Canadian Artists of the Year

Cartoonist Kate Beaton (Kevin Van Paassen for the Globe and Mail)

Kate Beaton

Apologies to the Rankin Family, but Kate Beaton has become the pride of Mabou, N.S., the small Cape Breton community where she was born and raised. Beaton, 32, is an internationally-acclaimed comic artist, with her second collection, Step Aside, Pops, debuting at No. 1 on The New York Times graphic book list its first week in stores. Her mischievous strips are steeped in history, versed in literature, and engaged with pop culture. Her work plays with the past – see “The Last Days of Georges Danton” or “Ida B. Wells,” both from her latest book – and confronts the present – witness a strip such as “Straw Feminists in the Closet.” Her work is smart, and she trusts her readers are smart, too. She’s like your favourite high school history or English teacher, or a Heritage Minute reimagined for the age of social media. I probably would have nominated her for Canadian artist of the year on the strength of Step Aside, Pops alone, but this year she also published The Princess and the Pony, one of my favourite picture books of 2015. The story of a brave princess who wants nothing but “a real warrior’s horse” for her birthday but is saddled with a flatulent cross-eyed pony leaves no doubt Beaton will soon have fans of every age. – Mark Medley