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Alison Bechdel

Page history last edited by Matt Brown 11 years, 11 months ago

Born: September 10, 1960 in Loch Haven, Pennsylvania


Alison Bechdel is the award winning cartoonist and creator most known for her 25 year running comic strip called "Dykes To Watch Out For" (DTWOF) and the graphic novel Fun Home, among many other publications.





Born September 10, 1960 in Loch Haven, PA, Bechdel was the middle child of three children born into a Roman Catholic family. Her father was Bruce Allen Bechdel (died July 2, 1980) and her mother is Helen Bechdel.  She has two brothers, John Bechdel (an accomplished pianist) and Christian Bechdel. Her father was a third generation funeral home director and a high school English teacher. Bechdel, grew up in the unusual environment of a funeral home and with a father who was an avid reader. She gained an early love for reading, writing and drawing. Bechdel studied at Simon’s Rock College and Oberline College, graduating in 1981. Bechdel began keeping a journal at the age of ten, and has been diligently archiving her own life and times with words and pictures ever since. She married her partner, Amy Rubin in 2004 in a civil ceremony in San Francisco, but later the California Supreme Court voided same sex marriages that were performed at that time. Bechdel and Rubin separated in 2006. Bechdel currently resides near Burlington, VT.


The “Bechdel” Test-From a 1985 episode of DTWOF. It appears in “The Rule,” a comic strip found on page 22 of the original DTWOF collection. Previously misnamed for a DTWOF character named Mo, it has been called the Mo Movie Measure. However, Mo actually doesn’t appear in DTWOF until two years later. Bechdel does not take credit for the actual rule. She claims she stole it from her friend, Liz Wallace. “The Rule” is a feminist test for films to use as a gauge to detect the presence of women in movies. The Rule's Criteria are as follows: 1. Are there two or more women in the movie who have names? 2. Do these women talk to each other? 3. Do they talk about something other than a man? The test allegedly proves that there is a systemic problem in the movie industry. Many popular films do not pass the test! Ex. Batman: The Dark Night, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, Austin Powers, Bourne Identity, Shrek, Lord of the Rings, Watchmen, Pirates of the Caribbean, Terminator, Braveheart and Toy Story are just a small sample!



After graduating from college, Bechdel moved to New York and applied to several art schools, but was rejected. She worked in various office jobs for the publishing industry. Her first published cartoon was in Womennews, a feminist newspaper, in a June 1983 issue. This was a single cartoon. Eventually, these evolved to  multi-panel strips. For twenty-five years she wrote and drew the comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," a generational chronicle considered “one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period.” (Ms.) She is also the author of the best-selling Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which won an Eisner Award and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist. Time Magazine named Fun Home the number one Best Book of 2006, calling the memoir about her father, “A masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other.”

Fun Home and Dykes to Watch Out For have been translated into many languages. Bechdel has drawn comics for Slate, McSweeney’s, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, and Granta, among other places.

Her comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For had run serially in gay and lesbian newspapers since 1983. And over the years, a series of eleven collections have been published. These have contained all the newspaper strips, and have often also included a bonus “graphic novella,” or extended story about the characters.

Though all the collections are technically still in print, they’ve gotten very difficult for readers to find, and for stores to stock.




  • The Essential DTWOF (2008) This compilation was intended as a way to get Dykes to Watch Out For back onto bookstore shelves and into the hands of regular readers—and also into the hands of new readers who wouldn’t otherwise have run across it. It contains 390 of the extant 527 episodes. That’s 74%. Note: All the new episodes since the collection (Invasion of the Dykes To Watch Out For, Alyson Books, 2005) are included: Numbers 458 to 527.


  • Bechdel has completed a short graphic essay about her dad in the “Fathers” issue of Granta, fall 2008.
  • The New York Times Book Review, March 2009.  Bechdel reviewed Jane Vandenburgh’s memoir A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century. 
  • The Best American Comics (2011) by Alison Bechdel: A Comics Anthology: A collection of the best graphic pieces published in 2010. Review: "Bechdel selects 27 pieces for this year's Best American anthology, and though a reader can trace her sensibility in some of the entries — Eric Orner's funny and explicit 'Weekends Abroad' might as well be called 'Israeli Gays to Watch Out For' — it's a pleasure to see many odd, gritty selection. Michael DeForge's 'Queen' and Angie Wang's 'Flower Mecha' both temper dysmorphia with welcome silliness; John Pham's 'St. Ambrose' and Noah Van Sciver's 'Abby's Road' treat underexplored subcultures (Vietnamese-American Catholics and Juggalos) with thoughtfulness and care. No serious comics fan won't already have read the pieces from Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, or Jaime Hernandez chosen for this anthology; however, excerpts from masterful longer works rarely stand well on their own. And while Bechdel owns up in her witty introduction to the collection's poor representation of women and cartoonists of color, it's a little bizarre that the series' editors spend their intro bragging about Best American's first-ever inclusion of a webcomic (Kate Beaton's terrific 'Hark! A Vagrant!') as if they're brave pioneers, rather than years behind the curve. Overall, though, this year's Best American is a handsome anthology with more than a few welcome surprises. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


“If you have spent a long time resisting the status quo; whether its in art, society, or the political world; what happens when that status quo at last gives way? A universe of possibility opens up.”- Alison Bechdel, from the Introduction of The Best American Comics (2011).

The Best American Comics showcases the work of both established and up-and-coming contributors. Editor Neil Gaimanone of the top writers in modern comics and the award-winning author of novels and childrens books has culled the best stories from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Internet to create this cutting-edge collection. With entries from luminaries such as Tim Hensley, Michael Kupperman, and Dash Shaw, “its hard to flip through this book without finding a lot worth reading (and rereading)” (The Onion, A.V. Club).

She is working on a new memoir about herself and her relationships with others. Because she says she has decided that the only thing she’s really interested in is herself! And she is working on a memoir called Are You My Mother?, graphic novel about her own mother.


Bechdel’s Process: She calls herself an auteur because she is the kind of cartoonist who does all the work: penciling, inking, writing, etc. Fun Home took 7 years to finish. She believes this book happened at just the right time politically and socially as the movement for gay and lesbian acceptance into the mainstream was ripe and as the graphic novel was more accepted as literature. She loves words! She was invited, in Nov. 2006, to sit on the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel! She gets a ballot to vote on what is the proper usage for problematic words or phrases. Bechdel keeps lists of vocabulary. Enacts each character’s pose and takes picture of it before sketching it on paper. She also uses props. She draws from looking at her digital camera image.

Writes in the drawing program Adobe Illustrator. Creates a storyboard. Thinks visually as she is writing the text. Uses cheap typing paper, then adds layers of tracing paper over the sketch to add details. Does a lot of research on the Internet and Google image.  Ex. She searched for historical, architectural, and fashion examples to draw from for Fun Home.

Then inks over penciling. Erases pencil marks. Scans into Photoshop, fill in black with a mouse click, get rid of any mistakes. Shading done with watered down ink on a separate layer and scans that into Photoshop. Then combines the two. Then adds words. Finally she adds the color.







Graphic memoir



References and Further Reading


http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/ Bechdels official website


 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWBFYTmpC54 Stuck in Vermont 109, a Seven Days Video, sponsored by Burlington College


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvF46ehiHfc&feature=related A Conversation with Alison Bechdel, video by MindTV.org


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaRSbqFm98k&feature=related Alison Bechdel’s Big Kiss Pt 1, a Velvet Park Magazine video


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWXvI3fI_p4&feature=related Alison Bechdel’s Big Kiss Pt 2, a Velvet Park Magazine video


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cumLU3UpcGY&feature=fvsr Alison Bechdel- Creating “Fun Home”: a Family Tragic Comic, video by MindTV.org

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MScwlAQYVuA a video about Bechdel’s drawing process



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