Inspiration can strike in the strangest places. The title of Canadian comic artist Kate Beaton’s new collection, Step Aside, Pops, came from a series of Victorian satirical drawings: “When bicycles were invented and women started to ride them,” Beaton explains in her book, “a whole bunch of satirical cartoons came out depicting the women as shocking and inappropriate, not knowing that in our time, we would look at those cartoons and think those women look AWESOME.”
Step Aside, Pops includes Beaton’s riffs on these Victorian drawings as well as her twisted take on classic literature, historical figures, and pop culture. The result is a fresh, side-splitting analysis of social standards.
History comes to life in new, twisted ways in Beaton’s world. Chopin and Liszt appear on the cover of “Enormous Ego” magazine; French revolutionary Georges Danton funds his campaign of terror by selling cereal; the founding fathers of the United States explore an amusement park.
Beaton’s range is extraordinary: she is just as comfortable creating humorous and poignant portraits of Ida B. Wells and Dr. Sara Josephine Baker as she is exploring what became of the man in the opening seconds of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” video. And let’s not forget her fine twists on classic stories, with Clark Kent’s buffoonery standing in the way of Lois Lane winning the Pulitzer, and Cinderella’s fairy godmother deciding to “take it to the limit!” and transform Cinderella into a power lifter.
After reading just a few strips it’s easy to see why Beaton’s work has appeared in The New Yorker and garnered her a pile of Harvey awards, including Best Cartoonist. This hilarious-yet-educational collection is not to be missed.