It’s hard to get into comics without having heard of Alison Bechdel, whether it’s because of the famed Bechdel Test, a way of determining gender bias in film, or her enormously popular and literary graphic novel, Fun Home.
Bechdel was first published in WomaNews, a feminist newspaper, with a single panel comic that would provide the basis for Dykes to Watch Out For (DTWOF). The comic would continue to find ground and develop regularity. The strips were originally unconnected, without regular characters or plot. After time, however, Bechdel developed a series of regular characters and a continuous plot that often featured social commentary about politics and lesbian culture. The strip ran until 2008, when Bechdel decided to focus more fully on the book that would later become Are You My Mother?. DTWOF has since been collected in twelve books, including The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, which collects most strips. This comic remains an important narrative today, and was the origin of the Bechdel Test.
Fun Home, Bechdel’s first graphic novel, was published in 2006. It details her complex relationship with her father in a nonlinear fashion, using literary references to recreate young Alison’s experiences to the truest possible extent. Fun Home is an important example of graphic memoir, pushing the boundaries of traditional comics in an attempt to help the reader–and Bechdel herself–understand this relationship. The repetition of events and phrases and obsessive determination in telling the most truthful possible story also provides an interesting commentary on the responsibility of a memoir and the reliability of memoir.
Fun Home has been described as a “comic for people who say they don’t like comics” because the story is largely reliant on literary references as a lens for understanding the relationship between Bechdel and her father. Literature and psychology are seemingly two of the few ways Bechdel can relate to and understand her parents. Her recent book, Are You My Mother?, uses the psychology of Donald Winnicott to build an understanding of her relationships with women with a particular focus on her mother. As with Fun Home, it is dense and complex, but an interesting and important example of graphic memoir.
Recently, Fun Home was produced as a Broadway Musical and was nominated for twelve Tony Awards in 2015. It went on to win five. Bechdel drew a comic for New York Magazine reacting to the musical adaptation of Fun Home.
Sequential, the literary graphic novel app, have partnered with venerable publisher Jonathan Cape to make digital versions of Cape’s graphic novels available via Apple’s App Store. Sequential is the new digital graphic novel storefront and reader, designed from the ground up to present graphic novels and sequential art in a deluxe digital format, and allow a dedicated one-stop shopping experience for readers. The app, currently available for the iPad, includes work from renowned graphic novelists such as Alan Moore, David Lloyd, Eddie Campbell and Gilbert Shelton amongst many others. Due to publishing rights agreements some titles may not be available in all countries.
The Sequential iPad app is available as a free download in Apple’s App Stores around the world and contains free books to download and sample, as well as offering in-app purchases. Many books on Sequential come with special features unique to the app, including unseen sketches, exclusive artwork and audio commentaries by the creators.
Cape titles now on SEQUENTIAL include:
Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel
Bye Bye Birdie – Shirley Huges
Coltrane – Paolo Parisi
Days of the Bagnold Summer – Joff Winterhart
Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes – Mary and Bryan Talbot
Today, it was announced that Dylan Edwards‘ nonfiction graphic novel Transposes—which explores the life stories of seven transgender men who also happen to be gay, bisexual, or otherwise non-straight—has been honored with a nomination for a Lambda Literary Award in the category of Transgender Nonfiction.
Transposes is an amazing window into the lives of these men, both the major events in their lives and the day-to-day ones, and paints a wonderfully human portrait. The book features a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Alison Bechdel, who was also nominated for a Lambda for her memoir Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama.
In addition to Transposes and Are You My Mother?, Justin Hall’s No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics was nominated for a Lambda Award. The book also features work by Edwards, as well as excerpts from Northwest Press books Teleny and Camille and A Waste of Time. The full list of nominees is available on the Lambda Literary Foundation website.
Transposes is a 128 page graphic novel published by Northwest Press and retails for $19.99. Northwest press publishes graphic novels and comics collections by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender comics creators.