Comics, language, and history (and fun!)

Credit: Aaron Burden

One of my favorite things on the Internet is Tracy Butler’s Lackadaisy. In her own words on the FAQ page, Butler reports that the comic is about “a gang of tenacious (if not shady) characters running a St. Louis speakeasy in the era of Prohibition”–characters who happen to be intricately-drawn cat people with elaborate backstories. Quite astutely, Butler also comments, “I suppose it falls somewhere in the realm of historical fiction, parody, dark comedy, and abject nonsense.”

I admire Butler’s reverence for language. She loves the rhythm of obscure, outdated words and slang, which is partially why the speakeasy is called “Lackadaisy.” (In an interview, she also clarified that “the café that’s the cover for the speakeasy, with the secret entrance at the back, is called The Little Daisy…and ‘lackadaisical’ could describe the attitude that the patrons of a speakeasy might have.”) At first I wasn’t sure how to feel about Lackadaisy, but the more carefully I read the installments and looked through behind-the-scenes posts, the more I noticed that Butler makes a concerted effort to do her research, both in terms of linguistics and the flavor of the era. On top of that, Butler has a great ear for dialogue. Her characters convey their class differences, personalities, and affections via zingy (or witty, when appropriate) rapport that never feels forced.  For example, in this panel, the assassin Mordecai–who manages to be unintentionally endearing for many female fans–recalls an interaction with his little sister. Mordecai’s hifalutin’ speech, even as a kid, gives readers a good sense of his mannerisms. It’s also nice to see characters with foreign accents and regional accents making an appearance, as well as characters who can speak a different language (a feisty old-timer cat lady = hilarity).

Comics are fun, but they can be semi-educational too. Do you have any favorite comics? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Isabella Fidanza
Isabella tends to be a little too ambitious and a little too talkative, but she means well and enjoys making people laugh. While she's always been interested in publishing, she's also enamored with history and museum settings. She sympathizes with sassy sidekick characters, and thrives on making friends from different cultures.

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