The feminist 1990s comic series Dirty Plotte is collected here along with Doucet's other works from that period, including My New York Diary, rarer previously unpublished material, and essays about her comics legacy and influence.
Dirty Plotte...a gorgeously designed box set offering two hardcover volumes collecting Doucet’s entire comics oeuvre, arrives at an opportune moment. It’s a lavish history lesson for those who might take today’s outpouring of feminist comics for granted, returning readers to the skimpier landscape of the 1990s, when Doucet’s work, in both concept and style, broke new ground. Its aesthetic echoes forebears like Lynda Barry and Aline Kominsky-Crumb, yet its execution and vision are different. (Doucet’s dense panels, full of precise, stylized shading and characterized by heavy black-and-white contrast, swarm with details; they appear as the comics equivalent of a deep focus shot, the film technique used by Orson Welles and others in which the foreground, middle-ground and background are all in focus. In Doucet’s comics, a coffee cup has personality; the objects in a room seem to dance.) And while most of the material dates from 20 to 30 years ago—Doucet abandoned comics in 2000—the wonderment and rage at virulently gendered behavior feels fresh, and relevant for this moment. The physicality of Doucet’s work is still shocking ... It’s a darkly funny, jolting vaudeville.
Louche, mordant, funny, and surreal, Dirty Plotte comprises a mix of short and long comics—wordless and with dialogue, narrative and plotless, autobiographical and fictional (and everything between)—in which there are no rules. Nor are any subjects off-limits ... these comics are as pertinent and captivating today as when they first made their way into the culture ... Doucet’s parodic depictions of intense violence are still unsettling; her elastic treatment of sex and gender is still daring; and her open-ended treatment of female identity is still vital ... if the environment of Dirty Plotte is acutely Doucet’s own—relying primarily on dreams, fantasies, and imagined scenarios starring a version of herself—it is also freewheeling enough that readers, particularly women, can recognize something of themselves in it ... in calling out her fantasies and fears with words and pictures on the page, Doucet uses transgression to carve out a space of power and freedom. She revels in the joy of unfettered exploration, and her enthusiasm buoys otherwise dark subject matter ... Doucet’s distinctiveness is equally due to her highly graphic drawing style: packed, rambunctious black-and-white panels depicting cramped interiors swarming with bric-a-brac and busy street scenes alive with eccentric humanity.
Through her instantly authoritative characters, Doucet seeks less to tell a story than to contradict or augment her own mental positions. Perhaps comics are not so much a narrative form but a thinking one. Sex and the nonidealized life of the body is a thought throughout Plotte (menstruation, shitting, nose picking are often on view), but it’s an aspect of Doucet’s mind, not the feature itself ... Dirty Plotte documents Doucet’s genius on two fronts: the early issues are revolutionary, flowing from the diverse web of thought that she transcribed into her panels. Later, we have one of the best modern takes on the wing of comics laid down at the medium’s inception by the likes of Bud Fisher and George Herriman: caricatured storytelling, updated with a charge of contemporary life.