Alison Bechdel, the creator of Fun Home and Dykes to Watch Out For, has a new accolade for her resume. She can now list “Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont” alongside “creator of the Bechdel Test,”MacArthur Fellow,” and “writing the memoir a multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway musical was based on.”
It’s common for cities, states and countries to choose poet laureates, sort of the “official poet.” For example, Juan Felipe Herrera is the United States’ poet laureate. (He got the post in 2015 — unsurprisingly, President Trump has not chosen a poet for his administration.) But the state of Vermont is the only state who regularly chooses a cartoonist laureate.
Though Bechdel was born in Pennsylvania, she moved to Burlington, Vermont in the 1990s — she currently lives in nearby Bolton. (Coincidentally, Oscar Williams, who appeared in Fun Home playing her younger brother, is also from Vermont.)
Bechdel is Vermont’s third cartoonist laureate. The first was James Kochalka — known especially for his works American Elf and Monkey Versus Robot — who was named in 2011. Ed Koren, known for his children’s books and political cartoons, took the position in 2014.
There’re only two other cartoonist laureates around the world, both editorial cartoonists. Martin Rowson was named the Cartoonist Laureate of London in 2001, and Chad Carpenter got the honor from the state of Alaska in 2008. In 2011, The Stranger had an informal poll for Washington State’s cartoonist laureate — queer cartoonist Ellen Forney won that handily — but sadly, that never became official.
While it might seem like a frivolous position, by naming cartooning laureates, states like Vermont put comics on the same artistic level as poetry and prose. This is unsurprising, considering that Vermont’s given us a number of amazing cartoonists — Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch and Rachel Lindsay to name but a few. The honor is given by the Center for Cartoon Studies, one of the world’s foremost cartooning colleges.
Bechdel will be honored with a resolution to be read on the Vermont State House floor on April 6.
Featured image by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.