In 2006, comic artist Justin Hall curated a show at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum called No Straight Lines: Queer Culture and the Comics.
First pitched as a catalogue for the show, the project grew into an anthology called No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics.
“It took me about three years to pull the whole thing together,” Hall says. “I searched for material all over: in the early gay newspapers, the lesbian underground comics of the 1970s, the alternative comics anthologies of the 1980s, the punk zines of the 1990s, and the current web comics.”
No Straight Lines consists of art by almost 100 queer contributors, including work translated from other languages for the first time, plus a cover and contributions by Torontonian Maurice Vellekoop. For Hall, the anthology is as much about celebrating the queer comics community’s rich, sometimes hidden or underground history as it is about showcasing the work of artists who have passed away. “I got a wonderful letter from the surviving partner of one of the pioneering artists in the book, saying how much it meant to him that his lover’s work would live on,” he says.
“The flip side of that is the reward of helping younger queers understand their own history and culture. The last copy of the book I sold at Comic-Con was to a mother buying it for her 18-year-old gay son. She was so proud of him, and she wanted to help him understand the community he was now entering . . . It was incredibly moving.”
Hall will be sharing a table with artist and No Straight Lines contributor Rob Kirby, editor of the Boy Trouble anthologies, at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
“I love TCAF,” he says. “What a fabulous and well-run comics convention! It really is one of the best in the world and another of those things that you Canadians just do better.”
TCAF has always highlighted queer talent in the industry, and this year is no exception. Fellow No Straight Lines contributors Vellekoop, Edie Fake and Erika Moen join other queer artists, both local and international, such as Eric Kostiuk Williams, Blutch, Gengoroh Tagame, Emily Horne and Danielle Corsetto, among others.
“A bunch of us queer cartoonists will be doing a reading and signing at Glad Day that same Friday evening,” Hall says. “Besides that, I intend on hitting the town in Toronto and seeing what trouble I can get into.”
Toronto Comic Arts Festival
Sat, May 11 and Sun, May 12
Toronto Reference Library
789 Yonge St
Justin Hall signing of No Straight Lines
Fri, May 10, 7pm
Glad Day Bookshop
598A Yonge St