Fun Home: A Comic and a Musical


                         Fun Home              Fun Home musical

Read the original comic.  See the musical adaptation.

Marvel at the “repetition without replication” (Hutcheon, 2012, p. 7).

Alison Bechdel’s ‘tragicomic’ memoir, Fun Home (2006), is achingly moving as it propels readers through her childhood and young adulthood in a family which struggles yet copes, explodes yet has love and fun, and gets through painfully yet emphatically.  Comics panels depict and convey Bechdel’s desire to connect with a demanding, enigmatic, secretive gay father, as well as her growing recognition and eventual celebration of her own lesbian identity.  All the while, frank images, sumptuous captions, and plentiful samples of literary-text-as-illustration saturate the pages with poignancy, family history, and her father’s suicide.  Bechdel’s yearnings, pluck, and compelling sequential art are so absorbing that readers will want to experience her memoir in a cover-to-cover sitting.

Adaptation of this comic into Fun Home, the musical, presents Bechdel’s memoir within the wonderful accouterments of live theater (as seen on May 18, 2016 at the Circle in the Square theatre on Broadway in New York City).  Changes in presentation are distinct; stage replaces page, music voices characters’ views and readers’ reactions, a succinct and passionate script supplants eloquent text, and audience members are in a social group setting for the story rather than experiencing a comic solo.

Despite changes from the comic, the audience is propelled through the musical as well.  The basics of Bechdel’s memoir are present in the musical’s characters, scenes, and events.  (A similar idea , i.e., “enough familiar pieces,” is presented by Andrew Sparling in his blog.) The underlying visual guidance of a comics author/artist, however, is replaced with the ingenious incorporation of an adult ‘Alison’ [Bechdel] who roams the stage throughout the ‘years,’ providing intermittent narration and a number of descriptive or explanatory ‘verbal captions.’  Instead of comics panels which connect via layout, perspective and view, there is constant connection of moments and scenes on stage — in full view with no curtains, actors move, scenery changes, lighting transforms, a conductor directs, and musicians play.  Instead of gutters of space on comics pages, there are gutters of expectant silence in the theatre.  Instead of a cover-to-cover read, audiences are swept along a start-to-finish production with no intermission.

Lisa Kron, creator of the “book & lyrics” for Fun Home, the musical, notes the “deep river of yearning that flows through [Bechdel’s comic]” (Ross, May 2016, p. 21).  As explained above, a number of features in the musical create that “deep river of yearning” on stage as well.


Bechdel, A. (2006). Fun home: A family tragicomic. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Hutcheon, L. (2012). A theory of adaptation, 2nd edition. London, UK: Routledge.

Ross, B. (Ed.). (May 2016). Playbill: Circle in the Square. New York, NY: Playbill.




Re-Issue of a Comic Published During the Civil Rights Era



My previous post, “Comics Can Capture First-Person History” (March 7, 2016) contains a discussion about March: Book One (Lewis & Aydin, 2013). That title is about the life and activism of John Lewis, and is a primary source of information about the Civil Rights Era.

In March: Book One, John Lewis notes that a comic titled Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was published in 1958 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Fellowship of, Hassler & Resnik). It is a powerful example of the importance and timelessness of non-fiction comics.

Currently, this comic is available as a sixteen-page re-issue, and also as a 2014 Memorial Edition!  It is likely to have educated and inspired many people when it was originally published, and promises to continue do so in the twenty-first century.

Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story (front cover above) addresses four general topics:

  • The life of of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • People and events from the Civil Rights Movement, such as:
    • Rosa Parks
    • The 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. as a leader
    • The Walk to Freedom
    • philosophy of non-violence
    • Sleeping Car Porters Union
    • Supreme Court declaration about the illegality of bus segregation in Montgomery
    • Ku Klux Klan
    • church bombings
  • Mahatma Gandhi and the movement that gained India’s freedom from British rule
  • The Montgomery Method of non-violent activism


Fellowship of Reconciliation, Hassler, A., & Resnik, B. (1958). Martin Luther King and the Montgomery story. Nyack, NY: Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Lewis, J., & Aydin, A. (2013). March: Book one. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.

Thoughts on Comics and the Passage of Time

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Eisner comments that “critical to the success of a visual narrative is the ability to convey time” (2008, p. 28).  For a student of comics, ‘reading responses’ may bring to mind the possibility of several layers of time.

In a single comic, the reader may perceive the passage of time in the gutters or from frame to frame (McCloud, 1994, pp. 70-72).

When bound together, a series of comics/issues/volumes (such as the four stories in Eisners’ A Contract With God [2006]) offers another layer of time, i.e., the perceived ‘flow’ or ‘jump’ from one comic to the next.  The reader manipulates their own experience, choosing to pause between comics/issues/volumes or to continue without a gap in reading time.  Each choice becomes a ‘gutter’ in time, affecting how the reader grasps and interprets the comic(s).


Eisner, W. (2006). Part I: A contract with God.  In The contract with God trilogy (pp. 2-23). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and sequential art: Principles and practices from the legendary cartoonist. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse.

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.