English 430: Literature & the Visual Arts

November 2, 2009

Alison Bechdel

Filed under: Online Reports — jenniferjoellis @ 6:46 pm
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Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is best known for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which began in 1983 and has been syndicated in dozens of newspapers and collected in books. She has also had work published in Ms., Slate, and the Advocate. She has published two books, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home. Her website, Dykes to Watch Out For, features many of her comic strips as well as a blog where Bechdel posts almost daily. Bechdel lives near Burlington, Vermont.

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“I usually draw myself, to tell you the truth.” (Bechdel)

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Bechdel gives a link to news and reviews on her webpage, and this features an interview with Eva Solberger for her series “Stuck in Vermont” in the Seven Days newspaper website in December 2008. Here are some of the memorable Bechdel quotes from this interview:

“I love words, but especially, I love words and pictures together in a mystical way that I can’t even explain.”

“Political is personal; personal is political. I never was a political person until I realized I was a lesbian. I was this oblivious middle-class white kid who didn’t understand the powers of oppression or structure or anything. My very existence became politicized for me and that’s what enabled me to see all these things. It wasn’t just me, it was a whole cultural movement that was also doing those things that I was a part of.”

“I always drew. I just never stopped. Most children stop.”

“I created these characters to be my community, to be my family, the type of community that I never felt like I had. I felt somehow cut off, like I was missing the action. It wasn’t like I knew what it was going to turn into.”

Alison Bechdel, in her comic book Fun Home, writes a memoir about growing up gay—and finding out that her father is also gay. Growing up in a small Pennsylvania town, Bechdel tells the story of two generations of gay people. Bechdel’s father commits suicide when Bechdel is nineteen. Ampersand, an online blogger critic, describes Bechdel as not “a show-offy cartoonist; she’s all about communicating the story and the moment, and she usually does it in the least obtrusive way possible.” Barry Deutsch, aka Ampersand, goes on to praise this two-panel sequence from Bechdel’s book for “how well it communicates the emotional undercurrents; the body language and expressions of two people trying not to have any reaction to what they’re saying are perfect.”

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Ampersand writes that in his opinion, Bechdel has not received more accolades, like being chosen as one of the “Top 100 English-Language Comics of the 20th Century” chosen by The Comics Journal, is sexism. Ampersand writes that “the critical culture in comics tends to dismiss female-dominated genres as fluff, while male-dominated genres—even extremely fluffy ones, like adventure comic strip and superhero comics—are taken more seriously (and were well-represented on the top 100 list).”

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Bechdel has since stopped writing Dykes to Watch Out For, but the legacy of this innovative and provocative strip lives on.

Here are some of Bechdel’s images available online with a link to each image:

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Works cited

Bedchel, Alison. “Coming Out Story.” www.oberlinlgbt.org/bechdel/bechdel-1.html. Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

Bedchel, Alison. From Introduction of The Essential Dykes to Watch For.

Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

Bolonik, Kera. “Alison Bechdel Retires Her Infamous ‘Dykes.’” New York Books. 23 Nov. 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2009.

Deutsch, Barry (aka Ampersand). “Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ is Time Magazine’s Book of the Year.” Alas! A Blog. 20 Dec.  2006. Web. 26 Oct. 2009

Resmer, Cathy. “The Essence of ‘Dykes.’’ Seven Days online newspaper. 17 Dec. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2009

Solberger, Eva. Interview with Alison Bechdel for “Stuck in Vermont” for the Seven Days newspaper website. Dec. 2008. Accessed through Dykes to Watch Out For. Web. 27 Oct. 2009

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