The title: Step Aside, Pops
The author: Kate Beaton
Publication: Drawn & Quarterly, 2015
Got it from: Amazon
I'm late with this review and I'm just realizing I never reviewed Kate Beaton's first comic collection, Hark! a Vagrant
back in 2011. Which is a crime, considering it is one of my go-to
books when I am in need of a good laugh. If you haven't heard of Kate
Beaton or Hark! A Vagrant, the website
that houses her cartoons, here's what you need to know: she's a
Maritimer (like me). She loves history (like me). And she draws
cartoons that feature the absurdity of a lot of things in history.
They're sometimes Canadian-based, sometimes not, and they often feature
badass historical women, but sometimes not. (The sassy cover model for
this collection was taken from a Victorian-era cartoon about the horrors
of women cyclists. In Beaton's interpretation, the woman quips, "You
see me rollin up pops you step aside," as she nearly bowls over an
outraged gentleman. He later grumbles, "bloody unbelievable," as
another woman cyclist goes strutting by carrying a blaring phonograph.)
a goldmine of humour here if you're a general history and literature
buff, and the few references I didn't get I ended up researching. I
didn't know a thing, for instance, about Ida B. Wells, but Beaton does a
great job at exploring the frustrations of being a black feminist in
19th century America while still being genuinely funny. She's also at
her biting best during her extended "Wuthering Heights" saga and
definitely nails all the issues I had with the book back when I was an
undergrad. Even when she's skewering you can tell Beaton genuinely
loves the subjects she's writing about.
It's hard to
say what my favourite cartoon in this book is. She's unbelievably funny
when she's drawing her own interpretations of classic Nancy Drew and
Edward Gorey covers. (My husband and I are obsessed with one featuring a
simple scene of a woman feeding a pigeon bread crumbs. "Aw yiss,"
struts Beaton's pigeon excitedly. "Motha. Fuckin. Bread crumbs."
That's the extent of the joke.) The prize might go to the multi-arc
"Founding Fathers (In a Mall)" and "Founding Fathers (Stuck in an
Amusement Park)", which features Washington, Jefferson,
Franklin et al inexplicably hitting up modern locations a la Bill and Ted's
Excellent Adventure. If you love Revolutionary history as much as I do,
prepare to be seriously amused. "Here is a chain of carriages that
will take us home!" Madison says, pointing to a roller coaster.
"Nay," disagrees another of the Fathers. "It is merely a circle of violence, and
then you retch." I could read a whole book featuring the Founding
Fathers in the 21st century.
At the outset, the
cartoons seem silly, filled with sometimes crude humour. But look
beyond and you'll see how expressively the characters are drawn, how
brilliant the jokes are, how deftly she skewers familiar tropes. I know
I'll return to this collection again and again.