Living dolls get graphic in “Dolltopia”

The Toy Story movies confirmed what many of us always suspected: Toys come to life when we aren’t watching.

But I knew more went on than Pixar let us see. And in a new graphic novel, Dolltopia, Abby Denson shows us the subversive side of Toyland.

Dolltopia focuses on Kitty, a ballerina doll who believes that she is destined for things other than dance. But her owner wants her to marry a Ken-ish dweeb, Soccer Steve, so Kitty runs away.

Soon she meets Army Jim, an AWOL soldier toy who is on his way to Dolltopia.

Before they venture outside, though, they visit the sewing basket to make outfits that reflect who they really are.

Once Jim and Kitty arrive at Dolltopia, the options seem endless.

Of course, every good story has conflict. Dolltopia’s climactic scene is a battle between a lobster and a giant doll head with robotic tentacles. You’ll have to discover the outcome for yourself.

Despite the graphic novel’s subversive message, the story is for all ages, with nothing steamier than a scene where two cats cuddle. The romance, as Denson told the Rutland Herald, has some built-in barriers to physical intimacy.

"I do see this as a romantic book, except only the cats are the ones kissing," she said. "Two of the characters, Candy X and Candy O, are a same-gender couple. But they’re not human … they’re dolls, so there really couldn’t be any physical sex."

Denson has been in the comic industry for years, working on titles like Powerpuff Girls, Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Amazing Spider-Man Family, where she told the story of Aunt May doing some crime fighting of her own as Spider-Ma’am.

Her best-known title in the LGBT community is her own: Tough Love: High School Confidential, a yaoi manga coming out story about two gay high school boys, for which she won a Lulu Award. Tough Love tackles issues like gay bashing and suicide in a way that is accessible to gay teens coming to terms with their own sexuality.

Denson currently is on a “cupcake book tour” for Dolltopia, which combines two of my personal favorite things: comics and cupcakes. You can find out where she’ll be at her website.

You’ll also find more pages from Dolltopia plus downloadable paper dolls. And just in case you’re wondering, Jim’s Army fatigues fit Kitty perfectly after a few trims at the waist to shorten the shirt and pants.

Does Dolltopia look like a comic worth reading? What do you think of using graphic novels to discuss issues like diversity and sexual identity?

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