Webcomics Wednesday: Hark, A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

September 28, 2011


Nancy Drew comics by Kate Beaton

We have just so much to share with you guys. The internet is a big and wonderful place, and you might not have seen all the cool stuff yet! How fortunate for you that you have such good friends here at GeekOverture to take you on a magic carpet ride through the intertubes. On a shimmering nyan cat. With trollface as The Genie.

The world of webcomics is a very cool place indeed! The minimal overheads and lack of editorial pressure allows for a pretty impressive range of material, creative freedom and potential for insane updating schedules and the resulting heaving mass of content. It also, however, provides an ideal breeding ground for some pretty amateurish work. What you really need is an internet spirit guide, someone who spent many of his teenage years honing a keen taste for webcomics instead of anything resembling life skills.

Starring in our first webcomics Wednesday is the awesome Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton, who talked to the chaps at io9 yesterday about her career, which started with what amounted to mspaint doodles and recently reached the rarefied air of a spot in the New Yorker. Her website, Hark, A Vagrant, takes you through the whole gamut, about seven years’ worth of work. But what kind of work, you say? Join me in the next paragraph!

Beaton is a history major, and that’s where the guts of the humour occurs. The comics are uniformly very silly, and a cynical sort could sum it up along the lines of ‘historical figures say wacky things’, but there’s an unshakeable impression that the whole enterprise springs out of a desire to have this stuff known, that impulse to share with other people the cool things you just found. There are comics in here about the usual suspects, like Elizabeth I, Napoleon et al, but the amount of cool tidbits you can come away with just by hitting the ‘random comic’ button on the front page is amazing. If you haven’t read James Joyce’s letters to Nora Barnacle, take this comic as fair warning.

She also makes comics about the misadventures of our favourite literary figures. I had no idea, for instance, that Jules Verne wrote a sequel to The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a book by Edgar Allen Poe, which beyond being an interesting fact about two great writers, is totally something that should happen more often. I vote for Cormac McCarthy writing the next Twilight novel. Beaton, of course, takes the situation to its entirely logical conclusion.

One of the nice things about the webcomic community, and one which I’ll be making full use of further down the line, is how actively connected they all are to each other. Hark, A Vagrant has a huge blogroll at the bottom of each page – once you’ve found a comic to your tastes, it’s a pretty simple job to find others like it. Go explore!

Got any webcomics you’d like to see until the keen gaze of our blogging spotlight? Let us know in the comments.

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