Dykes started life as a cartoon of the kind that regularly appears in daily newspapers, addressing contemporary issues in individual strips. Accordingly, the first volume was merely a collection of separate strips, not unlike the annual series produced by the Daily Express cartoonist Carl Giles (see, for example, Giles 2014). Starting with the second volume, though, More Dykes to Watch Out For (Bechdel 1988), the series began to focus on ‘Mo and her Pals’; to be held together by a series of cliff-hangers, and to conform to a dramatic logic that gave the strip a quality somewhere between a superior soap opera and an serial novel. From the third volume, then, New, Improved Dykes to Watch Out For (Bechdel

1990), the protagonists in this drama were duly presented in the frontispiece (Figure 8.1). Through them and with them, Bechdel is able to explore issues such as monogamy versus promiscuity, activism and juridical intervention, respectability and alternative lifestyles, capitalism and unemployment, racial diversity and multiculturalism. In the course of the series, Harriet is replaced as Mo’s lover by Sydney Krukowski, who, as a university teacher with a propensity for maxing out on her credit cards, introduces the themes of consumerism and queer theory. Clarice and Toni have a son called Rafael, who allows Bechdel to deal with questions of gay parenting, masculinity and non-violence. Sparrow forms a relationship with, and has a child by, a man called Stuart, who, alongside Lois in her drag king persona, a butch dyke called Geraldine who becomes a submissive gay man called Gerry, and a teenager originally called Jonas who is desperate to transition into Janis, enables Bechdel to run the whole gamut of trans. Significantly, in the wake of 9/11, Ginger becomes involved with an Arabic teacher called Samia, but has in her class a student called Cynthia, who, although a lesbian, has distinctly right-wing attitudes and views. The whole group is complemented by a larger cast of other characters, all of whom have something to say about and contribute to the pageant of American life sketched out in these books.