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.)
(1) Sleepless Domain by Mary Cagle
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.
(2) Forward by Mason “Tailsteak” Williams
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.
(3) Widdershins by Kate Ashwin
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.
(4) Magical How by Eurika Yusin Gho
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.
(5) The Suburban Jungle by John “The Gneech” Robey
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.