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Queer adventure comics usually go past the narrative of coming out and foreground larger adventures. Although they can really be about whatever sort of event, they can still be thematically related to queerness. The adventure could be the experience of coming out, but I tend to seek out comics that have a lot going on in addition to the coming out experience. If not exactly realistic, the chaos of coming out can feel a lot like the chaos of a sci-fi or fantasy adventure.
There are more queer superheroes to find these days (and there were queer superheroes and queer comics in the past; you just had to look for them), if you want superhero adventures specifically. However, comics continue getting bigger than just superheroes, so you can find a ton of queer adventures outside of that world as well.
Visual storytelling in comics runs the gamut of realism. There are plenty of hyper-realistic examples, but comics also allow you to push the boundaries of what is authentic to the world around us. Adventurous escapism for queer characters can often include larger questions about running away versus hiding, being true to yourself and ensuring your safety. Characters who have reasons to seek adventure are pretty easy to establish, and with queer characters, the need for an adventure in the great wide somewhere feels incredibly necessary.
Adventures of All Genres
Roadqueen: Eternal Roadtrip to Love by Mira Ong Chua
One of the best parts of this book is that it takes place in a pocket of the universe where everyone is a lesbian and motorcycle road rage is a metaphor for one’s failure to recognize other people’s feelings. Leo is the kind of girl that every girl is completely obsessed with, but she tends to run away on her bike when someone shows interest. Mysterious girl Vega comes in and steals Leo’s bike, Bethany, and will return it only on the condition that Leo can prove to Vega that she’s no longer a ruthless heartbreaker. This is a truly idiosyncratic and fun comic to read, even if you are terrified of motorcycles (like I am).
The Girl From the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag
Morgan is in hiding until she can leave the island she grew up on. She has friends, but they don’t know that she’s gay, nor do they or her family know how desperately she wants to leave the island. Her carefully cultivated exterior is put to the test when she kisses a selkie and gives her the ability to walk the earth. The selkie (seal turned person) has been watching over Morgan and met her seven years earlier when she could last walk on land. This adventure forces Morgan to understand how hiding herself not only hurts her, but the people who care about her.
Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman
This is the queer neo-western of my dreams. In a journey through the New Mexico territory in the 1800s, Flor and Grace are thrown together through Flor attempting to rob Grace. Grace has run away from her home in Georgia because she is trans, and Flor is an outlaw known as Ghost Hawk who has been evading capture. Part of the reason Grace ran away is because her father was trying to force her to reject her identity and join the Confederate Army, so she lets Flor in on her plan to rob a Confederate Gala, and a thrilling heist-adventure follows.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
A sleepy New England town is full of magic and dark secrets. Nova Huang is kind of a supernatural Nancy Drew in her town and sells spellbooks at her grandmothers’ bookstore. When she’s out one night, she runs into her former crush Tam Lang in the woods. Tam is now a nonbinary werewolf and has to battle various demons, but is unable to find a place to settle down. Nova steps up to help Tam avoid the dark forces that want to use them, and they have to deal with current terrors and past trauma with the magic of the town. Love stories that include a lot of demons and witchcraft are sometimes the most resonant.
Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee
It’s an achingly familiar situation to be in to feel like all of your friends are leaving you behind. Although Lora wants her friends to stay in her life, she feels their interests are making them turn away from her and her quirkier investment in spooky things. Feeling like an outcast causes her to have a séance tea party, which calls up a ghost named Alexa who soon becomes Lora’s best friend. Even though Alexa is important to Lora, Lora starts to find connections with other friends (old and new), possibly leaving Alexa behind. This is such a heartbreakingly familiar story for people of all ages, and definitely a good read for kids going through the tough feelings of growing up and feeling like they don’t fit in.
Stars, Hide Your Fire by Kel McDonald and Jose Pimienta
In another small New England town, Andrea and Darra are bored and ready to get out as soon as they can. Coming across an otherworldly spirit named Carmen drums up their excitement and belief that the world is wider than the small town. Andrea falls for Carmen hard because Carmen assures her that she is special and offers eternal life. However, Darra finds a former victim of Carmen’s and has to fight to save Andrea from the spirit’s unintended consequences. In the end, friendship is the most important thing for Andrea and Darra, and maybe that can be special enough for them in their small town.
Girl Haven by Lilah Sturges and Meaghan Carter
Ash’s mom Kristin left, and he’s still picking up the pieces. Since the place Ash lives was Kristin’s childhood home, too, so much of her life is left behind. This includes the magical, girls- and women-only world she created called Koretris. Ash’s friends find Kristin’s spellbooks and convince a skeptical Ash to actually try to travel to the mythical land. When it turns out to be real, Ash is not only shocked that the place exists, but that he can enter the boy-phobic land. Exploring what it means for Ash to be in Koretris is only part of the story: the fantasy world has a host of other problems that the young adventurers have to solve.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Tiến has more trouble than the average kid communicating his queer identity to his mother, because he has to try to do so across languages. To understand each other, they read and go on adventures through Vietnamese fairytales, like the Vietnamese version of Cinderella. This graphic novel is a quiet adventure, one that makes Tiến reach out for connection and find his identity embraced by his friends. The story also gives a lot of understanding and empathy for Tiến’s parents and their memories of the Vietnam War and refugee status in the United States. It’s a supremely harrowing comic with fantastic visual style and touching interwoven stories.
Coming Back by Jessi Zabarsky (Random House Graphic; December 7, 2021)
Two young girls are separated by circumstance. Since Preet has magic and Valissa doesn’t, Valissa goes off in search of a way to prove herself to be worthy of Preet’s love. However, Preet is banished from the magic-filled town where they met and has to find her way in the world alone. Although this isn’t coming out until November, the issues of dealing with family rejection, finding your own path, and coming back to someone you love sound incredibly promising.
Queer Comics for Every Mood
Part of the reason I have so aggressively pursued more queer adventure comics is because of the escapism they offer. Leaving behind the strangeness of the current world always feels appealing, but much more so in the past year. I hope to be able to bring more queer adventure comics with me on adventures out of my apartment soon.
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