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The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For Hardcover – November 12, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This ongoing comic strip chronicles the lives of a tight-knit group of lesbian friends over an astounding 21 years of life, work, love, boredom, political activism and countless reversals of fortune. At its heart are six women: the promiscuous Lois, a feminist bookstore clerk with a penchant for gender-bending; her two roommates, the overworked academic Ginger and self-identified bisexual lesbian Sparrow; their domestically partnered friends Clarice and Toni; and Mo, who despite (or perhaps because of) her frequent politically charged outbursts of neurosis is the hub of her circle. These characters, flawed but endearing, are brought to life by Bechdels quirky artistic sensibility. Facial expressions are carefully nuanced, and she seems to take great joy in using small details to differentiate emotions. Late in the collection, when a character receives treatment for cancer, a tiny caret in her cheek is enough to transform her from a fresh-faced mischief-maker into a sallow and frightened chemo patient. What cannot be overemphasized is the sheer scope of the collection, which follows these women from idealistic young adulthood to contentedly disillusioned middle age and, for some, parenthood. All eventually end up a little more haggard than they began, but there isnt one whose Bechdel-illustrated bags under her eyes were not hard fought for and hard won. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The greatest lesbian soap opera—527 episodes and, though suspended at the moment, counting—is Bechdel’s miraculously well-sustained chronicling of a circle of friends over the course of 20 years, Dykes to Watch Out For. Like its only possible peer among current comic strips, Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse, and its great forebear, Frank King’s GasolineAlley, Dykes plays out in real time. Characters age, change, see their parents die, and have children. Basically, everything revolves around erstwhile radical lesbian Mo, whose worries for the future persist as she and her friends realize their dreams. Life does get better for gay people, though struggles continue, as the determined-to-be-transgender preteen son of a newer cast member and the dissolution of two long-lived lesbian marriages remind them and us. Mo’s kvetching centrality is complemented by the chorus of skewed radio and TV commentary and headlines that strikingly often intones a satirical leitmotiv under the characters’ conversation, which is always pitch-perfect for the highly intelligent, well-educated, earnestly committed, and witty bunch they are. Bechdel’s comics autobiography Fun Home (2006) has brought her much greater general attention than Dykes ever did, but make no mistake—the strip is her masterpiece. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (November 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618968806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618968800
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ALISON BECHDEL has been a careful archivist of her own life and kept a journal since she was ten. Since 1983 she has been chronicling the lives of various characters in the fictionalized "Dykes to Watch Out For" strip, "one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period" (Ms.). The strip is syndicated in 50 alternative newspapers, translated into multiple languages, and collected into a book series with a quarter of a million copies in print. Utne magazine has listed DTWOF as "one of the greatest hits of the twentieth century."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whether you've been anxiously awaiting the next installment after Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For, or have lost track of our favorite lesbian heriones and want to get caught up, this is the book for you.

Hardcore fans will be delighted to see that we have an entire new book's worth of fresh, unpublished comics to get us up to date. I looked at how many comics each of the previous books has had, and we have an equal amount of new content in this one. But, for only a little bit extra, you get this thick, glorious retrospective which takes us through the entire series, giving us clips and the best highlights from over the years.

If you missed the last couple books - no worries - this will catch you up enough to enjoy the latest comics at the end. And if you've read everything and just want the latest book - you won't be disappointed with everything else included. I've read every book multiple times, and I enjoyed reading the entire thing as a lead-up to the new comics at the end.

Bechdel is my number one favorite cartoonist ever, and I'm not even a lesbian - I just find her characters are so human and so interesting that I connect with their lives deeply.

So if you read Fun House and aren't sure if you might like to move on to this series, I'd encourage you to pick up this book and give it a try.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
And there they are on pages 76-77, the first DTWOF strips I ever saw. They were in a student run women's paper in the Fall of 1991, I had just arrived at the university and my life was about to change for the better. Therefore, it's impossible for me to be completely objective when I talk about this strip and its brilliant creator (channeler?), Alison Bechdel. At first I didn't know what to make of the strip - I feel like I walked through my first two decades in a haze because I was not used to a comic strip dramedy. It didn't take me long to fall in love with it. I bought all the collections that were available at the time (three books!), saw Bechdel's slide show when she came around to my school and even wrote her a letter - and she responded. I still have that letter.

It's great to see so many strips reproduced here, forming a running narrative of twenty years in the lives of the characters. Not all of the strips are here nor are the nifty little supplements that the older books included but for the first time reader, I don't think they'll feel the loss. They can also go and seek out some of the older books for completion.

This is one of the best graphic arts collections of the year.
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Format: Hardcover
Some books you read and pass along; some books you read and keep; the best books are those that you read, keep, and buy copy after copy of to ensure that EVERYONE you know reads them too.

You may not have been there all along, grabbing the fortnightly alternative paper from the top of the jukebox and leafing through it to see if a new episode of DTWOF had appeared - reading it with glee whilst ignoring the offer of the strikingly good-looking (YOUR GENDER HERE) to buy you a drink - but now you have your chance. Catch up. Read it straight through, or dip in again and again. It's the counterculture FRIENDS: You'll never get tired of DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR.

Buy at least two copies, all right? And make not just your own but also someone else's Yuletide gay.
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Format: Hardcover
Unlike most other comic-compilations, this shouldn't be flipped through in one sitting. There's simply too much: politics, relationships, psychology, emotions, and more. Pick a page, read, then give yourself time to digest; you'll enjoy it once it's percolated awhile. And that's the HUGE difference between this comic and most other mainstream strips. These are characters who REALLY think! (and in Mo's case, way, way too much). Intellectual, political, philosophical, and of course analytical, you'll be thinking, as well as laughing, for days after reading a single strip. About your own relationships, about how the wold could be different, about how different yet alike people are. But again, it's definitely a collection to be "sipped" rather than "gulped".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I began reading Bechdel's strip in college during the George W. Bush presidency. It was a welcome dose of sanity in a world that felt increasingly bizarre and insane. The genius of the strip is that it was fully political but also went beyond it. Bechdel created a whole world in miniature, characters who cared about each other while living their lives side-by-side. The style of lovingly detailed pictures paired with immaculately phrased text that would become familiar to the world through Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama was pioneered here, in twenty-seven years of strips.

This "essential" collection doesn't include every strip, but it is close enough to get the full sweep of the story. It also doesn't include the bonus materials found in many of the smaller collections. My hope is that someday we will get a complete DTWOF collection - Bechdel's work is certainly important enough to warrant that treatment. Until that day, this high-quality volume is the best way to experience one of the greatest serial comics of all time.
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