No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics

NSLCoverThis mammoth omnibus collects forty years of LGBT comics in 300 pages. Organized in three main sections – “Comics Come Out,” “File Under Queer,” and “A New Millenium” – Hall has distilled hundreds of comics down to this definitive collection. While most of the comics included are excerpt from larger works, they do not lose anything in the editing process. Here we can trace the evolution of attitudes towards LGBT people as seen through their eyes.

I feel it’s important to state upfront that I am a straight woman. I can see that where one is coming from, one’s background, is going to effect one’s interpretation of these comics. Maybe that’s an obvious truth, but it is one that needs to be said, nonetheless. Maybe it’s that, while reading this collection, I feel my straightness. That is, I feel my lack of cultural understanding of LGBT life. I’m sure that LGBT people will read this anthology and find something different – they may find hope or courage in stories of the struggle. Most of these comics are fairly political, as can be expected for comics that began when being gay was still subversive.

The comics I most enjoyed were the ones that show how we are all the same, rather than different: the comics about settling for empty sex but really wanting a deeper connection; the ones that show how frustrating it can be to have to hide who you are, or at least important parts of yourself; the ones that show feelings of alienation and ultimately redemption. These are universal truths that everyone can relate to.

The art is varied, as can be expected when many different authors are represented, although most are line drawings, as the majority of these works are comics and not from longer graphic novels with their greater opportunity for artistic expression.

Hall has put together a slightly overwhelming collection, covering a huge range of experiences. I found the lack of introductions to the different strips a little jarring. They all run into one another. While there is a table of contents and a well written introduction, conclusion, and list of further readings at the end, I would have liked a little more history and context for each individual strip, rather than having them all run together.

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics
by Justin Hall, ed.
ISBN: 978-160699506
Fantagraphics, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

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