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Dykes to Watch Out For

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For

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From the author of Fun Home -- the lives, loves, and politics of cult fav characters Mo, Lois, Sydney, Sparrow, Ginger, Stuart, Clarice, and others

For twenty-five years Bechdel’s path-breaking Dykes to Watch Out For strip has been collected in award-winning volumes (with a quarter of a million copies in print), syndicated in fifty alternative newspapers, and translated into many languages. Now, at last, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For gathers a “rich, funny, deep and impossible to put down” (Publishers Weekly) selection from all eleven Dykes volumes. Here too are sixty of the newest strips, never before published in book form.

Settle in to this wittily illustrated soap opera (Bechdel calls it “half op-ed column and half endless serialized Victorian novel”) of the lives, loves, and politics of a cast of characters, most of them lesbian, living in a midsize American city that may or may not be Minneapolis.
Her brilliantly imagined countercultural band of friends -- academics, social workers, bookstore clerks -- fall in and out of love, negotiate friendships, raise children, switch careers, and cope with aging parents.

Bechdel fuses high and low culture -- from foreign policy to domestic routine, hot sex to postmodern theory -- in a serial graphic narrative “suitable for humanists of all persuasions.”

392 pages, Hardcover

First published November 12, 2008

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About the author

Alison Bechdel

54 books3,477 followers
Alison Bechdel is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, in 2006 she became a best-selling and critically acclaimed author with her graphic memoir Fun Home.

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Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,031 followers
October 2, 2020
Alison Bechtel’s Fun Home was regarded by the big gorgonzolas of modern literature as probably the best book since the New Testament, but I was profoundly underwhelmed. I was an ingrate. I couldn’t care less and I said so. Now I find, years later, that I’d come at Ms Bechtel completely the wrong way. Fun Home was like being introduced to Woody Allen by watching Midnight in Paris – who would ever think that fool director could have made Manhattan or Husbands and Wives ? Or as if the most widely praised Dickens novel was Hard Times . But I dunno, something nagged at me and eventually I got this hefty volume and once past page numero uno I was HOOKED.

This is the stuff, forget Fun Home. This is the real fun home.
So here we have a comic strip which between 1987 and 2008 told the sardonically hilarious tales of the intertangled lives of ten or so gay women characters along with a token man, a dog and a few babies and kids and parents. Like any soap opera or long running sitcom - 21 years of romance and heartbreak and wondering if a dildo by its very symbolically male presence critically undermines and indeed openly mocks even the most determined sapphist lifestyle or if it’s just seven inches of plastic fun.

In this book we get lots of gentle and not so very gentle spoofing of the entire world of right on gay women (and right on left politics in general). The issue of transgendering (I think it bites that you can’t go to your friends’ annual sweat lodge and Tupperware party anymore just because you’re a guy now) comes up tangentially (it would have been given way more air time if these comics had been written now), as does gay marriage, gay adoption, drag king balls, lesbian bed death, it’s all here. And it could only be spoofed like this from the inside.

Whilst I must candidly admit to not being a lesbian myself, nevertheless I completely connected with DTWOF through the rad politics. I have been in rooms where people have said many very similar things over the years. The names change (Bush instead of Bush, Cameron instead of Blair, al Qaida instead of Smersh) but the rad leftist sentiments are heartwarmingly consistent. ( “We’re here to stop the military build-up in the Middle East, not to ogle women!” ).

Throughout the 390 pages AB’s characters wear t shirts with slogans like

I DON’T CARE IF HE’S DEAD I STILL WANT TO IMPEACH NIXON

and read books called

THE ETHICAL SLUT

and newspapers with alarming headlines like

LOOKIN’ PRESIDENTIAL:CLINTON BOMBS BEJEEZUZ OUT OFSUDANESE PENICILLIN PLANT

HOUSE VOTES: FUEL EFFICIENCY IN SUVS – NO; EARTH IS FLAT, YES

BUSH : IF SADDAM WON’T SUBMIT TO A COLONOSCOPY WE WILL HAVE TO INVADE


And ignore the radio which says things like

After reports of dangling chads being eaten during the manual recount Republicans are demanding stool samples from all ballot counters…

Some great moments:


Lois: So long, buckos. I’m off to the first International Drag-King Extravaganza in Columbus.

Sparrow: God, this drag king craze is so retrograde. Men are destroying the planet! Why compete to see who can mimic them most convincingly?

Lois : Oh, put it in a term paper!


Lois, in fact, has the best withering putdowns:

Mo : I can’t stop thinking about her. It’s the best sex I ever had.

Lois: Not necessarily a glowing testimonial in your case.

Lois: Oh, you guys don’t need to hear about my problems.

Ginger: Are you kidding? I’d much rather hear about your peoblems than work on my dissertation.

Lois: Thank you, Ginger. Considering you’d rather fellate Bill Clinton than work on your dissertation, that’s very generous.


On the problems of gay parenting:


Toni : No, Raffi, you can’t have a father. You have two mothers.

Raffi: Den can I have a giant dog wif thwee heads wike in da movie?

Clarice : Okay.


And when one of the women suddenly starts going out with an actual man :


Sparrow is leafing through a copy of Brides magazine which has just arrived through the mail.

Sparrow: Oh my God! I bet my mom did this! Ever since I came out to her about Stuart she thinks it means I’m straight. She can’t understand that I’m a bisexual lesbian!

Ginger: Well, it’s a nuance that can elude the best of us.


Another couple of favourite moments – I could have chosen around 50 - Mo has asked Lois to do her CV which Americans call a resume (I don’t know why but they often call things by their wrong names) :


Lois: Let’s starts with your last job.

Mo: Proofreader and production assistant for Gayly Forward News

And before that?

Office assistant at the Abortion Rights Action Council

Okay, and before that?

Delivery person for the Common Womon Bread Collective

Hmmm, this isn’t sounding too promising. How about volunteer work?

I have good editing skills from my two years on the staff of the Lesbian Rag and I got counselling skills when I volunteered at the battered women’s shelter…

Mo, haven’t you done anything less progressive?... You must have done some work with little or no redeeming social value?


Second : Mo’s friend Toni is miserable:


Mo : It’s not that bad

Toni : I find out my happy, secure six-year relationship has been a total sham and it’s not that bad?

Mo : Toni, come on! I know you’re in a lot of pain, but you hafta look at the grand scheme of things! Listen, the environment is polluted beyond the point of no return, nickels and dimes are allocated for Aids research while billions go into radar systems for blowing up civilians in the Persian Gulf and we’ve got to spend the next two months assaulted with hypocritical hype as two morally bankrupt white boys gear up for another electoral farce! Having a rough time in your relationship kinda pales in comparison, huh?

Toni : Gee, Mo, thanks. I can always count on you.


Alison Bechdel’s cartooning style is forever beautiful, just a few economic lines and touches and you have a real person who you swear you saw at the supermarket only yesterday. This is the first graphic novel I’ve read which is as big as a non-graphic novel – these pages are packed. I was sorry when it ended. Dykes to die for. Recommended.




and


by popular demand...


Profile Image for Joseph.
67 reviews7 followers
November 16, 2009
I confess to having little interest in lesbian writing and graphic novels. As a male, I find it hard to connect with text that is processing an anger directed at my gender (i.e. me) simply for having been born a male.
I don't disagree with the need for the anger - the patriarchy tends to screw things up - but it doesn't make the work inviting. It's like reading Frantz Fanon's Black Skin White Masks. Its an amazing work, but as a pasty guy it's hard not to take parts of it personally.
And, back to lesbian writing, as a homosexual male, I don't have any prurient interest in lesbian culture.
I've missed a lot. Every night as I pick up this tome - and what a tome it is at 392 essential pages - I find myself, my culture, my life caught in the crystallized amber of the 1990s and held up for examination. And then, as I turn the page my husband walks out of the kitchen or into the bedroom making a small remark that channels what I just read. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For Hardcover is more than just a retrospective. It's a cycle. It's the oddity of reading about a terrible Bush administration and entering into a new democratic administration, while going through it for the second time. It's reading about people fighting for equality, while 15 fucking years later we are still repeating the same slogans.
Closer to home, it's the discovery that I may actually be a lesbian.
Profile Image for C..
Author 19 books400 followers
January 24, 2009
First, an Alison Bechdel story. Last year at the NYC Comic Con, Bechdel was signing copies of Fun Home, and Mulzer and I stood in line to get our copy signed. As she was adding a quick drawing to the title page, I told Bechdel how I had bought three volumes of her "Dykes to Watch Out For" to share with the students of the GSA I'd started at my high school in the Bronx. Every one had been borrowed and never returned, so she could be happy knowing that her work must be very appreciated by my students. As soon as I finished talking, I feel terrible, because she looked so uncomfortable and awkward at my talking to her. Her work is so vivacious and alive that I never would have thought her to be so shy.

Second, a few publishing gripes. "By the Author of Fun Home?" No, dear Houghton Miflin, Alison Bechdel is the author of "Dykes to Watch Out For," first and foremost. I know the tag line is to catch readers who first heard of her after the main-stream media discovered her via her wonderful graphic memoir, but it seems a bit patronizing given the importance and scope of "Dykes." Also, I searched the "Graphic-Novel/Comics" section at B&N forever trying to find this book, but could find neither it nor "Fun Home." When I finally asked at the help-desk, I was told it was in the Gay/Lesbian Interest section. I know that "Dykes" is an important work of queer art, but leaving it out of the comic section entirely seems reductive. I suppose as a lesbian cartoonist, there is no shortage of literary ghetos that Bechdel can find herself banished to. How about cross-shelving it, so it reflects both qualities?

Now the review. Dykes to Watch Out For is one of the greatest serial stories ever published. The characters are so real, so well-rounded and developed, and the story arc so long and sustained that its one of the few on-going narratives where I really feel like the characters are out there somewhere. Saying that you "feel like you know the characters" is perhaps one of the most tired cliches when it comes to discussing a book, but with this series it is honestly true. Reading the series in its entirety is both fascinating and distressing - you see the characters, as well as Bechdel's art and politics grow and mature before your eyes, but you also realize that it's only taken you a few days to read through 30 years of an artists life. Not only do the characters realistically age visibly and emotionally, but you follow the development of queer and lesbian politics, feminism, and modern American History as Regan, Bush, Clinton, and then Bush (again) crop up in discussions, news headlines, and protests. What most amazes me is how Bechdel creates a seamless narrative through single-page episodes; while character stories weave their way through multiple issue, each page is a self-contained narrative, and yet they settle upon one another to make a single coherent whole without any holes or gaps.

Finishing was a bit sad -- Bechdel has currently put "Dykes" on hiatus, so as of now there are no new stories with Mo, Lois, et al to look forward to.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,580 reviews2,308 followers
April 4, 2013
"Love is a many gendered thing, pal. Get used to it."

I can honestly say, after spending almost 400 pages with these people, I know them better than any "comic book" characters I've ever met. They are bright, funny, committed to saving the environment, strong supporters of civil rights, and they DO SOMETHING about their beliefs. They attend rallies and protests. They go to work for "worthy cause" organizations. They don't just sit at home reading books like I do.

This is a (mostly) all-girl soap opera, though there are no evil twins, and no one gets amnesia. There are plenty of break-ups and make-ups, awkward dates, jealousy, angst, and occasional back pain. These gals deal with aging parents and the heartbreak over losing a much-loved pet. Some of them marry, have babies, and get to experience all the "joys" of raising children. Others look for love for years, only to find it with a partner who is not quite what they expected.

This collection of strips runs from 1987 through 2008, and covers not only all the important events in the characters' lives, but a good bit of recent history as well - from hanging chads, to September 11th and its aftermath, to the Hillary/Obama divide.

My favorite storyline concerned the independent bookstore owner who tried so valiantly to hold on against the onslaught of the chain stores, and Medusa.com.

It was a real joy watching these women grow and change, love and learn; proof that the family you create is much more important than the one you're born into.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
March 8, 2021
I had never read this "essential" collection, but had read several of the individual volumes, and once upon a time, read the strips as they came out in various cities I lived in around the U.S. So, I read it through, and this is a great collection, taking some of the best from all the strips over the many, many years, and from all the volumes, a great selection, with a terrific introductory essay, reflecting back on the all the years of this pretty monumental work.

As a straight white male who at the age of 37 didn't even know Grand Rapids, Michigan had a gay bar (and I had been in theater in college!), reading these strips over the years was like being introduced to a "sub-culture" in my own midst, a very healthy and thriving world that existed because of silencing and exclusion and the threat of violence, but the strip treads lightly on these areas. It's not about straight culture AND this culture, it's just about all these friends living in connection with each other (and some of them straight, bi, and so on).

As Bechdel says, after all these years I am not sure if my overall point is that we (lesbians) are all the same, all different, or both! But compared to Fun Home or Are You Mother? here is a warmer, more fun, Bechdel, attending to the laugh at the end of the strip expectations, with charm and insight and rich humanity. Great stuff.
Profile Image for rachel.
737 reviews138 followers
January 24, 2015
The lesbian soap opera that preceded The L Word is, unsurprisingly, much better. Bechdel's sense of humor is all over the histrionics of her hyper-learned and hyper self-aware characters, but there are also serious and important conversations to be found here.

The collection is overwhelming in scope: 20 years in the lives of seven women, with major and minor recurring supporting characters coming in and out of their world. Their many romantic affairs and infidelities share the focus with the state of American politics and world affairs -- "the personal is political" here to be sure.

At the end of the collection, I tried to think back and pick out a "favorite" character. But I couldn't. All were so flawed but human that I couldn't pick out any one as more likable than the others. I was interested equally in how they hurt each other and how they loved each other.

I was sad to close this book, but that wasn't when I cried. No, it was the death of two pets that got me, each a separate time. The lives of these characters are so fully realized that the pets who just linger in the background evolve, grow old, and die too. These are not just cartoons!

(OK, they totally are. But still. It was moving.)
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,196 reviews130 followers
November 20, 2014
This is fabulous! Alison Bechdel's drawing already delights me to no end, and the twisting, turning sagas of Mo, Lois, Clarice, Ginger, Toni, et al. add icing of awesome to my intense enchantment with her work. Although Mo is seriously pretty annoying in the beginning, how could I not stick around to see what happened to all of these lovely, well-rounded, 100% fleshed-out, believable and warm and real people? The house that Sparrow, Lois, and Ginger live in together! The evolution of Clarice & Toni's marriage! Carlos! Even Mo had grown on me by the end. I'd like to curl up in this book and live with all of these people.
Profile Image for Sellmeagod.
85 reviews8 followers
October 21, 2018
A historically important classic that does not age well and is a fair slog to get through. Moments of humor are not significant enough distractions from the repeating of old politics and current events that are no longer current. The drama is mostly based on everyone having affairs, and events repeat so often, cyclically (to match publication to time of year) that there is little real story. For how progressive the worldview, the comics style is crowded and cramped in that ugly 60-70's look, ultra-talky.

More anthropologically than artistically valuable at this point.
Profile Image for Juan Naranjo.
Author 2 books2,155 followers
September 22, 2019
Este volumen recoge historietas publicadas en distintos medios entre 1987 a 2008. Veinte años. Cuenta una historia lineal: la vida, las preocupaciones y las ocupaciones de un grupo de unos quince personajes (casi todos mujeres lesbianas), de los cuales cinco o seis son protagonistas corales, siendo uno de ellos el alter ego de la escritora y dibujante de estas historias. Yo me lo he ido dosificando desde el verano de 2014, teniéndolo todos estos años en la mesita de noche y leyendo solo un par de historietas cada vez que terminaba otro libro. Así he tratado de mantener cierta ilusión de dilatación en el tiempo para tratar de sentirme como las lectoras potenciales a las que estaban dirigidas estos cómics a lo largo de sus décadas de publicación.

Ha sido un regalo, un viaje, una experiencia literaria nunca antes sentida. He visto a estas mujeres licenciarse, encontrar su lugar en el mundo laboral, enamorarse mil veces, tener hijos, divorciarse, replantearse sus roles y sus sexualidad, embarcarse en el activismo político, preocuparse por sus ingresos, venderse al mercado laboral, disfrutar de la serenidad de la madurez, volverse locas de atar... Es decir, he visto a estas mujeres crecer, igual que he crecido yo en estos años, igual que crecieron las personas del entorno de la autora, igual que creció la gente que me rodea. Ha sido maravilloso.

Y con la historia de estas bolleras (así se les llama en el título original) también he recordado parte de nuestra historia: los escándalos sexuales, la irrupción del comercio electrónico, la gentrificación de las ciudades, la POPularización de los movimientos sociales, la aprobación del matrimonio igualitario, la guerra... De verdad, me emociono de pensar en todas las cosas por las que han pasado la insufrible Mo (imposible no sentirse identificado) y sus chicas. Su historia es la nuestra. Aunque ellas lo hicieran todo un poco antes que nosotros.

Tras acabar este camino no me sorprende la importancia en la cultura popular de la obra de Alison Bechdel. Ella ha sido más una antropóloga, una documentalista, que una dibujante de cómics. Y ha dado voz a las historias del colectivo, ha puesto el foco en nuestras vidas, en nuestras cosas.

Se me pone el vello de punta hablando de este libro y eso solo pasa con las obras maestras.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,330 reviews451 followers
September 1, 2021
11 August 2021

Awash in nostalgia, I am quite enjoying a long-overdue revisit. Mostly I don't think of myself as being anxious, but between Mo's worries and the freaking newspaper headlines, forty years of "everything sucks" is racing through my brain. And now for something restful, instead of endless Republican wars.

I finally finished. It was bittersweet to reconnect with characters after thirty years, to catch up on where their lives have gone. And it was also really painful to revisit all those years of political nightmares and disappointments, but also, not surprisingly, to see that the characters have been through a lot of the same things that I and my real friends have been through.

Sad and funny and enraging and soothing, too. Just a big old steaming cauldron of emotions. Two weeks to absorb thirty years doesn't seem like too much.

Library copy
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,448 reviews365 followers
July 24, 2012
Having read and totally loved Alison Bechdel's two graphic (as in graphic novel) memoirs, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother?, I absolute had to go and read everything she's written. It's not enough but it's wonderful. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For is a collection of her Dykes to Watch Out For strip. Selections have been chosen from over 25 years of work. We follow the lives of a group of friends. The stories are personal, political, philosophical, poignant, and (enough with the p's) funny. Bechdel is witty, insightful, and very, very smart.

I recommend everyone read this, regardless of sexual preference. It's a wonderful collection.
Profile Image for Arelis Uribe.
Author 7 books1,208 followers
January 17, 2021
Me tardé casi cinco años en terminar este libro. Al principio me costaba leerlo porque mi inglés no era tan bueno, pero ahora voy como bala surfeando el slang gringo. Hermoso libro. Las novelas gráficas tienen la sublime capacidad (cuando están bien hechas) de mezclar narración con imagen y texto. Alison Bechdel se maneja en el formato y es tan hábil en el ejercicio de describir situaciones cotidianas, conectándolas con el escenario político global. Entonces aparece una familia homoparental lidiando con los desafíos de criar un hijo que habita un colegio poco ameno con la homosexualidad; mientras en la radio suena el discurso de Bush invadiendo Iraq. Me gusta que los adolescentes usan mucho slang en sus diálogos, lo hace verosímil. Me gusta cómo a lo largo de los años los personajes cambian, crecen, no solo en términos de arco narrativo; sino físicamente. Raffi, el hijo de la lesbofamilia, es una guagua y hacia el final aparece como adolescente con el pelo largo fumando marihuana. Aparecen adolescentes trans, parejas lesbianas con gatos, chicas drag kings y hombres que usan falda y eligen quedarse en casa para criar. Lindo, lindo, lindo. Arranca en 1984 y termina en 2006, más o menos. Y las discusiones aquí presentes, sobre las tensiones y libertades de la comunidad LGBTIQ+ parecen ser las mismas. Gracias a mi ex que me regaló este libro en mi cumpleaños muchos años atrás.
Profile Image for Jessica.
391 reviews40 followers
December 15, 2008
How spectacular to finally find nearly all of Dykes to Watch Out For in one volume (there are omissions, but not very many, and the exclusions were carefully chosen so as not to disrupt plot lines). Alison Bechdel hits the perfect balance of lovingly depicting her community and its concerns, exploring the inner lives of her characters, while also cheerfully skewering political posturing, blind spots, and self-righteousness. Her drawings are playful (check out the endlessly amusing t-shirt slogans, signage, and book/newspaper copy in the background of many frames for added commentary), sexy, and spot-on. As in the best serialized novels, the characters grow and evolve, times change around them, and countless cliffhangers await.

I started following DTWOF as a college student in the 80s, though I lost track of it later on. I was never a member of the lesbian community, but I was involved with various left-leaning political causes, and Bechdel nails that world to an uncanny degree. She must have sat there quietly at countless consensus-building sessions with her notebook and pen observing every nuance.
Profile Image for alienticia.
179 reviews2 followers
February 19, 2022
foi tão legal e me fez refletir tanto sobre as Questões das tirinhas e como o mundo mudou ou não mudou (inclusive as tiras que a bechdel escreveu com os personagens na era trump caberiam muito nesse livro, incrível)
e foi muito lindo ver elas mudando e envelhecendo e assim que fechei a última página fiquei com saudade de todo mundo :'''')
Profile Image for Kurt.
584 reviews10 followers
December 29, 2020
DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR joins my pantheon of queer favs. For the last month, a few pages a day, I felt so at home fully immersed in the lives of these dykes, which spanned 20 years! Bechdel writes the crew—messy in their love and political affairs—with so much humor, which is both self-critical and directed out at the perpetual garbage fire of American politics unfolding around them. Love Bechdel’s description of her comic as “half op-ed column and half endless serialized Victorian novel” — captures it perfectly. I wish someone would take up Bechdel’s tradition now, such a lovely accompaniment to modern life.
Profile Image for Sara the Librarian.
729 reviews304 followers
November 2, 2019
This is a must read for any fan of Alison Bechdel's more well known later works Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother?.

I became enraptured with the lives of cantankerous, opinionated Moe and her friends after randomly discovering this excellent comic strip in "The Village Voice" many years ago when Bechdel was still writing it. It was an amazing window into feminist and lesbian culture that told honest stories in a way anyone could relate to. I think it was probably the first time I realized that the comic medium could tell serious, important stories.

The strip followed the life of Moe a rapidly heading toward middle age lesbian perpetually in search of true love and the meaning of her life. Her hapless romantic entanglements and cringe worthy attempts at lording her principles over everyone she knew were hilarious but always heartfelt.

She was surrounded by a big cast of friends and work colleagues; her best friend Lois who was a seductress even Casanova would have envied, Tony and Clarice the long term couple who became part of the battle for marriage equality while raising their son Rafii, Jezanna the owner of Moe's place of employment "Madwimmin Books" and Sparrow and Ginger, Lois's housemates.

Their stories felt real and Bechdel was never afraid to approach tough subjects but she did it with humor and intelligence. Her characters faced everything from casual discrimination to 9/11. No social issue or news item was off the table.

While this excellent collection of the lives of Bechdel's "dykes" is slightly incomplete its still a wonderful way to experience this amazing comic. Bechdel was doing something really revolutionary in making her characters "just like everyone else" and that she did it in such an entertaining, enlightening and always softhearted way is all to the better.
Profile Image for Tracy.
603 reviews21 followers
September 29, 2019
Three and a half stars. Not something I would usually read, this deals with the lives and loves of a group of LGBTQ adults in a small city somewhere in the US. I did really enjoy the stories, I just found it hard to read due to the format. It was a comic strip that run for roughly twenty years and other than Calvin and Hobbs I don’t really read comic strips. But once I settled in I really enjoyed it. This is detailed. Every strip has so much going on, little vignettes looking at the political and sexual struggles of this group. There was so much drama, I had to remind myself that this occurs over an extended period of time, the characters didn’t really have such exciting lives, they just had lives. I loved the political battles...every president from Regan to Obama. By the end of the book I felt so sad though. It ends just after Obama’s won and while many of the characters had issues with the Democratic Party (which are fully earned) it was disheartening fo realize how hard the LGBTQ has struggled and how hard the fucking Republicans are working to take all of their victories away.
Profile Image for LiLi.
68 reviews
September 29, 2022
For the love of Dog, do not feed your dog ibuprofen for pain management, as is portrayed in this book. NSAIDs are in general deadly both to dogs and cats. I was shocked to see this in the comic.

Other than this one point, this is a five-star read. Many LOLs throughout, engaging discussions, interesting characters, and a real literary gem. Great work.

Something I really liked about this strip was the layering of jokes. Every book/magazine title, sign or notice, news report, graphic tee, etc., etc., has a joke in it. All these little jokes in the frame in addition to the main story are delightful to discover.
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
782 reviews169 followers
December 1, 2018
I'm gonna miss you Mo, Sidney, Ginger, Sparrow, Clarice, Stuart, Jezanna...

...Taip nepastebimai imama ir isimylima...komiksus.

Sioje grafineje noveleje lyg kokiame seriale gyveni, jaudiniesi, isimyli, skiriesi, augini vaikus, darai karjera, politikuoji, diskutuoji kartu su pagrindiniais herojais (pagrinde lesbietemis). Tai gilus, kartu linksmas ir liudnas pasakojimas apimantis JAV culturinio ir politinio gyvenimo dvidesimtmeti.
Esu suzaveta Alison Bechdel nuostabiai paprastomis iliustracijomis.
Profile Image for Ciara.
Author 3 books341 followers
October 11, 2009
believe it or not, i had never read "dykes to watch out for" before. i mean, i'd seen a strip or two in my day, but that's it. so i check this 400-pound behemoth (not the entire collection, but close) out of the library & spent alike a week plowing through it. fabulous! can't recommend it enough. the only reason it got four stars instead of five is because i found mo so insufferable, & all the couples cheating on one another over the years, while perhaps realistic, made me have a few infidelity-related nightmares.

i am not big on graphic novels or comics, as a general rule, but i really like alison bechdel's art (in the background of one panel, she drew a dog getting hit in the face by a snowball, which had nothing to do with the rest of the comic, but really cracked me up) & the characters were mostly interesting & compelling. i kept turning the pages because i wanted to see how things would pan out for them. everyone, queer or not, should seek out this book.
Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
976 reviews116 followers
January 12, 2021
This is such a great way to get better acquainted with this comic - the choice of strips forms a coherent sprawling narrative and at the same time, individual strips are often brilliant on their own. There's so much lovingly rendered messiness, and the characters feel so real. It's very funny, but sad and potentially painful as well (there's a trans kid narrative that feels very real but also features a parent making a lot of mistakes before getting it right, for instance) - but what I loved especially was the way in which it showed American history at the same time as it chronicled the characters' lives.

I wish I could have read this on paper instead of the ebook I snagged on sale - I'll put this on my wishlist because it's clearly well-worth having and leafing through at leisure.

Highly recommended and lovely.
Profile Image for Dan.
Author 4 books435 followers
April 14, 2016
What a fun read! After reading both of Bechdel's graphic memoirs a couple of years ago, I was psyched to read her comic strip. The recent Genius Grant award prompted me to finally get around to it.

What I like most about Bechdel's work is her ability to illustrate macro socio/political things through super relatable domestic scenes. She has a great sense of humor and a highly developed sense of situational irony. Every page of DTWOF fires on all cylinders simultaneously and the juggling act is breathtaking to watch.

I'd say my favorite character is Mo. She's principled, neurotic, often annoying, but also capable of great empathy. Even though the strip is told from multiple perspectives, I couldn't help but read it all through Mo's point of view. I also like how Bechdel doesn't pull punches. Bad things happen to these people and they often do not-so-nice things to each other as well. Yet throughout it all there's a great sense of humor.

This volume collects ~20 years worth of the strip into one collection. It was fascinating to see a more-or-less real-time record of the political crises experienced since the late 80's, to rehash all the old arguments and remember the alternating sense of hope and despair that accompanied those crises. I loved watching the characters grow-up and negotiate their personal politics with the realities of their lives.

While the sense of profundity wasn't as explicit in this collection as it was in Bechdel's memoirs, I suspect many readers will prefer the easier to relate to tone of the strip. The memoirs are often viewed as too esoteric. Those same underpinnings are present in the strip, but they're surfaced in a much more practical way—partly, I suspect, because there simply isn't enough space to develop a long erudite narrative.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
Profile Image for Angela.
491 reviews94 followers
August 7, 2009
Alison Bechdel's distilled collection of her comic strip spanning 20 years is a tricky one to rate numerically. As a weekly comic strip, it's top notch, managing the rare combination of being both intensely funny at times and presenting characters that the reader comes to really care about. As a collection it's wonderful to see the strip evolve over the course of years in a way that is rarely so evident in comics - the characters age, the political and social events of the time are a constant undercurrent of the plot (and will give the reader a nice 20 year history reminiscence!).

Unfortunately its main flaw also seems to be highlighted by the presentation as one decades-spanning collection: I get the sense, reading it, that Bechdel lost interest in drawing the strip a few years ago. The plot threads aren't really wrapped up in a satisfying way, and while I'm no enemy of a depressing ending it doesn't even feel intentional, merely stagnant. The last hundred pages or so are a lot less satisfying than, say, the middle couple hundred. While in general this is a great collection that I found myself immersed in for days, it never quite reaches the heartbreaking emotional pull of Fun Home.
Profile Image for Nadine in California.
900 reviews87 followers
April 29, 2018
This was a fun binge read - I felt like I was one of the gang after a while. I liked the way Bechdel pokes affectionate fun at her characters earnest radicalism. Kind of a lesbian Doonesbury. I'm probably about the same age as the characters, so I remember all those minute political details from the 1990's. I wish Bechdel would bring them back so we can see how they're doing in middle age (maybe grandparents!) during the Trump era.
Profile Image for Nay Keppler.
394 reviews15 followers
January 14, 2018
I didn't make it all the way through this because it's MASSIVE and I had it on inter-library loan, but I will definitely make my way back to this. If you identify as a lesbian, this is a must read. I was hesitant to read this because I had tried to get through Fun Home once and it wasn't for me, but this is just the perfect collection of stories that are so comical in their realness. You WILL find yourself in one of these characters if you are a queer woman. Reading it was therapeutic and I honestly feel as though it gave me confidence to be more authentic in how I present myself, as I looked up to the characters in the book as if they were older family members. Since it takes place mostly in the 90s, I found myself wishing I knew them now that they would be in their 50s or 60s.
Profile Image for s ⚢.
129 reviews41 followers
September 25, 2022
i love lesbians i love you mo i love you lois i love you ginger i love you clarice i love you jezanna i tolerate you sydney i really strongly dislike you cynthia!
443 reviews18 followers
November 29, 2008
After reading and loving every single panel of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, her National Book Critics Award finalist, I jumped on the Bechdel-bandwagon and queued myself up for this recently published 400-page hardback collecting the greatest hits of her long-running series. I first heard of this strip years back; although I didn’t get to read it as it was published in alternative rags that I neither read nor subscribed to. Humorously enough, I did co-opt the title as a catch-phrase whenever referring to a “family member” of the opposite sex who seemed completely messed up. You know, the dyke you want to avoid running into – even on a good day. (I lived with one back in the late 90s who was a bizarre combination of pathological liar and self-delusional whack-job. But that’s a story best left for another time.)

The Essential Dykes is an amazing compendium of the best strips in Bechdel’s twenty-plus-years-strong series. (Longer by a hair than even the televised Simpsons, if you can believe that.) Bechdel populates her fictitious New England city with a wide array of lesbian folk – many of whom at first appear to be stereotypes, yet over the years reveal themselves to be more complex and nuanced than the two-dimensions the comic strip medium stereotypically allows.

Mo, our main character, is obviously a veiled stand-in for Bechdel herself. And it’s not just the Harry Potter-like specs – poor Mo! – but also her signature striped turtle-neck (not unlike a certain Chuck Brown and his yellow t-shirt with zig-zagged black horizontal stripe) that make her a constant in a well-populated mini-verse of Bechdel’s creation. Rounding out the cast are Mo’s girlfriends – only two in two decades, as she’s a monogamous and picky kind of gal – as well as various couples, their children, and the token gay and straight man. Oh, and let’s not forget the conservative and closeted dyke who goes to work for the Bush Administration – yes, that’s one to watch out for – as well as the various and sundry family members of our heroines.

Bechdel also skewers current political affairs – mainly those that have to do with either civil and marriage rights for gay people, or – a turn for the worse here – right-wing efforts to restrict public life to a core set of a religious-based neo-con “family values.” Along the way, efforts to grant same-sex marriage are giving loving play, while the asinine efforts by Jerry Falwell, Focus on the Family, Larry Craig, Dubya, and all their ilk are given near-constant disparagement. In the classic “jugular vein” a la Mad Magazine, no less.

What I love best about Dykes is Bechdel’s irreverent joshing of lesbian sub-culture(s), and her dead-panning of the Moral Majority’s dubious morality. (The world would be indefinitely a better place if they found something more useful with their time, other than working so assiduously at promoting their hate and fear rhetoric.) I may be a late-comer when it comes to all things Dykes, but I’m excited to join Bechdel’s ride.

Twenty-two years, and still going strong. Now that’s hard to shake a stick at.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 31 books116 followers
June 19, 2015
I followed "Dykes to Watch Out For" from the time it first appeared in Minneapolis' Equal Time newspaper in 1987 all the way until Alison Bechdel terminated the strip in 2008. I used to buy the paperback collections (from the now defunct Firebrand Books) as soon as they became available – counting The Indelible Alison Bechdel there were twelve, total. Though Alison started the strip in 1982, it was in 1987 that she developed the regular cast we all know and love: Mo, Lois, Clarice, Toni, Ginger, Sparrow, Jezanna, et al. Through these characters and the soap opera of their lives, she traced the evolution of the lesbian & queer subculture from the heady Reagan Years through the quasi-liberal 90's, before finishing up during the traumatic aughts. Comparing the strips of the early years with those of the mid-90's and beyond, you see the evolution of an initially very good creator into one of the premiere cartoonists of our time, possessed of a deft hand with character, a delightfully dry wit, and a facility with language both oral and physical that is unequaled by any of her peers. This handy dandy volume collects the bulk of the entire run of the strip, and I was happy to fork over the money for it: this enabled me to give away the paperbacks (keeping my signed copies of Spawn of Dykes to Watch Out For and Indelible Alison Bechdel), thereby freeing up some needed space for my perpetually over-burdened bookshelves.

Rereading this book recently, I was reminded of what a hefty body of work "Dykes" is, and how much our culture has changed for LGBTQ people. Looking at an important early 90's strip where Clarice and Toni have a commitment ceremony in their backyard, it's astonishing to note that a relatively scant 24 years later gay marriage is legal in over 30 states and queer people having children and raising families has become more and more normalized (albeit with the same tiresome right wing backlashers continually lined up in opposition). In her hilarious, probing illustrated introduction, Alison looks at these changes, and like her characters, wonders what we have lost by these gains. Read through Essential Dykes and decide for yourself. There's plentiful food for thought presented here, often in the form of Mo's infamous political rants, other times in withering insights during arguments (Clarice to Mo in an episode from 2000, after Mo has stated her hope that Bush would defeat Gore at the polls so the left would "wake up": "It is so sad, and so typical, that you can only conceive of functioning in the underdog position." Touche, Clarice!)

Honestly, I could write a whole essay on this strip (and someday I just might). Suffice to say that along with Fun Home, Dykes is Alison's Magnum Opus, and it could be taught in Women's Studies and post-Stonewall Queer Studies classes (it’s likely happening already and should be). Five stars.
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