With some mainstream comic book characters coming out of the closet, it's important to acknowledge those who have been out the whole time. For decades, LGBTQ comics have been relegated to appearing in gay newspapers and bookstores. Cut off from the mainstream, this insular world developed a unique style and provided a forum for addressing and discussing issues within the queer community.

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics celebrates the history and artistry of this culture. Major figures in the industry like Alison Bechdel (whose Fun Home was named Time magazine's "Best Book of the Year" in 2006), Howard Cruse, and Ralf Koening are featured in the anthology, as well as high profile individuals who have flirted with gay comics, like Dan Savage. No Straight Lines showcases work from the obscure beginnings to the less obscure now.

We asked the editor, Justin Hall, to give his advice on the best entry points to the genre for a newcomer:

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
"One of the world's great graphic novels, and one of the most thoughtful and literary depictions of a family in any medium. Bechdel's father was a closeted gay man, and the book focuses on her relationship with him and his apparent suicide. Bechdel created the book over the course of seven years, as she was winding down Dykes To Watch Out For, her hugely influential comic strip that ran for 25 years in the gay newspapers."

Stuck Rubber Baby
"Howard Cruse is the godfather of LGBTQ comics, as the first editor of the underground comix series Gay Comix, and a true master cartoonist. His magnum opus is the remarkable Stuck Rubber Baby, a Civil Rights story set in Alabama during the 1960s featuring a white gay man who struggles to come out amidst the racism and political turmoil of the Deep South."

Teleny and Camille
"While this is indeed a masterpiece of sex comics, it is also an intense look at emerging gay identity, as well as a searing depiction of forbidden love. The book was originally created by a group of anonymous writers, thought to be spearheaded by Oscar Wilde, who risked jail and persecution to put on paper their desires and their lives. Macy adapts the book, while also adding modern elements and commentary to make us realize how revolutionary this creation was, and how far we've come."

How Loathsome
"Written by Tristan Crane and illustrated by Ted Naifeh, How Loathsome is the first true graphic novel focusing on trans and genderqueer identities. Focusing on the underbelly of San Francisco's queer subcultures, it is a dark and poetic piece, given beautiful form by Naifeh's top-notch illustrations. The collection was nominated for a GLAAD Award in 2004, and remains the gold standard of genderqueer graphic literature."

Justin Hall will be at Floating World Comics on Thursday, August 9 to discuss and sign No Straight Lines. Several cartoonists featured in the anthology will also be attending, including Erika Moen, Robert Triptow, and Vaughn Fricke. Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St. 6-8 pm.