As we’re in January of 2021, a lot of people are looking back at the year that was. While I was preparing the nominees for the Irish Comic News awards, I noticed that 2020 had a number of great LGBTQ+ independent books and it got me thinking about how far representation in the Irish independent comics scene has come since I started working for ICN.
I discovered the scene in the early 2000’s but only really started paying attention to it in 2013 when I was asked to be a part of the site. As with much of the comics world, the early days were mainly made up of books by straight white men. By the time I got involved, the scene had already come on leaps and bounds in terms of representation.
One of the early Irish LGBTQ+ comics creators I noticed was Stephen Byrne. He had done some work for the independent publisher, Atomic Diner, but really made a name for himself through social media. Creating his Steve Loves Internet webcomic, which mocks his relationship with the internet, creating short animated videos and drawing fan fic, eventually led to him working for DC Comics (one of his first gigs being a comic about a gay superhero called The Ray). He continues to have great success and is a must-follow on Twitter as he regularly posts fan fic about the likes of Doctor Who, Firefly and, of course, comic book characters.
The first queer book that wowed me was 100 Times. I didn’t realise that I hadn’t been represented in Irish LGBTQ+ comics until I read what Katie Fleming and E. Kerr had created. It is the endearing tale of Myran and his new werewolf boyfriend, Quill. It follows them through the honeymoon period of their relationship as they meet each other’s family, learn about each other’s food habits and learn what to do on a full moon.
From the moment the couple meet in a “were-bar”, I was captivated by this book and its use of a werewolf to comment on and poke fun at everyday relationships but, more specifically, to me, an LGBTQ+ relationship. The witty dialogue, the spot-on slice-of-life moments and cleverly crafted facial expressions all come together to create an excellent story. (There’s also the follow-up 100 More Times which deals with being in a relationship). Katie also drew 2020’s Glitter Vipers, which is about an all LGBTQ+ street gang created to protect their community. It is written by Welsh queer creator Joe Glass who also created the LGBTQ+ superhero team, The Pride.
The next book that comes to mind is Luke Healy’s second graphic novel, Permanent Press. While not being a ‘fully’ LGBTQ+ focused book, the main story, The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest Study Companion, has some queer characters getting tangled up in the attempts of the main character, playwright Robin Huang, to adapt a seemingly unadaptable book for the stage while raising a teenage daughter.
It is the sort of representation I enjoy as it’s like everyday life, with an everyday mix of characters, and gay people just are. It also contains a shorter LGBTQ+ story, The Big And Small.
A more recent book I thoroughly enjoyed is Alien Heart. Originally released as a webcomic, creator Anna Fitzpatrick funded a collected edition (volume one) via Kickstarter. It is set in a future where the earth has been crushed, destroyed and dominated by mysterious creatures called ‘angels’ and humanity lives in a protected bubble. This is where we find a scruffy, queer character called Ivy. She’s a teenager who finds it difficult to fit in with everybody else due to being different (and is mistreated for being so). This all changes when she meets Rosa who she instantly befriends but then Rosa disappears and Ivy has to try and save her. It’s a beautifully drawn story with believable characters and a wonderfully rendered setting.
I could probably go on forever and there are even more creators out there so worthy of discovery. So check out these amazing creators and support the Dublin Comic Arts Festival which continues to support those creators even while their shows aren’t running.
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