Stu called from Toronto last night to make fun of my country’s asinine health care system, so I had to respond by forwarding a bunch of Kate Beaton comics. Take that, Canadian!
I love her work. It is hilarious, full of in-jokes for the historically astute that will make you laugh regardless. She has a marvelous sense of the absurd– Napoleon eating cookies is always funny– and exact timing.
Often enough her comics are about identity, focusing on her origins or a country’s. As a hick, I can relate to her strips about being a from the sticks. Her “Conversations with a Younger Self” also delve into her identity. They show grownup Kate and child Kate, blaming each other for screwing up their life. Her two History Comics series contain her finest work yet, with a gag mixing Dr. Naismith with his creation’s future. The gags are always rooted deeply in fact, so the absurdities don’t seem cheap.
Best of all, she can just plain draw. Her vibrant line that reminds me of Steig, and she slides effortlessly between figuration and doodling, often in the same strip. She draws Georgiana Babbage quite foxily indeed, and Elizabeth I as a furious mound of circles. Her characters’ hands are especially nice, going from squiggles to realistic depending on the comic’s needs.
Most comics I’ve read on the web last in my mind no longer than the light they’re printed on. Beaton’s will have a place on my shelf, should they ever make the leap to print. In the meantime, she could adopt the same model as other web cartoonists. I don’t want to live in a world where she can’t make a living off t-shirts of her first panel of Anges MacPhail. (Should I live in that world, and so fall ill, please Lord let it not be in the US of A.)