The Secret to Superhuman Strength (2021)


Comics and cultural superstar Alison Bechdel delivers a deeply layered story of her fascination, from childhood to adulthood, with every fitness craze to come down the pike: from Jack LaLanne in the 60s (“Outlandish jumpsuit! Cantaloupe-sized guns!”) to the existential oddness of present-day spin class. Readers will see their athletic or semi-active pasts flash before their eyes through an ever-evolving panoply of running shoes, bicycles, skis, and sundry other gear. But the more Bechdel tries to improve herself, the more her self appears to be the thing in her way. She turns for enlightenment to Eastern philosophers and literary figures, including Beat writer Jack Kerouac, whose search for self-transcendence in the great outdoors appears in moving conversation with the author’s own. This gifted artist and not-getting-any-younger exerciser comes to a soulful conclusion. The secret to superhuman strength lies not in six-pack abs, but in something much less clearly defined: facing her own non-transcendent but all-important interdependence with others.

From: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Notes on This Title

This title contains references to, but not depictions of, suicide.


2021 ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table Best Graphic Novels for Adults
2022 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Memoir - Nominee


“Bechdel’s graphic memoir is, superficially, about fitness and exercise. But more profoundly it’s a meditation on the interwovenness of the body and mind, the search to escape the prison of your own ego, and the profound power of nature. The art is classic Bechdel: precise, detailed, realist, and full of movement.” (Source: Autostraddle)

“More thought-provoking work from an important creator.” (Source: Kirkus Reviews)

“Bechdel’s pursuit of the feeling of oneness of mind, body, and community is deeply human, and it’s impossible not to get lost in it, and find such a moment.” (Source: Women Write About Comics)


Autostraddle: “Talking with Alison Bechdel about Feminist Martial Arts, Lockdown, and Her New Book ‘The Secret to Superhuman Strength’”

Vulture: “In Conversation: Alison Bechdel”

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