10 LGBTQ International Cartoonists You Should Know
When people think of queer comics, artists like Howard Cruse (Wendell, Stuck Rubber Baby) or Alison Bechdel (Fun Home, Dykes To Watch Out For) generally come to mind — both Americans. If you ask someone to think of queer comics from around the world, you might get Tom of Finland. But there’s so many more great queer cartoonists you should know. We’ve assembled this list of cartoonists from everywhere but the United States and Canada (that list is coming later) of cartoonists you’ve got to know.
The brilliant cartoonist Laerte is one of the most famous cartoonists in Brazil. She’s been involved in comics since the 1970s, and was a huge part of the underground comix scene in Brazil throughout the 1980s. Her comics can be political — makes sense, since she’s created comics for the Brazilian Democratic Movement, comics to support political prisoners and comics to be used by labor unions across Brazil. As you can see above, she’s also great at silent strips; while the are not the majority of her output, little of her work has been translated into English. (This is truly a crime; get on the stick, comics publishers! We’re looking at you, Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly!) Laerte came out as a trans woman in 2014, after coming out as a cross-dresser in 2009.
Ralf König is perhaps the German Howard Cruse — both even edited magazines called Gay Comix (or, in König’s case, SchwulComix). König’s work often deals with relationships — while most of his work features gay couples, the universality of his gags have earned him a big straight fanbase as well. He’s also worked in film — perhaps his most famous work on this side of the Atlantic is his script for The Killer Condom, a film based on König’s graphic novel of the same name, about a gay detective investigating a case where gay men at a no-tell motel have had their penises bitten off. (In the film, the titular condom was designed by H.R. Giger, creature designer for Alien.) Luckily for us, a number of König’s works have been translated to English, and are available from our friends at Northwest Press.
Kate Charlesworth is a Scottish cartoonist living Edinburgh, and her artwork goes from the loose cartooniness of the outstanding Auntie Studs strips, to the more realistic style in her most recent volume, the graphic novel Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, a collaboration with Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot. Charlesworth’s comics are wide-ranging in interests: She’s had a recurring strip in New Scientist called “Life, The Universe and (Almost) Everything”, and has done books on history and science for children and adults, as well as strips for the gay press, The Guardian and more. (Pretty much if you can do a comic about it, she’s done it.)
Simon Hanselmann‘s most famous for his outstanding Megg, Mogg and Owl series, where he’s détourned the beloved British children’s book characters “Meg and Mog” from a cute witch and her familiar, to a nightmarish, co-dependent couple who practice self-destruction and are buried in self-loathing. While Hanselmann’s work is funny, it’s more often disturbing and sad; his characters are wrecks. Owl outwardly seems like he’s the least fucked up, but he’s petty, cruel and is just as awful as the rest of them — even if he likes to pretend he’s the sane, nice one. Hanselmann is from Tasmania, though now he lives in Seattle. Fantagraphics has published two must-have volumes of his work, Megahex and Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam.
The Belgian cartoonist Tom Bouden has been drawing comics since he was a child. He started his career drawing for many gay magazines but he’s also written for children’s comics like The Smurfs and Donald Duck. While most of his work is only in Dutch, a number of titles have been translated into English, including his comic adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and his breakout semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Max and Sven, about a boy who falls in love with his best friend. Northwest Press is distributing the English version of his new graphic novella Positive about a woman coming to terms with being HIV Positive.
Gengoroh Tagame could be compared to Tom of Finland — both create frank, fetishistic erotic comics featuring burly, hyper-masculine men. And like Tom of Finland, Tagame is a pioneer in his field; he’s been called the most influential gay manga creator in Japan, and thanks to translations of his work like Gunji or the multi-artist English anthology Massive, he’s famous world-wide.
Like Simon Hanselmann, Sam Wallman hails from Australia. Wallman’s art ranges from the gorgeously realistic to the edgily cartoony. Oddly enough for such a talented artist, he only started making comics a few years ago after traveling through the Middle East. He’s compiled the book of his own work, Pen Erases Paper, as well as editing the anthology Fluid Prejudice, a book focusing on Australian history featuring 50 contributors.
Martina Schradi used to be a psychologist — but after several years in the industry, she started drawing comics — her most famous project is Oh, I See?!, a series of vignettes from the life stories of many different people all over the queer spectrum. Schradi is also an LGBTQI activist and travels all over Europe, helping teachers explain queer themes in classrooms and how comics can be used as teaching material.
Julie Maroh is from France, but she lives and works in Belgium; her most famous work is Blue is the Warmest Color, the graphic novel on which the critically-acclaimed film was based. Maroh started Blue is the Warmest Color, about a young woman entering into a lesbian relationship for the first time, when she was only 19 years old. Her newest work — also available in English — is Skandalon, about the rise and fall of a Jim Morrison-esque rock star.
Dimitris Papaioannou is a true renaissance man. Not just a cartoonist, he’s also a theater director, choreographer and visual artist — Papaioannou is most famous for designing the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympics. Comics was his first love, though and the source of his early fame. He contributed to Greek gay magazines. Now, he’s more known for his work in the theater, especially his work A Moment’s Silence, which, in 1995, was the first Greek stage work to deal with the AIDS crisis. While these other pursuits keep him from drawing comics full-time, he still makes comics; his last major comics work was Nowhere from 2009.
This article was originally published on June 30, 2020. It has since been updated.