‘No Straight Lines’ on PBS examines queer comic book history

The PBS documentary “No Straight Lines” gives an in-depth look at the evolution of queer comic books.

It captures the beginnings of queer comics in the early 1970s as an underground art form and culminates with its long-awaited mainstream acceptance into comic books, newspaper strips, and graphic novels.

“‘No Straight Lines’ is the story of a DIY art form — often considered junk food for kids — that over the past 50 years has been used by queer artists as a powerful medium to represent our lives,” director Vivian Kleiman said in a statement.

“More than a chronology of milestone events, I wanted to create an intergenerational story of our emergence from rejection to acceptance, and help LGBTQI youth feel safe,” said Kleiman,  a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker.

“No Straight Lines” spotlights the careers of five scrappy and pioneering cartoonists who depicted everything from the AIDS crisis and “coming out” to same-sex marriage:

Wings is credited with publishing the first known queer comic book, “Come Out Comics,” in 1973. The autobiographical book chronicles a young woman’s realization of her sexual identity and her first fumbling romantic relationship. 

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These pioneering queer artists use comics as a tool for social change and queer acceptance. They brought the queer experience to life in a changing world, showcasing the everyday pursuits of love, sex, and community through a humorous and artful lens, and pushing what was once a marginalized underground scene into the mainstream.

In the past 10 years, queer comics and their creators have had more visibility:

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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