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The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For Hardcover – November 12, 2008
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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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*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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The strip is funny but also thoughtful in tone. It’s unique in that it features multi-sexual, multi-racial, multi-ethnic characters and continually comments on the culture and politics of the times: lesbian and gay rights, the AIDS epidemic, the wars in Iraq, 9/11, celebrity culture, transgenderism, the financial crisis, etc. The characters attend many an anti-war protest, Pride parade and women’s music festival. They debate and spoof the latest twists in gender theory. The feminist bookstore owner Jezanna rails against “Bunns & Noodle” stealing her business.
The protagonist, Mo, is forever analyzing and second-guessing herself (like a lesbian Woody Allen). Her pal Lois is sexually omnivorous and proud of it. Other characters include Harriet, Sparrow, Ginger, Malika, Clarice and Toni and their kid Raffi. They are a lovable, oddball “Our Gang” whose friendships, arguments, love for and exasperation with each other blend into an astute, layered saga of a modern family, with all its warmth and complications. I read this toon when it first ran in alternative newspapers back in the 1990s. Reading it again still made me laugh and think. This would be a great gift for an LGBT or feminist friend.
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.
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.
Although I am saddened by the absence of some strips, I understand that it would have been impossible for all of them to make it on to the final product.
Either way, I love this book. It's timeless and hilarious.
Most recent customer reviews
The introduction for the Essential Edition was lovely.Read more