My first exposure to Kate Beaton's work was through a friend who posted a wonderfully funny strip about Shakespeare's King Lear on Facebook. After spending an inordinate amount of time clicking through her website (Hark! A Vagrant) and laughing to the point of stomach cramps, I was hooked. How could I not love a webcomic that has its own index!
Hark! A Vagrant is a collection of strips previously published on Beaton's website, plus author commentary and a handful of previously unseen strips. Mixing both the historical and the contemporary, Beaton's deceptively simple illustrations cast an erudite and witty eye on history, literature and pop culture. I will admit to needing to look up more than a few of the historical characters and events that appear in this collection (especially those that had to do with Canadian history), but one needn't be a history expert to enjoy the sheer silliness of the characters' expressions and one-liners. Beaton also lampoons Nancy Drew, Aquaman, 1980s business women and her younger self, to name a few more modern targets, and the collection includes some singularly hilarious non sequitur strips to boot.
Beaton previously self-published a collection of her web comics that appeared between 2007 and 2009, Never Learn Anything From History, (which are also included in this collection) and contributed to the Marvel comic anthology Strange Tales II. She also won the 2011 Harvey Award for Best Online Comics Work and her collection was named as one of the best works of fiction in 2011 by Time Magazine.
I'm certainly not an expert on graphic novels, but Beaton's work has risen to the top of my list of favorites. Anyone that can make me interested in Canadian history is certainly a talented person! Pick this book up for a laugh, and you'll probably learn something on the way. I'll leave you with one of my favorites, about (what else?) Canada Day.
Happy reading, eh!
- Allison, Adult Services