www.ambiente.us NOVEMBER | NOVIEMBRE 2008
Allison Bechdel | Dykes to watch out for
Since its inception in 1983, Alison Bechdel’s comic strip
Dykes To Watch Out For has become a countercultural
institution. The strip is syndicated in dozens of newspapers,
translated into several languages and collected in a series
of award-winning books. Utne magazine has listed DTWOF
as “one of the greatest hits of the twentieth century.” And
Comics Journal says, “Bechdel’s art distills the pleasures of
Friends and The Nation; we recognize our world in it, with its
sorrows and ironies.”
In addition to her comic strip, Bechdel has also done
exclusive work for a slew of publications, including Ms.,
Slate, the Advocate, and many other newspapers, websites,
comic books, and ‘zines.
In 2006, Houghton Mifflin published her graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. The bestselling
coming-of-age tale has been called a “mesmerizing feat of familial resurrection” and a “rare, prime example
of why graphic novels have taken over the conversation about American literature.”
Bechdel lives near Burlington, Vermont.
Having won critical acclaim for her autobiographical cartoon Fun Home in 2006 and 2007, Bechdel will
publish The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, a collection of the series of the comic strips, this November.
Readers will be pleased to see that the book faithfully follows the life of Mo, the neurotic, ultra-feminist,
politically active lesbian, and her pack of girlfriends. Clarice and Toni are a couple longing for a baby of their
own, sex-crazed Lois, and Sparrow and her over-the-top spirituality.
Allison sits with AMBIENTE to discuss her work:
A- How did you get into writing and comic strips?
AB- I always drew funny pictures as a kid. After I came out, I started drawing funny drawings of lesbians.
Friends encouraged me to submit them to our local feminist paper, and I did. People liked them, so I just
kept making more
A- Do you collaborate with anyone on your strip?
AB- No. I do all the writing and drawing myself. Well, I have consultants who advise me on things like
academic careers cancer treatment, library school, and video games, stuff like that. And my ex-girlfriend Amy
would often help me with writing when I got stuck.
A- What part of the process do you enjoy most, the writing, artwork or publishing? Why?
AB- The inking, after I have everything all written and penciled. All the hard work is done and I can just focus
on making lines.
"My words of wisdom a young lesbian wanting to get into the
business? Draw a lot." - Allison Bechdel
A- Your characters talk about race, gender, disability, artificial insemination, monogamy, infidelity & HIV/AIDS.
Explain how you have managed to find humor in these subjects?
AB- Well, some people might argue that I haven’t. I don’t try too hard to be funny—that never seems to work.
A- Is your audience exclusively lesbian? Can other readers relate to your work? How?
AB- My readership has gotten a lot more diverse over the years. I think a lot of straight people with leftist
sensibilities who lead countercultural lives have gotten into it because they don’t see other cartoons that
reflect their values the way DTWOF does.
A- When and how did you first get published? What is a challenge?
AB- I had my first cartoon published in 1983 in a feminist newspaper in New York City. I was on the volunteer
collective that put the paper out. At the beginning of my career I did the strip for free. Interestingly, I kind of did
it for free at the end of my career too, because so many LGBT papers haven’t been able to pay me.
A- Are any of your characters based on yourself or friends?
AB- They’re all based on me.
A- How did the books idea come about?
AB- I was approached in the mid-eighties by Nancy Bereano, who was just starting up the groundbreaking
feminist press Firebrand Books. She published my comics in 9 collections over 15 years.
A- What’s next for Alison?
AB- I’m working on a graphic memoir called Love Life.
The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and will be available in
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