Frivolous, Aimless Queries

I’m too shiftless to answer all my reader e-mail, but if you have a particularly probing and pertinent comment or question, I’ll post it here, along with my puerile, provoking reply.

Regarding the blog, I was wondering if we could have threaded comments, unthreaded comments, comments indexed by moon phase, or a program that causes quarters to shoot out of my CD drive.  Could you do that?

Naturally, we’re always looking for ways to improve the blog and to make it more user-friendly.  Unfortunately, these changes take time and energy.  I’m not sure if we’ll ever find a format based on a consensus, but we’ll be working on making it better.  In the meantime, thank you for your patience regarding the quarters.

As an aspiring academic, I just have to know if those esoteric, convoluted and hilarious books and articles that Sydney and others read really exist. Do they?

There are three categories of academic writing which appear in Dykes to Watch Out For: real writing, parodically re-titled real writing, and shameless falsehood. While “Gender, Class and Miniature Golf: The Social Construction of Leisure” may not have been taught where you or I went to school, “Social Text” is a real publication. Some people research feminist epistemologies (a real publication), I research a bit of what researchers are researching. If you feel inspired to tackle particular tomes that appear in DTWOF, Mo might suggest that you check with your local librarian or bookstore to find a particular title or related publications.

Re: Strip #440, “Too Much Information”-Why do Stuart and Sparrow, two parents who care so much about the environment, use disposable diapers?

Dang! They’re supposed to be cloth, the kind that are all one piece, with the diaper cover built in. Sadly, I failed to convey this, even after doing exhaustive research on cloth diapering strategies, and working out the choreography of the whole changing routine so it would fit with the pacing of the strip. And even though Stuart’s carrying a laundry bag full of soggy diapers at the end, I guess it also sort of looks like a garbage bag. I seem to have lost sight of the forest for the trees, a frequent problem of mine.

Maybe it’s just that I’m more prurient than I used to be (or maybe I’m convinced John Ashcroft is hijacking and editing all the panels), but it seems like there’s more artful and modest draping of naked bodies in DTWOF recently, and I don’t think I’ve seen a nipple in years. Is this on purpose? Or am I completely wide of the mark and it’s as full of nekkid ladies as it always was?

Um, no, you’re absolutely right. I have been artfully draping, and I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe John Ashcroft has implanted a chip in my brain. Maybe I have erectile dysfunction. Maybe John Ashcroft has erectile dysfunction. I don’t really have a satisfactory answer for you, but I’ll work on it.

I have the Complete Dykes to Watch Out For, Vol. I. Have been assiduously clipping since then. When’s Vol. II coming out? Are you planning on one?

The “Complete DTWOF Volume I” was a limited edition Quality Paperback Book club compilation of all my individual books, numbers one (“Dykes To Watch Out For”) through seven (“Hot Throbbing DTWOF”). That represents about 14 years worth of work, so it’ll be a while before there’s enough for a “Complete DTWOF, Volume II.”

In the meantime, you can always buy the individual books-”Split Level DTWOF” picks up where “Volume I” leaves off. Then comes “Post DTWOF,” then “Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For.” “Invasion of the DTWOF” is the most recent title.

How does Louis/Lois get realistic sideburns? Is it some kind of facial glue and if so how does one go about using it? My own attempts with superglue have achieved differently interesting results.

Superglue! Good lord!
I think it might be a little less toxic to use spirit gum-it’s something actors use. You spread it on your face, then paste little bits of cut up real hair onto it. I’ve never tried this myself. There must be some drag king web site that can give you more details.

What happened to Café Topaz?

Starbucks.

Frequently Heard Rant: I can’t read your strip in the paper anymore, the words are too little.

There are three solutions – I can make the words bigger, but then I’d have room for fewer of them. Or you can write your local paper and ask them to print my strip larger. Or you can get bifocals. Seriously, I’m getting older too and I understand the reluctance to take the plunge into reading glasses. But eventually we’re all gonna need them, right? Why not get on with it?

I’m afraid I can’t make out what is on Sparrow’s t-shirt in Episode 411, “This Brief Transit.”

I was debating whether or not to put anything on her shirt at all, because the whole strip was already pretty crammed with details. But then, in a spasm of horror vacuii, I decided that she was wearing Stuart’s ‘No Monsanto’ t-shirt. In order to not detract too much from the action in that panel, I drew it kind of fuzzy.

What the hell is Kinder, Kirche, Küche?

It’s a quaint Third Reich motto describing the proper provinces of the ideal Nazi woman: children, church, kitchen. (And I don’t think they were advocating for female priests.)

At the end of “Post Dykes To Watch Out For,” Clarice and Toni are talking about becoming suburban swingers but there’s no mention of it in later strips. I wanted to know if thay actually took the once-a-month polyamorous route?

Dang, I’m busted. I really dropped the ball on the polyamory thing. You’re absolutely right, there’s no further mention of it. I keep meaning to get back to it, and it’s still on my to-do list, but for all practical purposes, I seem to have copped out.

What city is the comic strip set in? It reminds me so much of Oakland/Jamaica Plain/Seattle/Pittsburgh/Chicago/Grand Forks.

I keep the location of Dykes To Watch Out For intentionally nonspecific so that readers in Grand Forks can imagine it’s happening right there. But it definitely has a feel of the Twin Cities about it. I was living in St. Paul when I started writing about Mo and her pals. And Madwimmin Books is based on Amazon, the women’s bookstore in Minneapolis (and oldest surviving women’s bookstore in the country).

Why did you close Madwimmin Books? What’s the matter with you? Is it some kind of commentary? Are you abandoning the strip?

Settle down. I’m bummed about Madwimmin closing too. But let’s face it, women’s bookstores are under incredible pressure and are foundering left and right. I really want the comic strip to reflect reality, however painful that is, and not get frozen in time like “Family Circus.” Okay?

Where do you get your ideas?

At Costco.

How do you pronounce your last name?

Rhymes with rectal.

Are you related to the nefarious planet-plundering, nuclear power plant-building, CIA-backed Bechtel Corporation?

No, sadly. Or I’d have a big fat trust fund and I’d give some of it to you. I would! Really!

Has your work been translated into Finnish?

Why yes, it has. “Lepakkoelämää,” which supposedly means “Spawn of Dykes To Watch Out For,” but could mean “suck my llama” for all I know, was published in 2000 by the Helsinki publisher Kääntöpiiri. Finland, in fact, seems to be just one big sauna full of Dykes To Watch Out For fans, one of whom wrote a very professional-looking hard-bound college thesis about my work in 1998. Go figure.

Does “lepakkoelämää” really mean “suck my llama?”

A concerned Finnish reader recently informed me that the literal translation of “lepakkoelämää” is “bat life,” which is slang for “promiscuous lesbian.” Glad I could clear that up.

How did you get started?

I had a series of boring, awful office jobs after I got out of college in 1981, and to while away the time I wrote letters to a friend who was still in school. One day I drew a picture in the margin of a deranged naked woman holding a coffee pot, and called it, “Marianne, dissatisfied with the breakfast brew. Dykes To Watch Out For, Plate no. 27.” Then I drew some more deranged women doing different things, in hopes that one day I really would rack up twenty-seven of them.

Then a friend suggested that I try to get one into the feminist newspaper where we volunteered, and my first one was published in June of 1983. Over the next couple of years I started doing multi-panel strips instead of single-panel drawings with a caption. And eventually I got some papers to actually pay me for them. Then more papers. Then in 1986 Firebrand Books published a collection, and continued publishing a book every couple of years. Then in 1990 I quit my day job.

How did you think up the title “Dykes To Watch Out For?”

I didn’t give it much thought at all. It was just a spontaneous thing. But I liked its contradictory meanings. “Watch out for” as in “seek out,” and “watch out for” as in “avoid.”

I worry about it from time to time because it’s really kind of an unwieldy title. But not as unwieldy as “Carbon-Based Beings To Watch Out For,” which is really more accurate now that the characters aren’t all lesbians.

Who are your influences?

Formative influences on me as a kid were Chas. Addams, Mad Magazine, Norman Rockwell, and Edward Gorey. When I was twenty-two, I picked up a copy of “Gay Comix,” an anthology comic book edited by Howard Cruse. It was seeing his work there, along with stuff by other early gay and lesbian cartoonists like Mary Wings, Jennifer Camper, and Jerry Mills, that made me realize I could draw cartoons about my own queer life. Stylistically, my cartoon idols are Hergé and R. Crumb.