SFZF Featured Artist Spotlight: Justin Hall

“As our concept of queerness changes and our concepts of comics change as well, there’s a lot new material that is happening and new undergrounds are forming.” ~ Justin Hall

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Justin Hall referred to the emerging voices that appeared over time. The research he did for his anthology, No Straight Lines, proved there was a lot of material that hadn’t been archived into queer comic anthologies. No Straight Lines was his attempt to change that by including a wider perspective and representation of both comics and queer history.  

A lot of the stories he included in No Straight Lines  were originally underground comics and zines, created by people who didn’t identify with gay stereotypes. Even though mainstream culture has been more inclusive of gay characters over time, most of the characters that appeared in novels, comics, and television were created by straight men, and failed to represent a diverse community.  But the queer comics scene showed a huge collection of talented individuals, who wanted to tell their stories their way. What those independent creators did was form a wider range of identities that broke stereotypes. They were poetic glimpses, and first-hand accounts, that ended up challenging the canon of art and our concepts of what it means to be queer.

The significance of archives like the Center for Sex and Culture’s library, and anthologies like No Straight Lines, is their ability to make underground art accessible to a large audience. It increases the public’s understanding of queer culture, art, and sex. It also forms a model or paradigm of sorts, but with a different lens. “A painter is going to know this canon of art history to fall back on and look over,” Justin explained. “Where as for cartoonists, for so long, there hasn’t been that conversation of who are our great masters. What’s the art history of comics? So that’s important. And the same thing is true for queer people. Who are our role models? How do we validate the experiences that have happened in the past, that we can learn from and grow from? Who do we give props to?”

After reading Justin’s work, looking through the CSC (Center for Sex and Culture) archives, and meeting the artists at SF Zine Fest, a few insights emerge: an artist’s imagination can break through all limits, and that fight for survival has the power to create a cultural shift.

To learn more about Justin Hall’s work, come through to our panel tomorrow, Saturday, August 31 at noon.