Alison Bechdel: a Primer

10 Jun

Yes, she is an actual person. No, she is not an academic. She is a cartoonist. But not a political cartoonist, although her politics come into her art, as they do for many artists. Lately, she’s been writing memoirs, but for nearly thirty years, I’ve known her as the artist and writer of one of the best lesbian soap operas ever. Two decades before the L Word, there was

Dykes to Watch Out For

Even her website is named after her real claim to fame:

http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/

The strip appeared initially in gay community newspapers, and then was made into a series of books. It follows the adventures of the neurotic Mo, a clerk at Madwimmin Books*, her best friend Lois, and their buddies Clarice, Toni, Ginger, and Sparrow. Over the years, the cast of characters expanded as their relationships evolved and as Bechdel explored the cultural signposts, trends, and cliches of lesbian life.

Before the serial drama following the lives of these characters began, the Dykes to Watch Out For strip was a series of comic vignettes featuring one-off characters. One of the cartoons that appeared in 1985 was this one:

Quote it out of context if you want to, my pretties, but just remember the source.

* The fact that the initial community gathering spot for the DTWOF characters was a feminist/lesbian bookstore tells you how old this strip is. Buns and Noodle Barnes and Noble put Madwimmin out of business years ago, and we all know what happened to monster chains like B&N when a bigger fish came along.

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