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Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel

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Alison Bechdel might now be best known for her excellent graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, but she’s been churning out awesomeness on a regular basis for decades in her Dykes to Watch Out For comics series. Finally, with the Essential Dykes to Watch Out For collection, we are presented with almost all of the strips in one volume.

The comics follow a group of politically conscious, multicultural, (mostly) lesbian-feminist friends, housemates, drag kings, academics, parents, lovers, and activists through the start of the 80’s to the present day. Their adventures and dialogues are not only witty and hilarious, they also chart recent trends and changes in modern lesbian-feminist thought and left-wing political theory and upheaval in a fun, light-hearted kind of way. And though these comics are about a tightly knit, uber-progressive community, the diversity of the characters’ opinions often made for satisfying confrontation and contradiction. Some of my favorite parts, in fact, are where internecine struggles come to a head and self-righteous, even narrow-minded ideas must be balanced against real people and their daily lives (Mo, I’m lookin’ at you and your anti-prozac screed! and transphobia! and…)

I loved this collection the moment I started it, but I loved it even more once I got to the second half or so of the book. The beginning was mostly centered around a steady stream of sex and relationship adventures and mishaps, which successfully acquaints us with the series’ many characters and makes visible lesbian identity and lifestyle (a goal that Bechdel outlines in her introduction). But towards the second half of the book, both the characters and their stories mature and expand. They continue to hook up, break up, and have affairs–but they also deal with aging parents, become parents themselves, fall into debt, buy their own houses, and deal with post-2004 election depression. I also enjoyed witnessing the ways in which the community welcomed (some of them goodnaturedly, some of them begrudgingly) the addition of a stay at home dad, a trans kid, and a young evangelical Christian conservative.

Writing this post is actually making me a little sad, because it means I’m really done with Dykes to Watch Out For, and I know I’m really going to miss those involved. Stuart! Clarice! Lois! Ginger! And Mo, most of all. Even though she can be a total jerk and deserves to be called out on about her holier-than-thou indignations, her neurosis is strangely charming and she’s so honestly written (I believe she’s meant to reflect Bechdel herself, and if so, Bechdel’s ability to poke fun at her own misgivings is very admirable). The DTWOF remind me of friends I’ve had, and of friends I hope to make more of. I only wish the end of the book felt more like an end to the series (hint: it’s not an end at all). I can’t stand not knowing: will Clarice and Toni remain unhappy forever? Are Sydney and Mo the real deal? Does Sydney ever become less obnoxious? Has Lois really settled down with Jasmine? Did she ever sleep with Jerry? Do Ginger’s politics ever rub off on Heather? GAH!

Anyway, Dykes to Watch Out For is great and completely absorbing. If you’re politically progressive, it’s also extremely cathartic. In any case, it’s an interesting and maybe educational cultural tome. Give it a try, even if you’re not convinced it’s your thing. Sometimes it feels good to be proven wrong!

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Written by Emily Jane

July 12, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Locas: A Love & Rockets Book, by Jaime Hernandez

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Locas: A Love & Rockets Book is a collection of comics drawn and written by Jaime Hernandez, whose work in combination with that of his brothers’ made up the Love and Rockets series, published throughout the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a hardcover with about 700 pages of artwork from the first 50 issues of L&R inside and clocks in around 35 pounds, I’m guessing, which I’m pretty sure makes it the largest book I own.

The Locas (or Hoppers 13) stories follow a multi-generational group of (mostly) Mexican-American women in a fictional California town as they drift in and out of a growing punk scene. These women are traveling mechanics, professional wrestlers, writers, and strippers. They all seem somewhat exceptional, but even so, they go through the same shit as everyone else: they struggle with aging, with rivalries and attachments, and they gain weight. At the center of these stories are Hopey and Maggie, friends and sometimes lovers whose real love for each other endures through the constant ins-and-outs of their dynamic relationship.

At first, I worried that these stories weren’t going to be for me after all, since the first few contain elements of more straightforward superhero comics, and I’m just not really into that sort of thing. I also sensed, in these segments which take place in impoverished, undeveloped countries, a bit of condescension toward the locals, which really sucked. But after the first 80 pages or so, the narrative settles into more of a traditional graphic novel form and it’s easy sailing from there. It did take some time to get acquainted with all the characters, but as soon as I felt I must have missed something, that something didn’t make sense, I’d get a flashback: I’d see the characters meet/form a band/have sex with each other, and everything would fall back into place. It really worked for me.

With the Locas stories, Hernandez succeeds in writing interesting, multi-dimensional characters who I really came to care for, and will genuinely miss. I cherish the time I spent with them. Everything about them, both the way they’re written and the way they’re drawn, is refreshingly realistic and somehow comforting. Even as Maggie, Hopey and crew mature, there’s a sense of youth and adventure to these stories which makes for serious nostalgic catharsis. I can’t wait for the passing of time to dull my memory of the book a bit, just so I can pick it up and start again! I love you, Locas!

Written by Emily Jane

May 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm