Alison Bechdel Critic's Choice Member Picks Recommended

When: Tue., Sept. 23, 6 p.m. 2008

Alison Bechdel's The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, due out in November, compiles selected comics from the present back to 1987, when she introduced the strip's current cast of characters. Except for the 60 most recent strips, all the comics have been published in other collections, but Bechdel adds a fascinating graphic introduction that details how she became a cartoonist, dissecting the process that led her to a full-time job chronicling "the lives, loves, and politics" of a dozen or so mostly lesbian characters. The index—which is an entertaining read in its own right—also provides some idea of what the strip is about, with its multiple references to the Lesbian Avengers, bookstores, sperm banks, drag, and lentils. But what placing these strips together emphasizes is how little things change. After 21 years the characters are still going to marches and fighting for the right to marry (even as they continue to debate its merits among themselves), and early rants about how the country is being destroyed under Bush remain depressingly relevant today. Sure, some of them have had kids or changed jobs, sex, and/or sexual orientation. But Bechdel's sharp political and social criticism are consistent throughout, as is the way she touches on controversial topics through mundane sagas. Bechdel worries in the introduction that by making lesbian life more visible she's also made it seem more conventional—but as long as she’s including characters like a transgendered preteen, she probably doesn't need to fret. –-Julia Thiel

Price: $3-$5

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