In conjunction with Prism Comics, the preeminent website for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) comics and creators, every day this month I will be detailing one good comic book/graphic novel with LGBT themes.
Here's an archive of the featured works so far!
Today we look at an interesting attempt at an American version of ShÅnen-ai manga.
ShÅnen-ai manga are basically melodramatic stories written mostly by women about romance between homosexual boys about high school age. There is more to it than that, of course, but that's the basic premise that Abby Denson was working off of when she created Tough Love: High School Confidential as an American version of ShÅnen-ai manga.
Tough Love stars Brian, a young teen coming to terms with his sexuality and his crush on another boy, Chris. Brian also develops a deep friendship with a female classmate, Julie.
Denson's artwork reminds me of a slightly rougher Andi Watson, which does lead to some pretty darn rough artwork at times in the comic, but it gets the job done and really, at other times it also evokes the punk rock stylings of Jim Mahfood - which definitely works for the type of story Denson is telling here - this is not an "establishment" tale here.
In any event, the story is really what carries the book, as Denson presents an extremely realistic portrayal of young love (while also at times, it is intentionally UNrealistic, with some goofy parts of the story) for a gay kid in high school during the 1990s, and that involves some pretty messed up stuff. It also involves a GREAT deal of awkwardness, which Denson depicts well.
The book is a bundle of anxiety - laughs one minute, tears the next.
In many ways, it is a good follow-up on the ideas presented in Ivan Velez's Tales of the Closet.