Thursday, 1 October 2015

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton Review

Kate Beaton returns with a second collection of strips from her brilliant website, Hark! A Vagrant!, in Step Aside, Pops, and it’s as funny and inspired as the first collection was! 

Beaton’s strips range from historical and literary references to superhero comics parodies, to random bits of comedy and riffs on old book/magazine covers, posters and postcards. 

Her version of Wuthering Heights is hysterical with permanently scowling lunatic Heathcliff and dim Cathy playing out their demented romance in Northern England - if only the actual book had been this entertaining! The Black Prince is a great strip where the teen terror talks like a yoof of today, and the US Founding Fathers go to a mall and an amusement park to hang out. Ben Franklin is so awesome, I loved his silly one-liners - “I can dig it” - and how he's written like a hipster. 

Beaton’s pissed off Wonder Woman remains the undisputed greatest version of the character but I also loved her Lois Lane, Reporter, strips. Lois tries to do her job despite Clark continually butting in to ask her if she wants to know Superman’s secret identity and then she loses her rag. “I have a secret too, come here. You. Are in. My goddamned way.” Brown Recluse Spider-Man is also my favourite version of the character. Marvel/DC, you seriously need to hire Beaton to write for you! 

The funniest strip was Strong Female Characters with their catchphrase “Sexism is over”. I’m not going to say anything more on them, just read it and cry laughter like I did. Straw Feminists in the Closet is a great satirical piece too. 

Some of Beaton’s best stuff is just random mashups like Pride and Prejudice where all the men are Fox Mulder and Liz is Scully. Lady’s Favor, about a knight who chops off a woman’s hair to wear on his, is ridiculously good. Fan favourites from the first book like Napoleon, Peasant Comics and Nemesis return - love those - and the Femme Fatale parody was brilliant too. 

So much greatness in this book: the velocipedestrienne (she’s on the cover), snippets from old mag Idler, spooky postcards, Nancy/Gorey covers - fantastic pieces all. 

Not everything is a home run. I haven’t read the classic Japanese novel Kokoro so the parody wasn’t as fun as Wuthering Heights for me. A lot of the historical strips are ok at best and don’t produce belly laughs - Juarez and Maximilian, the Rum Rebellion, and the Last Days of Georges Danton were all meh. As was the extended strip of Nasty Boys from an old Janet Jackson video - quirky but kinda dull. 

Generally though, Step Aside, Pops was tremendously enjoyable and genuinely hilarious. Kate Beaton is one of the funniest cartoonists in the world and this is easily one of the best humour comics of the year - do your ticker a favour, read this, and laugh heartily. Hark! A wonderful comic! 

Step Aside, Pops

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