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The Guardian Peeks Into Kate Beaton's Sketchbooks!

Updated January 7, 2014


"Interview: Kate Beaton: a look inside the cartoonist's sketchbook – in pictures"
By Becki Barnicoat

"Canadian Kate Beaton, 29, publishes the webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, which sends up historical and literary characters. Her story Ooh Mister Darcy became an internet meme

The officer who fell for the pirate
These are for a poster I made for a comics convention. Afterwards, I thought that the pirate captain and Royal Navy type in the bottom right-hand corner looked interesting side by side. They became these two characters who appear in lots of strips: they’re arch enemies, but are secretly in love. Ideas often come to me while I’m working on something else.

Love and war
… and here they are in action

Not going to make it
This is a rejected comic about Pride And Prejudice. Even though I became known online for a comic about Mister Darcy, there are now so many Pride And Prejudice rip-offs that I felt I couldn’t publish this. At the top of the page is a comic about me talking to myself about how this one isn’t going to run.

Too timid to draw firmly
Looking in other people’s sketchbooks, which are often works of art, makes me realise that mine are really basic. They’re sketchy with lots of super-light pencilling because I’m too timid to put the pencil down hard."
 
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          



  The A.V. Club on superhero work by Gilbert Hernandez, Kate Beaton, and Daniel Clowes

Updated September 11, 2013


"Costumed-crusader comix: 17 superhero stories by alt-comic creators"

by Jason Heller and Oliver Sava
The A.V. Club, July 15, 2013

1. Bizarro Comics & Bizarro World (Various)
Using Superman’s warped reflection Bizarro as a starting point, DC brings in some of alternative comics’ top creators to offer a fresh point of view of its superheroes for two graphic-novel anthologies: Bizarro Comics and Bizarro World. Never before has Superman’s musculature been more grotesque or Batman’s costume more wrinkled, as most of the creators choose to spotlight the less glamorous side of superheroes. Dylan Horrocks and Farel Dalrymple craft a sad story about The Flash wanting to stop running, Mike Doughty and Danny Hellman put Aquaman onstage with an acoustic guitar, and Todd Alcott and Michael Kupperman depict a Justice League in the midst of its ultimate crisis: ennui. Actor/comedian/writer/occasional A.V. Club contributor Patton Oswalt pens a Batman story, and James Kochalka’s Legion Of Superheroes short lays the foundation for his later SuperF*ckers series. The creative pairings are inspired, from Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel on the titular character to Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez on Red Bee and Jeff Smith and Paul Pope on Superman, exhibiting the type of refreshing creative chemistry that should be embraced by mainstream superhero comics.

2. Birds Of Prey Vol. 1 #50-55 (Gilbert Hernandez)
While his brother Jaime—who worked on the female dynamic duo of comix, Maggie Chascarillo and Hopey Glass—might seem like a more natural choice to write the adventures of DC’s premier female superhero team, Love And Rockets’ Gilbert Hernandez delivers a charming six-issue Birds Of Prey storyline that feels like it’s been pulled from a different era. A bright, Silver Age-inspired adventure that partners Black Canary and Oracle with Metamorpho, The Element Man, Hernandez’s story embraces the silliness of the superhero genre. The dialogue can get a bit hokey and overly dated—at one point Black Canary actually says, “Like Lucy, they got some ’splainin’ to do”—but Hernandez’s script benefits from Casey Jones’ clean, animated artwork. Jones has a more conventional superhero style than Hernandez, but it would be fascinating to see what the writer could do if he were given control of the visuals as well.

3. Shazam!: The Monster Society Of Evil (Jeff Smith)
Jeff Smith is one of those comics creators who is, and will likely always be, irreparably linked to one major work: the fantasy epic Bone. His most recent series, RASL, expanded his scope into darker territory, but his 2007 miniseries, Shazam!: The Monster Society Of Evil, has been his biggest departure from Bone. Not only does he work with Captain Marvel, one of DC’s most critically neglected characters, Smith unabashedly taps into the gosh-wow iconography of the (literally) boyish hero without suppressing the fluid dynamism and graphic boldness of his idiosyncratic, creator-owned work.

4. Zot! (Scott McCloud)
Even if Scott McCloud had never created anything other than his 1993 book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, he’d be rightly lauded as a visionary in the medium of graphic narrative. But where Understanding Comics dissects and qualifies the hidden wonder of comics, McCloud’s lesser-known comic book from the ’80s, Zot!, embodied it. The 36-issue series—which McCloud briefly revived in 2000 and belatedly collected in 2008—chronicles the lighthearted yet conceptually sophisticated adventures of Zot!, a zippy, youthful superhero not too far removed from Captain Marvel. As McCloud’s follow-ups to Understanding Comics continue to roll out, Zot! feels increasingly like an oddity in his catalog—although it’s vital one.

5. Strange Tales I & II (Various)
Following the success of DC’s Bizarro graphic novels, Marvel engaged in its own alternative-comics experiment with two Strange Tales miniseries. The books share many of Bizarro’s creators, including Peter Bagge, Michael Kupperman, James Kochalka, Paul Pope, Harvey Pekar, and Tony Millionaire, but the Marvel miniseries places considerably more emphasis on superhero action. Super Spy and Mind MGMT creator Matt Kindt writes and draws a retro Black Widow adventure, Rafael Grampa tells a brutal tale of Wolverine in a fighting ring, and James Stokoe details the destruction caused by world-eater Galactus in chilling detail. There are plenty of lighter stories as well, including Kraven’s hunt for a prom date by Kate Beaton, a mustache-growing contest between The Thing and The Human Torch by Jacob Chabot, and hilarious comic strips by Perry Bible Fellowship’s Nicholas Gurewitch. It’s also the only place to find samurai Hulk, given life by Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai.

6. Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules (James Sturm, Guy Davis)
What if the heroes of the Fantastic Four were based on real people? That’s the concept of James Sturm and Guy Davis’ Eisner Award-winning miniseries Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, exploring the cultural foundation of Marvel’s First Family by stripping away its powers and casting it as a middle-class American family in the 1950s. Dr. Reed Richards is a scientist stretching himself thin between his home and work; Susan Sturm is a neglected woman aching to escape her life of suburban domesticity but tied down by Reed and her rebellious kid brother, Johnny; and Ben Grimm is a deadbeat boxing trainer desperately looking for someone to love. It’s a brilliant piece of historical fiction that looks at the relationships among these characters in ways that haven’t been detailed before, and even includes a cameo appearance from the founders of Marvel Comics, who crash the party Susan throws for Reed’s co-workers.

7. God And Science: Return Of The Ti-Girls (Jaime Hernandez)
In its early-’80s infancy, the universe of Los Bros. Hernandez’s Love And Rockets encompassed a myriad of genres and probabilities, from subdued magic realism to pulp science-fiction. Jaime Hernandez returned to the latter—with a healthy dose of capes and tights—in 2012’s God And Science: Return Of The Ti-Girls. A collection of a serialized tale from the pages of L&R, Ti-Girls revolves around the series’ secondary player, Penny Century, and her tragicomic stabs at superheroism—with plenty of ultra-powered poignancy provided by L&R main character Maggie Chascarrillo.

8. The Death-Ray (Daniel Clowes)
In his epochal indie series Eightball, Daniel Clowes set about deconstructing everything he could put his pen to: David Lynch-esque surrealism, coming-of-age angst-fests, and even comics fandom itself. In a 2004 issue of Eightball, he introduced his ultimate pastiche: The Death-Ray. Fleshed out into a 2011 graphic novel, The Death-Ray not only spoofed and backhandedly honored Steve Ditko’s groundbreaking co-creation of the ectomorphic, misanthropic superhero (see: Spider-Man), it stretched Clowes’ postmodern oeuvre into the mythology of spandex.

9. Omega The Unknown (Farel Dalrymple)
When novelist Jonathan Lethem revived forgotten Steve Garber creation Omega The Unknown in 2007, he needed an artist that could balance superhero spectacle and slice-of-life realism for his haunting coming-of-age story. Pop Gun War creator Farel Dalrymple renders the New York City environment in meticulous detail, and shows an understanding of the full range of human emotion that is required for Lethem’s deeply personal, psychologically dense script. Following a teenage boy who discovers his parents are robots just before meeting a superhero that he shares a mysterious bond with, the miniseries breaks down superhero conventions to tell an experimental yet deeply poignant tale of a young man trying to find his place in the world. The superhero elements take a backseat to the character interactions, and Dalrymple’s talent for capturing the mundane aspects of civilian life brings even more impact to the moments of fantasy.

10. Batman: Year 100 (Paul Pope)
The thick inks and dynamic motion of Paul Pope’s work make him an ideal fit for the shadow-covered, action-packed world of the Dark Knight, and he gets free rein to do whatever he wants with the hero by jumping forward in time to tell story set in the Gotham City in the future. Pope’s sense of design is utilitarian with a heavy dose of sci-fi spectacle, creating a strikingly imposing urban environment that is grounded in gritty reality. Few Batman costume designs are as meticulously detailed as Pope’s, which calls attention to the folds in the costume’s fabric, the laces and tread of his leather boots, and the clips that attach his cape to his body armor. It’s such a great look that DC made a statue of it, and the three-dimensional model beautifully captures the sense of weight that Pope brings to his artwork.

11. SuperF*ckers (James Kochalka)
The best superhero spoofs cut to the core of the pratfalls and bathos that real people would suffer if given extraordinary powers. And then there’s SuperF*ckers. Collected in 2010, James Kochalka’s saga of his band of do-nothing do-gooders departs wildly in topic—if not tone—from his quirky-yet-heartfelt works like the autobiographical American Elf. It makes synchronous sense that SuperF*ckers was adapted in animated form starting in 2012; if ever there were a contender for a superhero parallel to Adventure Time (only with profanity), SuperF*ckers is it.

12. Wonder Wart-Hog (Gilbert Shelton)
The underground comix revolution that began in the ’60s went arm-in-arm with the ascendant counterculture—which means superheroes were about as welcome as narcs. Leave it to underground cartoonist Gilbert Shelton of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers fame to mash together the two ends of the spectrum. Started as a lark in college humor magazine in 1962, the grotesque takedown of the Superman mythos—at a time when DC was doing its Silver Age best to make the real Superman look as ridiculous as possible—continued for years, eventually being recognized as one of the first instances of an independent cartoonist publishing his own warped mutation of the upstanding superhero.

13. Daredevil Vol. 2 #51-55 (David Mack)
Kabuki creator David Mack introduced deaf assassin Maya “Echo” Lopez in an earlier Daredevil storyline with artist Joe Quesada, but he takes complete creative control when he sends the Native American character on a vision quest years after her first appearance. Using his signature mix of pencil, paint, and collage, Mack creates a visually stunning story that reads unlike anything else Marvel published at the time. It’s stylistically and thematically similar to Mack’s creator-owned work, but replaces Japanese mythology and iconography with that of Native American culture. Being one of the publisher’s top characters, Wolverine has to appear in as many Marvel titles as possible, but Mack cleverly inserts him in the middle of Echo’s vision quest by casting the hairy mutant as her spirit animal.

14. Runaways Vol. 3 #1-9 (Terry Moore)
Terry Moore’s Strangers In Paradise shows an acute ability for depicting believable human relationships on a comic page, but that skill doesn’t translate when he’s working on superhero teens. Following in the footsteps of former Runaways writers Brian K. Vaughan and Joss Whedon isn’t an easy task, but Moore opts for a Saturday-morning cartoon feel that doesn’t gel with the more mature tone of the previous volumes. The writer backtracks on established character development to return the Runaways to the personalities they had in the very first issue of the series, and he loses sight of the book’s central concept: being on the run. Sales plummeted during Moore’s run, and despite Marvel’s best efforts to revive the title after Moore’s departure, it was quickly canceled, and the Runaways have not had an ongoing series since.

15. Wonder Woman (Kate Beaton)
Unlike Peter Bagge’s Megalomaniacal Spider-Man or Incorrigible Hulk, Kate Beaton’s recurring rendition of Wonder Woman is not officially condoned, licensed, or otherwise approved. Not that Beaton cares. On her Hark! A Vagrant webcomic, Beaton interprets the Amazonian superhero as a snarling, mean-spirited woman who only wonders why everyone around her—Superman and Batman included—are such idiots. Not only does Beaton poke fun at the many attempts by male creators over the decades to make Wonder Woman a strident feminist, it loops a mercilessly satirical Lasso Of Truth around the character’s inherent magniloquence.

16. Bighead (Jeffrey Brown)
For every muted, hushed, depressingly funny burst of autobiography that Jeffrey Brown has put on the page—from his 2002 breakthrough, Clumsy, to the superb new A Matter Of Life—the cartoonist has executed a goofy interpretation or parody of some pop-culture icon. Whether it’s the Transformers in Incredible Change-Bots or Star Wars in his current series of Darth Vader-as-hapless-dad books, Brown’s flair for parody is both cutting and loving. But he’s only dabbled in superheroes once; in 2004’s Bighead, he uses his titular crusader to illustrate how acting gentle, silly, and even deploying a non sequitur can save the day as easily as being made of steel.

17. Prophet (Various)
Brandon Graham’s library of erotic comics and sci-fi slacker stories makes him an unconventional choice to revive a Rob Liefeld property from the early ’90s, but his unique point of view is exactly why Prophet has become one of Image’s best series. Teaming with artists Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, and Giannis Milonogiannis, and occasionally contributing to the visuals himself, Graham has created a sprawling epic that is part Conan The Barbarian, part Dune, complete with a H.R. Giger-esque design aesthetic inspired by genitalia. Every few issues, Graham hands over the writing reins to one of his artistic collaborators, introducing even more distinct perspectives to the narrative. Prophet is one of the most bizarre, unpredictable superhero comics currently published, and the scope only expands with each new issue.
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Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Kate Beaton
Gilbert Hernandez

          



Kate Beaton talks to Canada Writes

Updated June 5, 2013


"Be clever and make an insightful joke: An interview with Kate Beaton"

Canada Writes, May 31, 2013

Canada Writes is talking to some of Canada's best known cartoonists and graphic novelists on the different techniques, challenges, and advantages of working with both text and drawings.

Author Kate Beaton talks about getting to know her subject, old fashioned humorists, and her advice for aspiring artists.

CW: What’s your creative process?
KB: My process, when I do the historical comics, is a lot of research. Read about a subject until you know it inside and out as best you can, then write the jokes about it. It’s like getting so close to your best friend that you feel like you can rib them about something, and really nail it, but not in a mean way. I think it’s easy to be crass and make a mean joke, and I’m guilty of that too sometimes, but I would rather be clever and make an insightful joke, if I can. I doodle as I research and use those drawings to inform the final drawings for the comics, but on the whole, my process for drawing the comics themselves is pretty loose and simple.

CW: Do you think of yourself as an artist? As a writer?
KB: Haha, oh no, this again! I guess if I didn't think of myself as either of those things, I probably wouldn't be making comics.

CW: What are your literary and artistic influences? Where do you find inspiration?
KB: I remember reading about Pearson that his opinion was about as good as that of the last person that he talked to, and whether that's true or not I believe that's true enough for me with influences -there are not many great looming figures in my mind but there are dozens of things I have read and seen and taken note of today, yesterday, a year ago. I suppose because of the way we see information these days on the internet, we are constantly going through it, absorbing words and pictures at a rapid fire rate, that it's hard to pin things down. There's a lot of talented people out there creating content, and we're all feeding off each other, in a way. But I do like old fashioned humorists like Leacock, or Dickens, or Dorothy Parker, and masters of cartooning and illustration like Ronald Searle, or contemporaries like Jillian Tamaki or Sam Bosma who will just blow you away with skills you wished you had.

CW: What would you tell an aspiring comics artist who is starting out today?
KB: The comics world is changing so fast that the grounds are shifting under our feet, it's not even the same world I came into in 2007, which wasn't that long ago. It's never been an easy place to make a living, doing comics. And it's hard to give advice. The best you can do, honestly, is make work and put it out there, and if it is good and if you keep doing it, you'll get an audience, and what you do with the power that having an audience gives you is up to you.
 
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

           Featured product

Hark! A Vagrant




  It's Nice That: Hark! A Vagrant is "quite rightly adored"

Updated April 4, 2013


"Kate Beaton’s outstanding Hark! A Vagrant comics make learning really, really fun"

Anna Trench
It's Nice That, 4 March 2013

Kate Beaton changed comics. Part history lesson, part lit crit, her Hark! A Vagrant strips cast a wry eye over the past to reveal the sillier thoughts of kings, queens and characters of the canon. Quite rightly adored by millions, they are among the wittiest and most charming comics to have appeared in ink in the last decade.

Whether detailing the travails of courtly love-making, eavesdropping on two Brontës ogling hunks or mocking the over-appreciated subtexts of Macbeth, Kate Beaton makes things funny in a whole new way. In economical pen lines and a splash of wash she nails period costume, hand gestures and arched brows perfectly. Bestowing a comic irreverence on the dustiest of subjects, her flippant tone mixed with a real knowledge of the areas she gently satirises make Hark! A Vagrant comics an educational pleasure to visit, revisit and then direct everyone else to, too.
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

           Featured product

Hark! A Vagrant




Mary Sue offers Hark! A Vagrant Calendar as prizes

Updated January 15, 2013


GIVEAWAY: KATE BEATON’S HARK! A VAGRANT CALENDARS
by Susana Polo | 12:07 pm, December 10th, 2012

The month of December means one thing for everybody, regardless of what particular end of the year holiday they celebrate. Namely, that’s it’s the end of the year, and everybody’s got to get a new calendar and start teaching their muscle memory how to write the date again. You should all be comforted to know that The Mary Sue is here for you in these troubling times. Starting today, you’re going to have a chance to win one of four Hark! A Vagrant 2013 calendars featuring the art of Kate Beaton. We’ve got two copies of Drawn and Quarterly’s There She Blows and Beethoven Birthday Party for folks in North America. Read on for some sample pics and entering info!
 
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

           Featured product

Hark! A Vagrant




  CBC Books profiles Drawn and Quarterly

Updated January 15, 2013


Why Drawn & Quarterly is thriving despite tough times for publishers
Thursday, December 6, 2012
First aired on The Sunday Edition (11/25/12)

At the Montreal corner of St. Urbain and Bernard in the early 1990s, the rent was cheap and the neighbours were cool. From his flat on the second floor, Chris Oliveros started a small hand-made magazine. He wanted the comic strips that he and his friends drew to find a larger audience. At his kitchen table, he put together the first issues of Drawn & Quarterly. That was 23 years ago. Now, Drawn & Quarterly is the hottest publisher of graphic novels in the English-speaking world.

At a time when the future of the book itself is in question, and many independent publishers struggle to stay afloat, Drawn & Quarterly is thriving. David Gutnick produced this lovely documentary about Drawn & Quarterly's, ahem, colourful history and its current success for The Sunday Edition.

It all started in 1989, in Oliveros's cheap second-floor flat in Mile End. By day, Oliveros worked as a bike courier. By night, he read comics and hung out with his cartoonist friends, sharing work and filling notebooks with illustrated anecdotes from their lives. They were prolific, but they had no audience except each other. The comics being published were about Archie or Marvel superheroes, and there seemed to be no place for comics about the day-to-day lives of humans outside Riverdale (the setting of Archie comics). Then Oliveros had an epiphany: why not become a publisher himself?

"I wanted to start a comics anthology that would come out quarterly — hence the title Drawn & Quarterly — and I got a loan from my father to print this first issue," Oliveros said. "In the early days it was on the kitchen table because that was before computers...you would send everything to the printer and they would have these giant cameras to photograph artwork. So a lot has changed in the ensuing 23 years."

Chris kept his day job, but spent more and more time figuring out how the comic-book industry worked. He had never thought of himself as a businessman, but he started nosing around comic-book fairs, learning about distribution and markets. His instinct told him that his little quarterly magazine could become something much bigger.

His instinct was right. French-speaking Quebeckers have a long tradition of spending plenty of money on comics like Asterix and Tintin, and talking about beautifully published comics as if they're art. With Drawn & Quarterly, Oliveros has brought that respect for the medium to English Canada as well.

But Drawn & Quarterly's growth from quarterly comics zine to full-fledged publishing house and bookstore didn't happen overnight. "While I was searching for material for this magazine I ended up meeting other cartoonists, like Seth, and it turned out that many of them actually were just starting to do longer works that wouldn't fit into a magazine," said Oliveros. Seth had a comic book he was just starting called Palookaville and he was looking for a publisher. "So it was sort of a story of one thing leading to another."

According to Oliveros, "you can really do comics about anything." Drawn & Quarterly has been experimenting with material that isn't strictly comics-related, too — one of its major releases this fall has been the Rookie Yearbook, a collection of work from blogging wunderkind Tavi Gevinson's smart online teen magazine Rookie.

These days, Oliveros publishes some of the biggest names in graphic art and comics in North America, including longtime American heavyweights like Linda Barry and Art Spiegelman alongside Canadians including Seth, Chester Brown, and Kate Beaton. And now the team works out of a spacious loft.

Below, check out a few of the artists that Drawn & Quarterly is publishing now.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Lynda Barry
Kate Beaton

          



Toro Magazine interviews Kate Beaton

Updated November 21, 2012


Barry Chong
September 20, 2012

Kate Beaton is an unusual success. Not often do you see a young, female Canadian rise to the top of the comics world. After literally drawing her way out of Mabou, Nova Scotia, Beaton spent several years producing her web series, Hark! A Vagrant, culminating in the publication of her 2011 book of the same name. Her work has since appeared in publications like The New Yorker and The Walrus.

Now living in Toronto after a stint in New York City, TORO caught up with Beaton as she prepared for her show at JFL42. She talked to us about “performing” comics live, refining her drawing style and the need for an artist to constantly evolve.

JFL42 says you’re here to connect audiences with “their most visceral, childlike feelings of wonder and amazement.” What the hell does that mean, and will you live up to it?

I didn’t write that. I guess because I do comics, people assume it’s like Calvin and Hobbes. Don’t worry — people won’t be bored at my show. I used to put on comedy shows in New York with Michael Kupperman and we’d present comics in a different way. Reading comics is usually a private thing, so it’s cool to put them in an open forum where you share a reaction with everybody, like you would when you watch a film.

Some comic book artists really detest the term “graphic novel” because they see it as a marketing ploy. How do you feel about it?

There is a bit of corporate fanciness to that term, and I understand that. But it was around long before I came about. I don’t think that it’s too grandiose to call something a graphic novel. Seth has been around long enough to think of himself as a comic book artist. For him, it’s an issue of someone taking his identity and bandying it as something else.

What unexpected doors have been opened for you in light of your fame?

Some of the stuff I’m working on isn’t yet open for public consumption [laughs], but offers have come in for books and television. In 2009, I was offered a place on the peer jury for the Canada Council for the Arts. It was for the graphic novel grant. That’s where I met Seth for the first time, and I was like, “Oh my God.”

That’s pretty awesome.

I’m very lucky. My comic was only two years old, but I put out something that people could read. Had I gone the traditional route — submit to publishers until they agree — I don’t think I would have done it. But I’m from such a small place. I couldn’t have imagined that living off comics could be viable at all. It’s like an astronaut coming from my town.

What were the advantages of living in New York City as a comic artist vs. Toronto?

In New York, you’re amongst some of the legends of comics. They kind of kick your ass and force you to work harder. I got to submit cartoons to The New Yorker in person and that makes a difference. Toronto has an amazing cartoonist community as well — it’s just not at the same level of activity.

Can you speak to the perception that your work is rushed?

Well, critics say it’s “deceptively simple,” which I’m OK with. I have a knack for gesture and expression and if I labour a drawing, it doesn’t have the same impact. It won’t look like it has life. I like seeing how a drawing moves on the page. If people think my work is rushed, then they have no idea how much time I spend thinking about it before I start drawing.

Do you have a desire to “refine” your work?

I move forward with my drawing only hoping to make it better. If “better” means refining it, then that’s where it will go. If “better” means nailing an expression faster, then that’s fine too. I work on things so they look better to me.

You recently started working more with watercolours. Is it important to master other mediums?

Yes, because I feel my inexperience very keenly, not having gone to art school. As soon as I started making comics, they became popular. That was amazing. But instant recognition means you’re playing out your entire career in front of everyone, and that’s daunting. I want to learn new skills. I want to become a well-rounded artist who can take on anything.

You tell young comic artists to “never stop updating” their websites but comics can really suffer from oversaturation. Do you worry about that?

I do think about that. That’s the reason why I’m backing out now. My website doesn’t update nearly as often as it used to. I am wary of waning in popularity. Charles Schulz could do Peanuts for 100 years and he’d always have a job. But when you do comics by yourself, you need to constantly put out good material that people really like. As much as I love comics, they were never my ultimate dream — I sort of fell into them. I am open to other possibilities. I just want to make good decisions so I can support a family when that time comes. You don’t want to be that clichéd image of a starving artist.
 
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

           Featured product

Hark! A Vagrant




  Th Austin Chronicle gets hung up on Kate Beaton calendars

Updated November 20, 2012


Kate Beaton: Calendar Grrl
Canada's Drawn & Quarterly helps you make your dates.
TUE. AUG. 28

Zut alors, perfidious face of time!
Time, as the Steve Miller Band so catchily pointed out, keeps on slippin' (slippin', slippin') into the future.
(Later, they also asserted that, abracadabra, they wanted to reach out & grab ya – but let's not 1) dwell on their pile of stupid or 2) get generally distracted here.)
The point is: Time. Here it comes, there it goes. And now, even though we can happily rely on the convenience of various digital devices to keep track of that slow poison, there's nothing quite like the sheer physicality of a paper-based calendar on a wall to nail us to the present while simultaneously providing a view of the somewhat bigger picture.
And, unless you're a strict minimalist or constrained by some suffocating business environment, it's even better when those calendars include pictures. Like a different image for each month, often based around a particular theme, and – hell, you're already aware of the ridiculous array of decorative wall calendars available each year.
We just wanna make sure that there's one more you're aware of.
We wanna make sure, because both the new year (with its need for a new calendar) and Christmas (with its traditional gift-givings) are rapidly approaching. And because we can scarcely imagine a calendar more enjoyable than one that displays the cartoons of Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant fame. And, fortunately for anyone who appreciates smart & goofy humor about history and literature and, oh, just anything the woman sets her pen to, Drawn & Quarterly has two Beaton calendars available for 2013. One's a regular Hark! A Vagrant calendar, featuring cartoons from the bestselling book; the other one focuses on the more literary gags and critiques from the artist's career thus far; and all are drawn in Beaton's endearing Kanadian Kawaii style that captures human expression as well as her wit lambasts its foibles and facades.
Uh … "Kanadian Kawaii"?
Yeah, well, we're no Steve Miller Band.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Beethoven Birthday Party: A 2013 Hark! A Vagrant Calendar
There She Blows: A 2013 Hark! A Vagrant Literary Calendar




"Hark! A Vagrant" reviewed by Alarm Magazine

Updated July 25, 2012


Book review: Hark! A Vagrant
By Mallory Gevaert
May 16th, 2012
Alarm magazine
Even if you’ve never heard of Kate Beaton, you’ve probably seen her work. Beaton, a Nova Scotian cartoonist and webmistress of harkavagrant.com, has quickly become a mainstay of Internet and blog culture, with her comics being re-posted around the Web and shared widely between bloggers, history buffs, and readers. Her sharp and somewhat absurd humor and casual riffing on history are instantly recognizable, and have earned Beaton a number of fans and accolades in the six years that harkavagrant.com has been online.

Following Never Learn Anything From History, Beaton’s second book, Hark! A Vagrant, collects a number of previously unpublished and web-published strips in a handsome hardcover volume. Beaton’s non-sequential comics already seem made for browsing and flipping through pages, so it’s a relief to finally be able to do so without tediously clicking back and forth on a website. The print medium really does justice to her art as well; the New Yorker cartoonist, for all of her Internet presence, is really an old-school artist, and the ink-and-paper route shows off the painstaking and hand-drawn nature of her work.

Beaton gleefully parodies historical events as well as classic novels and, more recently, other bits of literature (such as her “Strong Female Characters” riff on Charlie’s Angels, or a crass and snarky Nancy Drew). A recurring strip features old book covers and spins out a silly three-panel tale based on the cover art, while other strips take on the Brontës, Napoleon, Canadian diplomats, or The Great Gatsby. Another great running joke is the “Mystery Solving Teens,” an Encyclopedia Brown parody that features teen detectives fudging conclusions, lying to their parents, and overall acting like teens generally would in those circumstances. Whether it’s Jules Verne trying to be Edgar Allan Poe’s “bro,” or what was really going on with the Tudors, Hark! A Vagrant is fast, funny, and exceedingly literate.
You don’t have to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the comics, but it helps; Hark! A Vagrant is for all of us who wondered about a historical figure or literary character and what they were like outside of the given context. Beaton mines the lives of politicians and artists from comedy, and then includes a caption that, more often than not, reveals the historical basis behind the joke. This true-to-life (believe it or not) aspect adds something extra; in the end, not only have you laughed, but you’ve also learned a bizarre factoid about an obscure and probably forgotten time in history. Beaton’s former life as a museum employee translates well into the comics format; her work is casually educational but also hilarious and irreverent.

Beaton’s art is a treat as well, and needless to say, of a higher caliber than one would expect from a webcomic. Her hand-drawn and inked work is clean and expressive — a caricaturist’s look at famous figures that nonetheless makes them recognizable, human, and comedic. Some grayscale brush shading makes for a more distinctive look, but for the most part, Beaton’s art’s best achievement is its ability to carry off such absurd and varied comedy.
It’s not easy to make an argument in favor of a print book that’s based on a publicly accessible webcomic, but Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant (the book) really delivers the goods in a way that her site doesn’t. The wonderful packaging, clarity and readability, and previously unreleased material make this collection a must-buy for current fans and new converts. As for the comic itself, I have no idea what trope, figure, or event Beaton will take on next, but I’m excited to find out.
 
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  Kate Beaton on Brainpickings

Updated July 25, 2012


From New Yorker cartoonist Kate Beaton comes Hark! A Vagrant — a witty and wonderful collection of comics about historical and literary figures and events, based on her popular web comic of the same name.

brainpickings.org

Beaton, whose background is in history and anthropology, has a remarkable penchant for conveying the momentous through the inane, aided by a truly special gift for simple, subtle, incredibly expressive caricature. From dude spotting with the Brontë Sisters to Jane Austen dodging groupies, the six-panel vignettes will make you laugh out loud and slip you a dose of education while you aren’t paying attention.

I think comics about topics like history or literature can be amazing educational tools, even at their silliest. So if you learn or look up a thing or two after reading these comics, and you’ve enjoyed them, then I will be more than pleased! If you’re just in it for the silly stuff, then there is plenty of that to go around, too.” ~ Kate Beaton
Beaton is also a masterful writer, her dialogue and captions adding depth to what’s already an absolute delight.
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Kate Beaton's Comicon appearances on Comic Book Resources

Updated July 24, 2012


Kate Beaton, the web comic writer/artist behind the New York Times best selling collection "Hark! A Vagrant," welcomed the audience to her spotlight panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego with a wave and a slide show presentation of her online comic parodies.

"I'm going to do a comics reading -- oh, thank you," Beaton laughed as the packed room erupted into applause at the images of her "Nemesis" and "Brown Recluse Spider-Man" strips.

Her trademark humor evident, Beaton began the panel with a staged reading of some of her most popular web comics, turning the room into a stand-up venue as she narrated everything from the lines to the sound effects. Beaton then moved on to a brief slideshow presentation of her life, though in classic Beaton style not every part of the slideshow was one hundred percent accurate.

"I was born -- that's not me, that's my sister, but I kind of looked like that when I was small!" Beaton joked as she showed a misleading slide of her family to her laughing audience.

Laying out the basics of her life -- born in Canada, worked on her school newspaper in college, began drawing web comics for fun which turned into a career after the surge in popularity -- Beaton then illustrated the research process behind writing her historical comedy strips by showing pictures of Medieval art and making fun of it, slide by slide.

"He's getting a sword to the head, and she's getting a sword to the head, they're getting swords to the head," Beaton joked as the crowd laughed again, narrating a series of images of Dark Ages soldiers and peasants getting hit in the head with swords.

"It's hard not to get inspired by them," Beaton added, showing off the fruits of her research, the reoccurring "Peasant Comics" from her web site -- including a strip where a peasant uprising was met with swords to the head.

Beaton then gave the panel over to the audience for questions. The first "Hark! A Vagrant" fan brought up that the animated TV show "Adventure Time" used Beaton's fat pony in a cameo in one of their episodes and wanted to know if there were more "Adventure Time" character crossovers in the works.

"They're friends of mine," Beaton said, explaining that the comics and animation communities were fairly small. "You meet people like this at shows a lot and you say, 'I like your work,' and they like yours and it's a big compliment. Pen ["Adventure Time" creator Pendleton Ward] is one of the most generous show makers that I know that has hired a lot of extremely talented people on the strength of his show's popularity, so if I did something with them it would all be because Pen has the ability to pull strings."

A couple, both of them dressed as Aquaman, told Beaton they loved her take on Aquaman in her super hero strips and wanted to know what the cartoonist did when she wasn't drawing.

"I've been reading, I guess? What a boring answer, oh my god!" Beaton said as the audience laughed.

"I've been skateboarding off a helicopter," Beaton added as the audience cracked up again. She then told the couple she had recently been getting into horror novels for the first time.

Another audience member brought up Beaton's autobiographical comics and wanted to know if she planned to do a full book of those.


Beaton is best known for "Hark! A Vagrant" and numerous cartoon strips
"I do -- they don't really belong on the main site, it's its own animal," Beaton said, elaborating on why she does not post comics about her and her family on her website anymore. "If I make enough of them I will try to figure that out. But any creative person doesn't do one thing and I'm like that too, I like to stretch my skills as far as they can go and become a better artist by telling better stories -- there's a lot that goes into humor that's not just telling jokes; it's being able to pull things from a range of places."

The next fan to the microphone asked about the wide range of subjects she parodies in her comics, from Canadian parliament to superheroes to historical figures, and wanted to know if she would parody sports or the Olympics. Beaton said she would if it dovetailed into her other interests, giving the example of the 1955 Quebec hockey riot known as the Richard Riot which marked a turning point for the French-speaking minority in Canada, the unfair treatment of a Quebec hockey player leading them to rise up and demand equal rights.

"When sports comes into a big cultural arena like that it can be really fascinating," Beaton said.

The audience broke into applause and cheers when the next fan mentioned liking Beaton's "Strong Female Characters" strips, co-created with Carly Monardo and Meredith Gran.

"They're a parody of the characters where Hollywood is like, 'Ladies, stop complaining, here's a strong lady that' you'll love,' and it's just tits and a gun," Beaton said. "They're only vaguely human and they don't know anything of what it's like to be a person, they just know to 'kick ass' and have your ass out!"

The fan then asked how Beaton balanced her love of mainstream comics, which often embrace the same stereotypes, with her feminism.

"It's not like an attack on anything, comics and movies, those types of things are everywhere and we were just trying to make each other laugh," Beaton said of the strips.

Asked about her technical process, Beaton said she usually draws in a sketchbook for a while before putting pencil and pen to paper.

"The better a sketch I have the more genuine the line is and the better the expression," Beaton said, adding that she avoids PhotoShopping and has a very "basic" approach to art.

To the next audience member Beaton said she really enjoyed her historical comics about the Japanese swordsman Musashi. The audience member then asked if Beaton's family understood her humor.

"My family…" Beaton said, then paused for effect as the audience laughed.

"My sisters are our age, they're proud, they both go to Calgary Comic Con and say, 'Oh, you're famous!'" Beaton continued. "My mom and dad are proud and they don't read web comics -- they don't really get the humor but they have never discouraged me, they only worry as any parent would about, 'Do you have an exit plan?' No!

"Mom will say from time to time, 'I don't like the language,' and 'Why don't you go to church?'" Beaton added as the audience laughed.


Beaton's work is characterized by her offbeat humor
Another fan wanted to know about how she approaches historical fiction and her historical mash-ups.

"The mash-ups became super popular in the last couple of years -- I think that's just how I study history, when I try to understand any particular event I can't help but do it from a modern perspective," Beaton said. "Then when I started making jokes it was natural. People really responded to it, so I kept it up.

"Comics are an amazing mnemonic device, that's why we remember things from them better than we did if we read a chapter from our history books," Beaton continued. "I felt more and more responsibility to flesh out the subject every time, so you saw the panels go from this six-panel short thing to these long things of about six comics each that cover a broader area of the subject."

The very last question came from a fan that liked Beaton's comics about classic literary figures and wanted to know which one was her favorite to mess with.

"I decided to do the 'Wuthering Heights' [adaptation] over a huge stretch of time because that book is so insane," Beaton said. "It's really iconic for one thing, so I wasn't taking a gamble that people knew what it was, which is always something I worry about. It was a safe bet and it was super, super insane. I like that one and I like 'Dracula' because they both have scenes that are not as popularized as much because they are too weird and they never make it to the movies.

"My favorite part is so bananas; it's when Hindley, who is Catherine's brother, has a baby and he accidentally drops the baby off the balcony. Heathcliff catches the baby instinctively and then was like, 'Why did I catch the baby, why didn't I let it die, that would have been the perfect revenge!'" Beaton laughed. "He's angry at himself that he caught the baby like some asshole!

"I also [like] when Mina is sucking blood out of Dracula's chest and Dracula is like, yeah," Beaton concluded the panel as the audience cracked up once more.
 
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  Kate Beaton earns emerging artist accolade at Doug Wright Awards

Updated June 14, 2012


Beaton nabs top Canadian cartooning book award
May 8, 2012
BY BILL SPURR
The Chronicle Herald

Kate Beaton, the Mabou native whose cartooning talent has taken her to New York and Toronto, has won a Doug Wright Award for best book.

The awards, to recognize the best in Canadian cartooning, were held in Toronto, and Beaton won for her book Hark! A Vagrant, based on her Internet strip featuring historical figures.

“It’s hard to quantify. I really wasn’t expecting it,” Beaton said of the honour, while waiting for a taxi at the airport in Newark. “I won the Doug Wright Award for best emerging talent in 2009 and that was also pretty surprising. They were one of the earliest, of the bigger institutions or awards in the comics industry, to really show strong faith in me. I don’t know where I would rank it, but it feels pretty good.”

Beaton said the emerging artist award is for relative newcomers.

“But this one, you’re against pretty seasoned people. There were books by Seth, by Chester Brown and by Michael Deforge, who I think is maybe the best cartoonist in the country right now.”

Beaton, who now lives in Toronto, said you don’t wear an evening gown to an awards show that recognizes cartoonists, but it’s not a pie-in-the-face evening, either.

“I haven’t been to too many cartoon awards, and some of them are quite formal I suppose, but this one they really strive to award excellence in the field, so there’s a program and a guest host and a panel of judges that range pretty far across the media spectrum,” she said.

“There are jokes in there, but they really go for rewarding craft. It is a comics award show, so there are quite a few chuckles, but that’s usually by the presenters and the winners.”

Beaton said she’s trying to determine the next direction her career should travel in, and doesn’t want to just repeat herself.

“I’ve been trying to take on different illustration jobs and grow as an artist, take a step back from Hark! A Vagrant a little bit,” she said.

“I am lucky to have the opportunity to do that, so I would like to switch gears, and what I’m doing now is figuring out what the next thing will be. My feeling now is that whatever comes next shouldn’t be Hark! A Vagrant Vol. 2. It should be something else. I’ve been doing that one thing for so long that it’s not an easy decision, but the possibilities are exciting.”
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Kate Beaton commended for new book, "Hark! A Vagrant."

Updated June 14, 2012


Kate Beaton wins Doug Wright Award
By Katie Gowrie
May 7, 2012
Quill and Quire

Cartoonist Kate Beaton has won a Doug Wright Award for her book Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn & Quarterly). She was presented with the honour Saturday night at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

The award-winning book is based on her popular web comic- a witty satire that pokes fun at history and literature.

The CBC quotes Shary Boyle, award juror and visual artist, as saying:

“The world of comics can be a sequestered and dusty place…Beaton rises up and throws open the doors to a whole new audience — welcoming one and all with her generous vision and sense of sophisticated, inclusive playfulness.”

Beaton was born in Nova Scotia, studied history in New Brunswick, and now lives in New York. At the 2009 Wright Awards, she was acknowledged with an emerging artist honour.

First founded in May 2005, the awards were named after Doug Wright, whose cartoon strip, Doug Wrights’ Family (or Nipper) ran for 30 years across Canada and internationally. The awards are held annually to shine a spotlight on Canadian cartoonists and comic artists.

The other artists honoured at the ceremony are Ethan Rilly, who won the Spotlight Award for Pope Hats #2 (AdHouse Books); Michael Comeau, who won the Pigskin Peters Award for experimental and avante-garde comics for Hellberta (Koyama Press); and political cartoonist Terry Mosher (aka Aislin), who was inducted into Giants of the North, the Canadian comics hall of fame.
 
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  Kate Beaton's "Hark, A Vagrant" offers "ridiculous good times" to readers

Updated June 14, 2012


GOOD STUFF: HARK, A VAGRANT
DUNCAN MACKENZIE
April 12, 2012
Bad At Sports

This week we are trying something new. Truth be told, we were planning on trying something new at the beginning of January but due to various mishaps we are two months late. The snappy-est title we could come up with “Great Stuff.” What that really is a subtitle for is “Great Stuff that was found in our offices regardless of how it got there.” So we begin “Great Stuff” with Kate Beaton’s “Hark! A Vagrant.” Last fall Beaton’s new comic anthology “Hark! A Vagrant” was published by Drawn and Quarterly, and is truly delightful. it arrived our offices and quietly sat in a pile of things that needed to be read for several months, never really hinting at the ridiculous good times to be had within but one quiet afternoon I picked it up and could not put it down. Beaton’s a veteran cartoonist whose work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, the National Post and the New Yorker. Beaton is a kind of spiritual kin to Bad at Sports. Her work draws heavily on her degree in history and her broad knowledge of literature, and then couples those intellectual impulses with an absurd sense of humor which would make Monty Python proud and had me laughing out loud over and neglecting phone calls. In fact, I’ve come back to it and reread it twice since my first reading. If you are a fan of art, literature, Canada, history, and being an intellectual well making fun of intellectuals this shit will tear you up.
The high points for me include jokes about the “Great Gatsby,” the Brontë sisters, St. Francis, and Canadian stereotypes. the back covers cartoon is a special treat for those of us who’ve devoted our lives to things that are often difficult to empathize with.
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Kate Beaton wins a Doug Wright Award!

Updated June 13, 2012


Aislin, Kate Beaton honoured at cartooning awards
May 6, 2012
CBC News

Cartoonist Kate Beaton, known for her smart, witty comics that shine an irreverent, contemporary light on historical and literary figures, has won a Doug Wright Award for Canadian cartooning.

Beaton won the best book honour in Toronto Saturday night for her book Hark! A Vagrant, based on her highly popular web comic filled with lively caricatures poking fun at everything from Canadian stereotypes to history's hipsters to Jane Austen mash-ups.

"The world of comics can be a sequestered and dusty place," award juror and visual artist Shary Boyle said in statement.

Kate Beaton has won a large cult following for her witty historical and literary influenced comics, featured both online and in book form in Hark! A Vagrant. (Jessica Wong/CBC)
"Beaton rises up and throws open the doors to a whole new audience — welcoming one and all with her generous vision and sense of sophisticated, inclusive playfulness."

Born in Nova Scotia and now based in New York, Beaton's work has also appeared in Harpers Magazine, the National Post and The New Yorker. She was previously recognized at the 2009 Wright Awards with its emerging artist honour.

Up-and-comer Ethan Rilly accepted the 2012 Spotlight Award for Pope Hats #2, a continuation of the Toronto cartoonist's sensitive tale of a bright young woman navigating a career in a busy corporate legal firm while tending to her capricious actress roommate.

Rilly "is a cartoonist who takes his time to get it right," jurist John Martz said. "It can be no easy task to write a story about an introspective Toronto law clerk, and have it be so compelling, so rewarding to study, and be filled with such warmth."

Boyle and Martz were joined on the Wright Awards jury by artist and professor George Walker.

Organizers presented the Pigskin Peters Award, the category honouring avant-garde or experimental work, to Toronto's Michael Comeau for his comic Hellberta, which the nominating committee described as "a pastiche of superhero comic, a political satire, a post-apocalyptic fable — all melded together to form a single nightmarish vision."

Taking place during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Wright Awards ceremony also included the induction of Montreal-based veteran political cartoonist Terry Mosher, widely known by the pen name Aislin, to the Giants of the North - Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Fame.

Mosher, on hand for the ceremony, looked back at his more than 40-year career as an editorial cartoonist — the majority spent at the Montreal Gazette — in a colourful, and at times bawdy, on-stage conversation with newspaper columnist Rick Salutin.

Held annually and named after the cartoonist behind the internationally syndicated comic strip Nipper (later renamed Doug Wright's Family), the awards celebrate excellence in the Canadian art and alternative comic scene. Past winners include Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, Pascal Girard, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Jeff Lemire.
 
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  Miami Herald hails top reads HARK! A VAGRANT, PURE PAJAMAS AND JINCHALO

Updated February 28, 2012


Artists at the top of their game, or not

By Richard Pachter
The Miami Herald
Feb. 2012

Hark A Vagrant. Kate Beaton. Drawn & Quarterly. 168 pages. $19.95.

Reminding readers that apparently stuffy literary figures were also supposed to be quite human, New Yorker cartoonist Beaton’s sly and often rude humor propels this anarchic collection of her hysterical historical ruminations. Aiming at culture high and low, she deftly skewers everyone from the Brontes to Ben Franklin to Nancy Drew. Rarely subtle, often over the top, Beaton’s simple but expressive art helps make its mark without ever obscuring the target.

Pure Pajamas. Marc Bell. Drawn & Quarterly. 96 pages. $22.95.

Canadian Bell’s strips have an early Crumb-like joie de vivre (with a dash of Julie Doucet) but he veers off the path of sexual angst and frustration and charges full speed ahead toward a strange land of hallucinations and absurdity. This collection gathers most of his regular jaunts into silliness and unruly lunacy. Other than a few naughty words and situations, Bell’s love of language and imagery would make him ideal for children, but grownups, too, will howl at his relentlessly ingenious words and images.


Jinchalo. Matthew Forsythe. Drawn & Quarterly. 120 pages. $17.95.

A collection of mostly mute fables of shape-shifters and hungry beasts, this sweet little volume, based on Korean folk tales, is wistful and whimsical. Forsythe’s lithe line work nicely complements the dreamy mis en scene. He’s a terrifically skilled artist, and this smartly understated performance adds to the charm and potency of his presentation.


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HARK! A VAGRANT marks 17th week on New York Times Bestseller list

Updated February 28, 2012



Feb. 5, 2012

HARK! A VAGRANT, by Kate Beaton. (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.) This collection of work by the web sensation includes comic strips about famous authors, their characters, and political and historical figures, along with previously unpublished content.
 

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  Statesman.com rates HARK! A VAGRANT and BIG QUESTIONS among year's best

Updated February 28, 2012


A look at the best -- and worst -- of this year's comics

by Joe Gross
The Statesman
Dec. 3, 2011

"Hark! A Vagrant," by Kate Beaton (Drawn and Quarterly): Beaton's terrifically oddball history/literature webcomic makes the jump to print. Her cartooning is deceptively primitive, but her comic timing (in both senses of the word) is all its own — once you catch it, it's addictive.

"Big Questions" by Anders Nilsen: A decade in the making, this existentialist novel follows birds and snakes in the middle of nowhere as they encounter a newcomer and must decide what to do about him. Mythic and bizarre.
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Kate Beaton op-ed piece in Globe and Mail!

Updated February 28, 2012



My Books, My Place:
Kate Beaton reads ’em where they lay

By Kate Beaton
The Globe and Mail
Jan. 20, 2012


[See link for illustration]

My favourite place to read is really anywhere so long as I can spread myself out. Couch, rug, bed, whatever feels best. This is because I’m a fidgeter. I flip-flop around a book like it’s the only thing I have to hold onto in a storm.

I wish I could tell you that I read in my favourite café with my legs neatly crossed, sitting next to a peppermint tea atop a dainty saucer, all in a beam of morning light. But I can’t, because I’m lying on my belly, ignoring the fact that leaning on my arms is making them fall asleep. When they do, no problem. I just plop around onto my back and hold the book above my head, or maybe curl around the book on my side in some unnatural fashion, or sit up and balance it on my knees.
More related to this story

* Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

Illustration by Kate Beaton

Did you just step on something? Oh, that was me. I was rolled up in a blanket on the floor. Don’t worry about it.

When I was a teenager, I even threw sitting awkwardly upside down into the mix, legs thrown up and over the back of an armchair, but had to give that up when I became a Lady because no gentleman worth his salt takes an upside-down person to the altar. Not that I’m fishing for husbands when I’m halfway through the latest George R.R. Martin, but you have to draw a general conduct line somewhere, don’t you think?

Kate Beaton is a writer and cartoonist. Her first book is Hark! A Vagrant.

 
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  PAYING FOR IT and HARK! A VAGRANT get Austin Chronicle talking

Updated February 28, 2012


The Year in Books
Thirty-one titles that got us talking this year

By Wayne Alan Brenner
The Austin Chronicle
Jan. 6, 2012

Chester Brown's Paying for It (Drawn and Quarterly), the acclaimed cartoonist's unswerving account of his regular, ah, use of prostitutes over the past several years, doubles (or at least exhaustively tries to double) as an argument for the rights of sex workers.

Webcomics get a welcome incarnation in the offline world as Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly) brings the cartoonist's sharp wit and delightful send-ups of historical characters (real and/or literary) into paper and ink.
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Straight.com sounds off on Kate Beaton's HARK! A VAGRANT

Updated February 28, 2012


Kate Beaton skewers history and literature in Hark! A Vagrant

by Jennie Ramstad
Straight.com
Jan. 18, 2012


Admittedly a little late on the Hark! A Vagrant bandwagon (it was published way back in September), I picked up a copy on a recent jaunt through Pulp Fiction’s Main Street location. As evidenced by an immediate, 10-minute-long chucklefest, this was one collection of comics that was clearly coming home with me.

Lovingly rendered in black-and-white drawings, each comic lambasts a particular aspect of history or literature. My favourites were the ones that dealt with 15th century peasant romance, St. Francis of Assisi and his birds, cruising with the Brontë sisters, and the strange, unreciprocated bromance between Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe.

Although not designed for those who prefer their comics with a dash of capes and masks, Hark! A Vagrant will appeal to all the literature and history buffs out there, or anyone who enjoys a healthy dose of irreverent, somewhat sophisticated in-jokes. If that means you, you should probably check out these graphic novels too.

If you like to try before you buy, check out Kate Beaton’s website and get a taste of the historical and literary romp that’s in store.

Hark! A Vagrant sells for $19.95, and can be found at most local book and comic-book stores.
 
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  PAYING FOR IT and HARK! A VAGRANT get Austin Chronicle talking

Updated February 27, 2012


The Year in Books: Thirty-one titles that got us talking this year

by Wayne Alan Brenner
The Austin Chronicle
Jan. 6, 2012

Chester Brown's Paying for It (Drawn and Quarterly), the acclaimed cartoonist's unswerving account of his regular, ah, use of prostitutes over the past several years, doubles (or at least exhaustively tries to double) as an argument for the rights of sex workers.

Webcomics get a welcome incarnation in the offline world as Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly) brings the cartoonist's sharp wit and delightful send-ups of historical characters (real and/or literary) into paper and ink.


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Chester Brown
Kate Beaton

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Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant




Quill & Quire talks about Kate Beaton's rise to success

Updated January 12, 2012


October 2011
Micah Toub

How a 28-year-old wunderkind became the next big thing in comics

In history books, the best stories often revolve around an epic moment – a single event that epitomizes a sweeping change for the world, a country, or an individual’s life. For Kate Beaton, one of Canada’s brightest young comics artists, that moment came in late 2007, on the day she drew a gaggle of squealing 19th-century teens throwing their bloomers at inventor Nikola Tesla, then posted the illustration on her website.

“I was reading about Tesla, and the book mentioned that he never married, though there were people interested. He chose to be celibate because he thought that love addled your brain,” she says. “So I wrote a comic where he’s trying to show everyone his invention, but women are throwing their underwear at him. He’s like, ‘Ladies, please,’ but they’re just screaming at him like he’s Elvis.”

The site where Beaton posted her Web comic had been live for only a few months when the Tesla strip went viral, bringing her thousands of new readers from around the globe. Beaton explains this significant event in her characteristically dry manner: “I guess Tesla was a famous dude.”

Four years later, the 28-year-old’s website gets roughly half a million unique hits a month. Her work has been published in The New Yorker and Harper’s, and this month Montreal-based publisher Drawn & Quarterly is releasing Hark! A Vagrant, a collection of her comic strips that first appeared online.

The formula for Beaton’s global Internet success isn’t obvious at first glance. The Cape Breton–born artist’s typical comics contain a few panels that shed light on obscure moments in Canadian history or classic literature, retelling them through an ironic lens of contemporary references and speech. For example, there’s French commander Louis-­Joseph de Montcalm, who, during the Seven Years’ War, is filled with envy as he hears of British commander James Wolfe’s epic death – “Man, that guy! Does he have to be first at everything?” In a second Tesla strip, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi steals Tesla’s radio, strolling off with a dismissive, “Call me, bro.”

According to Beaton, referencing events and figures readers may be unfamiliar with doesn’t turn them away, but can actually have the opposite effect. “You end up learning a bunch of things that you didn’t know before, and that’s part of the fun,” she says. Beaton adds that one benefit of publishing online is the proximity of Wikipedia, just a click away.

Perhaps there are more history nerds roaming the Internet than one might have thought. After posting a comic about James Connolly, a reluctant leader of the 1916 Easter Rising, Beaton received e-mails from Irish fans thanking her for highlighting their favourite national figure.

“It’s nice to be represented,” she says, by way of explaining her transatlantic following. “Maybe because so much is dominated by American culture, it’s nice when your country pops up where you weren’t expecting it and is celebrated. I make fun of history, but I celebrate it, really.”

Before Beaton’s Tesla moment, while she was still developing her style and her audience was limited to friends on Facebook, there was at least one person who predicted she would one day make it big. A year after graduating from Mount Allison University, where she had earned a degree in history and anthropology, Beaton was working at Victoria’s Maritime Museum of British Columbia and happened to land a few desks away from artist Emily Horne.

“She came into my office one day and showed me her comics,” says Horne, who, in 2003, launched the popular online photo comic A Softer World with author Joey Comeau. “It was stuff she was drawing in her spare time. Even though they were very rough visually – many were done on MS Paint – they were just so funny. I thought that a Web audience would love it.”

The archives of Beaton’s website still contain these lunch break comics: absurdist one-liners and dialogues illustrated with shaggy low-resolution stick figures. In one, titled “Baby,” two people come across a newborn lying on the ground and speculate what they might find in it. “Do you think there’s any money inside?” one asks. The baby’s speech bubble says “Wrong!”; the word “poop” is written on its pudgy abdomen. Although these early works aren’t included in the book, several have been immortalized on T-shirts and mugs Beaton sells through online merchandiser TopatoCo.

“I love how much expression she can convey in very few lines,” Horne says of Beaton’s current work. “The level of detail in the drawings has increased, but expressions remain minimal.”

In September of last year, after stints in Halifax and Toronto, Beaton moved to Brooklyn, New York, where she now lives with artists Meredith Gran and Aaron Diaz, whom she met at comics conventions.

In December, only a few months after landing in the U.S., Beaton found a literary agent. Appropriately enough for someone whose fame began online, she met him through Twitter. Beaton had received a freelance job offer that involved complicated rights issues and, exasperated, she tweeted, “I think I need an agent.” In short order, Seth Fishman at the Gernert Company in New York, also agent to Orange Prize for Fiction winner Téa Obreht, sent her a direct message offering his services.

Although she had already self-published a book through TopatoCo – the first run of 1,000 copies sold out in one day – Beaton felt she was ready to go mainstream.

“I knew my audience had grown and it was time to do something else, that I had outgrown the self-publishing thing,” she says. “Or, more to the point, I wanted to have something that would be marketed better than I could market it, that could make its way into the libraries, that could be distributed farther than I could reach.”

Chris Oliveros, publisher at Drawn & Quarterly, says Beaton is the company’s first foray into turning a Web comic into a printed book. Yet Hark! A Vagrant shares lead title status this fall with Daniel Clowes, Lynda Barry, and Seth. “It’s a bit unusual because Kate is effectively a first-time author, while the other three each have at least 25 years of publishing under their belts,” Oliveros says. “It’s a testament to how much Kate has accomplished in such an otherwise short period.”

The day I met with Beaton, in a café near her studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, happened to be the day before Comic-Con in San Diego, the largest convention of its kind in North America. As such, Beaton had a very important update to make to her website. “I’ll show you,” she said, turning her laptop around so I could see an announcement for her new book, along with a teaser that 300 preview copies would be available for sale at Drawn & Quarterly’s booth.

Not surprisingly, before the convention’s first day had ended, those copies were history.
 
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  HARK! A VAGRANT is "witty, original literature" says the Phoenix New Times

Updated January 12, 2012


October 31, 2011
Sativa Peterson


In the graphic novel Hark! A Vagrant, which was released last month, artist Kate Beaton explains, "Some time ago I packed my history degree into a suitcase and said goodbye to the world of working in museums for low pay and limited opportunity, and said hello to the world of being a cartoonist, which as we all know, is lucrative and glamorous."

Turns out, in Beaton's hands mixing history and cartooning leads to pretty hilarious results.

Hark! A Vagrant is a collection of witty, original re-inventions of figures from history and classic literature. Beaton likes to take these characters and insert modern sensibilities into their choices. Like the strip "Tudorama," which begins with a panel that says, "This Week on Sexy Tudors, History Blows Unless It's Sexy!"

We see Queen Elizabeth giving her chief advisor, Lord Burghley, the business for not presenting in front of her with enough sex appeal. Or re-imagines the bro-mance between Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe.

In a breezy time-hopping way, Beaton's comics take on everything from the French Revolution, the Kennedys, and 15th Century Peasants, to the Bronte Sisters, Lindisfarne Monastery, and Robinson Crusoe, to name a few. Some of the historical references are totally obscure (I found myself hopping on to Wikipedia to get some context a time or two), but far from being tedious, this was a fun process of discovery in and of itself. There is also plenty of stuff in the book that is just plain silly.

The book is made up of a big collection of strips that first appeared on Beaton's popular website where she has been posting comics and sketches since 2007.

Beaton's line work comes across as clean and loose, if not at times, simple, but look again, she is totally adept at caricature and her ability to distill human emotions - pouting, jealousy, befuddlement, pompousity -- into her character's expressions is top notch.

Also, below most of the strips Beaton has written pithy, punchy footnotes about how she came up with her concept, or to give a little background information, and many times these are as funny, and insightful, as the comics themselves.

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Kate Beaton on CBC's Studio Q

Updated January 12, 2012


November 4, 2011


If you had to list the characters and situations that come up in comic strips, you'd probably mention self-aware animals, caveman scenes, beleaguered families and dysfunctional work environments. It probably wouldn't occur to you that there's comic-strip potential in former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson, heroine Laura Secord, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the French Revolution.

But cartoonist Kate Beaton saw the possibilities. And it paid off -- her web comics are seen by more than a million people each month and her work has appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker and Harper's. Now, they are brought together in a bestselling new book called Hark! A Vagrant.

History was a natural subject for Beaton's work. It's what she studied as a student at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and she spent her summers working in museums. "It seemed natural to take it in that direction," she told Q host Jian Ghomeshi in a recent interview. "History was what I was studying and it was what I was interested in anyway."

The humour, however, came later. She began writing a humour column for the university newspaper and found making people laugh was addictive. "It became so satisfying that I started neglecting other things in order to do that," she admitted. "It felt good to make people laugh."

Making people laugh is the challenge Beaton faces with each panel. Although her style appears spontaneous and dashed off, each panel is methodically researched and carefully drawn, as Beaton wants her entire audience to appreciate the scene and the humour within it. "You want to make a comic that's funny to someone who knows nothing about that person and to someone who knows everything about that person."

One thing Beaton doesn't struggle with, however, is finding moments in Canadian history worth capturing. She finds Canadian history "just as colourful" as American or European history despite the lack of violent conflict in our past. "Our conflicts are just different. They are no less important or intense," she said.

After all, Beaton added, "our version of independence is a lot of guys getting together and having a party, being like, 'the Queen will understand.'"
 
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  HARK! reviewed on CBR

Updated January 12, 2012


November 4, 2011
Chris Mautner

Hark! A Vagrant
by Kate Beaton
Drawn and Quarterly, 168 pages, $19.95.

The thing that amazes/impresses me the most about Kate Beaton’ comics is how much everyone loves them. OK, not everyone — I do know one or two stragglers that refuse to find anything amusing in her sly little comics — but a lot of people from disparate fan bases really like her stuff. Indie readers like Kate Beaton, Superhero fans like Kate Beaton,, and (perhaps most notably) people who hardly ever (if at all) read comics like Kate Beaton (like my wife). She crosses boundaries in a way I don’t think I’ve seen any modern cartoonist do, let alone a webcartoonist. I think that’s even more impressive when you consider how often she relies upon (relatively) obscure historical figures and literature as the basis for her strips.

Other than that I really don’t have much to say, except that those who own her first book, Never Learn Anything From History, and haven’t bought this one yet because they’re worried it reprints the same material can relax; it doesn’t. Basically if you appreciate intelligence, wit (or smartassery) and the chance to learn something on the side, then this is the book for you.
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HARK! is "pretty much the funniest thing ever" says the Yakima Herald

Updated January 12, 2012


November 9, 2011

Book Scene -- 'Hark! A Vagrant' by Kate Beaton
BY ADAM JONES
FOR ON MAGAZINE

It's not very often that I wait with baited breath (or whatever clich sounds good) for a new book.

Don't get me wrong, I was ruined by TV and therefore have the impatience and instant-gratification issues of anyone my age. But there comes a point when too many books is too many books, you know? Especially when (1) there's always something new being hyped as The Next Jonathan Franzen by the industry and (2) the stack on your bedside table of things you were dying to read -- that is, until you went out and bought something else -- never, ever dwindles down.

However! As soon as I heard that Kate Beaton would be putting out a book, I started to get pretty excited. When it did arrive a couple weeks ago, I may or may not have done a little bouncy dance. I'm not some kind of "old school" Beaton fan or anything. I think I discovered her comics just this year, in fact.

She tends a website with the same name and some of the same content as the book, which is, to me, pretty much the funniest thing ever. The subject of her comics is usually historical or literary and, in one sense or another, quite serious. She'll write about undeservingly little-known episodes of history, or about a perplexing element in classic literature. The humor is in the surprise; she points out that, despite all the supposed romance, Mr. Rochester is really pretty demented, or how, as much fun as it may be to make a hundred short-people jokes, Napoleon wasn't quite the little elf we like to imagine. (Trust me, it's funnier in her delivery, OK?)

Her greatest hits are her Nancy Drew and Gorey series, where she writes a short strip about what the book could be about based solely on the cover. Her Nancy is a total paranoiac, and more than a little dim. With the Edward Gorey books (he illustrated the covers of a good number of classics for Anchor in the '50s and '60s), Beaton is able to poke fun at anyone from W.B. Yeats to Kafka. Her other forte is in her Canadian jokes (relax, she's from Nova Scotia), which I will not ruin by trying to explain them to you. They involve a good number of "soh-rys" and lumberjacks, obviously, but also some Bryan Adams, so there you go.

All in all, it's a lot of fun, and possibly just a bit enlightening.



* "Hark! A Vagrant" by Kate Beaton was released in September by Drawn and Quarterly. It retails for $19.95.



* Adam Jones has managed Inklings Bookshop since 2004. Among his favorite writers are Margaret Atwood, Amy Hempel and Alice Munro. Jones and other Inklings staff members review books in this space each week.

 
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  Kate Beaton on CTV News!

Updated January 12, 2012


November 9, 2011
Todd Battis

Note from editor: On Wednesday's edition of Canadian Originals on CTV National News at 11pm, Atlantic bureau chief Todd Battis will bring us the story of Kate Beaton -- the current queen of the comic strip.

Here's Todd's blog:

Kate Beaton is a new kind of celebrity. Millions of people know her work, but wouldn't know her if they walked into her.

If you're among the shrinking number of folks who aren't familiar with her, here's the background:

Kate Beaton is a twenty-something cartoonist, originally from tiny Mabou in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (the same village that's home to the singing Rankin Family).

While studying anthropology at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, she began doodling in the margins of her notebook. That led to a gig writing a humour column in the student paper.

It's when she started combining her sketches with puns and one-liners that people took notice.

After school, like many Maritimers, she worked her way across the country, a stint at Victoria's Maritime Museum, even a job in Alberta's Oil Sands. All the while perfecting her drawing.

Beaton decided to make her observations a career, drawing comic strips about Wonder Woman, a pony, or a zany, obsessed business woman. But what sets her apart is her take on literary and historical figures.

She's become a sensation in the U.S. poking fun at the Bronte sisters, Hamlet, Edgar Alan Poe. But here's the startling thing, some of her most popular strips feature Canadian history and its players. From Sir Isaac Brock to Sir John A, even Diefenbaker. They're all fair game, and certainly rare subject matter in the comic genre.

She prefers to skewer famous dead people. No chance you'll run into an angry subject of a comic on the street.

Her rise to fame is different, too. She launched a website and fans began flocking to her, sharing her comics, spreading her work across the internet. She sold works to the New Yorker, Harper's and other heavy weight publications, but her fame was cemented on-line.

A collection forms her book, "Hark! A Vagrant". An Amazon.com hit, it topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Her recent North America book tour was so popular, fans had to be turned away.

Living in Brooklyn for the past while, she's in the process of moving back to Canada, closer to friends, family, and her muse, secure in the knowledge Americans want more of this Canuck's stuff.

Beaton is a joy, maybe because she can walk down the street without being swarmed.

The night we met at "Strange Adventures" Comics in Halifax, half a dozen family members drove down from Cape Breton to see her, even waited in line with others to say hi.

That unpretentious normalcy rubbed off on her. She sat for hours, signing books, sketching and speaking with fans.

Wicked humour aside, it's no surprise her fame continues to rise.


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Shakespeare and Co. recommend HARK! A VAGRANT

Updated January 12, 2012


November 9, 2011
James Thilman

One more pick: Hark! A Vagrant (2011) by Kate Beaton: "Finally! a book version of Kate Beaton's much beloved webcomic Hark! A Vagrant. Want to read about Spider-Man being more like an actual spider? Or about the Romantics being creeps? Yeah, you do. Hilarious and sublimely weird."
 
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  The Economist's More Intelligent Life enjoys HARK! A VAGRANT

Updated January 12, 2012


COMICS FOR GROWN-UPS

Kate Beaton's "Hark! A Vagrant" is a collection of comic strips with subjects drawn from classical literature, revolutionary history and pop culture. It’s an endearingly strange mix; there are strips that crack jokes about calligraphist monks, and others that send up adolescents straight out of Kevin Smith’s cult film ‘‘Clerks’’. The style of the drawings and the bend towards Victoriana (Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker) recalls the grim art of Edward Gorey. Yet the tone, while unafraid of the macabre, is resolutely silly.

The result is an entertaining and anachronistic send-up of canonical texts. In her hands Jane Eyre's Mr Rochester is a melodramatic creep with not only a mad wife but also “underage smut and racist figurines” in the attic. Whenever his fiancée tries to express concerns about his past, he smothers her passionately in his arms. Beaton also winningly skewers literary tropes such as courtly love, in strips where a frustrated gentlewoman is continually stymied in her desires by a lover who can only express his feelings through poetry, fasting and lute-strumming.

Some of Beaton’s work is standard parody fare, such as cultural mash-ups that consider Victorian preoccupations from a contemporary perspective. This means we get the amusing “Suffragette and the City”, for example (“Men are so complicated!” “I vote against it!”). Another strip considers a Victorian family from an American sit-com angle, with an episode about a teenage daughter getting involved with laudanum, an opiate popular during the 19th century. But other ideas are entirely original, as in sections where she attempts to tell the plot of a novel entirely from its cover illustration. This works especially well with the intriguing artwork of "Nancy Drew Mystery Stories".

These are clever conceits, yet much of the humour is in the drawings. Beaton has a wonderfully evocative way of making these characters grimace, faint and lust after each other; a raised eyebrow serves as an efficient punchline. Given the many historical and literary in-jokes, it can feel as though Beaton is working through an academic reading list. But the results are so consistently charming that it would be churlish to criticise the formula.

~ V.B.
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Kate Beaton inverviewed by CBC's Studio Q!

Updated January 11, 2012


Historical humorist and internet cartoonist, Kate Beaton is in Studio Q to talk about her new book "Hark! A Vagrant" and to offer some insight on how she mines Canada's often obscure historical figures for nuggets of comedy.



Check out the video!



 
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  HARK! and DAYBREAK on CBR's Black Friday shopping guide

Updated January 11, 2012


November 25, 2011

Start out with a comic for you or any of your smart, snarky family members with Drawn & Quarterly's collection of "Hark! A Vagrant!" for $19.99. Kate Beaton's hilariously offbeat look at history and popular culture will delight pretty much everyone...except, possibly, people too dumb to get any of the jokes. Do not get this as a present for people who are too dumb to get jokes.

For something COMPLETELY different from the same great art comics publisher, be sure to track down Brian Ralph's stunning zombie epic "Daybreak" for one of the scariest turns on the genre in recent memory. Only $17.56!
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HARK! on Comics Worth Reading

Updated January 11, 2012


December 20, 2011
Johanna

I wasn’t going to bother reviewing this book, because really, how many people do you need to tell you that Kate Beaton’s comics are hilarious as well as informative?

I am impressed, though, that something so distinctively unique has caught on so widely. If you’d told me that a collection of comic strips based on literature and history, drawn in a pen-and-ink style more reminiscent of mid-last-century editorial cartooning than other popular webcomics, would be one of the hottest books of the year, both popularly and critically, I never would have believed you. But it is, and congratulations to Beaton for so wonderfully doing her own thing. Not only is Hark! A Vagrant an entertaining read, it’s also an excellent example of how much the comic industry has changed and how varied the paths to success are these days.

Perhaps that’s a bit much to put on a volume of hilarious popular culture and history mashups. After all, this is a book where the Bronte sisters scope out brooding jerk dudes and suffragettes are re-envisioned through the lens of Sex and the City and Watson complains about being treated as comic relief to Holmes. Beaton’s modern perspective puts Macbeth and Edgar Allan Poe and Andrew Jackson and Jane Eyre and romance in general in fresh new light that also makes many of these well-known elements more memorable. There’s also an angry Wonder Woman and a crazy Aquaman and a sexy Batman and an insane Nancy Drew, in case you want some more recent allusions and re-interpretations.

Best of all are the author’s comments under many of the comics. When they’re not telling us more about the comic’s inspirations, they’re making more jokes. Beaton’s style is rough and immediate, the kind where you think, “oh, I could do that” until you actually sit down and try, then you recognize how much imagination and practice it takes. The comments and art combined make this book feel like a goofy bull session with a very creative friend. There’s even an index in case you need to find the section on King Lear quickly next time you need to brush up on your Shakespeare.

 
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  Kate Beaton is "making the funnies funny again" says the Uptown

Updated January 11, 2012


December 1, 2011
Kenton Smith

Enlarge Image

Let’s consider one example among this cartooning collection’s legion, where irreverence towards history, literature and philosophy are concerned. Jonathan Harker, the Victorian hero of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, scribbles a diary entry:

"5 May. The peasants keep crossing themselves around me and weeping, etc. Man. What the f*** is their DEAL?"

What’s funny is the juxtaposition: it’s like the members of Monty Python telling each other to piss off while dressed as biblical Jews in Life of Brian. Another apt comparison would be the popularity of satiric tome Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

It’s therefore surprising that Kate Beaton would include in this hardcover compendium of her Ignatz and Harvey Award-winning webcomic Hark! A Vagrant one strip that seemingly knocks the trend, with Jane Austen receiving a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Monster Trucks. Beaton’s own irreverence, after all, seems of similar stock.

Neither satirical example amounts to flip dismissal of the literary and/or historical subjects, however; rather they acknowledge only through the prism of one’s own time that one can approach the past. And it shouldn’t surprise that history looks funny: we people have had to learn a few things, after all, like the very status of adolescence.

The book brings together a wide array of work — some of greater polish, some of lesser — grouped around themes including French Revolution Comics. One of the most notable recurring subjects, given the Cape Breton-raised Beaton’s enormous popularity (she’s the rare cartoonist that enjoys sold-out readings and signings), is Canadian history and culture, as exemplified by examples such as Canadian Stereotype Comics.

And freed from the sort of editorial restraints imposed by family newspapers, Beaton produces funnies that are actually funny, with uproarious punchlines such as that of Billy Bishop’s Flying School. Her cartooning style is also funny in and of itself; characters boast an emotional expressiveness — much of it in the eyes and gestures — that’s chortle inducing. One priceless expression is the punchline to one strip concerning a gushing "fan" letter from Jules Verne to Edgar Allan Poe.

Yet Beaton’s satirical stick has a sharper end as well, as when former U.S. president Andrew Jackson smacks a fellow, scolding "Try to assassinate ME, will you!," and is in turn smacked by a Seminole Indian: "Send ME on the Trail of Tears, will you!" Beaton might have sooner turned her barb on a like Canadian example, of course, but never mind.

If all this seems a bit nerdy or esoteric, a lot of it probably is: some knowledge of history is likely necessary for appreciation. (Beaton’s own recurring textual commentary, seemingly as a means for us to better appreciate her historical subject matter, is actually rather irritating.)

The approach seems to be working for the now New York-dwelling Beaton, however. And as with classic strips such as Calvin & Hobbes, one can imagine fans fondly referencing their favourites years down the line. While comics have made great strides in being taken seriously, Hark! A Vagrant reminds us that they can still just be tremendous fun.


HARK! A VAGRANT
By Kate Beaton
(Drawn & Quarterly)
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HARK! A VAGRANT on SF Gate

Updated January 11, 2012


December 11, 2011
Michael Berry

Whether Kate Beaton's new collection of black-and-white comics, Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly; 169 pages; $19.95), fits within the purview of science fiction and fantasy is open to debate. Its expressively, yet simply, drawn strips are most often concerned with alternate interpretations of literature and history - very often Canadian history.

But the book also contains confrontations between Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, the very reluctant adventures of Wonder Woman and a quick run through "Dracula," a book written, Beaton points out, "to tell ladies that if you're not a submissive waif, society goes to hell and ungodly monsters are going to turn you into child-killing horrors and someone is going to drive a bowie knife through your heart/cut off your head/etcetera. As you deserve!"

Beaton has been posting her work online ( www.harkavagrant.com) since 2007, building a fan base that now borders on the slavishly devoted. And it's no wonder. Beaton knows how to strike deep at the satirical heart of the matter, treating her subjects with an inspired mix of erudition and ridiculousness, whether she's chronicling the cases of the world's worst teenage detectives or illustrating various Canadian stereotypes.

In eight panels, her "Dude Watchin' With the Brontes" says more about one branch of the 19th century novel than many doctoral theses. After you read "Hark! A Vagrant," you'll never be able to look at "The Great Gatsby," Nancy Drew or "Jane Eyre" the same way again, and that's what makes Beaton's Web comic worthy of this handsome permanent edition.


 
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  HARK! A VAGRANT tops PW Comics World Critic's Poll 2011! W/ BIG QUESTIONS, MID LIFE

Updated January 11, 2012


January 10, 2012

Although it’s often said that comedy has a disadvantage when it comes to winning recognition, that was not the case with this year’s PW Comics World Critic’s Poll: the book with the most votes was Kate Beaton’s webcomic compilation Hark! A Vagrant, a laff riot of frustrated admirals, over-zealous girl detectives and baby-dropping F. Scott Fitzgerald characters that cemented Beaton's ascent of one of North America's top cartoonists. Begun as a webcomic running on Live Journal, Beaton’s witty, learned strips skewering literature and obscure facets of Canadian history soon gained an eager following. This year’s collection, published by Drawn & Quarterly has been a consistent best-seller since it arrived in September, and it gained a spot on Time magazine’s list of the top ten fiction books of the year. Beaton has become an all-media star with cartoons in the New Yorker and an Adventure Time cartoon adapted from one of her characters.

Publishers Weeklys’ own critic’s were equally charmed by Beaton’s book—equally informed by classic New Yorker cartooning and modern superheroes—as Johanna Draper Carlson wrote “Beaton's unique work is one of the best examples of good humor being universal.”

Beyond Beaton’s win—with five votes from the critics panel—the selections showed the usual exhilarating range of styles and topics, from Carla Speed McNeil’s deep-rooted fantasy Finder: Voice to Joe Ollmann’s novel of 40-something crisis, Mid Life, with stops for almost abstract meditations on life from Olivier Schrauwen and Yuichi Yokahama. And everything in-between. With more than 50 picks from our critics, there’s something to explore for everyone who likes comics on the below list.

This year’s voters consisted of Chris Barsanti, Steve Bunche, Johanna Draper Carlson, Danica Davidson, Glen Downey, Bill Kartalopoulos, Dan Kois, Heidi MacDonald, Calvin Reid and Janet Weber.

THREE VOTES
Big Questions, Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
Lytical, ephemeral and riveting—Nilsen turns the “funny animal” trope of comics into a 600-page exploration of the meaning of life, with stops along the way for dread, horror and laughter.—HM

TWO VOTES
Mid Life, Joe Ollmann (Drawn & Quarterly)
What makes this graphic novel so exemplary is that everything it says is completely and utterly true. This should be required reading for every dude turning 40.—GD

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TIME calls HARK! an "unclassifiable work of genius"!

Updated January 10, 2012


November 16, 2011
Lev Grossman

There are unclassifiable works of genius like Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, based on the webcomic, which has to go on some list somewhere, but which and where it’s hard to say. And there are the big books that you know you should love but which you only like. I’m thinking of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, which I tried and failed to swoon for, though it’s not fair to single that one out. There are lots of them. You look at them, and you read the raves, and you wonder why you don’t see what the other critics see. Or is it me who sees what they don’t see? Is the culture broken, or am I?

 
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  HARK! on the LA Times Hero Gift Guide

Updated January 10, 2012


November 19, 2011

Are you looking for a magical gift for that special Muggle in your life? Do you need to send a wrapped present to a Time Lord in the near future? Or maybe you’re an enterprising soul who just can’t figure out the logical thing to bring to the holodeck holiday party? Well, no worries, just mind-meld with us because we’re here to save the day. Look, up in the photo gallery, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…the Hero Complex Holiday Gift Guide.

Flip through the gallery image above to see the best geeky gifts around and read our review (be sure to click the “CAPTIONS ON” option). Also below, grouped by price range, you’ll find those same gift suggestions listed with handy links to help you get your shopping done at light speed. May the nog be with you.

– Noelene Clark with Geoff Boucher, Nardine Saad, Rebecca Keegan and Emily Rome

“Hark! A Vagrant” ($19.95): (Drawn & Quarterly; Hero Complex feature)
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




HARK! and DEATH-RAY on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Updated January 10, 2012


November 25, 2011
Sam Thielman

Remember, at the very end of "Hamlet," when Fortinbras, aghast at the pile of corpses produced by the play's final scene, turns to the only other surviving character and says, "Tell me honestly, Horatio, is everyone in my new kingdom totally nutballs?"

No?

Then you've made the terrible mistake of not reading Kate Beaton's hilarious "Hark! A Vagrant," the long-running Web comic now collected in book form (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95).

"Hark!" may be the most intellectually fertile cartoon on the Internet - certainly the most literary. With a keen ear for the absurd and an astonishing command of historical minutiae, Beaton tackles subjects ranging in tone and seriousness from "The Great Gatsby" to her childhood notions of what an '80s businesswoman would act like on a date, and always comes away smiling.

Along the way, you'll notice particular things that push Beaton's buttons: jerks who steal all the credit (Thomas Edison from Nikola Tesla, among others), the predominance of white dudes (like, say, Lewis & Clark) in areas where women (such as, oh, Sacagawea) did just as much good. It's heady stuff for a cartoon with a lot of silly jokes about needing to go to the bathroom and a sidesplitting extended sequence called "The Adventures of Sexy Batman." Be warned, future historical movers and shakers: Step out of line on Beaton's watch, and people will be laughing at you for years to come.


Speaking of offbeat superhero books, the protagonist of Dan Clowes' "The Death Ray" (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95) might be the least appealing superhero in the history of the genre. He's a guy whose superpowers come from smoking cigarettes, he possesses a gun that can obliterate a person or animal without a trace, and he's kind of anti-social. But he's certainly a hero - at least in his own mind.

Clowes' obsession with the pettiest characteristics of a character can wear pretty thin at times, but in this brief, beautifully drawn volume, he casts his jaundiced eye on a guy who would be either a lot darker or a lot lighter in another cartoonist's hands. Yes, Andy, who wields the death ray, has powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men, but does he have morals beyond those of mortal men, as well? Can you love humanity and hate people? Clowes takes only 48 pages to provide answers, and they may be the highlight of his career so far.

 
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Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

The Death-Ray
Hark! A Vagrant




  HARK! A VAGRANT on Geek gift guide

Updated January 10, 2012


November 28, 2011

Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly – $19.95): Collecting the first set of the incredibly web comic by Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant is a beautiful and small hardcover that showcases amazing comic strips about the cartoonist’s interpretation of European, Canadian, American and world history, as well as her hilarious perspective of classic literature. It’s intelligent, funny, and honestly amazing. The comic strips are, as I said, hilarious, and the art in the book is funny too, but it’s also outstandingly expressive, which is not something you always see in a cartoonist’s web comic. It went over my head a lot of times when European and Canadian history were being critiqued, but there was humor still to be found, and the footnotes below the strips helped out a lot. In fact, I felt smarter after reading Hark! A Vagrant. Beaton and Drawn and Quarterly put together an amazing collection, and I can’t wait for more. So, get this for someone that’s really into literature or history. Also, Sexy Batman. Always Sexy Batman.

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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




HARK! and BIG QUESTIONS among Statesman's favs for 2011

Updated January 10, 2012


Joe Gross

3. "Hark! A Vagrant," by Kate Beaton (Drawn and Quarterly): Beaton's terrifically oddball history/literature webcomic makes the jump to print. Her cartooning is deceptively primitive, but her comic timing (in both senses of the word) is all its own — once you catch it, it's addictive.

8. "Big Questions" by Anders Nilsen (Fantagraphics): A decade in the making, this existentialist novel follows birds and snakes in the middle of nowhere as they encounter a newcomer and must decide what to do about him. Mythic and bizarre.



 
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Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Big Questions (paperback)
Hark! A Vagrant




  HARK! and THE DEATH-RAY on Newsday Bookshelf

Updated January 9, 2012


November 10, 2011
Sam Thielman

Remember, at the very end of "Hamlet," when Fortinbras, aghast at the pile of corpses produced by the play's final scene, turns to the only other surviving character and says, "Tell me honestly, Horatio, is everyone in my new kingdom totally nutballs?"
No?
Then you've made the terrible mistake of not reading Kate Beaton's hilarious "Hark! A Vagrant," the long-running Web comic now collected in book form (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95).
"Hark!" may be the most intellectually fertile cartoon on the Internet -- certainly the most literary. With a keen ear for the absurd and an astonishing command of historical minutiae, Beaton tackles subjects ranging in tone and seriousness from
"The Great Gatsby" to her childhood notions of what an '80s businesswoman would act like on a date, and always comes away smiling.
Along the way, you'll notice particular things that push Beaton's buttons: jerks who steal all the credit (Thomas Edison from Nikola Tesla, among others), the predominance of white dudes (like, say, Lewis & Clark) in areas where women (such as, oh, Sacagawea) did just as much good. It's heady stuff for a cartoon with a lot of silly jokes about needing to go to the bathroom and a sidesplitting extended sequence called "The Adventures of Sexy Batman." Be warned, future historical movers and shakers: Step out of line on Beaton's watch, and people will be laughing at you for years to come.


Speaking of offbeat superhero books, the protagonist of Dan Clowes' "The Death Ray" (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95) might be the least appealing superhero in the history of the genre. He's a guy whose superpowers come from smoking cigarettes, he possesses a gun that can obliterate a person or animal without a trace, and he's kind of antisocial. But he's certainly a hero -- at least in his own mind. Clowes' obsession with the pettiest characteristics of a character can wear pretty thin at times, but in this brief, beautifully drawn volume, he casts his jaundiced eye on a guy who would be either a lot darker or a lot lighter in another cartoonist's hands. Yes, Andy, who wields the death ray, has powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men, but does he have morals beyond those of mortal men, as well? Can you love humanity and hate people? Clowes takes only 48 pages to provide answers, and they may be the highlight of his career so far.

click here to read more


Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

The Death-Ray
Hark! A Vagrant




Globe and Mail calls HARK! A VAGRANT "witty", "innovative"

Updated January 9, 2012


January 6, 2012
Martin Levin

Several years ago, I was a juror for the Doug Wright Awards for Canadian comics and graphic novels, and we chose Kate Beaton as the Best Emerging Talent. It was richly deserved; I was delighted by her combination of literary and historical knowledge and a saucy pop-culture sensibility, witty dialogue and drawing.

In her first published book, the Cape Breton native, who these days has graduated to The New Yorker and other august venues, shows herself fully emerged. Hark! A Vagrant – the title comes from Beaton’s website – is a delicious gallimaufry that makes mock of cows sacred and profane with equal relish.

Drawing from history, literature and her own wacky well of inspiration, Beaton takes on the likes of Beethoven, Kierkegaard, King Lear, superheroes (Wolverine gets domesticated), teenagers, Dracula, The Great Gatsby, Laura Secord and sexual high jinks of various sorts and eras.

Most of the strips are accompanied by Beaton’s comments – arch, bemused, somehow combining irreverence with respect. For The Return of Annabel Lee, a strip taken from Poe’s poem in which Beaton imagines the young man haunted by the shade of his lost love, she writes: “When I read Annabel Lee and listen to that narrator pine and whine and pine, I think, ‘Man, Annabel? You put up with this loser?’ It’s okay to pine now and then, but a man needs a hobby that isn’t lying beside her grave and moaning. Then I wonder, ‘What if Annabel came back and she was just as lame as he was?’ It’s like they say: Be careful what you wish for.”

Two sections are especially clever. In a series called Goreys, Beaton reproduces 22 books covers drawn by Edward Gorey, acknowledged master of the macabre and the spooky, and then riffs cleverly on them. Her take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent supposes that the title character has been conned for 30 years into believing he’s a spy. For The Perfect Joy of St. Francis, a forgotten novel by Felix Timmermans, Beaton has a dove (as per Gorey’s cover) bringing the saint a pack of papers so he can enjoy what Paul McCartney called “herbal jazz cigarettes.”

The other series is Nancys, a series of sometimes bawdy takes on the Nancy Drew novels; Beaton admits to having read them all. In The Secret in the Old Attic, a clueless but persistent Nancy discovers where Father hides his “mystery juice,” with predictable consequences.

Beaton’s artwork is deceptively simple. Backgrounds are often very lightly sketched in, while the focus is on the main characters. And she’s adroit at creating character through expression: A mortally wounded Montcalm widens his eyes in annoyed disbelief when told that Wolfe has died before him on the Plains of Abraham; Joseph Kennedy’s expressions are variously sly, scoundrelly and smug as he schools his young boys in a merciless competition for the presidency.

There is also an interesting skein of feminism at play in Beaton’s work. She has great fun with the Brontë sisters, who fret over which male pseudonyms they should adopt in order to publish their novels: Wuthering Heights, by Bruce Punisher; Jane Eyre, by Johnny Guns. In Every Lady Scientist Who Ever Did Anything Till Now, she has Rosalind Franklin, an important figure in the discovery of DNA whose contributions were almost ignored until recently, being teased by Watson and Crick (pointedly unnamed) about her research, then announcing: “Well, I suppose I have to go into hysterics or have a baby somewhere.”

Witty, occasionally wise, sometimes surreal, at other times silly, mocking of past, present and pretense, Hark! A Vagrant is one of the most innovative and delightful collections I’ve come across. But where does Kate Beaton go next?

Martin Levin is Books editor of the Globe and Mail
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  The Smithsonian interviews Kate Beaton!

Updated January 9, 2012


January 3, 2012
Megan Gambino

In just four years, Kate Beaton has made a name for herself as a cartoonist. She launched her webcomic “Hark! A Vagrant” in 2007 and has since published two books. Her strips, which look like doodles a student might draw in the margins of her notebook, read as endearing spoofs on historical and literary characters. In one, Joseph Kennedy overzealously goads his sons’ aspirations for presidency, and in another, the Brontë sisters go dude watchin’.

Beaton, 28, started penning comics while studying history and anthropology at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. Her cartoons, about the campus and its professors at first, ran in the school newspaper. “I don’t know how well I ingratiated myself among the faculty,” she says. But now the New York City-based cartoonist hears of educators who serve up her witty comics as aperitifs to what might otherwise be dry lessons.

Just a few months after the release of her latest book Hark! A Vagrant, Beaton took a break from sketching Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights fame to discuss her work with us.

What do you look for in a subject? Are there certain character traits or plotlines you look for?

A certain amount of conflict makes it easier. But there are no red flags really. In general, you just sort of become very familiar with the subject and then you poke fun at it like you would a friend of yours that you know very well.

You once said that your approach is directly related to the old Gaelic-style humor of Nova Scotia. How so?

My hometown [of Mabou, Nova Scotia] is very small. It is 1,200 people or so, and it is really well known for its Scottish heritage. It was so culturally singular in a way. That culture grew because it was so isolated there for such a long time. There is just a certain sense of humor. They talk about it like it’s a thing. I read once in a book that it was a knowing wink to the human foibles of the people that you know. Usually someone is just sort of being a little hard on you or someone else, but in a friendly way. You have to live with these people. No one is a jerk about it. But it is jokes at the expense of everyone’s general humanity. You could call it small-town humor.

So what kind of research does it take to attain a friendly enough rapport with figures in history and literature to mock them in your comics?

For every character it is totally different. It is not just a character. It is the world around the character or the book or the historical thing. People take history very personally, so an event might have a second or third life depending on who is reading about it and who is writing about it and who cares about it. It is fascinating. I don’t really have a particular process. I just try to find the most credible and interesting sources that I can to read about things and I go from there.

Before you went full steam as a cartoonist, you worked in museums, including the Mabou Gaelic and Historical Society, the Shearwater Aviation Museum and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. Do you visit museums or nose through their digital collections for inspiration?

Yeah. I recently went to the Museum of the Moving Image to see the Jim Henson exhibit here in New York. I like museums a lot. I like visiting them, more to see how they present information than the information inside. That is usually the most interesting part. What do you choose to leave in? What do you leave out? I think the idea of public history is really interesting. What people know about and what they don’t. What is part of the story publicly? Who do you make a statue of and where do you put it and why?

The bulk of my research is online, although I have quite a few books of my own. You learn how to Google the right things, I guess, either a phrase that you think will work or any kind of key words that will bring you to an essay someone wrote or to Google Books. Archive.org has all kinds of books as well. You can find a lot of university syllabi. You can find so much. Go to the Victoria and Albert Museum website. They have all kinds of costuming stuff there. I needed to find a flintlock pistol recently for a strip about pirates, and there was this person’s website. He has one for sale and has pictures of it from all angles for some collector. It was great. The Internet is pretty wonderful for that kind of thing.

How do you make a comic appeal to both someone who has never heard of the figure you are lampooning and someone who is that figure’s biggest fan?

You try and present figures as plainly as you can, I suppose. That’s why my comics got bigger than just a six-panel comic about one subject. It became six smaller comics about one subject or something like that because there is too much information to put in. Maybe the first couple might have a bit more exposition in them so that by the time you get to the bottom, you are familiar with the characters even if you don’t know them from a book or from studying them. If I did a breakdown, you could see that maybe one comic especially will hit it big with someone who doesn’t really know much about it. It might be a sight gag or something, a face or a gesture, and then one will really hopefully pay some kind of tribute to somebody who knows a bit more about it. It would still be funny but it would have a more knowledgeable joke that goes over some people’s heads, and that would be fine.

Is there someone you really want to make a comic about but haven’t figured out the hook?

Yeah. I have been reading a lot about Catherine the Great lately. But she is so larger-than-life; it is difficult to take in all of that information. In some ways, you think it would make it easier, because she is somebody that everybody knows. But she is liked by some people, disliked by others. She had some good qualities and some bad qualities. What do you pick? What do you go with? If I made, say, six comics, what would they be, from a life this large?

What has been the most surprising response from readers?

Emotional responses, definitely. I think that one of the most emotional responses was in doing one about Rosalind Franklin, the DNA research scientist whose work was stolen by James Watson and Francis Crick and put in their Nobel Prize-winning book. That was just a huge deal in the beginnings of DNA research. They didn’t give her credit for her photographs that they took of the double helix. They won Nobel Prizes, and she died. It is so tragic and awful and people really responded to it, because she is just representative of so many people you read about and you can’t believe were overlooked. The joke is respectful to her. It is not the most hilarious comic. But it does give Watson and Crick kind of a villainous role, and her sort of the noble heroine role. It is nice to see people really respond to history that way. It is nice to touch a nerve.

I especially like when you use Nancy Drew covers as springboards for comic strips. How did you get started with that?

I started with Edward Gorey covers. I was trying to think of a comic idea one day, and I was going nowhere. I was so frustrated, and someone on Twitter was like, check out all these Gorey covers, a collection on a website. I looked at them and thought you really could extrapolate from this theme that is on the cover and make a comic about it. So I did, and they went over really well. I started to look for some other book covers that had an action scene on the front that were available in a set. I read all of the Nancy Drew books in two weeks when I was 10 because I was in the hospital and that is the only thing that they had. I read the heck out of those books and probably remember them in a weird haze of a two-week megathon Nancy Drew reading while being sick. Perhaps that weird memory turned Nancy into kind of a weirdo in my comic.

What is on the cover is like, “Here is what’s inside.” Be excited about this. There is no abstract stuff, because kids would be like who cares. There are people doing things and that is why you pick it up. You are like, I like the look of this one. Nancy looks like she is in a real pickle.

Have you ever felt that you went too far in your reinterpretation of history or literature?

Not really. I think I toe a safe line. I don’t really get hate mail. I respect the things that I poke fun at and hopefully that shows. Earlier on, I suppose I went for the more crude humor because you are just trying to figure out your own sense of humor and what your strengths are. It takes a long time to figure out comedy, to figure out what it is that you are capable of in it and what your particular voice is in humor and comedy.

Who do you find funny?

Oh, a lot of people. The same Tina Fey, Amy Poehler crowd that everybody seems to like nowadays. But I also really enjoy the old-style humor. Stephen Leacock is one of my favorites. He was a Canadian humorist around the turn of the century. And Dorothy Parker’s poems are so good and funny. It is hard to be funny. I like to take influences from all over the board. Visually, I have a lot of collections from Punch magazine and that type of stuff, where the visual gags are so good. I respect that level of cartooning.

When you do public readings of your comics, obviously, you are in control of how they are read, where the dramatic pauses are and everything. Do you ever worry about leaving that up to the readers?

You try to engineer it in a certain way. People are going to read it the way they do. My sister reads the end of the book as soon as she starts one. It drives me crazy. Why would you read the last chapter? She can’t stand waiting for the joke or waiting for the end. I try to construct my comics in a way that no one can do that. A joke hits them in the face before they can get to the end.

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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Austin Chronicle talks about HARK!, PAYING FOR IT

Updated January 9, 2012


January 6, 2012

Luminarium (Soho Press), Alex Shakar's second novel, is a rewarding literary tribute to brotherly love, existentialism, and the possibilities of modern technology, with emotional and philosophical depths entangling you no less than the dark mystery of a dead brother who seems to be communicating with his still-living twin via the (corporately stolen) video game the two of them created. Chester Brown's Paying for It (Drawn and Quarterly), the acclaimed cartoonist's unswerving account of his regular, ah, use of prostitutes over the past several years, doubles (or at least exhaustively tries to double) as an argument for the rights of sex workers. Dave McKean's Celluloid (Fantagraphics), on the other hand, is an unfettered erotic fantasy told, wordlessly, with the sort of glorious imagery – a stunning mix of hand-drawn illustration and Photoshop wizardry – that made all those old Sandman covers such a mind-blowing delight. Kenk, the first graphic novel from new company Pop Sandbox, is sequential-art nonfiction about "the world's most prolific bicycle thief," as vividly documented by Richard Poplak, Alex Jansen, Jason Gilmore, and Nick Marinkovich. Webcomics get a welcome incarnation in the offline world as Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly) brings the cartoonist's sharp wit and delightful send-ups of historical characters (real and/or literary) into paper and ink. Alison Bechdel, as editor of The Best American Comics 2011 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), offers just that in a hardcover volume of remarkable works conjured by artists from sea to shining sea. And The Godfather of Kathmandu (Knopf) is John Burdett's Royal Thai Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, struggling with murderous dope smugglers, his corrupt police chief, and his own half-breed and shakily Buddhist identity in the fourth of this thrilling Bangkok series. – Wayne Alan Brenner
 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Kate Beaton

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Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant




  The Manitoban calls HARK! "absurd silly-smart humour"

Updated January 9, 2012


January 4, 2012
Ryan Harby

Every now and then in life you read something you’re convinced was made especially for you, as if it’s been tailored specifically to your personal sensibilities. I almost always feel this way when reading Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant web-comic but, given its increasing popularity, I’m guessing that more and more people are starting to feel this way too.

Published by the Montreal-based Drawn and Quarterly this past fall, Hark! A Vagrant is a compilation of comics Beaton has published through her website: harkavagrant.com. The web-comic series revolves mostly around jokes made at the expense of historical figures or pieces of popular literature. There’s not a ton of explanation or introduction to the book but those who get the style will be able to jump right in and enjoy the absurd silly-smart humour. Comics that are particularly dependent on knowledge of historical affairs often come with a brief commentary from the author, though usually not much more than a few sentences.

Often in Hark! Beaton will tackle a topic from several different angles. There are, for instance, segments of the book dedicated to the French Revolution, Dracula, the Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, Canadian stereotypes and Hamlet, among others. A quick look at the book’s index and you’ve got yourself a murderer’s row of people, places and things that Beaton has made a comic about. Aquaman 84; Cladius 158; Jackson, Andrew 103-105; Oliver Twist 163; Riel, Louis 8-9; Thundercats 51; and so on.

One of the greatest accomplishments of Hark! A Vagrant is its ability — as a book and a comic — to be both smart and silly, witty and delightfully stupid at the same time. Take one of Beaton’s Gatsby comics for example; in three panels Jay Gatsby is being rebuked by a couple of upper-class snobs for not coming from old money. “Well, how old?” asks Gatsby. One of the snobs squints his eyes, furrows his brow and replies “Old as BALLS.”

Classic.

The writing is certainly funny in HAV but the real legwork is done by the comics themselves. Beaton’s illustrations of faces and figures are so spot on in their comedic placement that they’re often good enough to sell the joke totally on their own. Consider the concerned look given by Edgar Allan Poe after he reads a love letter from Jules Verne or the intense stare of the 1980s businesswoman trying to decide between two different sets of shoulder-padded blazers.

By now many have already been turned on to the greatness that is Hark! A Vagrant, but for those as yet uninitiated this book serves as a great, if slightly abrupt, entry point to a great comic series. I personally can’t wait for the next instalments, whatever they might be.
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




ONWARDS, HARK!, PAYING FOR IT, on read/RANT's 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2011

Updated January 9, 2012


Cal C.

10: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki

Originally published almost 40 years ago, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths only very recently got its first official publication in English. History buffs, particularly those interested in World War II, will find a lot to love in this semi-autobiographical story of a Japanese soldier fighting in the war. Shigeru himself was a soldier, and this book is based on his experiences fighting under Japanese commanders in a losing battle against American forces. From the non-stop hunger and disease to the sometimes-abusive, sometimes-incompetent commanding officers, Shigeru’s manga Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is dark, weird and realistic, but most of all, it’s unique. From the blend of cartoony character design and ultra-realistic scenery to the point of view that most Americans will never get about World War II, it’s a must-read book. Though flawed and occasionally unfocused, it’s fascinating and, frankly, a blast to read.


7: Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

Perhaps the most light-hearted work on my list, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant has been building on online fanbase for years, but her strips popularity has gone to the next level with the release of its first paperback collection. Having a knowledge of history (or at least an interest) helps, as Beaton’s jokes are often far cleverer for those familiar with the characters and times she’s riffing on, but anyone with a sense of humor will find an awful lot to love here. Beaton’s cartoony art could be seen as simplistic, but it’s a fantastic fit for her witty jokes, often giving her characters ridiculous, exaggerated appearances that only highlight the features she’s lampooning. Anyone in the mood to laugh should grab this book as soon as possible.


2: Paying For It, Chester Brown

Brutally honest, emotionally distant, and at times darkly hilarious, Chester Brown’s autiobiographical Paying For It is an undeniable success. The book is an utterly non-sensual look at the life of a man who, deciding to forego the hassle of romantic love, starts frequenting a variety – a huge variety – of escorts. Brown’s simplistic art and paneling and totally deadpan storytelling take a couple chapters to adjust to, but end up paying off hugely as Brown’s life gets weirder and weirder. Though it periodically devolves into a slightly irritating didacticism, particularly in Brown’s arguments with friends about the morality of prostitution, it is an endlessly readable book with some fascinating ideas and pitch-perfect execution.

 
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Chester Brown
Shigeru Mizuki
Kate Beaton

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Paying For It
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Hark! A Vagrant




  HARK! and ADVENTURES OF HERGE are (still) NY Times bestsellers!

Updated January 3, 2012


December 11, 2011

8 HARK! A VAGRANT, by Kate Beaton. (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.) This collection of work by the web sensation includes comic strips about famous authors, their characters, and political and historical figures, along with previously unpublished content. (9 weeks)

9 THE ADVENTURES OF HERGE, by José-Louis Bocquet and others. (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.) This biographical comic is about the man behind Tintin. (1 week)


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Featured artists

Kate Beaton
Jose-Louis Bocquet, Jean-Luc Fromental & Stanislas Barthelemy

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Hark! A Vagrant
The Adventures of Herge




Quill & Quire pick HARK! A VAGRANT among top non-fiction books of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


November 29, 2011


Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)
Canada’s influence on U.S. comics goes back to the 1930s, when Toronto-born Joe Shuster became the co-creator of Superman. But Kate Beaton may be the first artist to make Canadian history palatable (and hilarious) to Americans. Hark! A Vagrant, a collection of Beaton’s popular online comic strips, caught the attention of editors at the Paris Review, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and Harper’s, who join legions of fans charmed by her satirical, subversive cartoons of prominent historical and literary figures. There may be stronger technical illustrators working today, but there is no other artist who can serve up an egotistical Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on his deathbed, still trying to outdo General James Wolfe: “I’ll show him a martyr! I’m going to die so hard.”
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  TIME calls HARK! A VAGRANT "wittiest book of the year"

Updated January 3, 2012


December 7, 2011
Lev Grossman

7. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

It's tough to say what list this book belongs on, but it's the debut of a smart, funny, wholly unique voice, and it ought to be somewhere, so let's put it here. Kate Beaton is a cartoonist who draws wildly expressive portraits of historical and literary figures and then makes them say funny things. Quite often her comics reveal basic truths about who these people were or are. (Lenin: "Is the right time for revolution." Russian: "I do not wish to be communist." Lenin: "Would murderous atrocities convince you sir." Russian (rubs beard thoughtfully): "Go on ...") But the main point is that they're hilarious. Whatever else it might be, Hark! A Vagrant is the wittiest book of the year.

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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Wall Street Journal's Twelve Months of Reading includes HARK! A VAGRANT

Updated January 3, 2012


December 17, 2011
Helen Oyeyemi

-Kate Beaton's "Hark! A Vagrant," because I went through it with a plan to turn over the corner of the absolute funniest page and ended up marking almost every page-

 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  The Stranger calls HARK! A VAGRANT "very, very funny"

Updated January 3, 2012


November 25, 2011
Paul Constant

Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant has to be a contender for one of the best cartoon collections of the year. Beaton's comics are literate, clever, occasionally smutty, and very, very funny. Cartoons about books and literary characters are often too snide—think of all the cartoons you've read that feature tweedy professorial types in libraries—but Beaton assumes you're at least as well-read as she is. Here's Oedipus, weary of being the eternal stand-in for loving one's mother too much: "God! Can't they talk about anything else?" Robinson Crusoe is portrayed, finally, as the imperialistic jackass we all know he is, and Aquaman kind of gets his due. What a delightful book.
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Politics and Prose likes PAYING FOR IT, HARK!, ADVENTURES OF HERGE for 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


Chosen by Adam, Frans, Hannah and Andras

Chester Brown’s Paying For It is shocking, exhibitionist and gratuitous, which makes this book a strangely thoughtful and well developed genesis of a man who not only justifies his use of prostitutes but also argues for the rights and privileges of prostitutes. As R. Crumb explains in his introduction, Chester Brown is a strange man. He seems almost devoid of normal human emotion, but has somehow found a whole new way at looking at love and sexual desire. This volume has a lengthy appendices and notes section, where Brown goes on at length about certain arguments for and against prostitution. His drawing style is simple, but attractive, and leaves the reader with a feeling of witnessing something clinical in a strange, uncolored and unbiased way.

Part rollicking history lesson, part fan-fiction, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant takes the hilarious comics from her popular website and puts them into print with her own witty annotations. This book is like if Sunday morning comics from the 1980’s and school house rock had a love child, which in turn had a love child with the offspring of the Don’t Know Much About History and A Bit of Fry and Laurie series. Often, Beaton’s book is just silly and
that’s the way she likes it. Other times, the comics are surprisingly enlightening. Beaton has the answers to all your questions: Does Canadian history actually matter? Sort of. How many Watsons has Sherlock fandom created? Well, there’s Gay Watson, Stupid Watson, and Lady-Killer Watson...Vagrant’s art is as playful as its wit and the
book itself has an appealing layout, with series compiled together in theme. Whether you’re a lit nerd, history buff, comic fan, or just plain nerd, you’ll get a thrill out of Vagrant and leave feeling like the author is your new best, better educated friend.

Georges Prosper Remi, otherwise known as Herge, creator of Tintin, gets his very own adventure! Sure
it’s not as exciting as one of his Tintin adventures...but still, the famous cartoonist led a life worth reading about, especially if you’ve ever
enjoyed one of his many comics. This perfectly succinct biography, done in the clear line style by three of France’s lead cartoonists, is carefully researched, and fully indexed with a list of mini-bios of all the characters that made up Herge’s life. Reading this will make you want to re-read all those Tintin albums you haven’t touched since you were young!

 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Kate Beaton
Jose-Louis Bocquet, Jean-Luc Fromental & Stanislas Barthelemy

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Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant
The Adventures of Herge




  USA Today picks HARK! and DEATH-RAY among the best of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


December 16, 2011
David Colton, John Geddes and Brian Truitt

5. The Death-Ray, by Daniel Clowes (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95)
Fans of alternative comics will love this latest work by Clowes, creator of Eightball and Ghost World. Here an awkward (to say the least), teen decides to have superpowers, and the result is a true monster from the Id — with a ray gun to match his attitude. Winner of multiple awards, Clowes once again shows he is a master of current-day absurdity — with heart.

2. Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95)
You'll cry over this hilarious collection of webcomics but for an altogether different reason. Beaton winningly takes snarky shots at and explores the absolute absurdity of historical figures, literature and pop culture with strips titled "Dude Watchin' with the Brontes" and "Suffragettes in the City." Hipster World War II battalion? Check. Monks writing fan fiction? Check. Jules Verne crushing on Edgar Allan Poe teen-girl style? Check. A summit of Canadian historical figures including hockey legend Maurice Richard? Check. Not only will you laugh out loud, your guffaws will disturb the neighbors.
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Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Kate Beaton

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The Death-Ray
Hark! A Vagrant




HARK! A VAGRANT is

Updated January 3, 2012


CA Staff
January 2, 2012

#6. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Webcomic/Drawn & Quarterly)

Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant at first seems like an unlikely contender for comics superstardom. Beaton is a history nerd and a Canadian, and while her comics sometimes feature geek favorites like Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe, they also tend toward figures like Matthew Henson, the historically neglected first man to set foot (and, according to Beaton's brain, do squats) on the North Pole, and Canadian prime ministers Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. And Beaton's artwork is often aptly described as sketchy, favoring a loose, messy energy to clean and polished lines.

But there's always the sense when reading Hark! A Vagrant that you have somehow climbed inside Beaton's head and are looking back on the history of the world through her very unique lens. No event in Beaton's world is dry, no person stodgy.

It's great fun to imagine that every historical figure was as wild-eyed as Beaton imagines them; that Napoleon constantly had to correct misperceptions about his height; that Watson and Crick followed Rosalind Franklin around with schoolboy taunts ("Is it a scientific breakthrough in feelings?"); that Charlotte and Emily Bronte would spend their afternoons swooning over horrid men, with Anne groaning in the background; that Joe Kennedy forced his children to wrestle for his affections (and scolded an infant Ted for lacking ambition). Even if you're not familiar with the figures she's lampooning, each comic feels spontaneous and silly and, above all, human, and they're sure to send you to Wikipedia to suss historical fact from anachronistic goofiness.

Drawn & Quarterly's Hark! A Vagrant is actually the second collection of Beaton's work, after the TopatoCo-published Never Learn Anything from History, and it's very much a webcomics collection. Beaton occasionally wanders away from her historical roots, poking and playing with notions as diverse as Nancy Drew mysteries, Edward Gorey's book cover illustrations, Canadian stereotypes and sexy Batman.

Online, Beaton's impulse to pursue anything that captures her imagination is one of her great strengths; it keeps Hark! A Vagrant fresh and exciting, and these random riffs on her obsession du jour is yet another reason her comic feels so intensely personal. If Hark! A Vagrant had started first as a print comic, it's less likely we'd see these ahistorical tangents between the covers. The result is that the print collection closely replicates the gloriously messy experience of reading the comics as they appear online.

For folks who have long followed Beaton online, Hark! A Vagrant offers a bonus beyond merely collecting her comics in print. Beaton's comics stem from her genuine affection for history, and even the shortest and strangest comics are drawn from real historical events. In this print volume, Beaton adds her own witty commentary, putting each comic in proper historical context, so the less historical inclined among us can enjoy them on almost the same level that Beaton herself does.

-Lauren Davis


 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  Kate Beaton a Breakout Brooklyn Book Person with L Magazine

Updated January 3, 2012


December 21, 2011
Mark Asch

Kate Beaton On her web comic, Hark! A Vagrant, Beaton, who works out of a studio in Greenpoint, wryly mocks a wide swath of Western Civilization, distilling heady topics of study into concentrated bursts of disarming silliness. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what the internet is for; it’s no wonder she’s begun to be recognized. Leading indie-comics imprint Drawn and Quarterly released a collection this year, and she’s had cartoons in the New Yorker (“a doctor’s office thing,” she told us this fall).


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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          



Graphic Novel Reporter lists HARK!, PAYING FOR IT, GNBCC among best of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


John Hogan

Hark! A Vagrant
by Kate Beaton
Drawn & Quarterly

You’ve never learned history like this. Kate Beaton is a wildly imaginative and hysterically funny chronicler of literature, history, and more in Hark! A Vagrant, which will make you laugh out loud at her wry observations and unique artwork.

Paying for It
by Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly

Once again, Chester Brown exposes his unique views on life and love—this time by chronicling his sexual history with prostitutes. Because of his honesty, his take on love and sex—whether you agree with it or not—is profound. You can argue, you can disagree, but what Brown presents is his truth, and because of it, it’s captivating.

Honorable Mentions
The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists
by Seth
Drawn & Quarterly
 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Seth
Kate Beaton

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Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant
The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists




  Readings lists HARK!, SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE among best of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


November 28, 2011
Fiona Hardy and Andrew McDonald

Hark! A Vagrant
Kate Beaton
One of the internet’s best webcomics comes to print form: Kate Beaton’s illustrations, seen in publications like The New Yorker, are casual, loose sketches done to perfection. From Nancy Drew mysteries (based off the covers alone) to historical figures behaving badly to reality-based Mystery Solving Teens (they do a lot of smoking), you’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll be glad you bought it. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Adrian Tomine
The sheer act of planning a wedding can be overwhelming for anyone on the outside, and now we have Adrian Tomine and his clean drawing style to lead us through the quirks and pitfalls (and name-censored conversations about who to invite) that come with getting hitched. Small, snappy and great fun. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Kate Beaton

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Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Hark! A Vagrant




HARK! A VAGRANT and THE DEATH-RAY on Amazon's Best Comics of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012



 
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Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Kate Beaton

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The Death-Ray
Hark! A Vagrant




  A bit belated, but HARK!, PAYING FOR IT, SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE make holiday gift guide!

Updated January 3, 2012


December 6, 2011
Josh Christie

For the friend with a double-major in History and English:

Have a friend that would rather read about the crew of the Nautilus battling a squid than Batman* fighting the Joker? Give them Kate Beaton’s new collection, Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly, 19.95). The book collects the best of Beaton’s web comic, along with previously unpublished content and additional commentary. Beaton draws heavily on historical figures and classic literature, marrying them with filthy language, absurdity and non-sequiturs. Some of the strips may fall a bit flat if you aren’t well-versed in the historical bits, but there’s something here for everyone to love.
* If your friend does need at least a little Batman, the book contains the awesome Sexy Batman strips.

For the friend who doesn’t mind incredibly challenging content:

Want a book that will make someone question their moral code? Give them Paying for It (Drawn and Quarterly, 24.95) by Chester Brown. Brown’s memoir is an unflinching and honest look at the years he spent frequently employing prostitutes in his home city in Canada. Or, at least, the first 200 pages are. Brown, a former Libertarian political candidate, devotes the back half of the book to a polemic on why prostitution should be decriminalized. It’s a tough read, especially if you don’t share Brown’s views, but it’s an important book that takes an unblinking look at both the subject of prostitution and the memoirist himself.

For the friend tying the knot in 2012:

For those of you planning on popping the question, keep in mind that choosing to get married is the easy part. The planning of the wedding? That’s where coupledom really gets tested. In his slim hardcover Scenes from an Impending Marriage (Drawn and Quarterly, 9.95), Adrian Tomine looks at his nuptials in a series of short vignettes. This isn’t as draining as Optic Nerve, or as dark as most of Tomine’s other work. Instead, it’s a book that just oozes charm and sweetness. The topics of the comics don’t sound engaging (registering, designing invitations, choosing a DJ), but they provide a window into the personalities of Sarah and Adrian, and you pick up enough bit about their personalities that they feel like old friends by the time you hit the wedding day. At under $10, a great stocking for the recently engaged or for the married comic fan, who will surely find echoes of their own wedding in the pages.
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Adrian Tomine
Kate Beaton

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Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant




HARK! is "one of the hottest books of the year"

Updated January 2, 2012


December 20, 2011
Johanna Carlson

I wasn’t going to bother reviewing this book, because really, how many people do you need to tell you that Kate Beaton’s comics are hilarious as well as informative?

I am impressed, though, that something so distinctively unique has caught on so widely. If you’d told me that a collection of comic strips based on literature and history, drawn in a pen-and-ink style more reminiscent of mid-last-century editorial cartooning than other popular webcomics, would be one of the hottest books of the year, both popularly and critically, I never would have believed you. But it is, and congratulations to Beaton for so wonderfully doing her own thing. Not only is Hark! A Vagrant an entertaining read, it’s also an excellent example of how much the comic industry has changed and how varied the paths to success are these days.

Perhaps that’s a bit much to put on a volume of hilarious popular culture and history mashups. After all, this is a book where the Bronte sisters scope out brooding jerk dudes and suffragettes are re-envisioned through the lens of Sex and the City and Watson complains about being treated as comic relief to Holmes. Beaton’s modern perspective puts Macbeth and Edgar Allan Poe and Andrew Jackson and Jane Eyre and romance in general in fresh new light that also makes many of these well-known elements more memorable. There’s also an angry Wonder Woman and a crazy Aquaman and a sexy Batman and an insane Nancy Drew, in case you want some more recent allusions and re-interpretations.

Best of all are the author’s comments under many of the comics. When they’re not telling us more about the comic’s inspirations, they’re making more jokes. Beaton’s style is rough and immediate, the kind where you think, “oh, I could do that” until you actually sit down and try, then you recognize how much imagination and practice it takes. The comments and art combined make this book feel like a goofy bull session with a very creative friend. There’s even an index in case you need to find the section on King Lear quickly next time you need to brush up on your Shakespeare.
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  D&Q, BIG QUESTIONS, HARK!, DAYBREAK, praised by Montreal Gazette for 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 29, 2011
Ian McGillis

Graphic literature went from strength to strength in 2011, edging ever closer to the day when it will be spoken of as literature, period. Any form that can embrace subjects and styles ranging from academic studies to visual novels to social history to uproarious parody has a vitality that speaks for itself, and the books below represent the state of the art. The preponderance of titles from Drawn & Quarterly, it should be emphasized, is not hometown boosterism; the Montreal publisher is a world leader in the field, and this year might have been its best.

Big Questions, by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly, 658 pages, $44.95) is a haunting and beautifully designed metaphysical fable set in a blasted (possibly post-nuclear) landscape, starring a flock of philosophically inclined birds who mistake an unexploded bomb for an egg. Nilsen’s uncluttered visual style, relaxed pacing and terse dialogue creates its own dreamtime logic; he gives himself nearly 700 pages to let the narrative unfold, but still leaves readers to figure out the ultimate meaning for themselves. There’s laughter in the face of the void here, but as the title hints, there are also hard questions with no easy answers. Collectors and/or those with some extra money to spend can go for the limited-edition signed and numbered hardcover, a thing of beauty at a mere $69.95.

Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly, 160 pages, $19.95), collects the work of the Nova Scotian artist who in the past few years has built up a sizable following with her webcomic of the same name. Beaton turns the traditional three-panel strip form on its head with her parodic takes on Canadian and world history, literary classics and contemporary cultural foibles. With her squiggly line-drawing style and bursts of anarchic humour, she can remind you of the class wisecracker, but what gives the best of her parodies real heft is that they come from a place of affection. Her compact demolition of Wuthering Heights works on at least three levels: it’s gut-clenchingly funny, it takes a sacred cow down a peg or two, and it makes you want to read the original again. Teachers, take note: Kate Beaton could be your perfect aid.

The theme of the undead in literature goes back at least as far as Lazarus, but there’s no denying we’re now living through a period of uncommon obsession with all things zombie. Daybreak, by Brian Ralph (Drawn & Quarterly, 160 pages, $21.95) slots right into the zeitgeist with its tale of a teenage boy fending for himself in a post-apocalyptic world, his biggest nemesis being the zombies who come out after dark. For a roughly analogous visual and thematic reference point, think Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz fame, but Ralph has a storytelling style all his own.

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Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Brian Ralph
Kate Beaton

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Big Questions (paperback)
Daybreak
Hark! A Vagrant




BIG QUESTIONS, HARK! A VAGRANT on Oklahoman Best Graphic Novels of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 30, 2011
Matthew Price

3. “Hark! A Vagrant”
Kate Beaton takes a humorous trip through history and literature with witty, absurd humor featuring characters from Napoleon to Nancy Drew in this collection of comic strips.

5. “Big Questions”
Anders Nilsen's existentialist graphic novel follows a flock of birds dealing with a newcomer. Massive, bizarre and thought-provoking.

 
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Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Kate Beaton

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Big Questions (paperback)
Hark! A Vagrant




  Paste names BIG QUESTIONS ("rich and strange"), HARK! among best new comics of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 4, 2011
Garrett Martin, Hillary Brown and Sean Edgar

4. Big Questions
by Anders Nilsen
Drawn & Quarterly

Don’t get me wrong. I love comics. But it’s rare that they rise to the level of real literature, even when they’re very good. Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions, on the other hand, should knock snobs like me on our posteriors. Harold Bloom writes that potentially canonical writing has “a strangeness that we either never altogether assimilate, or that becomes such a given that we are blinded to its idiosyncracies,” and Nilsen’s brick of a book starts out the first and ends up the second. The reader is both mystified by its story (an unexploded bomb and a plane crash into a rural area, where they are investigated by birds) and, almost against his or her will, captivated by it. Nilsen’s spare but beautiful drawings and that abiding strangeness create a sense of awe that is rarely produced by cultural efforts. Much of the book is not easily explicable, and rather than being frustrating, its willful obscurity instead suggests you need to submit to the artist’s vision, not fight the current. Nilsen is not going to lay out clear answers, as the title implies, but the questions, big as they are, don’t come with any sense of pomposity, and there is much in the way of both humor and tragedy contained within. Not since Bottomless Bellybutton have I read something so rich and strange. (HB)

2. Hark! A Vagrant
by Kate Beaton
Drawn & Quarterly

It’s not that Kate Beaton dances on the thin line between stupid and clever. Instead, she plays both sides of the net between them, often simultaneously. Her mostly three-panel strips (and she has an instinctive sense of the rhythm of that form) address classic literature, Canadian history and all manner of cultural highbrow whatnot, but they never make you feel as though you’re being forced to eat brussels sprouts. There is no “I should like this” as you flip pages or polite smirking as with many a New Yorker cartoon. Rather, Beaton zeroes in on the ridiculousness of all her subject matter and deftly gives Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Shakespeare and Simon Bolivar a Wet Willie. Her drawings aren’t neat—the pen strokes scritch and scratch all over the place—but the faces and postures of her characters are fiercely expressive and hilarious. She also has an excellent grasp of what’s funny, using profanity, absurdism, sexism, racism, acknowledgment of sexism and racism, and pop culture to provoke laughs. You will probably laugh hard enough at this book to annoy anyone else in the room. I know I did. (HB)
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Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Kate Beaton

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Big Questions (paperback)
Hark! A Vagrant




E! calls HARK! one of the best books of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012



8. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
What happens when X-Men's Wolverine becomes too domesticated and starts ripping up the furniture? Were the Brönte sisters man-hungry Sex and the City prototypes? Did Sherlock Holmes dump Watson for a dopier, funnier sidekick? New Yorker cartoonist Beaton draws comic strips that mix pop culture, history, literature and goofball humor that leaves you feeling smarter even as you laugh at her ridiculous set-ups.


 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  HARK! A VAGRANT makes No. 3 on CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011 list!

Updated January 2, 2012


December 30, 2011

3. Hark! A Vagrant
Written & Illustrated by Kate Beaton
Published online at http://harkavagrant.com/
Published in print by Drawn & Quarterly

"The book version of Kate Beaton's webcomic is quirky and odd and utter genius whether she's taking on a bitter, chain-smoking Wonder Woman, showing Nancy Drew to be a clueless psychopath or doing a better job of summarizing the Great Gatsbyand contrasting the Bronte Sisters than Cliffnotes ever could. It would be easy to call her a national treasure, except of course, she's Canadian, but we love her anyway."
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Martin Levin calls HARK! A VAGRANT one of his favourites of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 31, 2011

I greatly enjoyed Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton’s debut collection of off-beat strips, Hark! A Vagrant – witty, informed meldings of literature and history with a very modern sensibility.

Martin Levin is Books editor of the Globe and Mail.
 
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  Flavorwire lists HARK!, ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS among most "buzzed-about" of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 30, 2011
Emily Temple

Onward to Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki

Originally published in 1973, Noble Deaths is the first comic by Japanese cartoonist Shigeru Mizuki to see an English translation. It’s a brutal introduction. Following a doomed platoon of Japanese soldiers in World War II and using moments from his own wartime experience, Mizuki mixes terror and gallows humor so well that a single panel can operate as a delivery device for both. This is a painful comic, an upsetting one, but it’s also very, very funny. It shouldn’t be ignored.

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s gotten exponentially more popular over the last few years, and there’s no easier explanation than just pointing at her comics and saying “that’s why.” In a lot of ways, she’s almost impossible to pin down. Her influences range all over the place; it’s not a surprise to see her shift from a belligerent, chain-smoking Wonder Woman over to a hyper-literate takedown of the Brontë sisters. She’s a master of emotion, with the most expressive faces you’ll find outside of a Jaime Hernandez comic. In terms of humor, Beaton is setting the bar for everybody else right now. She’s amazing.
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Featured artists

Shigeru Mizuki
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Hark! A Vagrant




NPR lists ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, HARK!, BIG QUESTIONS among best of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 22, 2011
Glen Weldon

Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths

A masterful, searing and unforgettable semi-autobiographical manga that presents the last days of World War II from the point of view of Japanese infantrymen.


Big Questions

A singular, and singularly effective, art comic. Highly recommended. By, among others, me.


Hark! A Vagrant!

I could go on and on about how great, how funny, how smart this book is. Oh, wait, I already did.
 
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Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Shigeru Mizuki
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Big Questions (paperback)
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Hark! A Vagrant




  The SNIPE lists Kate Beaton, BIG QUESTIONS, PAYING FOR IT, among best of 2011

Updated December 29, 2011


December 28, 2011

- Best Collected Edition or Reprint: Kate Beaton‘s Hark! A Vagrant. Do comics get funnier than this? Do comics with Louis Riel and Nancy Drew get funnier than this? Definitely not!

- Comics Creator of 2011: Chester Brown has been producing amazing work for years, and I think that Paying For It continues that trend with really fascinating and personal autobiography. This is a return of sorts to his works like The Playboy.

-Comic of 2011 – Big Questions by Anders Nilsen. Over ten years in the making, Nilsen’s magnum opus is beautifully drawn and is a surreal, captivating, and subtle exploration of humanity through the eyes of animals (mostly birds). Makes the case for “comics as serious literature” as few comics have.

- Creator of the Year – Kate Beaton. Beaton bridges the world of web and print comics with unprecedented success. Her Hark! A Vagrant book hit the top of the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list this year – who knew gags about Canadian history and English literature would be such a hit? Beaton knew! Her keen understanding of and relationship with her online fan base made the print version of her work a sure-fire winner.
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Anders Nilsen
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Big Questions (paperback)
Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant




Kate Beaton featured on the Chronicle Herald

Updated December 29, 2011


December 27, 2011
Bill Spurr

Finding comedy in the past has led to an excellent present for Kate Beaton.

The cartoonist, whose website Hark! A Vagrant attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, spent much of this year putting together a book, which has sold more than 20,000 copies.

Time magazine placed it at No. 7 on its list of the top 10 fiction books, calling it “the wittiest book of the year” and “the debut of a smart, funny, wholly unique voice.”

“It seems like 2011 was book, book, book, which worked out well because the book is doing just fantastic,” said Beaton, a Mabou native.

“Now that it’s done, I can turn my head to different projects again, and things do come up, anything from television to children’s books. I have a good agent who finds different projects.”

Moving to New York made Beaton part of a larger community of cartoonists and also changed the way she pitches her work.

“I’d been submitting to the New Yorker ..... submitting by email,” she said.

“It’s something else to be able to walk in to the office on submission day and stand in front of the editor and have them tell you what they think.”

The 28-year-old lives in Brooklyn and shares a studio with five other artists, giving her “this wealth of experience around you all the time,” said Beaton, who shared how she found out she was going to be mentioned in Time.

“You’re sitting in your studio or in a coffee shop, working, and someone sends you an email: ‘Did you see this?’

“But you’re just in a coffee shop; it’s not like you get a jewel-studded envelope.”


 
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Featured artist

Kate Beaton

           Featured product

Hark! A Vagrant




  NATIONAL POST names PAYING FOR IT, HARK!, BIG QUESTIONS Best of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 28, 2011
David Berry

5. Big Questions
By Anders Nilsen
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Anders Nilsen puts his big questions in the mouths of some very small characters: mostly, a gaggle of surprisingly philosophical, or at least contemplative, birds. Dark without being dour, funny without being glib, and willing to parry and thrust with its titular questions without ever going in for the kill, Nilsen’s work is something like an engrossing conversation with a good friend, never properly sating, leaving you eager to come back and find out where it will go next.

4. Hark! A Vagrant
By Kate Beaton
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Kate Beaton’s webcomics, anthologized here, are more or less the perfect marriage of cynicism and silliness: if there’s a running theme to her humour through the historical gags, literary piss-takes and sweet absurdity, it’s that deep down we’re all fairly petty and small-minded, and that’s maybe our funniest trait. Her wit is a kind of needle to pop the pretensions we ascribe to the world around us, though if you only appreciated her for the way she can draw greedy cheeks and wild, jealous eyes, that would probably be just fine, too.

1. Paying For It: A Comic Strip Memoir About Being a John
By Chester Brown
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Paying For It would be notable if only for the bare, matter-of-fact honesty Chester Brown brings to a subject we tend to prefer to ignore, or at least couch in all kinds of distancing irony, hyperbole and obfuscation (i.e. sex). At times a philosophical treatise on romantic love, at times a dryly funny look at Brown’s own neuroses and personal tics, Paying For It is as much about the subculture it’s exploring as it is about the things we do to be able to make it through the world. The starkest proof there yet is that Brown is a very singular kind of person, much less artist, it’s also the rare book that isn’t just going to make you question your opinions, but earn the conclusions you come to.
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Chester Brown
Anders Nilsen
Kate Beaton

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Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant




Kate Beaton on Sound of Young America!

Updated December 29, 2011


October 31st, 2011

Kate Beaton joins us on The Sound Of Young America to talk about her webcomic, Hark! a Vagrant. Her comic mines everything from Nancy Drew to obscure Canadian explorers for inspiration. Political figures and literary characters are re-imagined and skewered as petulant children, jaded superheroes and Victorian dude-watchers, accented by a very expressive drawing style.

We talk about building an audience online, Kate's own favorite comics and what gives her inspiration.

Her comics have recently been collected into a book, also called Hark! A Vagrant.

Click through to listen to the interview.
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  The Washington Post revisits Kate Beaton's appearence at last year's SPX

Updated September 8, 2011


'HARK! A WINNER': 5 Highlights from this year's SPX convention

The Washington area's SMALL PRESS EXPO is awfully easy to like. The indie comics convention puts on no airs, except the distinct air of a communal vibe. Access to artists is easy, the lines are almost never ominous (the obvious popularity of Kate Beaton notwithstanding) and most exhibitors seem to check their ego at the door, even though so much of this shindig involves the sheer act of self-promotion.

Living up to its reputation, this year's event over the weekend in suburban Maryland offered wall-to-wall highlights, including signings by such greats as Jaime Hernandez and such Ignatz Award winners as James Sturm ("Market Day") and R. Sikoryak ("Masterpiece Comics") and Kevin Huizenga ("Ganges"). Comic Riffs also enjoyed chatting up such talented cartoonists as Dave Kellett ("Sheldon") and G.B. Tran ("Vietnamerica") and Nate Powell ("Swallow Me Whole").

- Michael Cavna
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Spotlight on Kate Beaton's HARK! A VAGRANT and SPX appearence in Express

Updated September 8, 2011


Drawing Power

The world of comics has matured a lot in the last hundred years. Today, graphic novels enjoy a cred that Archie never did. This weekend, Bethesda's annual Small Press Expo gathers the best illustrators and comic artists working today. Here's our guide for whose table to storm, full geek ahead.

Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton does not mean to educate you. Anything you may learn from perusing "Hark! A Vagrant" — her webcomic devoted to art, literature and making fun of Canada — is just a side effect of mixing profanity, "The Great Gatsby" and jokes about Charles Dickens.

- Fiona Zublin
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  Quill and Quire's positive review of Kate Beaton's HARK! A VAGRANT

Updated September 8, 2011


It’s taken Nova Scotia native Kate Beaton a scant four years to make an indelible mark on the world of comics, in part because of her warped sensibility and irreverent wit, in part through appearances in magazines such as Harper’s and The New Yorker. Beaton’s new book, Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 cl., Oct.), features the artist’s unique take on historical and literary figures as diverse as Napoleon and Nancy Drew.

- Steven W. Beattie
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




KATE BEATON interviewed by the Vancouver Writers Festival

Updated August 18, 2011


The Proust Questionnaire is believed to reveal an individual's true nature. We have asked 2011 Festival authors 16 questions inspired by the questionnaire in an attempt to uncover who they are...



What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sleeping in without feeling guilty



What does your ideal day look like?

It's an autumn day, crisp and colorful



What is your greatest extravagance?

Time



What possession would you be heartbroken if you lost?

My great grandfather's history of the Scottish Highlands



If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Haha, looks in some way or another! Same as everyone, right?



What childhood fear has followed you into adulthood?

Getting spooked by dark staircases



Do you take comfort in darkness or light?

Both, depending



Do you remember your dreams?

Only the stupid ones



How do you collect snippets of observations and ideas that come to you unexpectedly?

I hope to remember them and usually don't



What emotions do you experience when you sit down to begin a new work?

You don't want to know



What is your favorite way to avoid drawing?

Oh god, anything will do



Does being in love propel or postpone your work?

Sure does!



How do you work under pressure?

The only way I work is under pressure



What published book do you secretly wish you had written?

Harry Potter!



Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I've honestly never thought about that



If you were reincarnated as a person or a thing, who or what would you be?

A bee-utiful lady



Hark! A Vagrant takes readers on a romp through history and literature with comic strips about famous authors, their characters, and political and historical figures, all drawn in Kate Beaton's pared-down, excitable style. This collection features favourite stories as well as new, previously unpublished content. Whether she's writing about Nikola Tesla, Napoleon, or Nancy Drew, Beaton brings a refined sense of the absurd to every situation.
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  Hairpin interviews KATE BEATON

Updated August 15, 2011


Kate Beaton is the artist and mastermind behind the web comic, Hark! A Vagrant. In it, she affectionately satirizes iconic figures from Queen Elizabeth to those wacky Fitzgeralds, winning her a spot in the hearts of history and lit nerds (and everyone) everywhere. Her second book, which will feature classic strips as well as new material, will be released by Drawn and Quarterly this fall. We caught up with Kate to ask her the tough questions.

If you had to be stuck in an elevator with any historical figure, who would you pick?

Haha, ah nuts! I always get questions like this and never know what to say. It's supposed to be something funny! I never think about that, I guess. I need a stockpile of historical figures to jam in elevators and desert islands.

Oh, I should cross the next question off my list then...

No, no, what's the next one?

All right, with absolutely no pressure to be clever: Do you think the people you've joked about in your comics would be fans of Hark! A Vagrant? Who do you think would be a poor sport about it?

Jeepers, that's not a bad question! I think about that sometimes, would they hate this? And I guess it depends! Some people I make fun of have gotten a free ride in the History Books of Good Opinion for a long time, so if I make fun of them I guess it's just them getting their dues. Like, I guess I wouldn't care if Andrew Jackson hated the comics I made about him. I try to celebrate people in the comics, both the good and the bad about them. You can't just take something and tear it apart; you have to show what makes these people memorable and great in their own ways, even if you are poking fun.

I imagine Mr. Darcy wouldn't have any complaints.

Man, that guy. What's he got to complain about anyway? Someone sent me an e-mail yesterday, and it was a picture of graffiti on the inside of a tube slide; it said "Mr. Darcy was Here."

Oh, new question! Best on screen portrayal of Darcy? Please keep in mind the only correct answer is Colin Firth.

I think I've only seen the two versions, Colin Firth and the recent one. The more recent one has Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet! I don't care what you think about Keira Knightley, all I am saying is: Donald Sutherland. But yes, Firth is the man for Darcy.

Some of my favorite comics of yours include the "Hipsters Ruin Everything" series, where you argue that young people co-opting aesthetics from artistic movements is nothing new. I really like that because it's a different approach to all the hipster jokes that tend to dominate the internet. Do you think the majority of hipster jokes have gotten redundant?

I think most hipster jokes on the internet are the worst, most unimaginative things there are, and this is from a woman who has made some! I have the WWII Hipster Battalion and Hipsters Ruin Everything comics. But I don't think any idea is so stale that no one can ever touch it again. It's just that most of the time, you see people go for that "it was cool last year I'm a hipster skinny jeans" route. I have a joke in WWII Hipster Battalion where one guy does that "maybe I would have been into this liberation of the coast thing last year." But that's not the main joke. The main joke happens when they actually get to Normandy and only liberate the cafes so they can loiter in them. So, I guess I am not above the old, worn out hipster jokes, but that can't be the only thing you have.

A while ago, you started a conversation on Twitter about the sexist compliments that female artists tend to receive. How has the response to that been, especially over the long term? Have you had other women come up to you to say, "yeah, I hate that too!"?

Oh, they were bad for a while. Some people really thought that I had gotten one person come up to me and say "I want your babies," and that I had no clue it was a common phrase and that I went hysterical, as if I had been born yesterday, I guess. I actually made the comment after I read an article about a friend of mine and in the article it was something like, "and she's cute, too!" And then in the comments underneath, the discussion just veered into people talking about her looks. Like, fuck you! It's so common, and people don't mean harm, but you just invite this discussion that has nothing to do with an author's work when you throw that stuff in there. So I made a comment about it! And I used one example that people focused on, that a lot of people could not see beyond. But that's OK; you asked about the long term response, and it's nice! People come up to me at shows and say "I appreciate what you said." There are a lot of folks out there who still think I'm a hysterical man hater, but who fucking cares? Pardon my language.

Is the type of feedback that you get online generally very different than how people respond to you at shows? Do you think people are ever shocked by your "real life" persona as opposed to the voice you've cultivated for yourself online and through your comics?

People are more nervous in real life sometimes! Which is hilarious to me. I mean, I wouldn't count myself as remarkable, so that's baffling I guess, but they're so nice. But the majority, like, I guess we have an idea that people are different in person than online - YouTube commenters - but I think most of us are quite similar. What you say on Twitter or in a Livejournal comment or e-mail, it's not usually very crazy stuff. Does that make sense? More people are genuine in their daily internet use, so the people who write e-mails are the same as the people who end up in front of me. I am mostly who I am online - not totally, because you can't be. You have to be reserved and walk a little more carefully, because whatever I put on the internet will never go away. Can't have regrets.

I've noticed there's that shift even in your work, between the sentimentality of your more personal comics and the punch lines of your satirical ones. Like, you develop a comedic voice and you have your "real" voice, which I think is true for most funny people.

For sure! There's nothing I like better than an interview with a comedian where they are talking in earnest.

How has the response been from educators and historians? Have people been grateful that you've been, to pardon the terrible expression, "making learning fun"?

It's been a great response! I understand that my comics are on a lot of profs' office doors and are used in classes. Like, "here's a comic to break the ice, now let's get cracking." So flattering! It's nice to have a tool that can ease a class into a topic.

Do you sometimes try to pick popular books that people have studied in high school to make your work accessible?

Well, it's nice to hit more people with one shot - something familiar that more people can be in on the joke. It's just nice to include! Though I read on the Hairpin that article about dudes' favorite books; if it's Lord of the Flies, they haven't read anything since high school.

By that same token, your more obscure subjects serve as a really nice introduction. I love that you're making Canadian politics popular.

Yes, it's also nice to send people off to learn about more obscure things! I like having that also. But if it's a more obscure thing of interest, it's probably going to be a history comic. That's just me, I guess.

Clearly, publishing online has helped your career. But you also run into that problem of people sharing your stuff without crediting, which I know can be a huge problem for many artists in the reblog-heavy era of Tumblr. Do you find that there are any more big challenges that artists working online might have to face, as opposed to those working in more traditional formats?

It's really hard for me to say! I've only known one and not the other. It's hard to get noticed either way, and hard to amass a following. Luck and timing have a lot to do with it, too. It used to be that people had a hard time being taken seriously if they were online, but I think that is turning around also. You're right about crediting work though: Tumblr can be the devil. Thousands of people looking at something and no credit to the artist, that's awful! It takes so little to say who made it. I had the idea that a lot of people have Tumblrs full of "cool pictures" to make themselves something of a tastemaker. "Your blog is so cool!" say their friends. It's great to share things around, don't get me wrong. That's how I became known at all! People showing my work to their friends, passing it around - I hate to think of anyone else losing that just because there is a culture of taking and posting, and who knows where it came from.

Last question: Who do you think you'd be most likely to befriend in real life: Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, or Nancy Drew?

Lois Lane for sure. In my comics, Lois has got it all figured out, Wondy is an angry chain smoker, and Nancy is pretty batty. Plus, Lois could sneak you in anywhere.

Do you think Lois would be able to help you escape a trapped elevator?

You have answered the elevator question for me! If only she was a historical figure, Lois would get us the hell outta that joint lickety split.
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Newsarama interviews KATE BEATON (part 2)

Updated August 4, 2011


Our two-part interview with Kate Beaton, creator of Hark! A Vagrant! concludes today. In this installment, we talk with Beaton about moonlighting at Marvel, the effect of the increased exposure of her work, and a disturbing number of questions about her native Canada. Read on!

Newsarama: Kate, what was it like doing the longer stories in Strange Tales, especially working with Nicholas Gurewitch?

Kate Beaton: It was fun! [Editor] Jody [LeHeup] from Strange Tales got up with me last year and asked me if I wanted to do some stories, and of course I did, because it's Strange Tales. You get to work with whatever Marvel characters you like, and it's free range. It's extremely artist-friendly - I had to give them the general gist of my story, to make sure there was, I don't know, no beastiality or anything like that (laughs), and they approved it.

It was a lot of fun-I don't know a lot about Marvel and DC characters, because I didn't grow up with them, it's not something that I had around. I did a lot of reading about the X-Men before I picked doing a comic about Rogue, and Ryan North told me to do something about Kraven the Hunter, and those were both good choices, I think.

And Nick - I've known Nick for a couple of years, and he did some comics for Strange Tales and they asked him to do another and he didn't have time to draw it, so he asked me if I'd be interested in illustrating it, and I said sure because he's great (laughs). He had a script, and I made some thumbnails, and he gave me notes.

We had some debates about what the sound effect should be when Thor hits the strong man machine, and it wound up being "Piff!" and that's the image they wound up choosing for the hardcover edition, which is really amazing! I can't believe that something I drew is on the cover of a Marvel book. And to be in a book with all that talent is crazy.


ENLARGE
Nrama: I'm curious what people's reaction will be who've discovered your work through that, or because they saw the Fat Pony on Adventure Time -

Beaton: You know, it turned out the people who saw the pony there already knew my work, so that wasn't an issue.

Nrama: But I wonder if they'll go, "There's cursing!"

Beaton: Eh, there's not as much as there used to be. Currently, the only characters who've cursed a lot in the strip are teenagers. I used to use profanity as a humor crutch more - I've talked to other people who've admitted to doing this as well.

You use certain things before you get a handle on what's funny and you've figured out what your sense of humor really is. If I can avoid using a cuss word now, I do. There's not much profanity now, unless that's the joke.

Nrama: I'm surprised that you haven't read that many superhero comics, because some of your funniest stuff has been Aquaman and Wonder Woman, and "Sexy Batman" and so on.

Beaton: I knew nothing, and I thought that's what came through the most. I don't know anything about Wonder Woman. Do you know anything about Wonder Woman? She's a bit of a mystery. It was like no one had nailed her personality at all - she was so shifty, because different writers wrote her differently. You kind of know what she's all about, that she came from the Amazon island, but when it comes to her personality or the great stories, it's not really there. I've been learning more about her recently, though.

I like doing superheroes once in a while, because it takes you out of things, and it keeps things fresh for me. For a while, I was only doing historical characters, and I got burnt out on it. It's a lot of research, and it's tiring unless you mix things up sometimes. So I wound up doing things like Nancy Drew book covers and things I found funny. If I find it funny, it goes on the website, and that works for me.

Nrama: Would you want to do something for Wednesday Comics, the DC equivalent of Strange Tales?

Beaton: I had not heard of it before you mentioned that, but sure. They haven't asked, but I'd be interested.

Nrama: Get the collection, you'll love it.

Have you found that new doors have opened from your work in "mainstream" stuff like The New Yorker, Harpers, the Criterion Collection, etc.?

Beaton: No doors have opened because of those things specifically. They all raise your profile as an artist. When people mention your name in a blurb, they'll put those things as accomplishments in it, and that's great, but those places came to me because of my website. The website opened those doors, and I'm glad to have had those opportunities and that people like them. Hey, maybe people read my comic because they saw my stuff there!

Nrama: For that matter, are there any movies for Criterion you'd like to illustrate in the future?

Beaton: Oh no, not really. I've done some things for Criterion and they're nice. I love doing movie art, like the Fargo strips. There's something inspiring about movies that make you want to do art. I don't have any specific ones, but if they asked me again, sure.

Nrama: Have you found yourself getting feedback from veteran cartoonists/illustrators you admire, and what's that like?

Beaton: Yeah, I'll be speaking at the National Cartoonists Society on Memorial Day, and I understand a few of those people read my comics and like them, which is crazy because they're all the newspaper people you grew up reading. Larry Gonick wrote me an email once, and that blew my mind, because he's Cartoon History of the Universe guy.

It was early in my career, and it was a note like, "Good work! Keep it up!" And sometimes that's all you need, that word of encouragement to go, "Thanks! I will!" (laughs) I met Seth and Chester Brown in 2009, and they both talked about how they liked my work, and I couldn't believe that they had ever seen my work, because they're Seth and Chester Brown! They're great guys, and very passionate about comics and Canadian comics in particular.

Nrama: I'm curious about Canadian comics, because there's so many great and diverse creators from Canada - you and the guys you just mentioned, and Ryan North and Bryan Lee O'Malley and many others. I know there's some government funding for comics up there -

Beaton: Well, not for everyone. I know a lot of American creators must look at the grant system with stars in their eyes, but it's not like everyone gets a grant.

Nrama: You're in NYC now, and there's a very close community of creators there. What do you see as the similarities and differences between the scenes in NYC and Canada?

Beaton: Well, when I was in Canada I lived in Toronto, and I was only getting to know some of the cartoonists there when I left, which was probably bad timing on my part. (laughs) My friends were webcomic artists - I lived with Emily from A Softer World, and was down the street from Ryan North, and I got to know many other local cartoonists as well.

There's a comics community there, and they're friendly to each other - you'll go to a party and these guys are there, and they're very welcoming. I guess it's smaller than it is in New York. In Halifax, the scene was pretty small - it was myself and Mike Holmes and a few others. There were Darwyn Cooke and Steve McNiven, but they kind of live outside of town.

In New York, there's a lot more cartoonists. My studio is myself and Meredith Gran and Sarah Glidden and Julia Wertz and Domitille Collardey and Karen Snyder and Lisa Hanawalt, and they're all insanely talented people. The community is just bigger, that's all. It's all the benefits of a bigger community, but it's not any less supportive or nice.

There's more access here to publishing industries and such than in Canada, and there's more events around, I suppose. I don't know if either one is better or worse than the other.

Nrama: What are some of your current favorite comics, online and off?

Beaton: This is my favorite question, because I feel compelled to name all of my friends (laughs). I would have to say online, my favorites are definitely Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie and John Allison's Bad Machinery. They just blow me away, they're so good, and they're both story comics, the opposite of what I make.

For print comics, I loved the Nick Bertozzi Lewis and Clark story. Vanessa Davis' book, Make Me a Woman, is wonderful. Michael Kupperman's comics make me laugh, and it's hard to find comics that make me laugh.

Nrama: Something I've been asking people in this series is what they think about the new opportunities offered by such media as the iPad and smart phones, and what creators can do to take advantage of these possibilities.

Beaton: It's too early to know. There are people who have formatted their website for iPhone and stuff, and I don't know how to do that. And iPads - they're basically a computer screen, and you can view a comic on it, so I don't think you need to format your comic for it. I think. I could be wrong.

You couldn't do something like a motion comic with my comic and have it still be good. It's kind of stubborn that way in its old-fashionedness. I draw it with a pencil, and you've seen my bad erasing jobs and my poor coloring skills! (laughs) I am all for people using new technologies, but I don't know that everyone has to jump on the new boats when they steer into the harbor.

Nrama: A lot of your strips have been on either literature or Canadian history - ever want to do a series on Canadian literature, like L.M. Montgomery or Margaret Atwood or Mordecai Richler?

Beaton: I read Duddy Kravitz, and that's too sad to make a comic about! Canadian literature - I just haven't done it yet. I might go hog-wild on it sometime, do The Handmaid's Tale and make some jokes about that. Atwood has a wonderful sense of humor, actually.

I should do something parodying Canadian literature in general, with its bleak settings and drunkard fathers and hardwired mothers. (laughs)

Nrama: I have a strange obsession with Canada as like a parallel universe to America. You'll just see these Canadian shows like Degrassi or Red Green on PBS or basic cable, and wonder about the little differences.

Beaton: Yeah, Degrassi...they've done some dark shit, huh? Canadian culture is different from American culture, actually. It's not always extremely obvious - it's more like values and history and attitudes and government.

I'm glad when Canadian readers like my comics, and when they see it as a contribution to Canadian culture, because there's a lot of American culture out there that overshadows Canada, or has the attitude that Canada doesn't matter. People seeing something as Canadian and it being well-received and popular among Americans is great.

I didn't do this to instill national pride or have a moneymaker, but it's just something I'm interested in - my own country's history. Once in a while I'll get an email saying, "What's with all the Canadian stuff?" Well, what's with all the American stuff on your blog?

Nrama: I was bringing these last few questions up because there's an obvious passion for the country in your work.

Beaton: You read books on Canada that try to explain the country and its history and culture, and it's fascinating. There's that great rallying cry: "Canadian history is boring! But who cares?" But it's not! It's full of conflict and problems and solutions and things people try to discover the same as any other country. It's fascinating, and not simple at all.

And it's nice to be part of the Canadian comics scene. After they started the Doug Wright Awards, you saw what could happen to authors whose work fell by the wayside. When you start looking into Canadian comics culture and history, it's so full of amazing people whose names are not known to the American public.
 
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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




  Newsarama interviews KATE BEATON (part 1)

Updated August 4, 2011


Welcome back to Newsarama's Wide World of Webcomics, our continuing look at some of the coolest comics on the web. This time out, we're doing some in-depth interviews with some of the best strips online - starting with a two-part talk with one of the web's most popular creators.

It's hard to believe Kate Beaton only started posting comics a few years ago. Since she officially her webcomic Hark! A Vagrant! in 2008, she's become one of the most acclaimed and widely-read cartoonists online.

Hark! A Vagrant is actually a regular compilation of strips, sketches and illustrations on a particular theme, featuring Beaton's sarcastic take-downs of such literary classics as The Great Gatsby, oddball characters such as the Fat Pony, and her look at historical, ranging from well-known names like Napoleon to many figures from her native Canada.

In the past year, Beaton's become even more prolific, contributing a few stories to Marvel's Strange Tales (in addition to her occasional mockery of the likes of Wonder Woman and her recent "Strong Female Characters" with Meredith Gran and Carly Monardo), and cartoons featured by the likes of The New Yorker, Harper's and the Criterion Collection. Most significantly, Drawn & Quarterly has announced plans for a hard-copy collection of Hark! A Vagrant later this year, putting her work in the same category as some of the world's most highly-regarded cartoonists.

We phoned Beaton, who relocated from Canada to NYC recently, to talk about her work, the changes in her life, and of course, history and the Great White North. Our conversation got long enough that it stretched to two parts - can you handle this much Kate Beaton?

Newsarama: Kate, the big announcement with the strip this year has been the hard-copy collection from Drawn & Quarterly. How is that experience different from the self-published collection you did, and how do you feel the strip functions differently in that format?

Newsarama Note: This interview was done a while back, and the book is now finished.

Kate Beaton: I'm not that far into the process, so I can't fully answer that. All I've really done is sign a contract and start work on the extra content. I don't know what the reaction or sales are going to be. Different publishers have approached me over the years, and I've deflected them all, because I wasn't ready to publish a book, I didn't know anything about the industry, and I didn't have an agent.

I had to put out a new book soon, because the other book is getting old, and I had enough content to fill another one. I didn't know whether I wanted to go the self-publishing route or book publisher, but I figured at this point at what you might call my career that the publisher was the best idea.

It's books put out by publishers that get the media attention and the award nominations and those sort of things, and I'm not looking for awards or media attention, but I am looking for the next thing to do.

When you're playing it by ear in a job like this, I found myself thinking, whether I wanted to make the book myself and have it not be as nice but get a bigger cut of sales, or go with a publisher, and have it be in bookstores and have it be on shelves and in libraries. And I wanted the second; I wanted something that was really out there.

Hopefully it'll be a good idea. Drawn & Quarterly are an amazing company; they've put out beautiful books, and they've tried very hard on the part of the artists. Everyone's heard stories about bad publishing deals that didn't work out, but I've had no trouble with D&Q. They put out good products and stand behind them. And they were excited about working with me, which is another good thing.

In the end, why I went with a publisher is just because it felt like the right thing to do right now.

Nrama: What's the new material for the collection?

Beaton: It'll be about 20 new pages, new strips and things.

Nrama: Will it include the commentaries you have for the online version?

Beaton: Yeah, I've expanded a lot of them. I think they add a lot to the strips, the titles and commentaries, because a lot of what I do is referential humor, and the more you put on the page, the more helpful you might be for someone who's never heard of the topic you're talking about, and the more comfortable you can make someone about something they're not familiar with.

Nrama: It sometimes reminds me of a dry, sarcastic Schoolhouse Rock. "If you'd like to learn more about this figure, with less sarcasm and swearing..."

Beaton: Yeah! Because I don't want to just put up a comic about a historical figure that totally lampoons them and then just dances off stage. They're subjects I care about and topics I find interesting, and I find it hard not to open my big mouth after each one. But it does create a larger sense of handing out that package of something instead of a joke out of the blue that is perhaps a bit esoteric.

Nrama: It seems like these days, there's more of an emphasis on "warts-and-all" historical books...

Beaton: In the 1970s, a lot of history books started to be written from the bottom up, instead of just being a survey of kings and queens and the winners and who was in power, while ignoring the less visible people in history. People want to understand the context, and who was left out, and more than just who was king in 1679 or what have you. There's not just one history, there's lots.

Nrama: Why do you feel people sometimes tend to skim over the specifics of history, or embrace myths like, "Columbus discovered America?"

Beaton: I think it's partly out of habit, and partly what you were taught. If you were taught, "Christopher Columbus was an awesome guy and he came to America and threw a party for everybody and was rad," and you didn't read any history after school, that might be what you thought of him. Things just become ingrained, and the bad parts of history are embarrassing and incriminating.

You can see why people didn't want to talk about bad things for a long time. I'm not a historian or educator; it's hard to say why people did the things they did 50 years ago. And a lot of sources when history was initially recorded were biased; a history book written in 1880 might seem horribly racist, for example. It's only in recent years that we've had the proper educational resources that tell a bigger story and a more multi-sided story than before.

Nrama: Getting into your process - when do you feel the strip hit its stride? Reading back through the archives, I felt like around #200, your style really came together well...

Beaton: Around #200, I moved to Halifax from Toronto. In Toronto, I kind of worked on comics in my bedroom - I didn't have a real workspace. In Halifax, I made a workspace in my apartment, and then studio space, and that made a real difference.

For the first hundred or so strips...more than a hundred, really, it wasn't my job, and you see a lot of scratchy things or things I made in Microsoft Paint. I don't know if I ever had a moment where I went, "Here we are, now is where my art is where it supposed to be!", it just evolved.

I used to do longer-form strips, and now I do shorter strips. I used to have a lot of dialogue, and now I cut a lot of dialogue out. I look back at things I wrote two years ago, and I probably wouldn't write that today. Sometimes I think they're still funny, sometimes I don't, because you can't get the same thing all the time, or draw the same way all the time.

The past few months, people have written me to say there's been another shift in my art - and I can't see it. Maybe it's there, who knows?

Nrama: One thing that's been a big movement forward with the strip has been doing a series of smaller strips in each installment.

Beaton: I don't remember how that started. I'd get an idea for a six-panel strip and then have too many ideas, or you're just trying to fit too much information in. With those strips, they were just exploding out idea-wise, and I started to make a series.

I don't feel comfortable putting up just one comic if it's just three panels, or two or three comics about something as big as The Great Gatsby. You can't just make one joke, you need to make the definitive joke, as it were. When you're making jokes about a person, you're taking everything about who they were and what made up their lives and so on.

And with those longer strips, you can afford to be cute, or put less pressure on the individual strip to b extremely funny. When you have a humor comic where people come to it and expect to laugh, relying on one comic strip to do that became...harder, I think. And I found it easier to write six strips than to write one.

I like to explore a topic, and it's random every time - it's waking up and going "I want to make a comic out of this." It's what I've been reading, it's what I'm interested in, I'm always making little notes and doodling things. A strip might be based on one panel, one image that comes to mind, and building a strip around it.

Right now, I'm reading Jane Eyre, so maybe I'll make some strips on that for the book, and maybe the website too.

Nrama: You talked about doing longer stories in the past earlier - and you've said before you don't want to take time away from the strip to do a graphic novel and lose your audience and momentum. Do you still feel that way or...?

Beaton: Yep. I do. (laughs) I couldn't do a graphic novel and update my website at the same time. I mean, right now I'm producing more comics for the book and I can't keep my website schedule as I want. That's a full-time job for a year! And I don't have a story to tell that's that long, and that my skills are honed enough to do it either.

I like having things that are contained. People go, "If you like Macbeth, why don't you do six strips, and do it over six days with one strip every day?" I hate putting up something that's incomplete. I like things that are contained, things that I can finish within a reasonable amount of time, on my plate, not like a whole book.

Aside from that, I do humor, and there are not that many full-length humor story comics, I think. There are comics with humor in them, but not where it's the main point - I could do a full-length parody of Napoleon's life, maybe, but not right now.

Nrama: But is a book something you could see doing someday, years from now, perhaps?

Beaton: Yeah, sure! I don't rule anything out. Like I said, things evolve very fast. I've only been doing this a few years, and the comics I do now are very different from the ones when I began, I think. Who knows when you have the hankering to do thing - maybe I'll get really sick of doing short things and want to move on, but right now I'm content with what I have.

Nrama: I'm curious if you'd want to do, say, a profusely illustrated prose book for kids, like The Phantom Tollbooth or a Daniel Pinkwater book or something.

Beaton: I think that'd be excellent. Again, you need a story. I think about doing things for kids a lot, because it's so much fun to try to think of something they'd like. We look back so fondly on the things we enjoyed as kids, because it's so pure and nice and fun. They enjoy something because they just enjoy it to its very core. Why wouldn't you want to get in on that sweet action? (laughs) Someday, yeah, but right now I have my hands full.

Next: Kate Beaton on Strange Tales, Canada and more!

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Kate Beaton

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Hark! A Vagrant




Book Madam raves about D+Q artists!!

Updated May 19, 2011




Do comic snobs still exist? Not the people who are snobby about comics, I know those exist (and are easily dealt with via wedgie, swirly, or punching their pocket protectors until their pens break), but the luddites who refuse to see comics as a valid literary art form?

If so, they would not have had a good time at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend. I, however, managed to break the bank and walk away with signed books from Chris Ware, Philippe Girard, and Darwyn Cooke. Possibly three of the most talented comics-artists today, right along with Seth, Faith Erin Hicks, Adrian Tomine, Chester Brown, Kate Beaton, Jillian Tamaki, and Jeff Lemire. They were all there too. I'm not going to link those; I don't want to spend all day linking to incredible creators and writers who were at TCAF as that would take all damn day.

I will link to Mike Holmes. I am shameless.

What's somewhat astounding to me is how many of these amazing artists are Canadian. There seems to be a large number of Canadians in the top-tiers of comics today. No one who pays attention to indie comics today would disagree that the artists I've listed are among the top-tier of comics creators today, and all but Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware are Canadian.

A lot of that can be attributed to the ineffable Drawn and Quarterly, who really set the bar for literary comics. Based in Montreal, Quebec, they have published everyone from Daniel Clowes to Julie Doucet to Lynda Barry to Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

But the Canadian goodness doesn't stop there; Conundrum Press is an incredible Nova Scotia-based publisher with an impressive list of talent. The aforementioned Philippe Girard (If you're into Guy DeLisle or more aptly, the Michel Rabagliati Paul series, Girard is for you.), Marc Bell, David Lapp, and even Jillian Tamaki. I could go on. Owner Andy Brown has a sharp eye for the weird and wonderful.

TCAF was great, the constantly-packed house was a testament to the vibrant Canadian comics community, which, much like short stories, is an art we seem to have an abundance of excellence in, yet is unfortunately somewhat overlooked by the average reader. And because of that, I offer you a list of five Canadian artists and books which you should a) read and b) give to someone to show them that comics are awesome.

1) Skim - Jilliand and Mariko Tamaki - Coming of age story, natch. Set in a private school, this (emphatic string of words)ly illustrated tale brings to life the crushing, soul-sucking world that is teenagehood. My partner read the whole thing, which is saying something as she HATES comic books.

2) Burma Chronicles - Guy Delisle - A travelogue of a regular guy who moves to Burma with his wife, a UN worker. It's the classic slice-of-life comic, set in Burma.

3)Killing Velazquez - Philippe Girard - There's a priest and a 'boy's club' and it's autobiographical. An amazing book; Girard's raw style of illustration works disconcertingly well at portraying the torment of the story.

4) Parker: The Hunter - Darwyn Cooke - The first of four, Darwyn Cooke adapts and illustrates noir author Donald Westlakes' famous Parker series.

5) Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton - Gut-bustingly funny webcomics which are being turned into a book by Drawn and Quarterly. This is a book I will buy. I highly suggest not following this link until you have some serious spare time, as you will probably break the back button on your browser from clicking so much.
 
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Chris Ware
Guy Delisle
Kate Beaton

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  (Cult)ure Magazine interviews Kate Beaton

Updated January 12, 2011


March 1, 2009
Kevin Johns


Intelligent, wacky, insightful, silly, educational, hilarious, sloppy, beautiful – it is difficult to pin down Kate Beaton’s work with a single adjective. The Canadian webcomic creator produces comics in a variety of styles, though she is perhaps best known for her strips featuring historical figures (and history is never funnier than when filtered through Beaton’s unique perspective!). Whether she is illustrating the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte or Brian Mulroney, conversations with her younger-self or other autobiographical tales, Beaton’s most consistently recognizable trait isn’t the characters she uses or the format she tells her tales in but the underlying wit and humour that powers her art throughout.

In between illustrating the antics of Canadian Prime Ministers of old and the latest Shetland Pony Adventures, Kate Beaton found some time to chat with (Cult)ure.

(Cult)ure: Your historical and autobiographical comics are approached with a thin-lined loose feel and your 'paint' comics are full-on minimalist. Do you consciously approach your work from a minimalist perspective?

Kate Beaton: No, I wouldn't say it that way. I might take a long time thinking up a set-up with a certain historical figure, then boil it down and draw it rather quickly. My art is impatient more than it is minimalist. Also, I used to make the msn paint comics while I was at work on breaks since there was nothing else to do.

It has been argued that the role of the illustrator in webcomics is overemphasized, while the role of the writer is underappreciated. Are you able to separate your work as a writer from your work as an illustrator, or do you see them as one in the same?

They are one in the same! People like to think of comics in terms of a division of labour because some people are better at one aspect than the other or because some people collaborate in this way. But when you are presenting a story in words and pictures, there is no way one can just carry the other, and I believe most comic artists don't think of them separately.

Something rather unique about your dialogue is the lack of punctuation. For the most part, your characters' dialogue is grammatically unadorned.

It is a little manic, isn't it? I get a lot of comments on that, but to be honest it was never really intentional. It might come from cramming comics that should be longer into one page, but no one has told me yet that they don't read well in spite of it. I probably squeak by because I am lucky to have a knack for expression, which takes some of the pressure off exact appropriate voice and emphasis in dialogue.

Another striking aspect of your work is your totally unique phrasing.

This may sound strange, but I think part of that comes from the place where I was raised. Cape Breton, like Newfoundland, is famous for odd turns of phrase, and while you wouldn't notice it if you were speaking to me, I've retained a lot of that different speech structure – especially with my approach to humour, which is directly related to the old Gaelic style humour of Nova Scotia.

In what other ways has being Canadian influenced your art and its perspective?

Well, my experience is Canadian; it is pretty simple. It doesn't affect my art much, but the type of humour I employ and the topics I choose take a lot from living here. There is a common thought that Canadian history is boring, which I find disappointing, and I like proving otherwise if I can. I'm fascinated by the history of this country and the complexities of the national character, and I am for the promotion of Canadian culture because there are so many interesting things going on but comparatively little said about it. I sense this from readers as well; there is always such a wonderful response when I choose a topic from our history.

Your autobiographical comics and 'conversations with younger self' are often self-deprecating. Do you consider humility an important part of comedy?

The worst thing most people can do making comics is try to make themselves look cool! The internet is a safe haven for a lot of sort of autobio comics about dudes being awesome, hanging out, and saying witty things back and forth. They are also supposed to be funny, but the majority of these are awful, of course. Humility is important in the sense that it is honest and relatable, and comedy is, in many ways, about knocking people down to size. You can't have it both ways – as nice as it would be, there is nothing funny about being the wittiest and best looking person in the room. That said, I understand I am particularly self-deprecating and probably a good example of taking it too far the other way. I just think the easiest person to make fun of is yourself.

You’re probably best known for your comics poking fun at historical figures. What is the connection between history and comedy?

History is really delightful because anyone can "own" it. The affection or respect or hate I have for a certain figure can be equally felt by almost any person. I think we read history in a really personal way, so the act of taking humour out of it has a special joy. Which explains why people gravitate towards it but not why it is funny. It is funny because we have no one to tell us where to draw the line. The remove we have from the events gives us the ability to make light of absolutely terrible situations without anyone being offended. Plus, the past looks peculiar to us: the clothes, beliefs, and manners are all fair game. I shy away from modern history quite a bit because those topics are tricky, people are touchy, and I worry about tact. In another century, however, they are maybe going to make jokes about, say, the Quebec separatist movement and people are going to love it.

"I'm fascinated by the history of this country and the complexities of the national character, and I am for the promotion of Canadian culture because there are so many interesting things going on, but comparatively little said about it."


Do you draw any sort of line for yourself regarding how close you stick to historical fact and how 'out there' you will go for laughs?

A real problem with doing comics about history – if you like history – is getting attached to the subjects and not wanting to make someone look bad or foolish because of this attachment. I've read about certain things for days then have been unable to get a joke out of it because I've gotten too serious about it and can't ignore the complexities of the story. That is usually an occurrence with lesser known figures who require a lot of reading to get to know; however, there are certain figures that are, in a way, in the public domain – everyone knows about them and little research or thought is required. These are usually going to be old white men, your Washingtons and Napoleons, etc. They are much easier to poke fun at in a very exaggerated way, and I like the silliness of it, but I would not want all comics to be that way.

Your comics don't stick to any single format or subject matter. Do you enjoy the freedom this affords you as a creator, or is it more difficult when there is no strict formula to follow?

It is a bit of both. Freedom to do any topic is very nice, but staring at a blank paper with no idea what to put on it is not very nice. Sometimes I think it would be much better to have a comic with a story that goes on and on, so you always know where to start your next page, but I don't think I would like that situation for very long.

Would you have any interest seeing your strips published in newspapers, or do you consider newspaper a dying medium?

I think everyone considers newspapers to be a dying medium, which is a little sad. But I have only heard that working with the syndicates is frustrating and limiting, and I would not be happy doing that even if newspapers were booming. In any case, they probably wouldn't give me a job even if I wanted one. I am published in some newspapers, though, from time to time.

What's the future of your website and for Kate Beaton comics as a whole?

The future for the website is to get rid of the current one and make a new one. It really was built on the worst website design program, but I didn't think much about the implications of those things when I made it. I will be glad when it is done. The future for the comics is only that I will keep making them. I haven't any specific plans, but you never know what opportunities may pop up.

Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          



Macleans profile on Kate Beaton

Updated January 12, 2011


March 13, 2009
Alexandra Shimo

Was Lester B. Pearson too nice to be prime minister? Was John Diefenbaker a mad, bug-eyed egotist? And was Pierre and Margaret Trudeau’s marital relationship a little like that of father and daughter? These are the sorts of questions 25-year-old Kate Beaton gently probes in her series of comics on Canadian history, which are unusual enough to have sparked the sort of praise most writers spend a lifetime cultivating.

Originally from Cape Breton, Beaton is a Toronto-based cartoonist who has fans ranging from award-winning graphic novelists to geeky comic nerds. In the little over a year she’s been doing the comics, her work has been talked about on the website Wonkette and in Bitch magazine; a reviewer for Wired magazine called Beaton’s the “funniest comic that I’ve read in awhile.” Recently Daily Show writer Sam Means approached her to illustrate a children’s book he is writing. About 10 other agents and publishers have asked her to write a book, but so far she’s refused. Still finding her feet, Beaton wants to find out more about the industry so she doesn’t get shortchanged. Also, since she hasn’t yet drawn enough to fill a book, she doesn’t want to become “overwhelmed.”


If you’ve seen a Beaton comic, it might have been on the comics pages of the National Post, or perhaps through a link to her website, www.katebeaton.com. Although she has thousands of Canadian fans, the readers of her website are mainly American. Their reactions to (for them) unknown, obscure figures such as Wilfrid Laurier range from bemusement to gratitude for an introduction to a culture and history outside their own. The otherness makes her “vaguely otherworldly,” says Seattle-based Larry Cruz, who writes reviews on the website, The Webcomic Overlook. Beaton’s work is “delightful, funny and endearing even if I have no idea what in the world this crazy Canuck is referencing.”

Making history funny to people who don’t know their Sir John A. from McDonald’s is a challenge, she says. And if you’re not a history buff and don’t know, for instance, who Edwin Booth is, you probably won’t get all the jokes. Then again, if you know these subjects too well you might be irritated by her generous use of artistic licence. Rather than sticking to the facts, she imagines the inner lives of her characters, making them say things that sound modern, says John Martz, chair of the Canadian chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. Her subjects are often long dead, yet they seem like real people, albeit with oversized personalities or embarrassing foibles. In one cartoon, Brian Mulroney has a secret fetish for all things American. In another, Pierre Trudeau scolds Margaret for partying too much, and is then rebuffed with an impudent “You’re not my dad.”

Each panel is drawn in a simple, uncluttered style that looks childlike, almost unfinished. The style has been a trademark since she started drawing as a child; her school didn’t have an art department, so she would buy supplies online with her pocket money, and sketched in the hallways during breaks. Summers were spent working at different museums, as an archivist or researcher. After she finished her bachelor’s degree at Mount Allison in New Brunswick, she went to work in Fort McMurray to pay off her student loan. The work was “difficult and lonely,” she says; during the days, she would do office or manual work and at nights, she would draw her comics. In October 2007, she started putting them online where they quickly attracted a following.

Moving to Toronto in September 2008, she tapped into a community of cartoonists, who helped her find sponsorship for her site, which sells merchandise. The speed of her success took her “by surprise.” Sometimes it has been too much. Most of her fans are complimentary, but some of them are “jerks,” she says. “Some people are really out of line,” she explains. “You get comments like ‘Your comics are good, but I want to sleep with you.’ ” Eager to protect her privacy, Beaton has stopped drawing the journal comics that revealed details about her personal life. Which may turn out to be a blessing, says Tucker Stone, a New York-based reviewer at Comixology, since what really makes her different is the literary and historical cartoons. Beaton herself is defensive of this territory, bristling in fact at the suggestion that CanCon could possibly be dull. “Our history is the march of thousands of people across a continent trying to make a life for themselves,” she replies. “How can it be boring?”
 

Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          



  The L.A. Times: Kate Beaton’s cartoons have humor for the ages

Updated January 12, 2011


December 5, 2010
Deborah Vankin

Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton began uploading her Web comics — which are witty reinventions of literary and historical figures navigating modern times — to the Internet in 2007. “I just put them up so my friends could see them,” she says. “I wasn’t looking for a career in comics.” Today her website, “Hark! A Vagrant,” has an especially large, devoted fan base that includes more than 21,000 Twitter followers, and now she’s drawing cartoons for the New Yorker.

Beaton’s whimsical black-and-white drawings cover whatever’s on her mind that week — be it annoying hipsters, the steam-punk aesthetic or the pop-cultural infiltration of “Sex and the City.” Mostly, she employs iconic figures like Moses, Macbeth, Jane Austen or a young, flippant Charles Darwin to tell her stories through single-shot strips or a series of them, though she also dabbles in superhero reinventions, such as her domesticated Wolverine or her acerbic, jaded chain-smoking Wonder Woman. The result is a high-minded version of “The Far Side” that is at once of-the-moment and timeless.

Last month, Beaton, who now lives in New York, sparked a storm on Twitter and comic blogs after she tweeted about how female cartoonists are sometimes treated. “Dear Internet,” she wrote, “… when you tell a female creator you like her work so much you want to marry her and have her babies, you’re not doing anyone any favors.” Now, weeks later, Beaton refuses to comment on the situation, hoping the attention on her will shift back to her comics — which is true to her original point, that the focus of female cartoonists’ work should be on the work.

Despite the unpredictability of Web comics — “It’s such a new media [and] nobody knows where it’s gonna go next” — she’s making a living from it, she says. “It’s getting better, and I’m just rolling with it.”

Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          



Bitch Magazine calls Hark! A Vagrant a brilliant webcomic

Updated January 12, 2011


November 21, 2009
Sara Reihani

Hark! A Vagrant (Kate Beaton)
Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton’s brilliant webcomic (previously featured on our fall 2008 Bitch List) specializes in fictionalized or nonsensical tales of historical figures both famous and obscure. Occasionally these involve complex jokes requiring solid background knowledge of, say, the history of Newfoundland; also mixed in are autobiographical tales, tongue-in-cheek Darcy fanfics and crudely-drawn single-panel cartoons that are like Natalie Dee but way funnier. Where else can you find queens, kings, pirates, prime ministers, saucy mermaids, Shetland ponies, Pope Action Comics and a healthy dose of Mountie humor all in one place? Thanks, Internet (and Kate Beaton).
 

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Kate Beaton

          



  The Onion A.V. Club calls Kate Beaton a non-stop laffs-generating machine

Updated January 12, 2011


Webcomics have been a seriously mixed bag since their inception, and for every Achewood, there are two dozen shabbily drawn, incoherently written strips about videogames or anime. That’s why it’s all the more impressive when a talent like Kate Beaton emerges. The young Canadian artist has turned a history degree into a non-stop laffs-generating machine, as her book Never Learn Anything From History (TopatoCo) illustrates; the great leaders, military figures, artists, and philosophers of the past are her usual subjects, but they’re usually portrayed as consumed by petty ego and expressing themselves in the freewheeling, dismissive argot of snotty adolescents. Add to that a keen sense of the absurd (in her footnotes, Beaton herself cannot explain why a weeping Napoleon stuffing his face with cookies while Josephine carries on a wild affair is so damn funny, but it is) and you’ve got a book full of comics that are generally hilarious even for those who don’t fully recall the history behind the stories. Beaton’s art is likewise impressive; her neat linework and terrific grasp of simple caricature and facial expression sells a lot of the best strips, including Sasaki Kojiro meeting an undignified end, Jane Austen and Nikola Tesla being pestered by their fans, and Lord Byron muttering “Bitches, man” to a grieving Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her occasional non-historical comics (featuring mermaids, Tintin, and an evil Shetland pony) are likewise winners, and if American audiences don’t quite get the jokes behind her strips about Stompin’ Tom Connors, Newfoundland, and John G. Diefenbaker, at least they might learn something about Canada from reading them… A-

-- The Onion A.V. Club

Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          



D+Q to Publish Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant

Updated January 12, 2011


Drawn & Quarterly has acquired North American rights to Kate Beaton's next collection, Hark! A Vagrant, it was announced today by Chris Oliveros, Editor-in-Chief, Acquiring Editor and Publisher of Drawn & Quarterly. 



"To say that the meteoric rise of Kate Beaton’s popularity is nothing short of a modern-day cartooning tour-de-force is not hyperbole,” said Oliveros. “Her comics revolve around characters and situations drawn from history and classic fiction. And yet, they are utterly contemporary. With their incisive humor and intelligence, they have captured the attention of a world wide audience. We are extremely honored to publish Hark! A Vagrant in book format.”

Hark! A Vagrant will be in stores in Fall 2011 as a hardcover collection of new comics and comics that previously appeared on Beaton's enormously popular website of the same name that receives 1.2 million monthly hits – 500,000 of them unique. Hark! A Vagrant takes readers on a romp through history and literature with dignity for few and cookies for all, with comic strips about famous authors, their characters, political and historical figures, all drawn in Kate Beaton’s pared-down, excitable style. Whether she’s writing about Nikola Tesla, Napoleon, or Nancy Drew, Beaton brings a refined sense of the absurd to every situation. Beaton’s comics have appeared in Harpers, the National Post, and the New Yorker, her caricatures of historical and literary figures, filtered through a contemporary lens, display a sharp, quick wit that knows no bounds.

Seth Fishman represented Beaton in negotiations and has sold UK rights to Jonathan Cape. Hark! A Vagrant will be published in North America by D+Q and will be distributed in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux and in Canada by Raincoast Books. International rights are represented by Fishman, who is with the Gernert Company. 

 

Featured artist

Kate Beaton

          




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