When you’re an LGBTQ2IA+ person, finding characters like you, written by people who are also like you, and in the kinds of stories you want to read can be tough. This is especially true for queer and trans teens looking for authentic and uplifting representation in fantasy and science-fiction comics. The Shout Out anthology, edited by Andrew Wheeler and published by TO Comix, is a wonderful antidote. Featuring 18 stories crafted by LGBTQ2IA+ writers, letterers, and artists, the collection offers impressive breadth and depth in terms of identities represented, art styles, genres, and more.
Many anthologies that claim to contain content across the queer rainbow unfortunately fail to deliver on that promise, instead offering material mostly by and about gay men and boys. This could not be less true of the comics in Shout Out, which keeps its word by presenting readers with lesbian, gay, bisexual, non-binary, trans masculine and feminine, two-spirit, asexual, and a-romantic characters. (Intersex content is, however, noticeably missing.)
Another remarkable aspect of this work is the high number of characters of colour in the comics. In a society like Canada, where queerness is assumed to be white and queer people of colour are marginalized in both queer and racialized communities, Shout Out’s dedication to representing young queer and trans people of colour and telling stories written by queer and trans creators of colour is something to celebrate.
Although each piece is unique, the one thread that may tie every story together is the hopeful tone. Teen readers won’t find tragic stories about homophobia or angst-ridden coming-out narratives here. As speculative author Nalo Hopkinson writes in the introduction, this is a book that will “make you happy.” All of the anthology’s entries are sweet and short, mostly focused on the first inkling of love and the tingly excitement of a new crush. There is no shortage of happily ever afters.
The comics are otherwise incredibly varied. In “How to Summon a Demon,” which takes the form of an internet article, a teen wants to try kissing a boy to test whether or not he’s gay. So he calls on the forces of darkness, which turn out to be not so dark, as a cute obliging boy demon answers his summons. “Three’s a Charm” features two witches asking a third to join their circle. A young trans woman creates a holographic version of a trans ancestor aboard a spaceship in “Glitches Get It Done.” In “Fifteen Minutes or Less,” a bisexual girl and a trans guy who are co-workers at a futuristic “pizzanoodle” restaurant have to lean on their martial arts skills to defeat the competing fusion takeout place.
The book’s art and style are just as diverse as the content. From the rich, bright colours of a tropical jungle to the muted earth tones of a hazy summer day, the colour palettes cover a full range. Certain styles and storylines are reminiscent of superhero comics and manga, while others allude to more screen-based nerd culture favourites such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Matrix, and Battlestar Galactica. For teens aching for explicit representation in big mainstream science fiction, fantasy, and superhero stories, these references are a gift of inclusion.
Shout Out is, in short, an essential collection for LGBTQ2IA+ teens, comics lovers, and keen readers of speculative YA fiction.