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.




Reflection on ‘Fairy Tales in Comics’ Seminar


Free Google Advanced image – Dale Chihuly – glass in boat – morning – Palm House

I had a profound sense of my topic’s timelessness while presenting this seminar.  Given that fairy-tale adaptations in the form of comics are part of a folklore process that has churned and persisted for thousands of years, I was excited to share my interest and findings with my classmates.  I felt humbled and honored to be part of a larger process.

It was a pleasure to receive positive feedback about ‘setting the mood’ for the seminar with a photo of a Dale Chihuly glass creation.  Libraries serve and operate within multi-faceted communities, and works of art speak well to the importance of including multidisciplinary components in our services. For a comprehensive source about Dale Chihuly and his work, visit – the Timeline (, in particular, is mesmerizing!

Presenting my seminar within a class on superhero comics was serendipitous in a way, as it made me think about Ranganathan’s library-science laws, especially the third law (“Every book its reader”) and the fifth law (“The library is a growing organism”) [Rubin, 2010, pp. 407-410].  Since there are many comics styles with which both fairy tales and superhero stories can be told, adding such comics to our library collections can add a wealth of literature choices for our patrons.

Not presented in the seminar, and possibly a topic to include in a seminar on censorship, is an idea that I came across in Linda Hutcheon’s theory of adaptation (2013).  Hutcheon comments  that “Adults . . . ‘censor’ adaptations, deciding that some are appropriate for children and others are not” (p. 118).  Our responsibilities as librarians behoove us to consider and to discuss this.  Views and information on child development, morals, and ethics should be part of such a discussion.

An aspect of my presentation that didn’t fit was my plan to share resources with my classmates via the PowerPoint slides.  I had thought that this would be efficient (I am an avid note-taker), but realize that a different format may better serve my classmates.  My recommendations are, therefore, listed here:


The Visual Literacy Toolbox: Learning to Read Images


SurLaLune Fairy Tales


Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tales  (Marina Warner, Oxford University Press, 2014)


Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts


The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature  (Russ Kick [Ed.], Seven Stories Press, 2014)


Linda Hutcheon, Bill Willingham, Jane Yolen, Jack Zipes


Willingham, B. (2012). Fables: Volume 1, Legends in exile. New York (NY): DC Comics.


Duffy, C. (Ed.). (2013). Fairy tale comics: Classic tales told by extraordinary cartoonists. New York (NY): First Second.


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

Rubin, R. E. (Ed.). (2010). Foundations of library and information science, 3rd ed. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman.