A new documentary that follows the evolution of LGBTQ+ representation in comics will premiere on PBS’s Emmy-winning anthology series. independent lens this month, featuring interviews with Alison Bechdel (Fun home, dikes to keep in mind) and other underground comic pioneers exploring queer lives and identities. Described by critics as entertaining and informative, No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics is a deep dive into this story, directed by Peabody Award winner Vivian Kleimen (color adjustment).
no straight lines takes viewers from the 1970s, when the LGBTQ+ experience was absent from pop culture, through the careers of five pioneering cartoonists who depicted everything from the AIDS crisis to same-sex marriage. The film captures the beginnings of queer comics, from the underground art form to the social movement, and eventually the mainstream acceptance of queer characters and their stories in comics, newspaper strips, and graphic novels.
Synopsis: When Alison Bechdel received a coveted MacArthur Award for her best-selling graphic memory funny house, announced the acceptance of LGBTQ+ comics in American culture. From the underground DIY comics scene to mainstream acceptance, meet five smart and funny queer comic artists whose uncensored commentary left no subject untouched and explored art as a tool for social change.
no straight lines features interviews with five queer comics artists: Bechdel, jennifer camper (Rude girls and dangerous women), howard cruise (WENDEL, stuck rubber baby), rupert kinnard (bb and the diva, cathartic comics) Y mary wings (Come Out Comix). These cutting-edge artists use comics as a tool for social change and queer acceptance, showing the everyday searches for love, sex, and community through a humorous and witty lens, and pushing a marginalized scene into the mainstream.
“no straight lines is the story of a do-it-yourself art form, often considered kiddie junk food, that over the past 50 years has been used by queer artists as a powerful medium to represent our lives,” Kleiman said. “Rather than a timeline of major events, I wanted to create an intergenerational story of our rise from rejection to acceptance, and help LGBTQI youth feel safe.”
In the documentary, interviews of the artists and their work are intertwined with stories from iconic moments in LGBTQ+ history, from the Stonewall riots to the AIDS epidemic and more. Together these elements tell the story of how the queer comics scene sheds light on the experiences of generations in a previously underrepresented community.
Kleiman directed and produced the documentary. Also serving as producer is Justin Hall, who edited the Lamdba Award-winning, Eisner-nominated book. No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics and created the comics true travel tales Y hard to swallow.
no straight lines premieres on PBS January 23 at 10 p.m. ET (check local listings) and will be available to stream via the PBS Video app.
Visit pbs.org/independentlens for more information.