We’ve yet to review a Kate Beaton book here at tQ, but this certainly hasn’t hindered her rise to fame. She’s a brilliant example of someone who has built a career from putting her work online for free. Her Hark!, A Vagrant/ webcomic is enormously successful and has now been turned into a second print book, Step Aside, Pops.
Beaton's popularity is not the result of producing something so broad it appeals to everyone, but by producing something that appeals to countless niche groups that accumulate to a huge audience. Particularly beloved by fans of history and literature, her work is simultaneously witty and erudite, as every single reviewer is rightly compelled to point out. At the same time, she doesn’t intimidate - the gags are always accessible and often footnoted. Her format - which Beaton playfully acknowledged in her contribution to the introduction of Drawn & Quarterly 25 - is extremely successful. It’s also very, very funny - she has a real talent for taking something small and running with it. There are a number of strips that start with an old illustration or book cover and are then expanded for several more panels that are hysterical. The straw feminists pages are also particular highlights, and demonstrate how effective Beaton’s eyes are, despite their simplicity. She has a somewhat scratchy drawing style, which feels very honest, like she has managed to capture exactly what she intended rather than refined it to the point where the spark has gone. This is an excellent book, which unsurprisingly showed up in many best of the year lists.