Har! Comics. How droll. Comics about HISTORY and LITERATURE. I feel both educated and amused. (You can find Kate’s comics online here. This review is per the book.)
Comics are hit and miss. Even, like, xkcd has an off-day every couple of years. And with the smarter comics, your mileage always varies depending on your familiarity with the material (and, let’s face it, the inherent hilarity of the comic). So if you are like, Anne of Green who? then you will not think the comic ‘Anne of Sleeves’ is funny (it is).
And most of the comics have a bit of sub-text (like, actual text underneath. LITERAL sub-text), like little editorials that very subtly explain wtf so that you feel smart (Rosalind Franklin did what now?), but that also continue the lulz. Like the one under a moderately hilarious Jane Eyre comic that goes ‘What the heck is happening out on the moors? Is it like when you’re out in your boat for too long and you start to lose it, and you think you see a beautiful mermaid, but it’s really a manatee? Then you’ve made out with it and you don’t know why? We only want Jane to be happy though, because she had a pretty rough go in life and she’s a smart cookie. We’ll let her have Mr Rochester because she loves him, even though he might be a manatee.’
I feel the need to start a new paragraph because that one was so long. But SEE? I mean, I think. It might only tickle my goat because it combines my two great loves, Jane Eyre and manatees.
Beaton has A Smart, and her topics run from the sexification of history (she’s looking at you, The Tudors), to Every Lady Scientist Who Ever Did Anything Till Now, and these (with the possible exception of historical figures who are not Nicola Tesla) are my jam. And some ventures, like where she takes a cover illustration by Edward Gorey and guesses what the story consists of based on the cover, are splendid in both idea and execution, which is a rare fish.
And then Kate is Canadian, so there’s a weird amount of Canadiana in here. Not buckets, but some. And it’s all about how polite we are, and how annoyed we get when anyone points out how polite we are, and how any country that gets annoyed when anyone points out how polite they are should probably get its priorities in order.
One more subtext, for the road! ‘There’s an idea out there that Aquaman is lame as far as superheroes go, but I’m not sure. I read a bit about Aquaman growing a beard and having a harpoon hand and living in a cave and talking to spirits or something, and thought, “How can anyone not like this guy? This crazy dude, living under the water?” Anyway, that is the only version of Aquaman that I know, but I am really into it.’
I think my preference for the subtexts over the comics proper means that I would like Beaton to write a book. WRITE ME A BOOK, VAGRANT! I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. The drawings are pretty good.