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Packed house for Alison Bechdel at Women and Children First [19 November, 2008]

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Alison Bechdel’s immensely popular Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip has been running since 1983.  Since its appearance, the interconnected lives and attachments of Mo, Sydney, Jasmine, Toni, Ginger and others have been cultural reference points of queer/dyke popular culture.

Bechdel took a break from the strip to work on her first graphic novel, Fun Home, a memoir about her relationship with her father. Published in 2006, it became a vastly popular and critical success and clearly reached audiences outside Bechdel’s queer readerhip; Time magazine named it the “#1 Best Book of the Year.”  Today, Bechdel has achieved a rare distinction for a lesbian comic strip artist in that she’s considered among the best graphic artists in the nation.

This year, Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of Fun Home, perhaps sensing the possibility of another breakthrough success, has released The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, a compendium of excerpts from the last twenty-five years.  Bechdel was in Chicago on November 13 as part of a book tour.  Over 150 fans packed the store to capacity while she took them through a brief slide show of familiar moments in the series, with their collective and interlinked sex lives forming the connective thread.

Afterwards, Bechdel took questions about her future work (she’s working on another memoir), the graphic artists who’ve inspired here (Edward Gorey, among others), and and how she keeps up with news in order to make her strip constantly relevant (she reads a lot).

In response to a question about the link between current events and her work, Bechdel explained that, for her, “the comic strip is a way of making sense of bigger issues.”

Originally published in Windy City Times, 19 November, 2008

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