Think back to when you were in high school. What type of kid were you? A nerd? A jock? A kamikaze girl? Were you quiet and invisible? Or were you the captain of your school’s pep squad? Maybe, perhaps, you were a superhero?
Sixteen-year-old Adrian Piper wasn’t exactly a superhero. But he was an artist with a webcomic. To him, drawing comics was liberating and empowering. “My art is my superpower,” he says. “And I’m not afraid to use it.”
Adrian’s webcomic was about a character named Graphite, a “weird, sexy superhero/Renaissance hybrid creation.” Unlike other comic book heroes, Graphite didn’t fight criminals or smash monsters. In fact he didn’t do very much at all. He was simply a dreamy bishi boy who lived on the moon in a palace filled with art and beauty.
Graphite was also gay, and Adrian used his creation to express his own sexual orientation. As such, Draw the Line is a huge corker of a novel about secret identities, wish fulfillment, transformation, and sexual awakening. It’s a great example of how superhero fiction is able to rise above genre restrictions.
Eventually Adrian has the confidence to embrace his sexual identity. But at the beginning of the novel he’s a lonely, confused, and frustrated kid. “I’m outwardly gay on the inside, but inwardly gay on the outside,” he tells his friends. Truly, the only way he felt comfortable expressing himself was via Graphite, his idealized superhero avatar.
However, after witnessing a group of drunken football players beat up a flamboyantly gay classmate, Adrian decided he couldn’t stay in his bubble of silence any longer. Not only does he orchestrate a wildly convoluted plan to derail the jock hegemony at his Texas high school, but he also unleashes his inner gay superhero. He even attends an end-of-novel Halloween bash dressed as Graphite, the bishonen boy wonder.
Draw the Line suffers from patchy writing here and there, but the book is filled with a handful of truly great moments. One of the best involves Adrian’s first sexual encounter. Writing sex scenes isn’t easy, but author Laurent Linn takes special care to do it properly. The tussle between the sheets is sweet and awkward and will undoubtedly resonate with readers who are gay, straight, and non-binary alike.
Linn also does a good job of punctuating Adrian’s plight with 86 pages of supplemental artwork. Not only do these illustrations mark Adrian’s struggles and achievements, but they also speak directly to the power of comic book sequential storytelling. Linn quotes artist Gillian Redwood at the beginning of his novel, and we think her quote is also a fine way to conclude this review: “Every line tells its own story, even the very tentative ones.”
[Draw the Line / By Laurent Linn / First Published: May 2016 / ISBN: 9781481452809]