Let it be known that I was a fan of webtoons before they gained mass media appeal! Okay, that’s exaggerating, but I found webtoons at a time while I was still on a sabbatical from anime, and university exams were kicking my butt. I saw an advertisement for Lore Olympus on Facebook in 2017, and, well, here I am now. There is so much more variety available on the Line WebToon app now compared to back then, which includes queer stories. Speaking of, let’s talk about Jackson’s Diary.
Jackson’s Diary is unlike any queer webtoon I’ve read before. Mostly because the main conflict isn’t the eventual gay awakening of some of the characters, though that still plays a huge part. However, it’s the supernatural element that takes center stage here, with the teen drama taking place around it. The characters happen to be queer, but the things happening to them are paranormal to anyone. And that’s what makes it so enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong, I love queer coming-of-age webtoons such as Heartstopper and the like. They are sweet and relatable. They shine a spotlight on so many readers that might share the same experience. But I also like reading premises that include representation while also having a compelling story that is bigger than its characters. I mean, take a look at Mo Dao Zu Shi. Which plays out like this grand Shonen Dark Fantasy, with different sects, magic, and hidden conspiracies. But the main characters are a gay couple.
This is why Jackson’s Diary is such an interesting webtoon. It’s queer but it’s more than that. It’s about being different in an era where ‘Satanic Panic’ was the buzzword. It’s about the awkwardness of growing up. And also, superpowers are involved! If an LGBTQ-forward plotline with magic involved is your thing, then let’s see if Jackson’s Diary is the one for you!
The Premise: The New Kid In Town!
Either Jackson Smith has really bad luck, or something is going on in this new town he’s moved to. The year is 1989, Madonna’s Like A Prayer has been the song of the summer and Jackson is starting his senior year in a hometown he hasn’t seen since foster care.
However, he’s no stranger to new beginnings. Jackson is now living with his newfound family made up of ‘Tía’ Carol Smith and her husband, Frank. And with his kind and jovial personality, he’s already started making friends at his new high school. Kids just got it all!
But try as he might, he can’t seem to shake this ominous vibe off that something is not right. So, when he gets off the wrong foot with the resident popular kid, Exer Campbell, it’s like all his luck has turned upside down. Is he going mad, or is some insidious presence targeting him?
The Breakdown: A Compelling Supernatural Coming-Of-Age Set in 80’s Camp.
I want to start with the art first, which is surprising for me. But it’s because the art style is what compelled me to start this webtoon in the first place. It’s not intricate or anything but it’s so polished. Every time I read an update for Jackson’s Diary, I’m blown away by how clean the design is. I’d pay good money to see this webtoon animated.
Why else would I want this animated into a show? Because the story works for it. It’s so dynamic and fun, yet creepy and dark in certain places that add weight to an otherwise bubble gum aesthetic. The plot is so intriguing, with how Jackson and Exer’s ‘rivalry’ starts, and how it morphs into something completely different.
And that’s because the characters are fleshed out to the point where they don’t fall flat. Even if they are not in every chapter, you learn something about them that might change your entire perception of the situation at hand. No one is evil here, just misunderstood.
Ad if that is definitely something queer people can relate to.
The Verdict: This One Reads Like A YA Novel (And That’s Good!)
Again, I’m glad it’s a webtoon because I get to enjoy this series both story-wise and visually. But this could work as an intriguing novel as well. If you like your stories relatable with angst, paranormal outburst, and good old-fashioned 80’s glam?
I highly recommend giving Jackson’s Diary a read!