The 2012 WCO Webcomic of the Year is….

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… Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant.

Just when you thought she was out, she draws you back in!

The accolades really started rolling in last year. In December 2011, the book version of Hark! A Vagrant won a spot in Time Magazine’s Top 10 Fiction books of 2011. Lev Grossman (writer of The Magicians, The Magician King, and Codex) wrote: “… the main point is that they’re hilarious. Whatever else it might be, Hark! A Vagrant is the wittiest book of the year.”

The output for Hark! A Vagrant slowed to a trickle in 2012, though. This was due to Ms. Beaton’s increasing opportunities in the field of publishing following the success of her book. She wrote on her blog:

This is a funny job. Webcomics are often cited as the future of comics and the internet and I don’t know what else, but the fact that no one has retired from them yet means that I, at least, rest a little uneasy in these shoes sometimes if only for the lack of having a dependable compass by which to steer the ship. I just want to make the best decisions I can, so that I will be around longer, making drawings and comics and writing and other things that I hope people will enjoy. I’m not sure what will work out with these opportunities that have come my way, and I guess I can’t really say much about them, but I think I’d be a fool if I didn’t give them a try. So I am going to! Whatever I can let you know, I will.

She’s only posted thirteen strips on her site since that announcement.

And yet … that didn’t stop the accolades from coming. Hark! A Vagrant had already won a Harvey Award in 2011 for Best Online Comics Work and a nomination for Canada’s Shuster Awards in 2009 and 2010. It turns out that that was just a warm-up to 2012. In her most successful awards take yet, Ms. Beaton netted three Harvey Awards: the repeat of Best Online Comics Work, the Special Award for Humor in Comics, and the Best Cartoonist Award.

And if you think jive-talking historical characters are the only source of Ms. Beaton’s appeal, you’d be wrong. The Strong Female Characters sorta gained a modicum of internet infamy. While they were co-created by friends Carly Monardo and Meredith Gran, I’ve most often referred to them as “Kate Beaton’s Strong Female Characters“. The comic would get referenced in some online movie reviews.

The comic would sorta make Ms. Beaton something of the final word on “strong female characters.” She participated in a round of illustrations taking digs at an infamously cheesecake-y Catwoman cover. The mantle of lampooning how women are backbreakingly, twistingly portrayed in mainstream comics continues has nowadays been taken up by The Hawkeye Initiative, a Tumblr that Ms. Beaton is well aware of.

These achievements and more have led the Webcomic Overlook (that is, myself) to name Hark! A Vagrant the 2012 Webcomic of the Year.

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on December 20, 2012, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The Strong Female Characters are based on Suckerpunch, a movie so utterly insignificant and poorly received that I had to sit here for a good few minutes in an effort to remember its name. Which I only do because I hold it as an example of how bad movies can get. Personally, I find the leap Beaton takes as it representing all female roles in action movies to be a little rich. I get that it was particularly insulting, as it was billed as a “strong women” movie when it was nothing of the sort, but stupid movies will exist. Taking the worst of them as an example of the entire industry is unfair. Worse, it cheapens the actual point one could make about women, men, and all society as it’s portrayed in Hollywood productions. That is to say, movies do not reflect reality, but claim that they do. Which leads to boys thinking everyone should have sex at 16, girls thinking life is not worth living without long legs and spotless skin, and middle-aged men thinking they need a sports car and a hair transplant to be complete. For all the attention that is given to one such effect, the others are drowned out. And that’s bad.

    All in all, I think Kate Beaton is quite overrated. The fact that it’s apparently newsworthy that she made some ugly doodles half a year ago, and posted a comment on a tumblr image really do drive that opinion home for me.

    Also, American superhero comics are hardly the mainstream. They are one genre that’s popular mostly in one country. In fact, I don’t recall people taking issue with them before blockbuster movies started being made out of them. And believe it or not, but people held the opinion that superhero comics have poor art before that time. They responded mainly by reading comics with superior art, and occasionally mocking Superman for wearing his underwear over his pants.

    • ‘Personally, I find the leap Beaton takes as it representing all female roles in action movies to be a little rich.’

      I find the leap you’re making to suggest that it was directed at all action heroines really rich. It’s making fun of a horrible cliche, not a be-all-end-all manifesto.

      Yeah, yeah, there’s lot of damaging influences on society in various media that affect all sorts of people. That’s not a reason anyone should shut up about the things that are a problem to them. It just means there’s more problems to address.

      Just because it doesn’t concern you doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t talk about it, or be supported for talking about it. So what if you don’t care about Superheroes? The people who do care do care, and that’s enough. And seriously, there’s been some harsh commentary on problems with Superhero comics for as long as any of those problems have existed. The only difference in recent years is the proliferation of easy, global communication for everyone. The reason you see more discussion of it is that more people who want to discuss it have a wide-reaching platform to do so.

      To sum up, stop with the entitled BS.

      PS- I like Kate Beaton, but this year has not been Hark, A Vagrant’s year. Pretty sure she just got the votes due to not much else being worth voting for. Blame the poll, not the winner of it.

      PPS- Sorry El Santo! No slight intended about the poll. I know this whole thing isn’t something you’re being super serious about, but some people just love to be offended at any opportunity. And some people love to take those jerks down a peg. *cough*

      • Honestly, I should have known someone like you would respond with righteous anger and fury. I did nothing more than give my opinion on the matter, and though it might not fall in line with the general consensus, that makes me neither entitled, nor a jerk. The fact that you would grasp for ad hominems for an internet discussion about comics is something I find quite offensive, really. Especially considering how this entire discussion that has been raging about the representation of women in media has a tendency to spiral out of control, with both sides resorting to vile insults, rather than proper arguments.

        As for the Strong Female Characters, they’re not a cliché. That’s my entire point. I can only recall one movie with similar characters, and that’s Suckerpunch. It’s not an issue in the industry. It was an entertaining gag at the time, but has lost relevance since then.

        The problem is that people treat equal rights as a zero sum game. Even you treat me as some sort of horrible person simply for pointing out that other issues exist. And simply put, these aren’t problems that are going to be solved one at a time. They’re all part of the greater whole. You tell me people should stand up for the issues that matter to them, but then tell me that I’m propagating “bullshit” for mentioning those that matter to me? That’s a bit contrarian, isn’t it? That’s the attitude that leaves me sour in this entire discussion. With all the focus on one, extremely narrow subject, dictated by box office success, I remind you there are larger issues at work here (like the ridiculous beauty ideal), and you lash out at me. Why?

        With the superhero issue, I find it quite paradoxical that people heap so much attention on what is still only one genre in the entire smorgasbord of comics. Even more so because the complaints people have are pretty much unique to that one genre. Covers like Catwoman up there don’t exist in any other genre. Silly, debasing costumes don’t exist outside of superhero comics (at least, not with so much regularity). More so, these things have been part of the superhero genre since its early beginnings. As someone who reads anything but superhero comics, I simply find it very confusing that people would posit loud demands, rather than read ANY of the other comics that already conform to those demands. Because the only way to let people know you don’t agree with the product they’re selling, is to stop buying it. Every issue sold is a message of support to the issues people claim to disagree with.

        But you’re right. I am entitled. To my own opinion, that is. One of them happens to be that Kate Beaton is overrated. It is my opinion that her art and humour are subpar, and I’m quite tired of seeing her portrayed as the saviour of the internet for making a doodle comic. That does not make me a jerk, and you not a knight in shining armour for defending her honour. You’ll just have to deal with the fact that different people have different opinions without resorting to insults.

        • Opinions are like assholes, Piet, yours is wrong.

        • Oh, yes. You’re so enlightened. You’re just sharing your opinion, and opinions aren’t wrong! Except I wasn’t criticising your opinion, but your browbeating presentation of it.

          Maybe you’re blind to the problem or just don’t make the connection, but Suckerpunch is just one of the most obnoxious examples in media. That doesn’t mean the more subtle ones are any less damaging; in fact, they’re more harmful, since they’re more likely to be taken seriously and believed. Here, have a whole bunch of examples: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FauxActionGirl http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawFeminist http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealWomenDontWearDresses

          The fact that other issues exist is irrelevant to any discussion of any one issue. There’s no reason to bring the fact up, except as a way of belittling the issue at hand. That’s not to say you can’t talk about other issues that have relevance to the main issue. It’s using the mere fact that other issues exist as your argument that’s the problem. If you think those issues aren’t talked about enough, GO FIND A PLATFORM FOR THEM. Don’t try to drag down other issues from theirs.

          Really? Ridiculous exploitation of women doesn’t exist in the promotion of any media but superhero comics? Go watch a music video, look at some movie posters, watch some music videos, look at some book covers (old pulps and contemporary genre fiction especially), and on and on. Sure, not everything has that problem, but neither do all, not even close to a majority even, of superhero comics. But not being a majority doesn’t mean it’s not prominent and not a problem.

          Anyway, yes, you are entitled to an opinion. And that opinion makes you a jerk. Not because you aren’t a fan of Kate Beaton’s work; I could care less about that. It’s because you feel entitled to piss all over someone’s concerns with something just because there’s other things that you don’t feel are talked about enough.

          I’m not a white knight. I don’t step in to console others who have been upset by mean people to make them like me. I just show how the bullies of the internet are wrong, because maybe they’ll learn something and be better people for it later. Even if they resent me for it. Call me a troll slayer, if you really want a label.

          • You know what? I had written a lengthy response, but I realize it’s futile. You continue with the personal insults, putting words in my mouth and twisting the meaning of my arguments to fit your rebuttal. Your obsession with being an Internet Hero makes you immune to reason. Anyone who steps out of the extremely narrow party line must be dealt with.

            Well, by all means, consider the dragon slayed.

            But I do want to point out that I do not disagree with the point laid out by Ms. Beaton, as you seem to have taken up that opinion of me, though it should be clear from my posts. I shall refrain from reiterating a point I’ve made twice already.

            El Santo, I apologize for letting it come as far as it did. It was not my intention to turn your comment section into a battleground. Though, believe me, it cost me enough in time and bitterness. The next time I’ll just respond with “lol no”.

          • “You continue with the personal insults, putting words in my mouth and twisting the meaning of my arguments to fit your rebuttal.”

            Yes, he’s clearly being intentionally malevolent as opposed to legitimately misinterpreting your points – it couldn’t possibly be that you didn’t make them well, because of course you are always perfectly clear with your intent.

            “But I do want to point out that I do not disagree with the point laid out by Ms. Beaton, as you seem to have taken up that opinion of me, though it should be clear from my posts. I shall refrain from reiterating a point I’ve made twice already.”

            Yes, like when you said:

            “Personally, I find the leap Beaton takes as it representing all female roles in action movies to be a little rich. I get that it was particularly insulting, as it was billed as a “strong women” movie when it was nothing of the sort, but stupid movies will exist. Taking the worst of them as an example of the entire industry is unfair.”

            But don’t worry, you made sure to make clear that you didn’t disagree with the point when you said… um… that it’s an issue specific to superhero comics? That there are broader issues that you felt she was drowning out?

            “As someone who reads anything but superhero comics, I simply find it very confusing that people would posit loud demands, rather than read ANY of the other comics that already conform to those demands. Because the only way to let people know you don’t agree with the product they’re selling, is to stop buying it. Every issue sold is a message of support to the issues people claim to disagree with.”

            You know people buy a genre, not a medium, right? I mean, obviously there are a ton of people who believe “comics need to stick together”, because it’s such a niche medium, but at least with comic books that’s only because they come for the superhero comics to begin with. And at least in comic book stores, superhero comics far outpace any other genre, and the people complaining about any depiction in media, as a rule, are a minority of the people consuming said media. Someone’s gotta keep an eye on these comics and call them out for their sins.

            I hate the “if you don’t like it don’t buy it” argument. You are only one of a gazillion other people consuming it, and even if people do leave a work en masse there’s no way of knowing whether the powers that be will get the intended message. It’s the same problem I have with voting and the importance we place on it; the real engine of politics are the masses of people making their voices heard. For all you know, the people complaining about the depiction of women in post-reboot DC Comics actually HAVE stopped reading the product.

            I think the problem people have with it, rather, is that the people complaining actually love the superhero genre and think the depiction of women in it isn’t something inherent to the genre, but rather taints it unnecessarily. If you were saying people should stop reading the comics that objectify women that’d be one thing, but you seem to be saying they should stop reading superhero comics entirely.

            “It is my opinion that [Beaton’s] art and humour are subpar, and I’m quite tired of seeing her portrayed as the saviour of the internet for making a doodle comic.”

            One, art doesn’t matter; Beaton’s art happens to be roughly on the same level as only the most popular and memetic webcomic out there. Two, from what I’ve read about her, her humor might not be “for” you anyway.

            On the other hand:

            “The fact that other issues exist is irrelevant to any discussion of any one issue. There’s no reason to bring the fact up, except as a way of belittling the issue at hand. … It’s using the mere fact that other issues exist as your argument that’s the problem. If you think those issues aren’t talked about enough, GO FIND A PLATFORM FOR THEM. Don’t try to drag down other issues from theirs. … It’s because you feel entitled to piss all over someone’s concerns with something just because there’s other things that you don’t feel are talked about enough.”

            Yes, like when he said:

            “The problem is that people treat equal rights as a zero sum game. Even you treat me as some sort of horrible person simply for pointing out that other issues exist. And simply put, these aren’t problems that are going to be solved one at a time. They’re all part of the greater whole. You tell me people should stand up for the issues that matter to them, but then tell me that I’m propagating “bullshit” for mentioning those that matter to me? That’s a bit contrarian, isn’t it?”

            Huh, seems like the two of you agree that issues shouldn’t be forced to compete with each other, so why are you arguing again? Oh right:

            “Worse, it cheapens the actual point one could make about women, men, and all society as it’s portrayed in Hollywood productions.”

            Huh, seems like Piet is accepting the notion of equal-rights issues as a zero-sum game and claiming that his issues are being “drowned out”. (On the other hand, I think his point is that Beaton’s issues are actually a subset of his own, which makes them very relevant.)

            Okay, back to the problems with Nonsensicles:

            “I’m not a white knight. I don’t step in to console others who have been upset by mean people to make them like me. I just show how the bullies of the internet are wrong, because maybe they’ll learn something and be better people for it later. Even if they resent me for it. Call me a troll slayer, if you really want a label.”

            Yes, because that’s completely different!

  2. I love this column and the one from last week. I never really notice how a character is “revolutionary” in comics or other art forms. For example, I didn’t know that several of these characters made an impact because they were strong female characters. I like reading about what inspires people to love characters and what depictions of characters are original.

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