Beaton writes and draws short comic strips; sometimes she creates a series of strips on the same topic (there are several about Gatsby), and sometimes the comics stand alone. Many of her comics parody literature or history by exaggerating and poking fun at characters, plot holes or historical figures. Others feature superheroes, teen detectives or are just kind of nonsensical. Her comics are available in two different books (Hark! A Vagrant and Never Learn Anything From History) or for free online at http://www.harkavagrant.com.
Beaton’s style is incredibly unique as she manages to convey amusing facial expressions, some historical or literary context and punch lines with simple drawings and scripts. The art of the comics seems a bit rough sometimes, but it is expressive, and the humor is slightly detached and ridiculous but still hilarious.
When I first discovered Beaton’s work, I did not understand most of the references – I had not read very many classics, and I was not very aware of anything but basic history. I was still amused by most of her comics, but looking back at the comics referencing Hamlet or Wuthering Heights, now that I have read the referenced material, is glorious. I finally understand that yes, it is pretty ridiculous that Daisy ignores her baby for so much of The Great Gatsby.
Some of the historical comics also introduced me to topics I had previously known nothing about; there is a series of comics on Canadian history that sparked my curiosity and prompted me to learn a few things about Canada.
As a warning: despite often being extremely relevant to school subjects, sometimes Beaton’s comics include humor or language that is not appropriate in a classroom (think The Catcher in the Rye). This shouldn’t stop you, however, from printing out a few comics making fun of Banquo and carrying them around in your copy of Macbeth.
Written by EMMA REMY