The truer visual record of gay life and relationships doesn't come from teams of overpaid Los Angeles tv writers creating advertiser-friendly characters on the likes of Soap, Dynasty, Ellen, Will & Grace, Modern Family, and this week's debut The New Normal; it comes from obsessive queer geeks working alone all night in little apartments in strange cities and odd towns to make strips that they worry no one will see. Without the privileges and pressures of working for the mainstream, queer cartoonists have been far more free to follow their vision anywhere it leads them, including bed. Forty years ago depictions of gay sex and gay dating -- indeed, gay happiness -- were radical and empowering. So one can reasonably make the case that Justin Hall's new No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics isn't just a fine cartooning anthology, it's a secret history book.
Says Hall (left), "My worry was that the literary queer comics were going to vanish, that there was no one looking out for that work. Especially with the gay publishers and the gay bookstores dying out."
The collection of course honors giants Howard Cruse, Alison Bechdel (with "Oppressed Minority Cartoonist" and her trip to the womyn's music fest in "My Own Private Michigan Hell"), Eric Orner, and Ralf Konig, as well as some personal favorites like the splendid Tim Fish (below), Steve "Shirtlifter" MacIsaac, and Eric Shanower (above). But the book also surprises with graphic stories by other queer titans, like David Wojnarowicz.
You will see your life everywhere in the funny, touching, absurd, and honest episodes. And you may discover some new favorites, like the beautiful work of French cartoonist Fabrice Neaud.
A partial list of the other artists included: Craig Bostick, Paige Braddock, Jennifer Camper, Burton Clarke, Tristan Crane & Ted Naifeh, Diane Dimassa, Kris Dresen, Michael Fahy, Edie Fake, Joyce Farmer, Ellen Forney, Roberta Gregory, Andy Hartzell, Joan Hilty, Victor Hodge, David Kelly, Rupert Kinnard, Robert Kirby, Ed Luce, Steve MacIsaac, Jon Macy, Lee Marrs, Jerry Mills, Erika Moen, Annie Murphy, Andrea Natalie, Nazario, Francois Peneaud & Roger Zanni, Trina Robbins, Roxxie, Joey Alison Sayers, Travis Scott, Robert Triptow, Ivan Velez, Maurice Vellekoop, and Mary Wings.