Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy 55th Birthday, Peter Bagge!

Famous for his swirly, frenetic, and cartoony style, Peter Bagge is a groundbreaking and prolific comics artist whose work helped define and steer the comics art scene after the underground comix period. His editorship of Weirdo as well as his series Neat Stuff in the 1980s led to his work on Hate, and were instrumental in ushering in the alternative comics scenes of the 1990s and 2000s. His works have also appeared in numerous non-comics venues, such as Reason magazine and the notoriously over-the-top tabloid The World Weekly News.

Early in his career, Bagge was published by Robert Crumb in Weirdo and was eventually named editor of that alt-comics precursor. He went on to publish Neat Stuff at Fantagraphics, giving readers a number of different characters and storylines. Among his observational humor and parodies were the brash, annoying Girly Girl, the pathetic man-child Junior, the oblivious Goon in the Moon, the grating shock-jock Studs Kirby, and dysfunctional suburban family The Bradleys.

After this series ended, Buddy, the eldest Bradley son, went on to star in Hate, which along with Dan Clowes' Eightball, is considered one of the major alternative comics series of the 1990s. The early issues of the series followed Buddy as he moved to Seattle and navigated the nascent grunge scene. This series is notable because it shows Buddy aging as it goes along. It is still published today on an annual basis, with Buddy now being a father and cantankerous business owner in New Jersey.

Although Bagge has spent the majority of his career on his own creations and on his own terms, he has had a few forays into the two big comics companies. He wrote and Gilbert Hernandez drew nine issues of the comic book series Yeah!, which was a fun, gorgeous look at a pop band who happened to tour in outer space, for DC Comics. At the same company, he wrote and drew the comics industry parody Sweatshop. He also did some work at Marvel, producing the very interesting and provocative, if not-well-received-at-the-time, The Egomaniacal Spider-Man and The Incorrigible Hulk, which was shelved for a long time before it was finally published in an anthology.

Today, Bagge remains creative, topical, and independent with his work. He has worked on series such as Apocalypse Nerd, a survival story set in the Pacific northwest after a nuclear attack from North Korea. He has also explored the effects of technology on people's lives in the graphic novel Other Lives and series Reset.

In non-comics arenas, Bagge has published a strip about Bat Boy, The World Weekly News's mascot. In that insane run, Bat Boy has all kinds of adventures, gets elected president of the US, and eventually ends up marrying Beyoncé (who, it turns out, is actually a Bigfoot). In a more serious vein, Bagge has been a contributing editor and cartoonist for Reason magazine for a number of years now. This has been the primary forum for his work that details his Libertarian views, and a bunch of his strips have been collected in Everybody is Stupid Except for Me. Bagge talks more about his work and views in this interview.

In 2010, Bagge won the prestigious Inkpot Award for his achievements in comics. He also won Harvey Awards in 1991 for Best Cartoonist and Best New Series for his work on Hate. For his various works over time, he has also been nominated for multiple Eisner Awards.

On top of being an accomplished comics creator Bagge has also been an active musician, for years in a band called the Action Suits and currently in Can You Imagine? Check out their MySpace page for more of their songs, especially if you like a 1960's pop sound with a lot of harmonies.

Is it clear yet that I am a huge fan of this guy? I wish him a very happy birthday!

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