I randomly stumbled across the Kickstarter for the documentary version of this book. So of course I had to see if the library had it and it was in the one near me so I walked down and got it at lunch. It was a quick read and covered a wide variety of comics.
I mean 40 years in LGBT/Queer history covers so much from AIDS to decriminalization to marriage to adoption rights to the wonderful coming of age of trans* comics. (For more information on the asterisks check out this graphic (It’s Pronounced Metrosexual link). The anthology did a great job by dividing the comics into three era’s of queer comics: 1) Come Out: Gay Gag Strips, Underground Comix, and Lesbian Literati (1960s-1970s); 2) File Under Queer: Comix to Comics, Punk Zines, and Art During the Plague (1980s-1990s); 3) A New Millennium: Trans Creators, Webcomics, and Stepping Out of the Ghetto (2000s-today?). I listed all of the authors at the end of this post because they all deserve credit in this wonderful anthology.
Many of the more modern comics (both illustrators/writers) I’d actually heard or read portions of, but a lot of the older ones fascinated me. There is something wondrous and incredible in the comic/graphic novel/illustration art form. Having read quite a few adaptations of literary novels and knowing the fullness of the stories and seeing how much comes across in the illustration versus the dialogue/lettering is crazy! I actually felt that a lot of this came across better than these themes generally come across in literature. The same arcs appear in LGBT/Queer literature over the decades, but there is something about the comic format that made them less depressing, less self hating, and less straight washing.
By far my favorite part was section three: A New Millennium: Trans Creators, Webcomics, and Stepping Out of the Ghetto. There were so many wonderful comics that I’d heard of or even read (hello again my old friend Fun Home) and so many that were new to me! You could definitely tell that even though there were (fill in the blank)-phobic story lines, the LGBT/Queer characters were much less likely to hide, they stood proud and said this is me deal with it. It was refreshing to read these and see them visualized.
There were some clear things missing from the anthology, but they were explained early on that in order to make this anthology they had to put limitations. The comics couldn’t be explicitly erotic. This did not surprise me. Apparently there are other anthologies out there for that and they even mentioned the Manga/Yaoi/Hentai that I read about in Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It which was a fascinating read. The editors also had to make the frustrating choice to only include English language comics. Although many comics that are native to other languages are starting to receive more attention, especially online, there has not been a strong history of these comics being translated to English.
The biggest criticism on Goodreads (oh brother) and that I have is that this is just a taste of the Queer comic world that is out there. It’s not even really a critique and more of a regret/whimsical sigh. The editors could only include so many and had to be pretty strict on their representations of the times, but like someone said all this does it make you want to read more! They include a great list at the back of the book with additional anthologies and collections to check out, but it just left me wanting more!
Recommendation: MUST READ! This is one of those books that could be great for a wide variety of individuals, LGBT/Queer people, comics lovers, social movement historians, anthropologists, etc. It just keeps going there are so many things in hear that made me laugh, quite a few that made me sad, and even a few that gave hope. But be warned it will open up a new world of LGBT/Queer authors and stories that can suck you in. I’m already planning to grab a copy of Bechdel’s The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For one day this week on my lunch break because I’ve been meaning to read it for years!
Authors in No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics