Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton is a collection of Hark! A Vagrant webcomics. The collection was published in 2015 by Drawn & Quarterly, though the webcomic started in 2007.
Beaton’s collection is entirely in black and white. The drawings are what some might call “cartoon-y” or haphazard, but the style fits the content in a way that emphasizes the playfulness of the messages, and the speedy nature of today’s society. Everything is fast and on a deadline, thus Beaton’s drawing style reflects that.
The basis of the messages, however, comes from a place of knowledge. Beaton explains, “When I get asked to describe my comics, the easiest thing to say is that it is historical or literary or pop-culture parodies.” Therefore, if you don’t know what she is referencing, some of the comics will be lost on you–a potential downfall of the collection. For instance, I didn’t understand anything in the “Kokoro” comic, which went on for 37 frames. I couldn’t grasp the humor because I don’t know the original material. Then again, Beaton is aiming for an educated audience that is going to snicker along with her, so if you are the reader she has in mind, Step Aside, Pops is a collection you will enjoy. There wasn’t much that I didn’t get in the collection, so I was a happy reader.
Beaton explains some of her comics with snarky lines in regular type at the bottom of the page. So, if you know nothing about “The Rum Rebellion,” she’ll fill you in:
Here is our old friend William Bligh. I say old friend because you probably know him from Mutiny on the Bounty already, not because we are personal acquaintances (he is dead). It is easy to find Bligh in the history books–you just follow a breadcrumb trail of temper tantrums.
Personally, I’d never heard of Bligh, yet this particular comic is easy enough to follow and find funny. Beaton’s extra explanation that Bligh is dead (it’s obvious from Bligh’s Napoleon-esque outfit) gives her asides a snarkiness that creates a connection with the reader.
Most pieces are only 3-6 frames long, making it easy to pick up and put down this book if you only have a minute. The comics that parody novels are the longest, and I found them the most humorous because my several English degrees let me in on the joke. Beaton’s parody of Wuthering Heights was one of my favorites because Beaton zeros in on the tragedy of Heathcliff, giving him a Mr. Hyde-like depiction.
I love the strange cruelty Beaton adds, such Heathcliff’s despair being waved away, as if he were a stray dog that got in the house after rolling in turds. In fact, Heathcliff is so low he should be licking the turds, not rolling in them.
My favorite history comic is called “The Black Prince.” Though I don’t know the story of this person, the comic was, again, inclusive enough to make it funny. Beaton adds current culture (fist bumping, calling all men “bro”) and combines it with a medieval setting. Brilliant!
The most interesting combination of pop culture and history was when Beaton put the Founding Fathers in a mall. If you’ve ever experienced your dad or husband waiting on any available chair while holding your purse and/or purchases, you’ll laugh.
I had a lot of fun reading Step Aside, Pops. Many of the comics can be found on the author’s Hark! A Vagrant website, though having them all together in a hardcover book was nice, too! Actually getting the book supports this author so that she can continue to draw, parody, and make our hearts giggle.