In person, Ms. Bechdel is slim, self-deprecating and very endearing. Plus a snappy dresser. She was giving a workshop for a UCLA communications class, and my good friend Meryl, a Grand Pooba at UCLA live, offered me a chance to attend. Though my drawing skills fall somewhat between those of a two-year-old's and drunken chickens scratching in the dirt, my novel has several graphic novel interludes in it so I thought I would be foolish not to jump at such a golden opportunity.
The workshop was quite inspiring. She read a chapter of her memoir while displaying the artwork on an overhead projector, then gave a rundown on how she approaches creating her panels. It's a combination of adobe illustrator for the layout, pencil sketches, inking, and a special digital font for the lettering (made from her own handwriting). Then she gave us all a chance to make our own graphic story. We took a piece of paper, folded it in half, and divided it into panels. She wanted us to tell a story of family conflict.
Where to begin.
I ended up recounting the the summer my mother moved out of the house while my father was away on business. She took all the furniture and my 2 younger sisters, leaving my oldest sister and I alone in the empty home. Best summer ever. Working on the art panels and listening to Alison's own stories of family made me realize what a lot of material I'd have if I wanted to go spelunking into my own family history. Maybe my next project...
That night I attended the "Titans of the Graphic Novel" talk. Harvey Pekar was kinda a fascinating train wreck (as only Harvey can be)—
-but Alison was prepared, thoughtful, and quite fond of Harvey, I think. In the Q&A that followed someone asked her who would play her in a movie of her book (like Paul Giamatti did for Harvey in "American Splendor"). She couldn't think of a female actress, and offered up David Schwimmer as a male counterpart. I've got my own opinion about that.
I think Alison Bechdel—
—is the secret love child of Dan Savage and the THIN Tony Kushner.
Am I right or am I right? Discuss.