With Pride season just around the corner, there is no better time to check out “Sugar Town” by Hazel Newlevant (known for “Chainmail Bikini” and “If This Be Sin”), a heartwarming, self-published graphic novella about love, acceptance and relationships of many types. In Newlevant’s words, it is, by and large, a “queer poly rom-comic.”
In it, the reader follows the adventures of a self-inserted version of Newlevant, a bisexual woman who is already in an open relationship. She encounters a woman at a local gay bar during her vacation in Portland, Oregon to visit her parents and instantly falls in love in the process.
This woman, Argent – or “Hazel Hawthorne” under her dominatrix persona – is the perfect package. She’s tall, into BDSM, has nice hair and she’s full of love with a devotion to caring for others. Readers will quickly see why Hazel is so smitten by her in the span of a few pages.
It helps that there are not many characters the reader needs to keep track of Nor does the story bombard you with text walls of information regarding those characters’ existences. Within the first six pages, a reader can simply find out that George, Hazel’s boyfriend, writes comics for a living and that he has a thing for this woman named Rebecca and that, between major scenes with Hazel and Argent, he talks to Hazel over Skype. Nothing more complex than that.
However, what makes this graphic novella special is not just the romantic plotlines among Hazel, Argent and George, but topics that are not only prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community, but in all walks of life.
One example can be seen in the beginning of the penultimate section – in which Argent gets on Hazel’s case for openly discussing her job as a sex worker while in a convenience store, and briefly talking about the negative connotations such a job has in the public eye. It’s a can of worms that nobody wants to open, but Newlevant does so in a way that makes one think about it and its context in a modern world where those “dirty jobs” are more common.
Beyond that, the novella tackles polyamorous relationships, feelings of not providing enough in a relationship, feelings of inadequacy and the feeling there is not really a home for one to call “home” through brief, touching scenes that go deeper into Hazel’s and Argent’s fears. These segments are ones that people in their 20s can relate to, and I appreciated them greatly.
“Sugar Town” is a story that many people can relate to whether they’re part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, and Newlevant’s quirky dialogue and soft, vibrant, cartoon-like art style gives the Portland, Oregon of “Sugar Town” a unique vibe that not many comics can replicate. Not only is it a quick read, but it also leaves one with a warm, loving feeling inside afterwards.
If you’re interested in “Sugar Town,” there is a 10-page sample up on Newlevant’s website, free of charge. Those who need it in a more physical form, they can snag it for $10 at a local comic book store, Amazon, or from Newlevant’s online storefront.