New voices in the world of comic strips are increasingly rare (there are plenty of new strips but often too similar to something that’s come before) so it’s always pleasing to come across something that’s both original and funny. Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant strips are a heady blend of history, literature and popular culture, dipping into Julius Caesar one moment and Wonder Woman the next. It’s cutting, witty and often too clever by half, not to mention with a perspective that keeps it fresh and on edge.
She lampoons strong female characters in modern pop culture with a series of strips that point out that acting tough in little or no clothes isn’t quite what’s being asked for, before leaping onto topics such as William Bligh and his temper tantrums, using the covers from old Nancy Drew books to inspire short narratives, and wondering how the Harry Potter books would have worked out if Hermione was small enough to fit in your pocket. There are also riffs on the Black Prince, Spider-man, Juarez and Maximilian, Withering Heights and straw feminism to name but a few. This sort of daftness and absurdity mixed with highbrow topics, historical context and popular characters makes it somewhat Pythonesque.
The book, and it’s predecessor, have come in for heaps of praise, so you’re practically guaranteed an entertaining read from cover to cover. Go on, treat yourself.
And if you liked that: Get yourself a copy of the first collection, Hark! A Vagrant