Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Hark! A Vagrant

I've been a fan of Kate Beaton's webcomic, Hark! A Vagrant for quite some time, and check her site often for updates.  As much as I love reading her comics when she posts them online, I most definitely prefer to do my reading the old timey way, on paper.  So when Drawn and Quarterly decided to collect a bunch of Beaton's comic strips and release them in a snazzy hardcover book, I wanted it like Gollum wants his precious.

Lucky for me, I have a wonderful lady, who probably noticed me cradling this book in my arms at a bookstore, and decided to buy it for me as a Holiday time nifty gifty.

What you get here are 166 pages of hilarious Hark! A Vagrant comic strips.  Pretty awesome.

If you are unfamiliar with Beaton's work, you should head over to the website and check it out.  It will make your day better.

For the most part, Beaton focuses on history, and historical figures to make up most of her subject matter, but also mixes in a healthy dose of literary characters, and some comic characters for good measure.  Whatever she happens to be focusing her attention on, it usually has hilarious outcomes.

Not only are almost all of her comics hilarious (I can't say they are all funny; I don't get the ones about Canadian political leaders!)  but her art is quite great too.  It seems like she can draw whatever her comic demands, and let me tell you, her strips can call for a very wide variety of people, animals, and locations.  Not only that, but she nails the period styles of dress and fashion quite well too.  

More than anything, the greatest aspect of Hark! A Vagrant is the humor.  As a kid I would read the comic strip section of the newspaper every morning as I ate breakfast.  Some of those strips like Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, and The Far Side had a lot to do with shaping my tastes in humor and entertained me on a daily basis.  Over the years I've gotten out of the habit of reading the comic strips, (probably because those aforementioned titles don't exist anymore) but with Hark! A Vagrant Kate Beaton has recaptured a large amount of the magic of those earlier comics. 

This stuff is definitely worth checking out, whether you do it electronically, or in print is entirely up to you, but one way or the other, you're sure to get a chuckle.  

Grade: A


Anonymous said...

It's amazing what the internet can do to raise awareness and popularity of someone's work. I'm glad it's Kate Beaton's work that got collected into a book (I, too, prefer having things in a more physically tangible format!). There aren't enough female webcomic artists out there and I hope this book inspires more to take a chance!

- Ivanka.

Ryan said...

Ivanka- I agree the internet can be a powerful tool. Kate Beaton was gonna get huge one way or another though, she's too talented not to!

Since you are interested in female comic artists, you should check out Pizza Island.

It's the blog for Kate Beaton and her art studio-mates...a bunch of fantastic female comic artists. They have recently disbanded, but there's lots to see at that site, and links to each artist's personal webpages. A handful of the ladies have stuff in print too!