If your 2016 has been anything like mine, the winter doldrums have truly set in, and any comfort and joy of the holiday season is loooooong gone. (Seriously, there should be a limit on the number of family members that are allowed to be in the hospital at the same time.) All this means that I’m in desperate need of some vicarious love and family, so Kate Beaton’s home for the holiday comics have been a godsend.
Beaton’s short auto-bio comics chronicling her yearly return back to her family’s home in maritime Canada have become one of my favorite holiday traditions. Rendered in a sketchy style and a four-panel grid, each comic strip is a single moment in time that are sweet and funny in a way that doesn’t require landing a punchline. The affection and love Beaton has for her family shines through, and somehow she can make all these comedic strips about her family members without ever making them the butt of the joke. Instead of the underlying message being ‘look at my dumb family, aren’t they crazy?’ you get the feeling that Beaton’s inviting you in to appreciate the occasional silliness of her family’s antics while asking ‘aren’t my ridiculous family totally great?’
If you want to read these for maximum effect, my recommendation is starting with the 2013 holiday compilation, then going on to last year’s comics, before finally reading this year’s. That’s not because Beaton has managed to insert complicated continuity into brief holiday strips, but because reading in order lets you get to know her family members and enhances the pleasure of reading later strips. It also makes the final strip of this year, when Beaton has moved back from Toronto to live in her home town, so full of pathos. Every other year’s compilation ends with leaving the Maritimes behind, but now she’s there for good. Seriously, you guys, if you’ve ever lived away from your family, you will feel so many feelings.
Speaking of Kate Beaton projects, there’s a new picture book coming up later this year. King Baby! He’s a king, but he’s also a baby! My six-year-old cousin adored The Princess and the Pony from Beaton, and I’m sure she’ll dig this one too.
Also of interest for those of you have dig all-ages comics (or just have young cousins who dig them): the first excerpt of Raina Telgemeier’s new book Ghosts that will be hitting bookshelves in the fall, and Goldie Vance, a new miniseries about the titular girl solving mysteries in a ’60s hotel from Hope Lars0n and Brittney Williams.
Let’s break down all the things that have me excited about Goldie Vance: 1) the only thing better about a girl-detective story is when the protagonist is a person of color and has an awesome old-timey name like Goldie, 2) the character style of a fun fictional ’60s Florida resort town with all the fun colors of that era, 3) art by Britney Williams, the artist on the new Patsy Walker series from Marvel and also did that completely badass DC Universe redesign set in an alternate 19th century Japan fanart.
If this column has just been too upbeat for you, don’t worry, I’ve got something to satisfy your January need for the sadder parts of life. This article explores These Memories Won’t Last by Sutu, an interactive comic about the fragility of memory and the cartoonist’s grandfather’s slide into dementia. My grandmother passed away last year after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, and, wow, just reading the interview about the comic was a little devastating to me. I’m saving this one, along with Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel Displacement for a time when I’m feeling a little less vulnerable, but they both look like lovely works about the strange sadness of seeing your grandparents drift away from you.