Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kate Beaton

This is delicate. Please hear me out.

I've never met Canadian webcomic artist Kate Beaton . I've read a bunch of her comics, and ran a few ads on her site. I noticed an anthology of her work has been selling well.

I have no reason to believe she is unable to take care of herself.

She has a refreshing niche, drawing cartoons of how historical episodes might have been, based on her history degree and reading, and flavored with humor.

She appears to work on paper, and I know all about correction fluid, but she has a nice way of seeming to get proportions, especially in faces, looking as if she pegged them on the first try.

I agree with her philosophy of pacing. Each panel seems to give way to the next necessary panel, not a less-interesting intermediate. Her caricatures, like Napoleon, are fun.

Sometimes, when an uncommon physical object is called for by the plot, the rendering is less polished. This affects us all, and I mention it because it allows you to see the contrast between her best work and less inspired moments. If you like to study drawing, you can learn from it. I'm sure she does.

On certain internet locations, colleagues seem to be trampling over each other to praise Ms. Beaton. They are, as is so often the case, the most dubious and calculating sources. The prose is over the top; actually asinine. The maneuvering is transparent, the papering over of jealousy ineffective.

On those few occasions when the universe has accidentally sent me an overdose of praise, I have felt consternation. What is the value of praise if it is hollow, or if it is hype?

My age lets me annoy twenty-somethings with unsolicited advice. My messages to Ms. Beaton are these: If you sense danger, you are probably right; and lots of people quietly admire you even though we don't always say it.

To those who are laying it on thick: type a period. When a young person is building their career, and their credentials, they don't need others to release proclamations. They want to succeed on their own merits. Most of all, they don't want the swollen heads some of you lug around.

This is why I don't like awards, especially to those under 30. We've seen them turn some agreeable webcomickers into monsters.

Even if the commentators I mentioned have convinced themselves they are being honorable, it's time they crank their tongues into arrest, and let this woman develop her career with tempered, de-politicized support. I highly doubt she needs anything more.