off the rails

September 25th, 2007 | Uncategorized


Here’s me inking the most recent episode of DTWOF. But seriously, it might very well be, if I keep this up. I’m on a new routine of cutting back from two strips a month to one, in order to make more time to work on a book. But oddly, I’m finding that it takes longer to write and draw one episode than it does to draw two.

I seem compelled to cram two episodes worth of plot and current events into half the space. I tell you, I have no control over it. After keeping this real-time story going for nearly 25 years in biweekly installments, that rhythm seems to have inscribed itself into my hippocampus.

Look at this panel. It’s ridiculous.


There’s the foreground story–Clarice on the phone. Then there’s a computer screen with news stuff on it, then there’s this whole microscopic scene unfolding in the background, through the window. This is nuts. Really, it’s too illegible to be a good comic. Plus lemme tell you, it takes for Fucking Ever to draw. Here’s my hand, for scale.


I’m confessing this all to you in hopes that it will help snap me out of this paralyzing and mind bogglingly time intensive detail disorder.

117 Responses to “off the rails”

  1. Ellen O. says:

    I remember someone once asked you if you had learned to draw the strip more quickly as the years went by. You said you had now reached the point where you couldn’t reduce the time it took any further.

    This seems an interesting twist on that.

    It’s all about process, isn’t it?

    The nearly wordless strip featuring the death of Vanessa was starkly beautiful. Did that take any less time?

  2. mysticriver says:

    My hand cramps just reading your description!

    This may not help snap you out of your detail zone, but can I just say for the kajillionth time that you’ve heard it that you are just an amazingly talented drafts(wo)man? The sketch panel is beautiful – thank you for sharing it.

  3. shadocat says:

    Just how much is a kabillion, anyway?

    Speaking as a selfish fan, this new process may be hell on you, but the strip’s never been better!

    (Now Shado retreats to her closet to say three Hail Marys for being greedy and inconsiderate…)

  4. DeLandDeLakes says:

    I think ‘toonist Jennifer Daydreamer once did an issue of her comic that was called “the sloppy issue”- she made herself draw all the panels in 15 minutes or less. That might be an interesting exercise for you to try. I’m pretty sure you could put a bunch of Rorschach blots in your panels and we would eat it up, as long as the snappy dialog remained.

  5. Cate says:

    I, for one, appreciate the window into the process. And I echo what mysticriver said about the beauty of the lines — the look manages to be spare even when it’s crammed, somehow.

  6. No, don’t reassure me! I need to reform! And look. If I didn’t draw it out all so painstakingly, THIS is what you’d get:

  7. Aunt Soozie says:

    I didn’t realize the originals were so tiny. I thought you worked bigger and they scaled them down…ouch.
    and c’mon now Bechdel…are you so sure the rhythm got inscribed into your hippocampus? Maybe you were born that way. jk. πŸ˜‰

  8. they call me Sir Real says:

    Am I correct in thinking that you use the digital camera thing to capture yourself as a model for the humans in DTWOF, as you did for Fun Home?

    Perhaps, if so, as with the Monumental Drawings that were shown in the Pine Street Gallery, you could try drafting the cartoons without using the digital photo reference. That should save a step! And, btw, I felt that any anatomical distorions that resulted for those M.D.s _added_ to the emotional impact of the images.

  9. Ray B. says:

    Maybe you could do like some of the comic greats and draw large-scale on poster-board, and then resize it with computer for print. That way, you could add even more detail, like slogans on Raffi’s shirt and a news ticker on the bottom of the computer screen!

  10. Dr. Empirical says:

    Is that an English kabillion or a metric kabillion?

  11. saramarie says:

    nice way to get around what you are really supposed to be doing – working harder on the strip to please all of us – so sorry alison……

    if it makes you feel any better, i think you are the hottest comic diva in vermont, ok, the northeast, well, maybe east of the mississippi…….

  12. cheese says:

    time saving tip: ala bill keane that way a rough sketch passes as his point of view> (my period key seems to not want to work anymore)

  13. cheese says:

    well it would seem that my whole comment doesnt want to work> what i was saying was that if raffi “fills in” for a strip or two

  14. cheese says:


  15. Nickel Joey says:

    Would it help to sketch out two weeks, just like usual, then force yourself to edit, not just verbally but visually? Easier said than done, of course. Which writer was it who used the phrase “murdering your darlings”? Maybe you could hang on to an excised plotline or two and work them into a standalone bonus strip when the next DTWOF book is published?

    Heck, I don’t know. I’m a writer who struggles with this, too — in poetry, no less, where economy is often critical. My stuff ends up much too dense sometimes. So I’ve no idea why I feel compelled to advise here. I’m certainly not qualified.

  16. Wendy says:

    This is probably a stupid idea, but why don’t you just go back to writing two strips a month, (and get paid for two) if it takes less time?

  17. JenK says:

    I know nothing about drawing. I only want to say that I worship and adore your wonderful strip, and to please remember to do wrist and hand stretches to help avoid carpal tunnel problems.

    -Jen the former microsoftie who knows about sore wrists and is quite willing to massage your hands next time you’re in Seattle.

  18. Chris (in Massachusetts) says:

    So, THAT’S the new Koh-I-Noor subatomic nib. I hear the QuantumInkβ„’ it requires is hellishly expensive.

    Seriously, that is the tiniest nib I have yet seen.

  19. Rinky (Melbourne) says:

    I think three weeks is the perfect interval because it takes three weeks for a new situation in your life top feel normal.

  20. Rinky (Melbourne) says:

    I mean to feel normal. Sorry typing one handed while breast feeding.

  21. Josiah says:

    Since I have the work ethic of a ring-tailed lemur (that is, slightly more drive than a sloth, but less than a bushbaby), I’m utterly unqualified to advise you on this excess of commitment to your craft. That said, I like Wendy’s idea, for purely selfish reasons.

  22. Bella says:

    Is anyone else REALLY CURIOUS about what’s going on in that second panel? Is that Sydney rolling in the grass with Mo? Or is she just cleaning her glasses? I suppose we need to wait another week to be sure. Any guesses?

  23. Ellen O. says:

    Could you be suffering from a severe and flagrant case of extended “horror vacuii?”

  24. Birka says:

    I agree with Wendy, might just go back to 2 strips a month and then save one for an extra bonus in a new collectionbook…?

  25. mycroft says:

    keep the details! it’s part of what makes reading and re-reading and re-reading the strip so rewarding. your hard work is appreciated for sure!!

    Maybe you can scale back a little on some of the shading, like the tree? Give some people more grey hair? (!) Do you do the lettering for the captions & dialogue by hand??

    I, too, like Wendy’s suggestion! Or, as a compromise, how about one new strip every three weeks? πŸ˜‰

  26. van says:

    No problem with one episode a month, just as long as it’s a 40 panel episode. We can live with that;)

    Didn’t realize how small the actual drawings were. I still have penmanship envy. Says a lot about your OC tendencies, lol. The geeky allure of graphology…

  27. Deena in OR says:

    To Rinky-(discursive…)

    I remember those days. πŸ™‚ It’s incredible what one can learn to do “one-sided”, as it were.

  28. Bella, that was strangely prescient of you.

    Ellen, (and Chris) maybe I could solve my horror vacuii problem by drawing with a house-painting brush. One stroke and the panel would be solid black.

    Mycroft, I actaully made a note to myself as I was working on this strip to try and get some gray hair in, especially on Toni, but then I forgot. It’s tricky to do gray in black and white, I haven’t quite figured out how to manage it.

  29. Duncan says:

    In the sketch versions, Clarice looks like the Statue of Liberty, with that half-drawn corona of hair.

    I seem to remember that you did a Zen sketch diary a long time ago, like last year? I guess that didn’t help loosen the bolts either.

  30. Simone says:

    Uh, aren’t things like this part of what makes your style what it is? Please to not be stymieing yourself creatively unless you’re in pain or something, kthxbai.

  31. Joe Code says:

    You’re asking the wrong crowd for advise on how to cut back on doing detail. We all love the detail.

    Seriously though, I’m a computer programmer and I know exactly how you feel. I live in a world where the rhythm of the code is like music, but the more one adds the less likely anyone will ever hear it (so to speak).

    I have to force myself not to add features to my beautiful applications. At some point the product has to get out the door, so one has to exercise extreme will power (or seek therapy).

  32. Alex the Bold says:


    You have to realize, the detail is part of the attraction. I was just rereading the strip where Toni’s parents are about to visit and the room Toni and Clarice are in is filled with Raffi-debris.

    If you look at the toy blocks on the carpet, from left to right, they spell out K-A-O-S. As in, what a huge mess this apartment is in.

    I rarely reread comics, no matter how good I think they are. But yours invariably have a new detail to discover.

    So put as much detail as you want in it.

  33. Leslei says:

    the lady from For Better Or For Worse has help. i saw a documentary on her process once. it was not unlike yours, but she had more (inking?) help.

    good luck, i’m in the process of getting more off my plate, but then again I don’t have Time Magazine kicking in my door.
    Congrats on Comic Con!

  34. Aunt Soozie says:

    Bella…she’s such a tease isn’t she?
    I see the little asterisk thing and the letter “s” so I think Sidney is sighing…but who knows why. Her head is tilted back but I see the little line of her glasses so they aren’t being held aloft as she checks for smudges. And yes…I found myself examining closely for any fragment of more,more,more …pathetic, isn’t it?

  35. Aunt Soozie says:

    Oh my Gawd! I just looked again! They aren’t having sex, are they??

  36. Mabel says:

    I think someone is daydreaming. It looks like a daydreaming bubble. (Does AB do daydreaming bubbles?).

  37. Ginjoint says:

    Like Aunt Soozie, I too was shocked at how small the originals are. (I know zip about cartooning.) I presumed they were a lot bigger, then just “shrunk” when printed in papers. Wow, you must have a steady hand!

  38. judybusy says:

    I wonder if this isn’t a problem of “I have less work to do, so I will fill in the alloted time regardless.” I know this phenomenon happens to a lot of people when their work load decreases, and the work then expands to fit the time! I personally am much more efficient when busy. So, yes, I am agreeing with others that you might as well go back to doing two strips a month! πŸ˜‰

  39. Grisha says:

    Aunt Soozie:

    No, they aren’t having sex. When they have sex they just make panting, extassy noises, not intellectual dialogue. Also, there seems to be a tree in the corner. In spite of them doing it in the library once, I think Mo wouldn’t be comfortable in a semi – public place.


  40. Andrea says:

    WOW, those sketches are cool to see!

    If you really wanted to spoil us you could make a sped-up video like Len of Monsters by Mail does while you draw one panel from roughest sketch to finished drawing…

    That would totally, utterly rule.

  41. Mabel says:

    I think you can skimp on a lot more of the current affairs detail (and therefore the drawn detail) than you think.
    When I examine the three most recent strips, 510-512, I find that 511 is most successful because the characters are allowed to do most of the work without the current affairs detail (and therefore drawn detail) trying to force it’s way in.

    I love the detail in 510, but it was unsuccessful for me because the drawn detail, current affairs detail and character detail just felt overwhelming. I also felt as though I was being given pictures of “ifones” and a background radio story in compensation for the real strip being character driven. In all honesty, it is an overcompensation. One or two prize winning touches (as in episode 511) are good enough.

  42. Leah says:

    I know someone else probably already said this, but WHY on earth don’t you draw it larger and then reduce it on a copier or on the pc after you scan it?

    I can’t imagine how things must smear at that proximity to one’s fingers!

    Love your work…

  43. Leda says:

    Keep the detail, keep the detail!

    The amazing balance you achieve between the plethora of ideas clearly fighting to get out and keeping a clear narrative is a rare skill that I’m sure is not necessarily easy. I imagine that having reduced your access to a long established regular outlet for a particular set of ideas has resulted in a build up that other projects don’t necessarily provide relief from. But its early days for such a major change and it’s probably too early to consider it a failure just yet. In my humble opinion anyway..

  44. birka says:

    By the way, what are those spooky looking glasses you are wearing? you look like you are welding out in the garage…

  45. emaline says:

    Sorry- I got no help for paralyzing and mind bogglingly time intensive detail disorder. I am so lazy when it comes to details, it’s disturbing. But I am really amazed with how much work goes into the strip. I’d like to 2nd what birka asked: what are the weird glasses? Are they magnifying glasses? It does look like you are comic strip welding.

  46. oceans 111 says:

    The glasses in question are magnifying lenses commonly used by jewelry makers (or assesors, as the man in the photo seems to be, since the sorroundings look more retail than workshop to me). I sure hope AB isn’y planning on inscribing the next episode on the head of a pin…

  47. Kassie says:

    Oh, I do love seeing your sketch process! And I agree, that the details are what make the strip so rewarding and re-readable. I just dived back into “Fun Home,” just to enjoy the amazing detail work there…this time I noticed in the scene when you are first visiting your dad’s grave, and the permanent headstone isn’t installed yet, the corn in the field next to the cemetery isn’t quite knee-high. Then later, when you portray a visit when the veterans have left a flag marker, the corn is fully grown. Just absolutely amazing. Thanks for it all.

  48. Meghan says:

    I have no idea how you can cut back without driving yourself crazy. But I’m not really qualified to give advice because I’m a member of the ring-tailed lemur work ethic club. For example: I SHOULD be writing a paper that’s due this afternoon, but I’m reading the posts on this blog and checking my email.

  49. shadocat says:

    Soozie–maybe Sidney’s with Madeline–I can see HER wanting to do it in a semi-public area. And Mo could be the one in a trre somewhere, pretending to birdwatch with Lisa.BUT REALLY trying to catch them in the act!!! (Okay, I really soend waaay to much time thinking about this stuff…

  50. shadocat says:

    jeez ! “a tree somewhere”

  51. Aunt Soozie says:

    I thought maybe that “tree” was a decorative headboard?
    We’ll soon know what’s going on over there…just have to wait it out.

  52. Aunt Soozie says:

    The planet’s on a greased pole to hell.
    subliminal message?
    sigh… I’m so suggestible…

  53. Pam I says:

    Talking of detail – on first glance at the group outside the window, I though the person with Raffi was a version of Roy, the yard boy in Fun Home. Was that just me with my wrong glasses on?

    And Josiah, hands off sloths. They just get bad press; they deserve our respect, not to become cheap metaphors. I am deeply impressed by any animal so relaxed that algae grow in its coat. IIRC, it’s not the first time I’ve said so here. (Where else would this opportunity arise?)

  54. (they call me) Sir Real says:

    A three-week interval might knock you out of your bi-weekly rhythm?

    Or – this is a desperate measure, and I quail at suggesting it – stop. Altogether. Go on a yoga retreat or something without any drawing utensils. Any work after the retreat would be on the book. Resume DTWOF after, say, 5, or 7 or (shudder) 9 weeks – again, an odd number that might knock you outta that rut in your hippocampus.

    Don’t mistake me, I want my DTWOF! Early and often! But… I also want to see the new book. From what I recall, you have had some difficulty grappling with it, as you mentioned in that interview at the San Diego comics con, yes?… The combination of loss of income plus a yearning for that ink that is accustomed to flow might prod that project along…

  55. Lhinx says:

    Wow…O_O I wondered how you got so much detail in there. That is freakin’ amazing….

  56. Deena in OR says:


    My fifteen year old daughter wants to be a graphic artist. No piece of paper has been safe or sacred in our house since about 1994. You’ve been so generous about sharing your process-and I’ve shared it with her in bits and pieces, so that she can see that it’s possible, and how much work it is to do right. Thanks for your generosity.

  57. kate mckinnon says:

    A, the detail is beautiful, and gives added layers to those who want to go back and explore and re-explore your work. it’s all beautiful, the spare and the lush, just keep working and don’t worry about economy of motion. At some point, you just have to go with your own rhythm. Your obsessiveness is a part of who and what you are.

    I learned to pare my motions down to the very minimal with my metalsmithing, I can move from raw materials to finished product in record time, with beautiful economy. Very efficient. But then, put a little burnishing stylus in my hand and the whole process goes to hell, as I spend three hours of professional time coloring shards of light into a ring or pendant. Spareness and simplicity can only go so far when the heart or creative soul craves complexity.

  58. k in philadelphia says:

    Isn’t there a saying in Alcoholics Anonynous or Al Anon or something that says — LET GO and LET GOD? How ’bout if you let go and let… whatever??

    Really. Let go.

  59. dbd says:

    Sorry to be unhelpful, but I love the intricately detailed art style. You have to keep doing it until your fingers fall off!

  60. aimes says:

    Hey Alison,

    do you still enjoy creating the strip?

    I know if my life had changed the way yours had(Fun Home, awards, future projects, etc) I might want to move on.

  61. Robin B says:

    What’s happening in the panel we glimpse in the lower left? Is Mo making fun of Sydney’s latest article title? What could it be? “You sit around analyzing “The Performativity of James’s The Turn of the Screw”? (Or “I sit around [something] the performativity of the women you screw?) Alison, as an academic I have to tell you that most of the article titles you come up with are better than the real ones I see!

  62. Alex the Bold says:

    If Alison does stop the strip, maybe the final one can be Mo waking up from a dream, going to the mirror, realizing she’s George W. Bush and then making a speech to the U.N.:

    Omigod, I’ve been so completely wrong about everything! I’m the worst possible person in the entire world. The war was wrong, all the racism/sexism/classism/pollution is wrong. Yes, I stole the election! Are you people idiots? Of course I stole it! And Al Gore’s absolutely right! We’ve got to stop all this SUV nonsense this second!

  63. Chewy says:

    The un-painstakingly inking of “This is what you’d get” makes Clarice look like Lady Liberty.

  64. Feminista says:

    Alex–Don’t even *think* about the strip ending! Why then we’d have to be content with worrying about our real-life issues and concerns. Perish the thought.

    Deena–How wonderful to have such creative offspring. A musician and a graphic artist will make great contributions. Congrats to them and you.

  65. --MC says:

    Sorry to be getting to this party so late.
    Deland — when Jennifer Daydreamer was first starting out, she used to draw every panel in situ — no pencilling, she’d just ink up a brush and go for it. If something went wrong, she’d just flip the page and start again. I knew her then, and she once showed me a notebook in which almost every page was an attempt to draw the same panel.

  66. Kelli says:

    Hey, Alison, shouldn’t this also be tagged “The Artistic Condition”?

  67. The Cat Pimp says:

    Alison, dear, I have been reading your books since the late 1980s. Take your time. Don’t stress out. I’ll wait. Its worth it. I won’t throw 20 years of avid readership down the tubes if you need to slow down. I have a shelf full of your first editions to savor all over again.

  68. Dana says:

    One strip takes longer than two? There’s only one solution: You’ve got to scale up to four. Really, there’s no other way.

  69. Suzanonymous says:

    I don’t have time to read all these entries, which makes a mockery of my commenting at all (if I won’t read many others’ why should they read mine?).

    Details is what convinced me I don’t want to be a cartoonist. I’d just draw single lines to suggest elaborate details, which was ridiculous, they were grossly inadequate. The panel looks fine to me, but I think that’s because we have a zoomed in view. It’d make a fine postcard. πŸ™‚

  70. Ellen O. says:

    Here’s my suggestion.

    The next strip takes place during the middle of night… in a power outage. All we see are text bubbles, noise words (CRASH! foomp! etc.,) and perhaps a crescent moon.

    The most compelling conversations often take place in darkness.

  71. Aunt Soozie says:

    Ellen O. that’s a brilliant idea.
    Love it.

  72. Deena in OR says:


    Pure genius…

  73. Bruce says:

    Yes, I’m a man, but I sure love your girls and their lives. oh yeah, I forgot, there are men there also, but they’re a sidenote. Keep ’em comin’, and thanks forever.

  74. Bella says:

    Bruce, I know what you mean. I’m a woman, but I love Doonesbury’s men and *their* lives. Yes, he includes women, but as you said, they’re a sidenote.

  75. Ginjoint says:

    Ellen, two of the funniest panels I’ve ever seen in DTWOF were inked almost all black – when Lois and her friend up the power setting on some vibrators they’re testing, which blows the house fuse, thereby erasing Ginger’s thesis on her computer. Just thinking of Ginger’s (and Digger’s) eyeballs reacting in the dark makes me laugh. Awesome idea, though!

  76. Anonymous says:

    I agree! Ellen that’s brilliant!

  77. oceans 111 says:

    And then there’s the polar bear eating vanilla ice cream in the middle of a blizzard: you could do an all-white sequence.

  78. Jeffster83 says:

    I like the newspaper, TV and computer screen details in the background. They are as much fun as a Mo-rant. Speaking of which, today’s newspaper has an article about the Senate working on a bill that would extend hate-crime status to persons who are attacked for their ability, gender identity, or sexuality. In hopes of getting the bill past the president’s threatened veto, the committee attached it to a defense-spending bill. Imagine how conflicted Mo will be when she hears about that.

  79. friend of bean says:

    Allison, seriously, if you haven’t been tested for Asperger’s syndrome, you should be. The syndrome is genetic, and from reading your book, it appears that your father also had it or something very like it (and your brothers, to some unknown degree).

    Asperger’s has been pathologized–which annoys me, as my daughter has it–but its good points are an ability to focus on something to the exclusion of all, an eerie ability to retain detail, an ability to tolerate repetition in order to perfect things . . . basically, it’s another word for genius. The people who probably had it include Thoreau, Austin, Jefferson, etc.

    The down sides of Asperger’s are difficulties with tolerating change, with tolerating large numbers of people, with social situations, a need for absolute consistency, and an obsessive need to know every single last detail of the thing one is studying.

    Every silver lining has a dark cloud πŸ˜‰

    Here’s a nice explanation:

    There are lots of online questionnaires to rate yourself–just search for the phrase Australian Scale for Asperger’s Syndrome–but here is a link to a pretty good one for adults:

    If you do have Asperger’s, then you can see an occupational therapist to deal with the unfortunate side effects. It might also help you to understand your father a bit more, as he seems to have had a very bad, untreated version of it or something like it. Yours seems a little milder. But, I am just a laywoman, guessing at a distance. If you are being made uncomfortable, though, screening yourself and seeing a specialist would be a good idea.

  80. Jaibe says:

    if it’s faster to write two, maybe it would be even faster to write four?

  81. Dr. Empirical says:

    I was going to suggest drawing one strip with a big chisel-tip magic marker held in your fist as a freeing-up exercise, but then I remembered you complaining about how long it took you to do those little four-panel strips you were drawing last winter.

    I have no advice, Alison. You’re doomed.

  82. Erica says:

    Some women are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them… and some achieve it through mind-bogglingly obsessive focus on telling little details.


  83. Alterity says:

    Having this glimpse into your process is a delicious treat. The process of art matched with the product of art … in some ways, it is like watching the cycle of birth, death, rebirth. Nice. Reading this makes me more curious about what specific pens you use and what kind of rituals you engage to create. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.


  84. Eva says:

    “I’m confessing this all to you in hopes that it will help snap me out of this paralyzing and mind bogglingly time intensive detail disorder.”


    Um, I hope you’re feeling a bit of relief now, a few days after you posted the above.

    Do you need someone to read to you (some Colette might be nice) while you soak in the tub?

    I’m not volunteering, I’m remembering in Fun Home when you were experiencing OCD your mom reading to you in the tub and you dictating your diary entries until your handwriting “improved”. I also remember you reasuring yourself with notes reminding youself you were safe.

    It gets more complicated when one’s neurosis is bound up with one’s livelihood, but you get my general drift, yes?

  85. Deena in OR says:

    I’m meditiating on the post above and thinking what blurry boundaries this medium fosters. Many, if not all of us, have read “Fun Home” here, and know what a soul and psyche-baring work it is. We interact with her to some degree here on this blog. I’m asking the following as an honest question, not as a judgement on the above post. Does our knowledge of Alison’s life, added to the interactions here, make it OK to offer advice on her psychological life? As close friends, IRL, knowing what we do about her past, we probably would. However, it’s not a relationship based on reciprocity. Unless there’s some history that I’m not privy to (and there may well be…) Alison doesn’t have knowledge of our pasts, and wouldn’t be expected to.

    This isn’t to detract from the insight Eva offers…that’s not the point. There’s real wisdom there. But reading it, I felt funny for Alison…like she was naked on stage, and we were offering constructive bodybuilding advice (for lack of a better analogy on a tired Friday afternoon…). I realize that to some extent, she’s the one that’s put her self in this place of vulnerability. But…..(Deena trails off, having run out of words…..)

  86. lt says:

    Allison – I don’t think you personally would be happy without the detail….. maybe some aikido hand stretches would help with the hand cramps.

    And like many of the others – I’ve read your strip since the early days, great job, it’s wonderful. My life would feel incomplete without it. I’ve also used it to help some of the kids I’ve mentored get some historical perspective… I feircely protect my old original editions.

  87. Eva says:

    Deena in OR,

    Point well taken. I probably responded to Alison’s post more literally (as I am apt to do) than most. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the weird world of art and mental health, so the above post is as much a note to myself as anyone else. If it crossed over the line, my apologies.

  88. mlk says:

    Deena, the question you ask is worth raising. and it lets Alison know (I think . . . well, I’ll just barge ahead as though this is true, even though I don’t *know* it is true) that you’re looking out for Alison just as Eva is looking out for her.

    regardless of what Alison may think or feel, when I read Eva’s post I only sensed concern and counsel that is based on information that Alison’s shared with her readers. it wasn’t speculative (oops! and mine is!) and was written in response to a dilemma that Alison has shared w/us. Eva’s suggestion is based on knowledge that’s in the public domain (so to speak).

    true, Alison said the post was intended to snap her out of her detail trap . . . this suggests that she wasn’t looking for feedback or advice. if she weren’t, though, it might’ve been better to write the post without putting it on the blog. kinda like those letters people write in therapy but don’t send, to process feelings without having to deal with the recipient’s response to what they have to say. as we all know, when Alison puts something on the blog it’s pretty much guaranteed that she’ll have to deal with our opinions and advice!

    I don’t know how to say this without coming across as critical, but will give it a try: seems to me that examining whether it’s OK to offer advice on Alison’s psychological life adds complexity to an already overwhelmingly complex situation. and, since Eva is drawing upon knowledge of Alison’s psychological life that’s known to readers of Fun Home, I believe her suggestion is within bounds of propriety. as you (Deena) point out, Eva is offering wisdom.

    Deena in OR has asked an honest question and I’m attempting to give an honest answer. I received Eva’s post differently than she did — I didn’t feel funny for Alison — and just want to share that perspective.

    Alison, I have no suggestions for your detail trap. at the same time, I expect that you’ll read something here that will help you find your way, or will work out a solution without our help!

    as my therapist used to say, trust the process!

  89. Deena in OR says:

    Eva…honestly, given the path to where we are, I don’t think you did go too far. No offense meant. But on a meta level, the intimacy that Alison has opened herself up to is breathtaking to me. I don’t know that I could be a good artist or writer…I’m too private, and (imho) truly great art requires exposing your psyche to the world in a way that I couldn’t do. I admire Alison for being able to, and for being open to the social intercourse that follows.

    mlk…you didn’t come across as critical, and I’m chewing on your comment about adding complexity to an already complex situation. Food for thought.

    Peace, everyone….

  90. LM says:

    Ms AB has indicated where she is. She has not indicated where she wants to be. Hmm?

  91. Deena in OR says:

    LM-on a beach in Tahiti, perhaps, with a nice fruity drink with an umbrella in her hand, and a pretty woman in a sarong to behold??? Just thinking…

    Oh, wait, maybe that’s *my* fantasy πŸ™‚

  92. Suzanonymous says:

    Okay, here’s a possibility for getting out of detail paralysis, assuming the real problem is lost time on what is otherwise rewarding.

    It seems to me the least needed element of that gorgeous panel is the background, through-the-window, scene, which has a lot of details. It seems to me this is a very nice scene that was probably fun to invent and draw. Rewarding. Here’s the idea: it’s possible that some time spent on sketches and ideas for the new book, in a fun, exploratory mode, not watching the clock, could mean the next DTWOF episode will bee less tempting to dive into some fun in the details.

    If this works, then the fun exploration on the new book will probably also bring insight to, new angles on, the material. The time will not end up in a detailed background scene 1″ high. A win/win solution for both efforts, if it trades off like I described.

  93. Leda says:

    Here’s a thought, is the real problem lost time or what you feel it means to be so consumed with the detail? I think you could no more cut back on those details than you could decide to take a little less oxygen with every other breath. Not becuase you are weak or disordered in some way but becuase you just are a detail person, a constant ideas person. Perhaps a way forward here is to bring back more regular DTWOF strips so as to keep that outlet for all these ideas, plus the relief of being able to include them rather than fighting to stop them taking over may well give a new persepective, making the whole thing more managable then before you reduced your access to something that may well have been preserving the balance in your life not upsetting it. Perhaps you just needed a break…..

    I am a bit of a constant ideas person too and I often find the more I stress about reigning in projects in the more ideas start to come and the less I am able to comfortably judge their worth. I’m just wondering how much of the time that adding those details took was spent deliberating about them, not on the grounds of their actual worth but what it meant about you if you did add them? I seriously doubt that the drawing took less time but you probably could have done without the issues and the energy used on them would have been helpful in the drawing I’m sure…. I have come to the conclusion about myself that I probably can’t cut back on ideas and reducing what I allow myself to spend on them in terms of time and energy just irratates the issue, but if I stop trying to obstruct them and just accept them I can persue them at less of a cost to myself emotionally and in terms of time spent.

    Anyway, good luck, this is of course counsel of perfection from a miserable sinner…

  94. Leda says:

    I’ve just had an idea (see, I’m a miserable sinner). Can you swing things so that you can do a strip a week for next two? But you publish at the same rate so you should end up a (fresh and current) strip ahead of what we are reading, buying you a break when you need it and less pressure to stop and do DTWOF strips when you feel you should be doing something else and then ending up not being able to explore ideas in the DTWOF strip. If you can do this time wise and decide to let yourself enjoy it you may find the rest good for the other work and also that just letting go will mean that you spend time and energy on the strips not the stress. You might well even surprise yourself and win some back, sneaking in a bit of other work. You just repeat this process at the nearest convenient point after you use up your strip in adavance. Like I said before, (been a bit greedy with posting today…) good luck!

  95. laurie says:

    hello alison, sorry if this is not the right place to write this but I just wanted to say how great your comic is!!!..
    where I am at the moment(brussels/belgium) people around me seem so alien and in some strange harmonized way, which is a bit scary, really hehe…
    and when I read your comic I just feel right at home πŸ™‚ maybe I should move to america, women seem to be so much more organised and empowered πŸ™‚
    Thank you for all the humour and the wisdom, everyday a bit of your work makes my day brighter πŸ˜‰

    ps: I have 2 comix already, so I promess to keep on supporting your work buy buying more for myself at xmas πŸ™‚

    lots of love and good energy,

    The laboratory of Living Arts


  96. Ian says:

    On BBC4 in the UK they’ve been running a series called Comics Britannia about the history of British comics. In the last one they talked about a recent graphic novel called ‘Lost Girls’ by Alan Moore (who wrote the Watchmen series) and a woman called (I think) Maureen Gebbie? Fascinating novel, imagining Alice, Wendy and Dorothy of Wonderland, Peter Pan and Oz fame as grown up, sexually active women. Lots of talk about blurring the lines between art/porn.

    Can any of you comics afficionados tell me anything about Maureen Gebbie?

  97. Josiah says:

    It’s Melinda Gebbie. She’s American-born, and her first comics work appeared in Wimmen’s Comics, the feminist underground comic started by people like Trina Robbins and Aline Kominsky (later Kominsky-Crumb, after she married R. Crumb). She moved to the UK in the late ’80s, and started collaborating with Alan Moore on the project that eventually became Lost Girls in the early ’90s. The first few chapters were serialized in Steve Bissette’s anthology book Taboo, which also serialized From Hell, the Jack the Ripper story by Moore and Eddie Campbell which was later made into a film which, by all accounts, bore almost no resemblance to the original comic. Moore’s stated intention in creating Lost Girls was to create pornography that was also good art, which would engage the mind and the loins equally.

    The personal saga of Moore and Gebbie is also interesting: at some point in the ’80s or ’90s, Moore and his then-wife Phyllis began a shared relationship with a third woman, Deborah Delano (the ex-wife of another comics writer, Jamie Delano). Eventually, Phyllis and Deborah left Alan to raise his two daughters. Moore and Gebbie finished their work on Lost Girls last year, and at some point during the long collaboration the relationship became more than professional. They married earlier this year. Moore told an interviewer, “I’d recommend to anybody working on their relationship that they should try embarking on a 16-year elaborate pornography together. I think they’ll find it works wonders.”

    That quote is from an interview with Moore in which he talks about the process by which Lost Girls was created; you can read the interview here.

  98. Ian says:

    Thanks for that Josiah! And apologies to *Melinda*! At least I got the surname right. πŸ˜‰

  99. mlk says:

    Deena, I’ve also been amazed by how much of herself Alison shares with us. it seems to work for her in some way, or I doubt she’d continue doing it!

    I love being a part of Alison’s process and am constantly vigilant that I won’t try to coopt it in some way. the temptation’s there to conclude that I’m somehow important to the artist. a delusion, yes? I’m *almost certain* that the gestalt of the blog is a greater gift than my contributions.

    yes, I have an outsized ego. the challenge is keeping it under wraps! maybe I’m not the only one here facing that challenge?

  100. Suzanonymous says:

    Yes, I do think I’m the most important person. LOL.

    Along those lines, I’m logging in to note (because everyone is paying attention to me me me): when I wrote that the window view was the least needed element of that panel, that was based on the narration (that the world is going to hell). Maybe the scene is important later in the episode.

    Strunk&White’s famous guide to language usage points out that “important” is a word too vague to be meaningful. Are we consequential? Are we saying hilarious things that everyone is talking about? Insightful things? Are we accurately predicting the future and thereby must be listened to?

    In an earlier post, mlk wrote, “this suggests that [Alison] wasn’t looking for feedback or advice.” BUT later Alison wrote she needs to reform, which suggested to me that suggestions for how to reform would at least not be inappropriate. That is why I didn’t see a problem with people contributing ideas and I added my own.

    I’m feeling strangely defensive, though. Maybe we should butt out of her process.

    I loved seeing the sketch and preview!

  101. Deena in OR says:

    Gaaahh…I’m beginning to think I should never have posted. My intention was a philosophical musing to express *my* wonder and surprise at the level of intimacy, not to put a value judgement on it. If it’s working for Alison, on one side, and all of us on the other, why mess with it? My comfort level is mine…not anyone elses. I wouldn’t/don’t intend to impose it elsewhere.

    Clear as mud????

    Deena…posting because pathetically enough, she has nowhere better to be on her birthday than online.

  102. Ellen O. says:

    Preparing for the Mo Rants contest, I re-read Sentimental Education” in _Unnatural DTWOF_. That’s the story that looks at how Mo, Lois, Sparrow, Clarice, Toni, and Ginger all met.

    On page 126, Toni is sitting next to her friend Ana on the bus ride to the Women’s Pentagon Action. This Ana looks surprising like Gloria’s Ana, the . Same woman or is the world just not that small?

  103. chriso says:

    As someone who has a hard time even drawing stick figure this blows me away. I think I’d go blind AND insane at the same time and just start chewing on the paper like a cow chews it’s cud.

  104. shadocat says:

    Happy Birthday, Deena!

  105. Maggie Jochild says:

    Yeah, Deena — you’re a credit to your ancestors, and a hottie amongst us. Glad you got born!

  106. Wendy says:

    Hey Deena,
    Happy, happy birthday!
    So how long have you been on this earth?

  107. Deena in OR says:

    46 years young.
    I was having a bit of a pity party this morning when I wrote that…no SO or significant adult relationship away from work, son away at school for his 19th birthday tomorrow (and first one away from home), some serious financial pressures, and a daughter who hadn’t remembered yet to wish me a happy day. But we went to an extended family birthday celebration this afternoon, and I talked to my son and wished him a happy birthday, so things are a bit better.

    I *could* use birthday energy sent my way for financial stability and health, though πŸ™‚ I *really* don’t want to sell my house, and if things don’t get better soon, (i.e., if I don’t find a renter for the attached studio apartment) I may have to. Oh, adn a girlfriend would be nice, too, while you’re wishing. (grin)

    OK, probably TMI, and this isn’t my blog, it’s Alison’s. But thanks for the good wishes. I feel much better than I did this morning.

  108. Ginjoint says:

    I bought Lost Girls a few weeks ago. It’s absolutely beautiful; very Art Nouveau, and the coloring is stunning. And the pro-sex attitudes within don’t hurt, either.

    Hang in there, Deena.

  109. Liza from pine street art works says:

    Belated but heartfelt and hearty birthday wishes, Deena.

  110. Aunt Soozie says:

    You’ll only go blind if you touch yourself (down there).
    Happy birthday and good wishes to you.

    I was just thinking…you know how people sometimes say of some people that they have their heads stuck up their, uhm, bottoms?? Or in the sand??

    Sometimes it seems that some of us (lezzies, lezzie luhvahs, queers, friends and allies) have our heads stuck up our heads.

  111. Kelli says:

    That’s a lovely turn of phrase, Aunt Soozie. πŸ™‚

  112. Aunt Soozie says:

    …you mean the part about going blind if you touch yourself down there?

  113. Wendy says:

    Great age! (mine too). I hope all your birthday wishes come true, and more so.

  114. mlk says:

    A happy belated, Deena. and to your son, too.

    Very Cool that your b-days are so close together, and whomever chose the date (him, you, your doctor, the stork) gets extra points in my book for placing you in different months!!

    Suzanonymous, in my convoluted way, I was saying that if AB didn’t want feedback, she wouldn’t have posted her post. I intended no criticism at all of anyone who attempted to help her with her dilemma!

  115. Stinky says:

    It sounds like you’re wired for a certain amount of strip work per month, regardless of how many strips are involved.

    My would-be thesis advisor (I dropped out of gradual school twenty years ago) remarked that advances in word-processing technology didn’t decrease the amount of time one spent creating a document; instead, they only made the amount of time you were already going to spend marginally more productive.

  116. Kelli says:

    Aunt Soozie, heh, no, I meant the part about our heads being stuck up our heads.

  117. Justine W. says:

    That’s a dilema! I’m having the same thing, I’m a freshman in college and I’m in a Comix class (I’m reading Fun Home for the class right now!) and we have to do a 12 page comic by the end of the semester. I’m only doing rough drafts at the moment and I already feel zonked!