The webcomics blog about webcomics

I Declare This Beatonday. Or Vagrantday. Whichever.

One may recall that I was unable to attend SPX this year due to work. What one may not know is that my fellow Goats forum refugee, occasional colleague on this page (and even more occasional drinking buddy) Jeff Lowrey offered to make some purchases on my behalf in Bethesda. And so he has, and at some point the USPS will deliver these to my home. You, on the other hand, don’t have to wait to obtain a copy of Hark! A Vagrant from your nearest bookshop, comic book store, or the fine folks at Topatoco¹.

You know how sometimes you hear a description of somebody as a “writer’s writer” or an “artist’s artist”, or you geta movie that just kills with the cinephile crowd but the broader public doesn’t like? There’s often a divide between creators that impress the general audience and creators that fellow creators recognize as doing something not obvious, something that makes them really special. You very rarely get a creator that remains accessible and stretching the bounds of the artform simultaneously.

Kate Beaton is one of those very few, as good as everybody says she is; she is a painstaking crafter of pure, distilled moments, capturing the key essence of a story scene, a moment in history, a relationship and reducing it to the absolute minimum necessary to convey exactly the emotion and message she wants it to convey. There’s no excess lines, no word or caption that gets in the way or takes away your part in the reading half of the equation. The little stories (and they are all stories, whether there’s a gag there or not) Beaton tells tickle both the smartened part of your brain — which appreciates the games she plays with pop culture, history, literature, and language — and the part that just knows very little is better than an honest, unexpected laugh².

A lot of people are writing a lot about Hark! A Vagrant today, not because we got our marching orders from the secret conspiracy that runs everything³, but because a lot of people came independently to the same conclusion: Kate Beaton is an incredible, once-in-a-century talent, the kind that makes you want to grab people by the lapels and shout Read this right now.

And because she might forget to do so to one or two people over the upcoming book tour, Kate took some time out to pre-emptively thank everybody for picking up the book. She’s polite that way.

Earlier today, Box Brown offered up his take on the book release:

Guys [Kate Beaton] is going to for real break into the mainstream. I predict a [Conan O’Brien] appearance in 2012.

I think he’s right. I think that Kate Beaton will be the next (possibly the last) cartoonist to be known in the general culture, like we haven’t seen since Schulz (or since she’s not a strip cartoonist, maybe the better comparison would be to Feiffer, Addams, or Hirschfeld).

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But can you think of anything less than the release of a Kate Beaton book (and the attention she’s been getting from the mediasphere up to and including Time freaking magazine) that would knock the news of a new Perry Bible Fellowship strip way the hell down here? I didn’t think so.

¹ Where, I understand, due to an absence of some of the complexities of bookstore distribution, Kate Beaton will make somewhat more money per copy than other channels, and where you can also pick up her first book, Never Learn Anything From History.

² Maybe sitting around a campfire at the end of the day. Marshmallows optional.

³ The secret conspiracy is busy this week, making sure the weather-control machines keep my home at 87% humidity until doors and drawers can no longer be opened.

I think we should try to get Beaton on the Daily Show.

I didn’t use USPS. maybe that’s wrong of me.

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