Enjoy these 20 LGBTQ+ cartoonists who draw outside of the lines

Jeffrey Catherine Jones Feat Image LGBTQ+ Cartoonists
A detail from one of Jeffrey Catherine Jones' paintings.

Comics are one of the most intriguing art forms out there, and LGBTQ+ cartoonists push the boundaries of what comics can express. These queer artists are telling their own stories — sometimes to their own community, sometimes to general audiences.

While there have likely been LGBTQ+ cartoonists as long as there have been comics, queer comics started becoming more prominent during the Underground era of the late ’60s and early ’70s. These days, queer comics are everywhere — and the world is all the better and more colorful for it.

1. Max Graves

Max Graves What Happens Next LGBTQ+ cartoonists
A panel from What Happens Next

Max Graves’ online comic What Happens Next is about the spidering-out consequences of a murder by a transgender man. Each chapter looks at a different person affected by the murder.

For example, we spend time with the murderer’s accomplice, a “smol bean” type; the victim’s sister campaigning for harsher sentencing guidelines; and the edgelord true crime YouTuber who wades into the case and gets canceled for it.

Despite its dark subject matter, the strip is compulsively readable, incredibly authentic, and one of the best online comics running today.

2. Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel Alison Bechdel illustrated the cover of Seven Days in a recent issue featuring a reprisal of her comic “Dykes to Watch Out For.”

Alison Bechdel is perhaps the most famous queer cartoonist. Not only has she created what’s called the “Bechdel Test” about women in film, but she’s also had one of her works, Fun Home, adapted into a Tony-winning musical.

Her long-running strip Dykes to Watch Out For is incredibly influential, pretty funny, and insightful, too. Her most recent book is the 2021 graphic memoir The Secret to Superhuman Strength.

3. Howard Cruse

howard cruse lgbtq+ cartoonists
A page from “Gay Comix #3”

Howard Cruse was an early gay cartoonist, launching Gay Comix in 1980. He’s famous for his creations Wendel and the 1995 graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby, about a gay man’s childhood in the South during the 1950s and ’60s while involved in the civil rights movement. Cruse passed away in 2019 of lymphoma.

4. Nagata Kabi

my lesbian experience with loneliness, nagata kabi, lgbtq+ cartoonists
A page from “My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness”

Nagata Kabi is a Japanese autobiographical manga artist. She came to prominence with her 2016 debut book, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, which won awards around the world.

In the book, she talked about her mental health struggles as well as coming out as a lesbian. Since then, she’s released a number of books, and her latest is My Pancreas Broke, But My Life Got Better.

5. Ralf König

ralf könig, down to the bone, lgbtq+ cartoonists
A page from “Down to the Bone”

Ralf König is a German cartoonist whose art looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in MAD magazine. His cartoony, bulbous style adds a lot to his gags about gay couples. He’s perhaps most famous in the U.S. for The Killer Condom, a film based on his comic of the same name.

Despite the gay themes throughout his work, his deftness with writing gags has earned him a large straight fanbase.

6. Kate Leth

Kate Leth Mall Goth LGBTQ+ Cartoonists
Cover of Kate Leth’s new book “Mall Goth”

Kate Leth started out as a webcomic artist with their autobiographical strip Kate or Die. They pivoted into print comics when BOOM! Studios discovered their Adventure Time fan art and asked them to do comics based on the series.

Since then, they’ve worked with Marvel on Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! and their most recent work is a graphic novel with Simon and Schuster, Mall Goth.

7. ND Stevenson

Nimona, ND Stevenson, LGBTQ+ Cartoonists
A page from “Nimona”

ND Stevenson is a big name in comics and animation, having made She-Ra and the Princesses of Power for Netflix. He’s also written the popular comic series Lumberjanes, about girls at a scouting camp, and created the graphic novel Nimona, which was recently adapted by Netflix into an animated film.

His latest work is an autobiographical comic about transitioning called I’m Fine I’m Fine Just Understand.

8. Alex of Haus of Decline

haus of decline, LGBTQ+ cartoonists
A Haus of Decline strip

Haus of Decline is an often sexual and absurd (but always hilarious) webcomic with a queer bent. Not every strip is queer-themed, but many of them are — and many feature slapstick based on characters’ junk. Though not exactly sexy, these comics are always sure to elicit a confused, silly grin.

9. Kate Charlesworth

Kate Charlesworth Auntie Studs LGBTQ cartoonists
One of Kate Charlesworth’s “Auntie Studs” comic strips

Yorkshire cartoonist Kate Charlesworth has an incredibly wide array of work. She’s done loads of comics for the gay press, including her most famous strip, Auntie Studs, but she’s also done a number of comics on scientific matters for New Scientist, and co-created The Cartoon History of Time, an educational work about time, quantum physics and more.

10. Maia Kobabe

An image from Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir

Maia Kobabe is an award-winning cartoonist most known for the 2019 graphic memoir Gender Queer. The memoir has the “honor” of being the most challenged book by right-wing crybullies for the last two years. Kobabe’s upcoming book is Saachi’s Stories, a middle-grade graphic novel due out next year (co-created with Lucky Srikumar).

11. Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Jeffrey Catherine Jones, lgbtq+ cartoonists
A painting by Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Jeffrey Catherine Jones was a phenomenal fantasy artist — called “the greatest living painter” by none other than American sci-fi legend Frank Frazetta, who also had a claim to the title when he said it.

She won the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1986, and her comics appeared in venues as diverse as Vampirella and National Lampoon. She transitioned publicly in 1998, adding “Catherine” to her professional name. She passed away in 2011 from emphysema and bronchitis.

12. Mallorie J. Udischas-Trojan

Mallorie J. Udischas-Trojan LGBTQ+ cartoonists
A page from Sweet Beans Comix

Mallorie J. Udischas-Trojan’s latest comic is Sweet Beans, a slice-of-life strip about a group of queer friends. Her cartoony drawings imbue the comics with a bouncy life that makes it a joy to see, even before getting to the punchlines.

13. Mike Curato

The cover of "Flamer" by Mike Curato
The cover of Flamer by Mike Curato

Mike Curato is known as a children’s book author, famous for his Little Elliot book series for small kids. In 2020, he released a semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Flamer, which was about being a closeted teen at a Boy Scouts camp. It, like Gender Queer, was another frequently challenged book.

14. Ellen Forney

Ellen Forney LGBTQ+ Cartoonists
A two-page spread from Marbles

Ellen Forney often works in the autobiographical space. Her 1990s strip I Was Seven in ’75 told funny stories taken from her childhood. One of her greatest works is the book Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

15. John Klamik

john klamik lgbtq+ cartoonists
A Gayer than Strange strip originally printed in The Advocate

John Klamik, also known as Sean or Shawn, was a cartoonist for the early queer press. He created gag strips for The Advocate starting in 1965, like the above Gayer Than Strange series, a riff on the popular Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! comic strip. Klamik died from lung cancer in 2005.

16. Simon Hanselmann

Simon Hanselmann lgbtq+ cartoonists
A page from Crisis Zone

Simon Hanselmann‘s Megg, Mogg and Owl series is a darkly funny take on the British children’s book characters Meg and Mog. Though where the original Meg and Mog were a cute witch and her familiar, Hanselmann’s Megg and Mogg are co-dependent burnouts on a path of self-destruction, while their “pal”(?) Owl tries to hector them into getting their lives together.

Hanselmann’s latest book is Werewolf Jones & Sons Deluxe Summer Fun Annual.

17. Julia Kaye

julia kaye, my life in transition, lgbtq+ cartoonists
The cover of Julia Kaye’s most recent book, My Life in Transition

Julia Kaye has been a cartoonist since 2013, with her series Up and Out. In addition to her comics work, she’s been a storyboarder on cartoons like Max’s Jellystone, an off-beat reimagining of the Hanna-Barbera stable.

Her most recent book, My Life in Transition, collects some of her autobiographical strips.

18. Dana Simpson

Dana Simpson LGBTQ+ cartoonists
A Phoebe and Her Unicorn strip

Dana Simpson cut her teeth on webcomics with the long-running and well-regarded Ozy and Millie. Her current strip, Phoebe and Her Unicorn can be seen in over 100 newspapers and has been translated into Polish, Russian, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.

19. Gengoroh Tagame

gengoroh tagame lgbtq+ cartoonists
The cover of Volume 1 of My Brother’s Husband

Gengoroh Tagame has been making gay manga since the 1980s. His comics, however, don’t tend to feature the twinks you see in yaoi manga and anime, but huge bear-like guys.

While most of his career has been exclusively erotica — some of which can be seen in the Fantagraphics anthology Massive — in the past decade, he started making manga for general audiences. One of his most popular series is My Brother’s Husband, about a Japanese man who ends up befriending the Canadian husband of his estranged, recently passed brother.

20. Rupert Kinnard

Rupert Kinnard LGBTQ+ Comics
A Catharsis Comics strip

Rupert Kinnard — sometimes credited as Professor I.B. Gittendowne — is credited with creating the first Black and gay comic characters, The Brown Bomber and Diva Touché Flambé. He also co-founded the first gay paper in Oregon, Just Out.

He’s won a number of awards for his groundbreaking work, including the “Standing on the Shoulders” Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Arts Foundation.

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