Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant
by Kate Beaton
Drawn & Quarterly, 2011

On a basic level, this history-and-literature-obsessed strip is just very, very funny, but if you know something about the subject Beaton is skewering, it’s even funnier. She has the ability to look at anything and make it ridiculous, which is a rare talent, even if you sometimes have to refer to the title for the actual joke. This second compilation of the popular webcomic is annotated, which certainly helps explain some of the obscurer strips about Canadian history, which is all of them.

The drawing is deceptively simple but very expressive – just look at the king pensively analyzing the artistic merits of his jester’s bottom dance, the Sirens making Facebook pouts, and the Javert slash fiction from Les Miserables: “Handcuff this“. There’s an imaginative section where she takes old novel covers designed by Edward Gorey and makes up the rest of the story, and demolishes Nancy Drew in the same way. Some of the funniest cartoons are also the rudest – Emily and Charlotte Brontë rate passing guys (“So passionate” “So mysterious”), to the disgust of Anne (“If you like alcoholic dickbags!”) while others are just plain daft – H.G. Wells’s fantastical war dirigible blows up Jules Verne’s science-based airship, to his annoyance: “You can’t just ‘make things up!'” while Sexy Batman goes incognito wearing his mask, a cowboy hat and assless chaps. As you can see, very quotable.

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