*The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For — Best of 2008

With the popularity of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, many readers wanted to see more work by her. Her earlier series, Dykes to Watch Out For (DTWOF), is good reading, but hard to catch up on, with 11 books released over two decades, many of which are out of print. Thus, this omnibus edition.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For cover
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For
Buy this book

In addition to 330 of the previously published strips (out of 457, or about 3/4 of them), the book contains an additional 60 new ones (up through #527, at which point Bechdel put the strip on hiatus to work on a new memoir, Love Life: A Case Study), plus 12 pages of introduction in comic form by Bechdel. In it, she discusses how she’s “been drawing this comic strip for my entire adult life!” and reveals how it came about. Her aim was to make lesbians more visible and praise them as socially and ethically aware.

If you’ve never read DTWOF before, you’ll find a wide cast of diverse women. Stripe-shirted Mo, who seems the most like the author, is neurotic, conflicted, and politically strident. Lois, a drag king, enjoys sex unabashedly. Her housemate Ginger is working on her Ph.D. and a long-distance romance, while their other roommate Sparrow goes to therapy a lot (until later in the book, where she comes out as a bisexual lesbian with boyfriend Stuart).

Clarice and Toni are a professional couple with a long relationship who later raise a child together. Jezanna owns the women’s bookstore where Lois and Mo work along with Thea, a snappy woman in a wheelchair. Harriet, a human rights investigator, stays in touch with Mo after their relationship falls apart, and then Sydney, obnoxious university professor with too much debt, comes into the picture. Later, a young Republican lesbian joins the cast, bringing things full circle to where being gay is just one aspect of a character’s life.

In addition to capturing the daily life of all kinds of lesbians, the comic is also, due to the cast’s interaction with the issues of the day, a portrait of the various eras the characters live through. They debate politics and ethics and life decisions, including safe sex, monogamy, consumerism, corporate monopolies, gender transformations, and social responsibility. It’s a fascinating, addictive soap opera, especially as the reader grows to know all of these surprising women. Watching them move from starting their lives into becoming parents and worrying about careers is almost a generational saga; it’s distinctly the story of a community.

Here’s an interview with Bechdel about creating the book and the future of the strip. Find out more and read sample strips at Bechdel’s website.

7 Responses to “*The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For — Best of 2008”

  1. cognitive dissident Says:

    Bechdel is a great cartoonist, and this “Essential” compilation (which I reviewed here) really demonstrates the maturation of her skills. There aren’t many writers/artists like her, and I miss the whole “Dykes” cast…but if that’s the price to pay for another memoir as wonderful as “Fun Home,” I guess I really shouldn’t complain!

  2. Best of 2008 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Essential Dykes to Watch Out ForThe best of 25 years of Alison Bechdel’s lesbian soap opera in a handsome single hardcover volume. It also, not so coincidentally, serves as a modern history of liberal aggravation and cultural wars. […]

  3. The Bechdel Test Becomes a Bigger Deal » DVDs Worth Watching Says:

    […] Bechdel Test. In this simple evaluation, first formulated by cartoonist Alison Bechdel (Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For) in this comic 25 (!) years ago, a film passes if it shows two women talking to each other about […]

  4. Ellie Says:

    Glad this has been published, but I’m sure as hell not buying it on Amazon.com!

  5. Suggest Non-Memoir Graphic Novels for Adult Women » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] the US, the long-running comic strip (now ended) Dykes to Watch Out For is a terrific soap opera about all kinds of women. More recently, I enjoyed discovering Picket […]

  6. Mrs Weber’s Omnibus » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] with the sprawling cast, politically tinged relationships, and literary and academic concerns, of Dykes to Watch Out For. One surprising subject that occasionally recurred and struck me as just as relevant today were […]

  7. Bechdel Test Becomes an Official Rating in Sweden » DVDs Worth Watching Says:

    […] Bechdel, the cartoonist behind the long-running Dykes to Watch Out For and the modern classic autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, also lent her name to the Bechdel […]




Most Recent Posts: