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The Art of Alison Bechdel: A Look at Her Life and Work

Published April 6, 2023

Written by Abby Perpich

Alison Bechdel (b. 1960) is an American lesbian author and cartoonist. She is most known for her Dykes to Watch Out For comic strips which first began as one panel comics. Bechdel first showed interest in art as a child which her parents encouraged. This love of art followed her to Ohio’s Oberlin College in 1979, where she graduated with a BA in studio art and art history. Her biggest accomplishment in college is not her education, but her coming out as a lesbian in 1980.

Photo: Alison Bechdel, Naiad Cartoon – Illustration for Lambda Book Report, 1997, drawing on paper, sheet: 10 x 8 1/8; image: 6 x 6 inches

In 1986, Bechdel began to pen her Dykes to Watch Out For comics. What began as a one panel comic passed out during a Pride march turned into a comic strip that made its way into other gay and lesbian papers. One of her more well known Dykes to Watch Out For strips from 1985 gave birth to the Bechdel test, a test that is still used to determine the misogyny portrayed in media by asking if two female characters talk about something other than a man.

Photo: Alison Bechdel, Naiad Cartoon, nd, drawing on paper, sheet: 4 x 7 1/4; image: 2 3/4 x 6 1/4 inches

In addition to her comics, Bechdel is also an author. In addition to “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” and “Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama”, Bechdel has also written a memoir about her gay father who came out and died soon after, titled “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic”. Later, “Fun Home” was adapted into a musical that received five Tony awards. When asked about how writing has affected her memories of her family, she stated “It’s a neurological fact that every time you remember something, you degrade it a little bit in your circuitry. So all my once-pristine memories of my father will become layered over with what I’ve written, what I’ve seen in the musical version of ‘Fun Home,’ things people have written about it. I kind of lost my originals. But I guess that’s just a trade-off that I’m willing to make.”