Be Gay, Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from the Nib

IDW. Aug. 2020. 256p. ed. by Bors, Matt, ed. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781684057771.
Gr 8 Up–Cartoonist Bors has compiled an incisive queer anthology, drawing on content from the Nib, a webcomic site that focuses on sociopolitical satire and nonfiction. More than 30 indie LGBTQ cartoonists and artists share their experiences navigating homophobia, gender identity, and the politics of sex. JB Brager remembers exploring their burgeoning identity alongside other queer teens on the early-aughts website LiveJournal, Breena Nuñez unpacks the difficulties of explaining being nonbinary to their myopic therapist, and Bianca Xunise and Sage Coffey ponder invisibility in media representation in a piece that feels like a cartoon depiction of a podcast episode. Other selections consider the queer experience from a historical viewpoint. Hazel Newlevant’s exposé of queer uprisings before the Stonewall Riots explores how trans teens organized to fight discrimination in their communities, and Max Dlabick highlights the origins and evolution of the rainbow flag. “The Response,” a segment from the Nib featuring the voices of six trans contributors, looks at the unique experience of transitioning. Artists define the word transition as they interpret it, and share how that definition impacted their personal journey. Jason Michaels and Mady G coauthor a piece that asks what it means to be “queer enough,” shining a light on pansexual identity and its perception within the queer community, while Alex Graudins’s musing on birth control and the asexual experience reminds readers that birth control functions as a key component of health care, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation and expression. While most comics center the American perspective, the anthology takes care to include global experiences in Trinidad Escobar’s call to decolonize queerness in the Philippines and Rosa Colón Guerra’s examination of how Puerto Rico’s federal and local civil rights laws affect the island’s queer community. The artwork is as diverse in expression as each artist’s personal experiences—some pages glow with vibrant, full-spectrum illustrations, while others rely on muted tones to project their deeply honest insecurities.
VERDICT This celebration of queer voices in comics is a must for all libraries.

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