Andrew Wheeler has edited a brilliant collection of eighteen LGBTQ2SIA+ comics targeted to a teen audience. This much needed anthology, Shout Out, begins with a thoughtful foreword by Nalo Hopkinson who testifies to the significance of the collection for queer teens who rarely see representation of gender and sexuality that mirror their identities and experiences.
Most of the comics tell cotton candy sweet love stories and Hopkinson notes she was at first critical of this idealistic picture of queer love. But she then exhaled and realized the stories made her happy. She writes:
“So perhaps it’s perfectly radical to indulge in stories that make our love no more complicated than anyone else’s. Which is to say, very. But in these stories, love triumphs. Honesty risked is rewarded. Variance simply is, as normal and life-saving as taking a breath.”
Hopkinson’s short foreword captures the world-making and life-saving potential of popular culture. And, importantly, she connects experiencing joy in art as a critical component of self-care in what she wisely describes as “dangerous times.”
This is a collection you will surely fall in love with and the process will be sugar sweet and effortless.
Each comic has a unique artistic style, tone, and story. A variety of literary genres are also represented. Even more, each contribution captures different experiences of gender and sexuality as they intersect with other aspects of embodied difference like race, ethnicity, and even liveness.
“Amaranthine,” written and lettered by Joamette Gil and drawn by Kelly and Nichole Matthews, is a love story that troubles the boundary between life and death. It is lushly drawn, and colors set the tone beautifully. For hundreds of years, a lonely character has guarded a sacred garden with a bow and arrow while pining for company. They soon become suspicious someone is stalking the garden. Their suspicion proves correct. They identify a person in ghost-form trying to steal flowers from the garden. The would-be thief hopes the flowers will give them life. The guardian of the garden informs them the flowers must live for hundreds of years before they can give life. The ghost-figure begins to leave but the guardian asks them to stay. The final panel depicts the two kissing, no longer alone.
CJ Walker’s “How to Summon a Demon” is equally delightful. A teen boy conjures a demon so he can practice kissing. Luckily a teen demon shows up and they both enjoy it. This quirky short comic is giggle worthy and captures the awkwardness of teen desire perfectly.
Written and illustrated by Elodie Chen “Three’s a Charm” introduces two witches looking for a third to anchor their circle. Although they meet one who seems like a good fit, she ends up asking one of the original two on a date. Although the circle remains incomplete a dinner date is arranged.
“Vows of Love,” written by Nichole Robinson and illustrated by Anika Granillo is yet another sweet tale of love. A necromancer, Kaleb, and a healer, J’Sean, are in a queer platonic relationship. They have different but equal powers and support each other. J’Sean’s mother assumes they are in a romantic relationship until Kaleb explains that her son is aromantic and asexual. At first she is sad assuming her son will spend his life alone but Kaleb explains their intimate friendship and promises to support one another.
Each story brilliantly captures a snapshot of queer love. Taken together the deliberate diversity and inclusivity of the collection forms an archive of queer feeling and experience that belongs on every bookshelf. I thoroughly delighted in this anthology. I read some stories, like those referenced here, again and again, charmed by the whimsy, weirdness, and thrilled by the fact of this book’s existence.
Shout Out Homepage
The official site for the anthology
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