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May 30, 2008

No Mo blues

Alison Bechdel is halting
‘Dykes to Watch Out For’

This year, sadly, Dykes to Watch Out For celebrates it 25th anniversary. That’s a quarter century of snarkiness, politics, love, loss, wit, wisdom, humor and pathos.

That “sadly” above is not for the milestone, not for the birthday of what began as a one-panel drawing entitled “Marianne, dissatisfied with the morning brew: Dykes to Watch Out For, plate no. 27.”

The success of Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home has made her publisher ask for another, meaning she has to write and draw it. Her deadline is looming, so . . .

 . . . she is suspending her most famous creation.

That’s right. This is the final week of Dykes to Watch Out For in the foreseeable future. The strip below is the last one.

“The main reason I’m taking a ‘sabbatical,’ as I’m calling it, is because I have a deadline to complete a second memoir,” Bechdel noted. “There’s no way I’m going to get it done in time if I’m juggling the strip too.”

“I’m working on a memoir called Love Life. Right now, it’s about every idea that has ever passed through my brain, but I’m trying to narrow it down a little,” she continued. “It’s an attempt to understand the relationship between Self and Other, using my own intimate relationship history as source material.”

According to Bechdel, the decision to put Dykes on hold was “a last minute thing,” and she decided “some time in the last month.”

Leaving this intimate circle of friends behind will be hard, she thinks, but the emotions haven’t impacted her yet.

“I’m sure I will miss them eventually, but at the moment, I’m feeling really grateful to get a break,” she said. “I just wasn’t able to give everyone the attention their stories really needed.”

“I’ll definitely miss the ability to process and expel my feeling about things going on in the news, but I’m hoping that without that constant dispersal of energy, I’ll be able to attain a broader perspective on all the insanity,” she continued.

When asked where her characters might pop up--cereal boxes, action figures, perhaps that last refuge of American celebrity, Japanese television commercials--Bechdel was doubtful.

“Uh . . .  there’ve been no invitations,” she noted. “But if the price was right, I’m sure Sydney would be happy to shill energy drinks in Japan.”

Receiving as many as 200 responses each time she posted a new strip to her website, where she also has an active blog, one would expect an uproar to the announcement that the strip is going on an indefinite hiatus.

Yet, love for the strip proved to be secondary to admiration for the artist herself.

“People on my blog have been very supportive,” she said. “I’ve also gotten a couple very moving emails from readers telling me how much the strip has meant to them over the years, and how much they’ll miss it.”

“People are sweet,” she opined.

Die-hard Dykes to Watch Out For junkies will be hard-pressed to get a fix of fresh material--even one-panel strips like those in the beginning will be out of the question for a while.

“Single-panel strips are really hard!” Bechdel insisted. “DTWOF actually began as single panels, but it got really hard to keep coming up with ideas that were funny enough, so I started telling stories.”

“For some reason, that was easier,” she concluded.

If memories of better, more Dykes-filled days aren’t enough to keep one going while waiting for Love Life, if even November and the release of the hardcover Essential Dykes to Watch Out For seems too far away, there are still the smaller collections of her work in print, not to mention Fun Home, for the five people who haven’t read it yet.

Until then, all there is to say to Mo, Toni, Clarice, Lois, Raffi and the slew of other faces who have filled this page with their biweekly antics, is, “We’ll miss you.”


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