Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection
Kate Beaton’s new collection of her Hark! A Vagrant comics is just as entertaining as the previous, titled simply Hark! A Vagrant. Reading Step Aside, Pops is the best kind of entertainment, the kind that makes you feel smarter. It’s always a pleasure to read such witty work with such detailed cartooning.
Beaton uses so many historical and literary references (in clever and well-integrated ways) that you either know what she’s referring to — in which case, you feel pleased at the shared knowledge — or you learn something or gain a new perspective. I had no idea about the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his attempted takeover of Mexico, for instance, or Georges Danton.
It’s not presented in smarty-pants “see what I know” fashion, though. She takes figures ranging from Chopin and Caesar to Lois Lane and Wonder Woman and makes them modernly human. She describes her work as “a reflection of whatever I find interesting or whatever I’m reading or thinking about”, which demonstrates just how wide-ranging her interests are. That diversity and insight keeps the comics fascinating.
It’s also not just history. Beaton’s pieces on “Strong Female Characters” (horribly costumed and posed) and “Straw Feminists” tie directly into current cultural debates. Her satire of Nancy Drew will tickle anyone who remembers the character. And her romantic literature comics, about Bronte’s works, are always favorites.
Beaton’s art is unique. Her figures are always moving, demonstrating their feelings though action, and her style makes everyone faintly ridiculous, particularly if they have crazy eyes. (Many do.) A great addition to Step Aside, Pops are the notes. Beaton briefly comments on the origins or aspirations of many of the collected comics, providing new insight. (The publisher provided a review copy.)