In the graphic novel series Lumberjanes the phrase to remember is “Friendship to the Max!” It hangs on the sign above ‘Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types,’ gets repeated by the characters, and is supported by the narrative. Equally supported, but more subtly stated, is the idea that diversity is not just okay, but good. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to an ensemble cast whose wide range of visual designs and personalities make them easy to track on the page and engage with in the story.
Lumberjanes jumps feet-first into adventure by introducing the girls of the Roanoke Cabin chasing supernatural creatures through the woods in the middle of the night (to the horror of their counselor Jen). The creatures lead them to an amulet, which leads them on a quest through an underground obstacle course, that involves even more supernatural creatures, and the adventure never slows down from there. Most supernatural story arcs take one volume to tell, while character arcs span several and a number of mysteries are quietly growing throughout the whole series so far.
Sometimes, in stories about teamwork and friendship, it can be easy to trip into the pitfall of conformity. To paint different interests as sources of conflict, and individuality as a threat to teamwork. Lumberjanes does not fall into this pit. Instead, Lumberjanes takes a running leap and vaults over it. In every adventure the Roanoke Cabin goes on, their diverse interests and skills are what saves the day. April’s arm-wrestling, Molly’s archery, Jo’s engineering, Mal’s on-the-fly planning, Jen’s vast science knowledge, and Ripley’s sheer enthusiasm to tackle things head-on all come in handy.
Above all though, what drives the emotional heart of the stories is the genuine care and support the girls give each other. This care is for the most part expressed platonically, but some campers explore romance as well in a way that is serious, low-key, and relatable.
Lumberjanes knows that there is no one way to be a hardcore lady-type and makes sure to give readers two canon transgender characters. One has already transitioned before attending camp, and her gender status is treated in such a way that it is easy to imagine that any other camper could be transgender as well. The second character is introduced attending an associated summer camp for boys and questions where they belong over the course of the story, eventually deciding to join the Lumberjanes and use singular-they pronouns. Both characters are treated with respect and kindness by both the story and their friends.
“Friendship to the Max” not only means getting to know about and support your friends, but also getting to know and support yourself, finding balance between conflicting needs. A good friend doesn’t want to run roughshod over you! They want you to reach out to them, and in the world of Lumberjanes you will always find a friend waiting for you, hand outstretched.