I don’t remember, it’s been a while), although Unity is generally mostly interested in brains.
The strip is a sequel to the completed Narbonic, about a mad scientist and her assistants. You don’t have to read it beforehand to follow anything, but if you like Skin Horse’s general ethos and sense of humor, or if you want Artie’s backstory, it’s worth adding to your list.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (featuring bi librarian Bianca) and Leif & Thorn (where Leif is into strong handsome people of all genders). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.