A two part conversation between Peter Bagge (Hate, Reset) and Zak Sally at TCJ.com plants the flag on the idea that Bagge’s achievements need a reassessment:
His editorship of Weirdo followed by Neat Stuff followed by Hate was a run pretty much unparalleled in comics– maybe a handful were as good, but you could count them on one hand (or a couple fingers). And besides, it’s apples and oranges: there was no one like Peter Bagge, and there still isn’t. What you get from him is unlike anything or anyone else, in all the ways that matter. I’ve felt for a while that the rise of so-called “art comics” left Pete somewhat unappreciated in the current landscape of “serious” “literary” “graphic novels,” which I think is a damn shame: his work is still great, above and beyond what the flavor of the decade might be
I’d back tat up; when Magge started out he was always mentioned in the same breath at Los Bros and Clowes, and they were all buddies, but for whatever reason his work has been less appreciated. I could guess at the reasons: his art is more cartoony and not formally stunning, but Bagge’s writing and insights into both sides of a sordid, sad story is unsurpassed, and his editorship of Weirdo helped usher in the generation of alternative comics that would take over the world. Buddy Bradley’s tale is the story of the Tweeners, the groups on the borders of the Baby Boom and Gen X, slackers, grungers and the last generation to consider the record store a hangout. Bagge’s own origin goes back to the days when the idea of being a cartoonist for a living was almost mythic:
Then, while I was in art school, I went into a record store that had a rack full of underground comics, and it was the solo comics by Robert Crumb, in particular, that floored me. What I loved about Robert Crumb’s solo comics was how he treated the traditional comic book format as a blank canvas, and just did whatever he wanted from cover to cover. It was all him: one guy inked it, one guy lettered it, and there were no ads for Twinkles or BB guns. It was just all him. And then there was what he did with it. I loved the way he drew, and I loved his sense of humor just as much as that I loved what he did format-wise. So as soon as I saw that, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. And while Crumb was my favorite, I liked many of the other underground cartoonists, too: Gilbert Shelton and Bill Griffith, and a lot of others. Kim Deitch, Robert Armstrong, and Aline Crumb. Sadly, I also assumed that since their comics were so fantastic, they must all be millionaires.
Bagge has a timely book from D&Q coming out later this year: Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story about the birth control pioneer and feminist icon. His non-fiction work in recent years has been sharp and well observed, so it will be interesting to see how the book is received.
Also, man I really need to get my Neat Stuf’s and Weirdos out of storage!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.