Cartoonist Alison Bechdel is virtually a household name at this point. Her comics, including Fun Home and Dykes To Watch Out For, are deservedly critically acclaimed, and 'The Bechdel Test' has become an increasingly relevant shorthand for analysis of gender diversity in fiction. In other words, she's a genius, and today, that became official.

Bechdel is one of the latest recipients of The MacArthur Foundation's "Genius Grant," which honors "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction," and comes with an award of $625,000 that can be spent any way the recipient sees fit.



In the world of comics, Bechdel first rose to prominence with Dykes To Watch Out For, a semi-autobiographical strip that ran for 25 years, starting in 1983 and going on hiatus in 2008.

Dykes is also the origin of what's come to be called the Bechdel Test, which asks three simple questions of a movie: does it include more than one named female character, do those characters ever have a conversation, and is that conversation about something other than a man?  The test shines a light on the extent to which films and other media are overwhelmingly skewed towards men. 'Passing' doesn't exactly make the media in question a feminist triumph (Showgirls, for instance, gets by with flying colors), but it's a useful rule of thumb.

In 2006, Bechdel released the Eisner and National Book Critics Circle award-winning Fun Home, a memoir that would go on to spend two weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction hardcovers, and become the subject of an off-Broadway musical that will move to Broadway next year.

Fun Home also inadvertently resulted in the conservative South Carolina House of Representatives cutting $52,000 in state funding to the College of Charleston when the college selected it as part of a summer reading program; an act of anti-intellectualism that perhaps illustrates why smart artists like Bechdel are so necessary.

According to her profile on the MacArthur Foundation's website, Bechdel was selected for her "command of sequential narrative" and her pioneering work in the field. ComicsAlliance would like to extend a hearty congratulations on the award.

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