Hark! A Vagrant

There are a lot of different types of comics out there in the world, and I think it’s great that there is such a variety to chose from. I know most people stick to the main big two companies, but that’s alright really. A lot of great writers and artists work for them, and those same people go on to publish their own, independent works that are really work checking out. There’s also web-comics, which are I suppose still relatively new when considering the bigger picture, and the variety available there is also immense and amazing. People, what I’m basically trying to say here is that even if you think you don’t like comics, it’s probably just because you haven’t found the right type for you. Today, I’m going to talk about a web-comic that I really like. Well, technically, it’s more a series of web-comic strips. We’re going to have a very brief look at Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton.

So what are these comic strips about then? Oh, everything and anything, though history is always a recurring topics. But there’s also other features like fond mocking of old book covers, a look at comic book characters in a realistic sense – Beaton’s Lois Lane seems to be forever fed up with Superman interrupting her when she’s trying to get her job done – realistic teen detectives, and I really could go on here. What got me into the strip were the history comics. As you might have gathered from the Horrible Histories review way back when – weren’t we young then – I like history. Oh yeah, sure, it’s filled with wars, and blood, and horrible things. But it’s helped to shape the world, and continues to do so, and also there’s really awesome people who need a hell of a lot more recognition than they get.

Like Horrible Histories, Beaton looks at history with a comedic eye, using more modern day ideals and popular culture to reflect the, frankly, absurdity of some of the events that have helped to shape the world. Oh, except the one about Henry II and Thomas Becket – while there is a punchline, that one is still fairly sombre.

But it’s not just history that comes under Beaton’s comedic gaze. A popular recurring strip is the Strong Female Characters; women who don’t need no man, but can fall for a man-child. Who hate the idea of chivalry, and how dare another women like something traditionally feminine like baking – but at the same time, they just can’t resist those cookies. Yes, like you’ve guessed, it’s a spoofing of the common tropes that are used to portray a Strong Female Character in the media, and it comes across fondly, if perhaps a little tired at the over-use of these tropes.

The realistic teen detectives are also a personal favourite, two slacker boys who have somehow been picked as these amazing teen detectives, who really cannot be bothered with any of it, and spend most of their time just messing around and not doing the job they’ve been hired for. They were later joined by a reporter girl, who is just as foul mouthed as the boys, but actually seemed to be far more enthusiastic about doing her job.

Needless to say, the contents of a single strip can vary from post to post, and it’s always fun looking through the archives on the website, giggling along with the punch-lines and enjoying Beaton’s distinct art-style. Her most popular comic is the Oh, Mr Darcy comic, which must have many spin-offs but the original is still hilarious each time it is read. For those of you who like collected editions, I am pleased to be able to tell you that there is a collected edition. The book – titled Hark! A Vagrant – was published in September 2011, and can still be found via Amazon and most decent book stores, though you may have to order it in. If you like what you see on the site, it’s well worth ordering.

So yes, the world of comics is incredibly varied and, as Hark! A Vagrant shows, one comic itself can have so many variations on its own. It’s really an incredible thing, when you think on it.

Z McAspurren (I love the fat pony)

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