Generally, comics tend to be less than amazing at portraying honest relationships. When it comes to dealing with sex, they’re mostly atrocious. Finally, almost all media has issues when it comes to including members of the wide spectrum of sexuality. Today on Back Issues, we’ll be covering some graphic novels (Not comics, because we’re stuffy adults here.) that are setting the bar on how to deal with at least two of those three topics.
Not only are these great examples of handling the subject matter, they’re each one of the best comics on the market today. These writers know that heavy topics can be funny, and that comedy can be deeply touching. I’ll start with the most regular of the three settings. This one only has some heavy BDSM in it, no time bending/dimension jumping shenanigans.
Sunstone – Stjepan Šejić
Sunstone, the work of Stjepan Šejić (pronounced Ste-yan Sh-age), started life on his Shiniez DeviantArt account. It was a passion project that he started in order to remain motivated between paid work. His wife, Linda Šejić, also has a lot of input in the creative process.
At its core, Sunstone is about two women, Allison and Lisa, and how they get past their various hang-ups and neuroses while engaged in a romantic dominant/submissive relationship. While those two are the main focus of the story, there is a wide cast of characters, each with their own stories and connections, all of which are well developed.
Due to its graphic content, Sunstone can be hard to recommend. (“Marcus, why are you giving me all this porn?“) Still, recommend it I do, and often. It holds nothing back in its depiction of sex, but comparing it to the likes of 50 Shades of Grey would be doing it a grave disservice. Sure, there are a lot of naked boobs, but Šejić’s exploration of BDSM culture and relationships is second to none… Also, his art and page design is astounding. Honestly, any book with him taking on art duties is worth checking out.
If you’re curious, Sunstone is still available and updated for free on Šejić’s DeviantArt account, so do yourself a favour and check it out. (You filthy, filthy pervert.)
The Infinite Loop – Pierrick Colinet & Elsa Charretier
The Infinite Loop is probably best described as a clash of Julie March’s Blue is the Warmest Colour and Doctor Who. It’s set in the far future (and the past, and the present) where Teddy, a female ‘Time Cop’ type, is tasked with destroying anomalies throughout history. Think T-Rex appearances in 1960s Nevada, steam engines in ancient Greece, that type of thing. These anomalies are usually inanimate objects, but on one trip, Teddy finds an anomaly that turns out to be a Greecian girl displaced from time. Teddy effectively falls in love at first sight, but doesn’t recognize the feeling, because in Teddy’s future ‘Love’ doesn’t exist anymore.
In The Infinite Loop, mankind realised that most hate was borne out of others’ love, and as such, they nullified it. If no one truly loves anyone, then they can’t be hated for it. However, after meeting this anomaly, Teddy struggles with her feelings, unsure of what to do. As far as she’s been told, this anomaly could cause the unraveling of time. In spite of that, she takes the girl with her, moving through time as they try to outrun Teddy’s former colleagues.
The Infinite Loop’s message is not subtle, bordering on what people would likely call preachy, but it’s never meant to be. Each character personifies an archetype and their usual reactions to situations, but this never makes it a boring read. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who and want to see more diversity in comics, this is perfect for you. To top it off, each issue ended with these sweet, and often heartbreaking, anecdotes from members of the LGBT+ community. I have no idea if they’re included in the collected edition of the book, but they were perfect caps for each issue.
Sex Criminals – Chip Zdarsky & Matt Fraction
Sex Criminals is about people who stop time when they cum. Okay… Bear with me. That may not sound like a stellar selling point, but believe me, this is one of the funniest, most intelligent comics out there. Zdarsky and Fraction have somehow managed to turn this ridiculous premise into something wonderful.
Sex Criminals follows the story of Suzie and John, a couple who meet at a party and, after forming the beast with two backs, learn that they share a special ability. They can both stop time with they cum. Suzie calls this event ‘The Quiet’, John calls it, eh, something else. Once they make this discovery, they begin using their shared ability to rob banks. Ahh, they’re Sex – Criminals, now I get it!
Criminals though they may be, they don’t choose to randomly start robbing banks. Suzie is a librarian whose library has recently been foreclosed on. John blames the bank chain they target for the death of his father, and getting revenge by shitting in his boss’ office plants was getting old. Using their powers, Suzie hopes to raise money to save her library, and John is more than willing to help topple the evil empire.As the story progresses, the crime part gets sidetracked, as John and Suzie are chased by time stopping cops, and meet more people who share their abilities. Among these are pornstar turned sexologist Josie St. Cocaine, and rugged, African American gynecologist Robert Rainbow.
Sex Criminals, for all its ridiculousness, has one of the most varied casts out there. Both in terms of sexual and racial diversity, it’s ahead of the curve. Neither does it resort to turning its characters into caricatures. The premise may be absurd, but this story is, for the most part, about regular people dealing with regular issues.
So, in climax..Er, I mean closing…
Those are our Back Issues for this week ladies and gentlemen. Are any of you reading them currently? What do you think of them? Anything you think we should’ve included or left off? There’s probably a lot of great material out there that’s flown under our radar. If there is, let us know! And never forget…