Comics and graphic novels aren’t all superheroes and nonstop action. They certainly can be — and don’t get me wrong I love a good House of M level epic storyline as much as anybody — but comics also encompass a whole world of storytelling with as many forms and genres as any other. Slice-of-life comics and graphic memoirs can be just as enticing as a good old-fashioned superhero storyline for reluctant and avid readers alike. And LGBTQ comics cover just as much ground and then some. From fantasy romps to heartwarming rom-coms, LGBTQ comics for teens and young adults feature a wide range of characters and storylines for every reader. These 20 must-read LGBTQ comics for teens are just a handful of what’s on offer, but they’re a great place to start. And just in time for Pride, too!
Renegade Rule by Ben Kahn, Rachel Silverstein, and Sam Beck
A group of VR gamer girls take on the national championships in this uplifting and action-packed comic about conquering games, having your friend’s back, and falling for the cute girl competing against you. Renegade Rule features a great range of queer identities and a super relatable cast of characters fumbling through their love lives.
Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer
Gays in space! After helping her crush — the princess of her home world — escape her fate of being married off for political gain, Pan’s life has been quiet. She spends all her time in her dad’s body shop. But when a pair of infamous gladiators show up in need of some assistance, Pan hitches a ride off world. With no way to ship her back home, Pan manages to prove her usefulness and her dedication to their cause: rescuing the princesses being won as a prize in the intergalactic mech tournaments.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Honestly one of the most absolutely adorable and good-hearted graphic novels I’ve ever read. Charlie Spring is a shy underclassman with a big crush on the sweet and lovable oaf of a rugby player, Nick Nelson. Charlie assumes their burgeoning friendship is the most he can hope for. He may be in over his little gay heart, but Nick is completely and totally straight. Or is he? The closer they get, the more Nick begins to realize his feelings for Charlie are more romantic than friendly. Good thing they’re already spending all their time together anyway.
Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
A teen witch and a werewolf — is there a cuter supernatural pairing? Nova Huang works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, loaning out spell books and investigating local supernatural occurrences. So when she hears reports of a white wolf in the woods, she discovers something she never expected: her childhood best friend, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon. Apparently Tam has been wandering as a wolf for years with no place to call home. Desperate for help, they turn to Nova, who, along with her grandmothers, is determined to finally give Tam the safety and the family they deserve.
Lifetime Passes by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre
A group of teens try to con their way into free lifetime passes at their favorite theme park by taking advantage of of a little known secret: the companions of anyone who dies on park grounds are given complimentary lifetime passes. Jackie’s connection to the local retirement home through her aunt seems like an easy way to get a bunch of old people into the park with them. Mercenary? Yeah, maybe, but the park means everything to Jackie and she figures she’s not hurting anyone, not really. But the more she gets to know the people — like Phyllis — they’re taking to the park, the more she realizes what Kingdom Adventure means to them, too.
Lifetime Passes is notable in that while it depicts multiple LGBTQ characters, romantic relationships aren’t at the forefront of the story that focuses much more on friendship and being true to yourself — even when it means standing up to bad friends.
The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes
A charming graphic memoir exploring identity and the ways in which coming out is much more about personal identity and self-discovery than dating or falling in love. The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a self-portrait of a young woman figuring out who she is from her very first communion to dating a girl for the first time. It’s a humorous and relatable look at life of a young person figuring out what it means to be them.
Flamer by Mike Curato
Aiden Navarro has never felt comfortable with the word “gay.” It makes him feel unsafe. And there’s no way he likes boys anyway. They’re too mean and destructive. But over the course of one summer away at camp before high school, Aiden begins to find the courage to accept who he really is — no matter how scary that might be.
Taproot by Keezy Young
This sweet comic about ghosts and the gardener who can inexplicably see them is like a breath of fresh air. The afterlife isn’t so bad when you can haunt your best friend — and crush — to your heart’s content. And lucky for Blue, his best friend, Hamal, can see ghosts. But when something strange and sinister begins to affect the local afterlife, Blue realizes Hamal’s abilities may be putting him in danger. Blue is determined to save him, even if saving him means moving on and losing him forever.
Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman
This is not the Old West you’re used to — that’s because it’s just as diverse and queer as it really was. Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, team up to take on the Confederates in New Mexico Territory. It’s a rollicking, heart-warming adventure.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Laura Dean has always been Frederica’s dream girl: gorgeous, popular, and oh-so-confident. But Laura Dean keeps breaking up with her. Reeling from their latest break-up, Freddy seeks advice from her best friend and a mysterious medium. But as she begins to lose friends in her quest to keep her on-and-off-again girlfriend, Freddy begins to wonder if the problem isn’t Laura Dean, but her. This graphic novel is an exploration of teenage love at its most messy and vulnerable.
Pixels of You by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota
In a near-future where augmentation and AIs are the norm, two aspiring photographers are forced to set aside their grudges and work together when an argument nearly ruins their mentor’s art show. As Fawn, one of the first human-presenting AIs, and Indira, a girl with cybernetic augmentation following a tragic accident, begin to collaborate on a photography project, they realize they have more in common than it first seemed.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
A boy and his mother bridge language gaps and a cultural divide through the power of fairytales. Tiến loves his family and friends, but he’s been keeping a secret he fears could tear them apart. But how can he even begin to explain his feelings and fears to his mother when he doesn’t even know the words in Vietnamese for what he’s going through? Through various characters’ retellings of classic fairytales, Tiến and others in his life show their love, their shared and different experiences, and who they really are. He may not know the perfect words to explain to his family and friends that he’s gay, but maybe he doesn’t have to.
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti
When a man learns he’s come back from the grave as one of the advanced robots he once designed with his former partner, life — of life after life — takes a strange turn. But figuring out life as a robot isn’t going to be the end of it, because finding his old partner, Brendan, brings up even more questions than it answers. Like who is the young robot he’s raising? And why does she seem so familiar?
Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky
Sanja has always been taught not to trust witches. But when a witch peddling fake amulets gets in trouble at the market, Sanja is drawn into the trouble she brings down. Despite her powers, it appears Sanja has something Lelek wants: the ability to protect herself. As Sanja teaches Lelek how to fight and wield a sword, she begins to realize that the witch is hiding painful secrets of her own. Maybe they’re not so different after all.
The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
Noelle Stevenson, the creator behind the hit graphic novel Nimona and the She-Ra reboot, shares intimate experiences around her early rise to fame, struggles with her sexuality, and the reality of mental illness. Despite the challenges she’s faced as a young creator, Stevenson’s message is a profoundly uplifting one: that we’re not alone in our feelings, no matter how isolated we feel.
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
This hit webcomic collected in two print volumes follows a former figure skating champion starting out as a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team. But this is nothing like the co-ed hockey he’s used to. The players here are checking each other (hindering the person with the puck) and his new hockey captain, Jack, is distractingly cute no matter how moody he may be. It’s slice-of-life meets adorable coming-of-age romcom.
Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau
Ari is desperate to quit his job at the family’s dying bakery and move off to the city to make it big as a musician. While interviewing his potential replacement, he discovers Hector, who loves to bake as much as Ari longs to escape it. Over batches of bread, the two grow closer. Maybe they could be something even more — that is, if Ari doesn’t screw everything up first.
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise, and Oscar O. Jupiter
A too-cute for words graphic novel about a trans cheerleader and her former friend forced to join the squad for college applications. Annie makes all A’s but her antisocial behavior isn’t going to get her into any of her dream schools. Beebee is the opposite, a total people-pleaser, working hard to keep up her grades alongside cheering so her parents will support her transition. As the two are reunited on the cheer squad, Annie learns that allowing others to have your back is actually empowering. And she shows Beebee that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself, even if its scary.
Release date: August 10, 2021 by Oni Press
Stars in Their Eyes by Jessica Walton and Aśka
Maisie is living her dream as a volunteer for Fancon where she hopes to finally meet her hero, Kara Bufano, an amputee actor who plays a badass amputee character on her favorite show. Then she meets Ollie. Another volunteer, Ollie is cute and fun and has a lot in common with Maisie. Is this the start of something beautiful? Or will Maisie’s embarrassing no-boundaries mom ruin this new relationship before it can even begin?
Release date: October 1, 2021 from Fremantle Press
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle
New girl Becca is invited to join the popular girls — and their werewolf pack — in this patriarchy-smashing graphic novel. Eager to fit in, she allows herself to be turned into a werewolf and joins in on their hunts, taking down gross boys who prey on girls. Things get even more complicated, though, when local authorities start getting suspicious and begin a hunt for what they believe is a local serial killer. As if that wasn’t enough, Becca’s pretty sure she’s starting to have feelings for one of her new best friends. It’s Teen Wolf meets Sweet/Vicious!
Release date: October 5, 2021 from Greenwillow Books
Not enough LGBTQ comics and graphic novels for you? Check out these 9 queer YA comics, 8 feel-good queer comics and graphic novels, 5 queer graphic novels not-to-be-missed in 2021, and 9 rad comics featuring F/F relationships.