When I was casting about for books that featured LGBTQ characters, our queer daughter suggested the graphic novel Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. She’d read it a few years ago and loved it, and now our youngest is reading it. But her recommendation surprised me, as I didn’t remember any LGBTQ characters featuring heavily in the plot. So, I gave it a re-read. 

Nimona is set in a medieval-like world where science and magic intersect. The balance between good and evil is maintained by the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, personified in the heroic Ambrosious Goldenloin. His arch-nemesis, Lord Ballister Blackheart, encounters a young girl, Nimona, who is actually a powerful shapeshifter with a talent for villainy, and the two team up. 

As Blackheart and Nimona work together on various Robin-Hood-like schemes, a parent-child dynamic and strong bond grows between them. At the same time, the reader begins to learn that the Institute’s motives are not always good, and Blackheart may not be the evil villain he’s been cast to play. 

At a couple of points in the story, it’s hinted that Blackheart and Goldenloin were once… close.

And at the end, they seem to be heading off into the sunset together.

Really these moments could be read two ways. They formed a friendship, or possibly something more than that. The fact that I didn’t read them as a gay couple and our queer kid did, reinforces for me that she’s so eager to see her identity reflected and represented in popular culture that she will read into the most obliquely coded references and claim them as legitimate LGBTQ canon. 

Which also underscores for me the need for even more obvious and outright positive LGBTQ representation in what’s available for tweens and teens to read, watch, and listen to. 

There’s a movie adaptation in the works and while I’m excited, I dearly hope the filmmakers don’t decide to drop the Blackheart/Goldenloin relationship, but rather take the opportunity to make it more overt. Fingers crossed! In the meanwhile, Nimona is a brilliant, imaginative, and heartfelt graphic novel that I’d recommend to anyone at any age.