SFSX #1, cover art by Tula Lotay
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SFSX #1, cover art by Tula Lotay. Credit: Image Comics

13 great independent queer genre comics

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Jun 11, 2020

There are a lot of great comics featuring queer characters these days, but if you’re a genre fan with an aversion to superheroes, the list narrows quite a bit. Yet we have come here today to assure you that many a great independent comic has been published over the years with compelling queer characters and no shortage of the magic, horror, or hijinks that genre fans love.

We've all heard of break-out hits like Lumberjanes and Abbott, but that can’t be the end of the list when it comes to queer-focused genre classics. For anyone trying to read up on queer comics you might have missed, we prepared this list just for you.

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Love and Rockets: Ghost of Hoppers

Love and Rockets: Ghost of Hoppers & The Children of Palomar

Created in the late ‘70s by brothers Gilbert, Jaimie, and sometimes Mario, Love & Rockets is soap opera excellence that sometimes swerves fully into genre. The early arcs involved a teen girl who becomes a sci-fi mechanic, as well as a topless woman named Luba fighting a sea monster with a hammer. While we definitely recommend that arc, other important stories for queer genre fans include "Ghosts of Hoppers," in which protagonist Maggie begins experiencing strange inconsistencies, pointed out by her longtime friend Izzy.

For readers that like their horror to be more sci-fi-oriented, Gilbert’s "New Tales of Old Palomar" was a three-issue tabloid format mini-series that explored the events in a small town of Palomar when a bizarre research team straight out of The Twilight Zone shows up on the outskirts of town. The queerness of these stories is implicit to a long history of showcasing LGBTQ+ characters, but interactions between longtime lovers Maggie and Hopey and Fritz and Pipo are as beautiful as they are heartbreaking.

Queen of Bad Dreams

Queen of Bad Dreams

Exploring the basic question of what exactly life would look like if dreams could cross over with reality and vice versa, QoBD's concept alone made it one of the most interesting debut series of 2019. Protagonist Daher is sent to bring in an escaped "Figment" who has supposedly gone rogue, but she quickly realizes that there is much, much more to the story. As in all the very best sci-fi tales, a keen understanding of how the personal interplays with the political underlays the series. Combining that with Danny Lore's penchant for compelling, complicated interpersonal dialogue and Kelly McLean's dynamic, reality-warping art, this comic is a definitive modern sci-fi classic with just a dash of mindbending horror lurking around its edges.

Gryffen: Galaxy's Most Wanted

Gryffen: Galaxy's Most Wanted

If you've ever wondered what it might be like if Tank Girl were in outer space and how things would be if she and her group of friends were all queer, then you'd have a fairly good idea of Gryffen's whole vibe. Captain Lyla Gryffen leaves on a mission in service of the Sovereign Reach only to return ready to burn the organization to the ground. They don't see eye-to-eye with the rebels either, and that quickly causes them to become "galaxy's most wanted." Writer Ben Kahn and artist Bruna Hidalgo give us an incredibly fun cast to run us through a story that hits all the beats of a space epic. Explorations of the sexuality and gender expression of the characters while running through a chaotic, almost certainly doomed adventure makes for a heck of a ride.

The Wilds

The Wilds

Before Vita Ayala took on writing duties for books like James Bond, Morbius, and Nebula, they were out here revitalizing one of the most tired tropes around: zombies. Protagonist Daisy Walker is a "runner," a person who goes on dangerous, often fatal supply runs for the complex in which they live. Daisy's partner Heather wants to move on from their lives at the complex just as Daisy feels more drawn in than ever before.

The Wilds seemingly does the impossible by helping us to completely reimagine zombie stories as a whole through the simple act of humanizing the process through which they become zombies. Sprouting beautiful flowers and lush greenery from their bodies rather than decaying and creating their own societies, the "abominations" provide ample social commentary in concern to humanity's kneejerk reaction to kill that which opposes us. All of this while Daisy and Heather try to stay alive in a world turned upside down makes for a personal, deeply felt journey through a new kind of zombie story.

Mooncakes

Mooncakes

Stories about queer witches and their nonbinary werewolf crushes aren’t exactly the easiest to come by, so if that happens to be your specific interest, chances are you've already heard of Mooncakes. One of the most popular webcomics of recent years, this is a comic with a compelling cast set against the backdrop of good old witchcraft and magic.

Primarily the story of Nova and Tam's longtime mutual crush being rekindled through their mutual work against the forces of evil, Mooncakes also does brilliant work in setting up a family dynamic with Nova’s also-queer, bookstore-owning grandmothers. Though it was ultimately collected in book form with some updates, Mooncakes got its start as a webcomic, and you can still read the story online.

Supermutant Magic Academy

Supermutant Magic Academy

Jillian Tamaki is easily one of the best illustrators out there, and her works with cousin Mariko — Skim and This One Summer — are nothing short of modern queer masterpieces. Yet her own individual work has a knack for subtle, slow-burn, emotionally resonant writing storytelling that can never be overlooked. In Supermutant Magic Academy, Tamaki gives us a magical high school that serves merely as the backdrop of several intertwining experiences. The unrealistic ambitions, unrequited crushes, and heartfelt confessions of any teenager’s school experience are set against magical mishaps and chaotic conjurings. Supermutant Magic Academy is a genre masterpiece for all ages, but it is the quiet, interpersonal moments that truly set it apart.

The Troll King

The Troll King

The lack of genuinely felt stories of queer parenting is not totally absent in comics, but they are sparse, to say the least. It may surprise some readers to know that one of the most profound and resonant tales of parenthood in genre is in the unlikely place of The Troll King, a story about two mountain men plagued by their inability to have a child together. Though these men are in love, and their romantic love is mighty and true, they still desire a little one to raise as their own in order to complete their family dynamic. Because this is the magical world of comics, this entails that they enter into a deal with the terrifying Troll King. Told almost entirely without words, the heartwrenching expressions of love between the men are profound, and the art and the story are gorgeous in and of themselves.

The Pride

The Pride

Incorporating more openly queer characters and themes into mainstream superhero comics can certainly seem like an uphill battle, which is part of the reason that the Kickstarter-funded, independently produced The Pride is such a big deal. Not only is there queer representation in The Pride, but the whole team is queer. Taking classic superhero archetypes and infusing them with queerness in a way that isn't exploitative is certainly something that would require queer creators at the helm.

Beyond its initial introductory story, The Pride has now spawned several sequels. If you've spent time wondering what a canonically queer Wonder Woman or Superman might look like, this is definitely the comic for you.

Safe Sex

Safe Sex

Satisfactory representation of sex work is actually even rarer in genre than queer representation, so the world was truly waiting for a story like SFSX. Created by kink writer Tina Horn and Michael Dowling, and incorporating real-world experiences with a dystopian future not so far away, SFSX is revolutionary in its insightful view of the way that fascism consistently targets and seeks to control sex workers. Ostensibly revolving around a group of queer sex workers attempting to protect and preserve an underground club called The Dirty Mind, SFSX ends up being a commentary on social ills, a response to dystopian works like The Handmaid's Tale, and a really fun queer love story all at the same time.

The Complete Curvy

The Complete Curvy

It's hard to choose just one entry from Iron Circus for any list about great queer comics, but fortunately as a reader, you don't have to! There are plenty to choose from in their catalog. Today we cast our attention towards one of their more recent collections, The Complete Curvy! This comic is adults-only first of all, so unlike most suggestions on this list, this is specifically for the 18+ crowd.

The story follows our protagonist, Anais, who struggles to stay on top of her essentially normal life. This is before she runs into the rogue Princess Fauna, who is fleeing from her homeworld and the arranged marriage she was trapped in. Worse, her fiance-to-be is dedicated to dominating Anais' plane reality, otherwise known as Boring World. This comic is surreal, sexy, and utterly bizarre, so anyone that picks it up is in for a unique treat.

ODY-C

ODY-C

ODY-C began with writer Matt Fraction seeking to work with psychedelic fantasy artist Christian Ward. He imaged a gender-swapped retelling of Homer's The Odyssey in which a tired Ulysses and his men wearily attempt to return home after the Trojan War only to discover a new series of misadventures along the way. Ultimately, gender dynamics in the series became a much more complex thing than a simple swap-out. Three warrior queens, Odyssia, Gamen, and Ene, attempt to return to their old lives only to discover that their old lives may no longer be there.

The series itself was, unfortunately, a bit too short-lived to carry out the fullness of its concept, but anyone looking for a queer romance in the form of a classic epic need to look no further.

Assassinistas

Assassinistas

Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez teamed up to create one of the most genuinely entertaining assassin stories of any medium in recent years with their creator-owned Assassinistas. Tentatively revolving around an all-female group of ruthless assassins who leave the business, begin families of their own, and end up sucked right back into the life to complete "one more job," Assassinistas has a fun plot but the real joy of the series is all in the interpersonal interactions between characters. The queer highlight of the series is Dominic, the son of an assassin who is so involved in her own life that she doesn't notice when he tries to come out to her multiple times. Bringing his softboy vegan punk boyfriend to help his mother complete her mission to track down a kidnapper, Dominic's story is the heart of this bonkers, exploitation-inspired adventure comic.

Galanthus

Galanthus

When main character Farah escapes drone work at an intergalactic factory, she joins the crew of the amazing spaceship, Galanthus. The ship's hierarchy is essentially a cross between the Enterprise and the X-Men's Starjammers. While the plot itself is still unfolding, the characterization has been perfection from the get-go. Farah is a loving, engaged person with a great deal of technical know-how, but she still suffers through a seemingly unrequited crush, and she has to navigate her own trauma while navigating the stars. Galanthus is a webcomic, which means you can go read it right now!

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