If “No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics” isn’t the definitive look at the world of GLBT comics, it surely must come darn close.
Editor Justin Hall modestly states in his introduction that the sheer magnitude of the GLBT comics scene prevented this from being the definitive guide he had originally envisioned, but with more than 300 pages of comics from four decades it covers a huge chunk of history, along with examples of the work of dozens of artists. It’s definitely a two-nighter, at least.
It’s also a fascinating read, leaving out only the genre of overtly erotic comics. Sure, there’s some nudity and language, but Hall, a comic writer himself, is going for the literary in this set.
He starts with the underground comix (with an x) of the ’70s and takes us all the way up to the modern explosion of GLBT creators on the Internet. For a minority that seemed to be so hidden from the mainstream until more recently, it was surprisingly prolific, especially lesbians. If they couldn’t get published, they did it themselves on copy machines and self-distributed.
It’s a collection full of comedy and tear-jerkers, crude illustrations and stunning art. There are gags (both kinds) and intensely personal stories, including some from Alison Bechdel of “Dykes to Watch Out For” and the award-winning “Fun Home.” And there’s everything in between.
Personal favorites include Tim Barela’s “Leonard & Larry,” a hilarious strip about two middle-aged men madly in love with each other and happily domesticated. Eric Orner’s best known for “The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,” but he’s also represented here with a nice story of time spent in Israel. “In the Garden of Steven” tells the story of first love from three perspectives. One of my current favorite webcomics, “Finn and Charlie Are Hitched” by Tony Breed is in there. And new to me was Christine Smith’s “The Princess,” an all-ages friendly take on being transgendered. Kris Dresen’s “In Common” is a humorous and utterly relatable spin on a common lesbian stereotype.
If you’re at all a reader of GLBT comics, this is a must-have collection for your bookshelf. I knew there was a lot out there, but I was surprised at the depth of the genre — in sheer quantity and in quality.
It’s also a great volume for comics historians.
On a related note, “Spandex: Fast and Hard” is a recent, all-too-brief collection by British comic book writer and artist Martin Eden. It collects three of his “Spandex” comics, which follow the adventures of an all-GLBT superhero team.
The color-coded rainbow team fights with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to the reader as they go up against a 50-foot lesbian and pink ninjas with plenty of cheeky dialogue and several NSFW scenes.
Yes, there’s a lot of humor, but there’s also plenty of drama. Many of the characters have secrets, and everything isn’t hunky dory.
What Eden lacks in artistic refinement, he more than makes up for with vivid characters and intriguing situations. Liberty, the leader, is especially poignant. To the world, Liberty is a superheroine, but at home, she’s a man who dreams of being a woman. This is a truly diverse team, covering many aspects of the GLBT community.
If I have a major complaint, it’s the the book only collects three comic issues. Eden barely scratches the surface of this group. Most collections are five or six issues, and if you’re shelling out for a hardcover, more content would be nice — especially when the content is this interesting and fun.