No Straight Lines
By Jerry Portwood
Although Hollywood can't get enough of the mainstream comics to convert into summer blockbusters, most gay men and women these days seem to prefer to salivate over bare flesh in photos (or in the countless amateur porn clips collected online) rather than the comics, drawings, and strips that continue to be produced. To attempt to combat that digital distraction, cartoonist Justin Hall has collected four decades of stellar work in No Straight Lines, published by Fantagraphics.
You won't find erotic comics or manga, so don't even start. But you will find everything from "lesbian underground comix, to gay newspaper strips, to bi punk zines, to trans webcomics, and dealing with everything from coming out, to marriage equality, to the AIDS epidemic, to hilarious dance styles, and bad choices for a one-night stand, according to Long.
As he explained to Jase Peeples at The Advocate that he had three criteria: artistic merit, historical merit, and representational merit. "First and foremost, I wanted the collection to be an excellent read," Hall explained, "as well as a collection that would represent the history and diversity of queer comics."
Although there are quite a few stellar gay webcomics (the wave of the future for sure), Hall also focused on print strips that appeared over the past 40 years. As he explained, comics and queer people have a lot in common:
"There are interesting parallels between comics and queers; both have a hard time getting respect by the dominant culture, and both have problems understanding their own history. I hope for this book to serve two functions: one, to educate comics fans about this remarkable body of work done outside of the traditional comics industry, and two, to educate the LGBTQ community about this unique artistic tradition that has spanned four decades tackling complex issues of identity and changing social mores with intelligence, humor, and an irreverent imagination. How’s that for a mission statement?"
Ultimately he wants people who find the collection to discover that "these creators have been holding up a fascinating funhouse mirror for the LGBTQ community for decades. They’ve been describing our lives in profound, smart, surreal, tragic, and funny ways. I want people to be amazed at the quality of the work, and the quality of the message."