Some favourite graphic novels for LGBT History Month

Last Thursday I was supposed to take part in a talk and discussion at work about our favourite LGBTQ+ comic books and graphic novels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because I’m taking part in the University & College Union (UCU) strike over pensions.

So, here’s a quick blog post covering some of what I planned to say…

Strangers in Paradise, Volume One by Terry Moore (Published 1995)

Strangers in Paradise Vol 1 cover

I’ve always attributed the start of my journey into becoming a comics fan in the late 1990s to reading Strangers in Paradise. At the time superhero comics didn’t appeal and I wasn’t aware of the other genres of comics that were out there. The I read Strangers in Paradise… This had women I could relate to – Francine was curvy, got embarrassed, cried, made regrettable decisions and wanted to be loved. Katchoo was sassy, protective, artistic and had major anger issues! This was a funny, slice of life comic, featuring love triangles and revenge – very different to other comics I’d seen.

We only get a glimpse of a LGBTQ+ relationship in the first volume when we find out that Katchoo is in love with Francine, but over the next eighteen volumes we see a range of relationships and sexualities (against a backdrop of organised crime). Moore continues to portray LGBTQ+ characters in his more recent work like horror series Rachel Rising.

Francine and Katchoo

Katchoo longs for Francine’s love.

Pedro and Me by Judd Winick (Published 2000)

Pedro and Me Cover

This was probably the first autobiographical graphic novel I read (alongside Maus) and autobiographical/biographical comics have become one of my favourite genres. There is something about the medium of comics that brings an extra dimension to life stories that works well for me.

It’s the story of Winick’s time on MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco in 1994 and his friendship with fellow housemate, HIV-Positive AIDS educator Pedro Zamora. I had never heard of Winick or seen any of the MTV series, but it makes no difference as everything you need to know is portrayed in the comic.

AIDS patient stereotype

Winick reflects on the stereotypical idea he had of an AIDS patient – reinforced by media coverage at the time.

We get a feel for Winick’s and Zamora’s lives before the show, how their friendship developed during the show and the tragedy of Zamora’s death from AIDS.  There are many moving moments in the book, from Winick examining the prejudices he had about HIV-positive people before meeting Pedro, to showing Pedro in action as a AIDS educator, to Pedro and his boyfriend Sean’s commitment ceremony (the first to ever be televised in the US) and, of course, the grief following Pedro’s death.

Pedro joking about condoms

Pedro uses humour to get his message across during his AIDS education lectures

Winick uses black and the image of Pedro’s hospital bed fading into the distance to convey shock and grief.

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Published 1995)

Stuck Rubber Baby is a fictional comic, but it draws heavily on Cruse’s own life in the American South in the 1960s and includes real events that happened in the fight for Civil Rights. The story revolves around Toland Park, a young gay white man in small town America and how his involvement with the civil rights movement becomes intertwined with his own battle to accept being gay.

Cruse portrays the murder of a black man at the hands of the KKK. Another panel makes the point that they never call the man by his name (Sledge), but only refer to him as Rastus.


Toland finally admits to being gay.