Alison Bechdel talks about a sequel to Dykes to Watch Out For, and trying to get an animated version of the strip made…
Cartoonist Alison Bechdel is probably best known for what has been dubbed the Bechdel Test, a measure of the representation of women in film and other fiction that asks simply whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Alison Bechdel used it in her 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For though credited the idea to her friend Liz Wallace, hence why some prefer the term, the Bechdel-Wallace test.
Friend of Bleeding Cool Alex Fitch has released a new episode of his podcast Panel Borders, which includes the interview that graphic novelist and former Comics Laureate Hannah Berry conducted with Alison Bechdel at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival last Autumn. In the Q&A Alison talks about how she’s doing a graphic novel sequel to Dykes to Watch Out For, which will mix the returning characters from the strip with real people from her own life, and also how she’s trying to get an animated version of the strip made… Elsewhere in the interview she talks about her three graphic novels, and how she now feels about the ubiquity of the Bechdel test. Well worth a listen.
AB: I’m working now on a new project which resurrects some of my old comic strip characters, only it mixes them in with my current real-life friends. It’s sort of a funny mix of fiction and memoir.
HB: Lies! (Hannah and Alison had previously been discussing truthfulness in the latter’s graphic novels)
AB: Yeah, it’s really fun to just make stuff up, I’ve discovered! But this project will be very, very engaged with what’s what we’re all living through right now. All this crazy turmoil.
HB: Will it be a graphic novel?
AB: Yeah, that’s all I can do!
HB: Fair point! Or a musical as well? They’re people from your past strips, but they’re based on your friends now, or you’re pretending they’re your friends now?
AB: I’m pretending they are my friends now, just as in a way I was pretending they were my friends then. I just sort of imagined them: just sort of having these imaginary friends around.
HB: I think it’s normal to have imaginary friends, right, isn’t it? As a grown person?
AB: But people… often, I get asked: “Were those Dykes to Watch Out For characters like people you knew?” as if I was just transcribing their lives… And in a way I was because they were all… All those characters were me, some aspect of myself. But I stopped writing that strip 15, 16 (years ago), I don’t know, a while ago and for a long time I didn’t miss it. People always say: “Oh, don’t you miss those characters?”, and I really didn’t because it was such a relief to be done with those constant deadlines. But I find that it’s real… I did miss them and it’s great fun now to dredge them back up and be able to chat with them in this project I’m working on.
HB: Will they be older versions of themselves?
AB: Yeah, they’re all slightly older, definitely a little greyer, a little heavier.
HB: Have you imagined what they… it must be so much fun imagining what they’ve done in their lives…
AB: Yes, yes. They’ve all arrived at different points in their lives and careers. It’s fun!
In reply to a question from the audience about whether there might be a complete edition of Dykes to Watch Out For…
AB: There was this big collection published. But, it doesn’t have everything in it. There’s a lot missing and I would love for there to be a complete edition, but it just somehow wasn’t feasible. Getting permissions and everything.
I’m very excited, though… I’m working on a project of turning it into an animated series. (The audience gasps…) I know! Isn’t it funny how, like, when something’s moving, it’s like a whole different level. Everyone gets much more excited! And even though we know how great comics are, animation is so exciting.
I don’t know if it will really happen, but I’m working on this and it’s very fun to go… It’ll be set in the historic period in which it all happened, which was when… picking a point like in the early nineties. And it’s really fun to go back and revisit that as a period piece, to really think about that moment in time before the digital revolution, in the middle of AIDS, at a point when we could have done something about climate change. You know, there’s all these…
It was a very interesting, pivotal time, and it’s fun to go back and imagine it in a sort of sentimental or nostalgic way, but also seeing the roots of how we got to where we are now.
It feels like a constructive project, but it’s been really fun imagining how to do that: how to bring that story back to life for this moment.
HB: Is this something that will be like a sort of feature (film)…?
AB: It would be like little episodes. Like it would be for a streaming channel. So, it would probably be a season of ten episodes, if it happens, like ten half hour episodes about these characters. So, it would be new stuff, but based on the real story.