This Is Not Fiction by Nicole Mannino (author website), a webcomic that stands out for its ace/aro main leads and dynamic relationships, explores what attraction and romance can mean for someone.
Julian Drees is a huge fan of the romance novels by Sydney Morgan. Morgan’s anonymity strokes Julian’s curiosity, and he wants nothing more than to meet the author in person. He gets his chance when his best friend Isaiah decides to hire Landon, the “Godfather of High School.” A troublemaker, Landon playfully teases Julian throughout their mission. Before, the two haven’t spoken to each other for a long time. Other people, including Julian’s father, insist that Landon is bad news. However, as Julian’s infatuation for Sydney Morgan fades and he starts to understand Landon better, his budding romantic attraction challenges how others see Landon.
This Is Not Fiction is a webcomic I wish I had read a decade earlier (it began in 2011). Julian and Landon are on the ace/aro spectrum, some side characters like Shelby (Black and bisexual) are Queer, and the webcomic in general reminds me of watching TV series like Doug and Pepper Ann. Nicole Mannino takes the High school dramedy and makes it Queer.
For Julian, Sydney Morgan represents an unattainable ideal (spoiler alert: we might as well never know who Morgan is). The search for the anonymous author challenges his unrealistic perceptions of romance and dating. Julian and Landon eventually admit their romantic attraction toward each other, but not before learning about setting boundaries and what works best for them. Landon flirts for the first half of the webcomic, stepping over boundaries when interacting with Julian (i.e., sneaking into Julian’s bedroom as a surprise). The characters acknowledge that what Landon is doing isn’t “cute.” Although Landon learns to respect Julian’s space, he still expresses uncertainty about being in a committed relationship.
The webcomic also navigates relationships and romance through its subplots. Isaiah becomes overprotective towards his girlfriend when she goes on vacation by herself. The tension escalates when she returns and the two have a falling out. Later on, he realizes his problematic behavior. Landon, of all people, is the one to help Isaiah see that. This is Not Fiction contains a bundle of endearing moments and complex relationships.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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