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A Short Interview with Peter Bagge
posted December 31, 1999
 

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Who He Is: The cartoonist behind the seminal alternative comic books Neat Stuff and Hate, a former editor of Robert Crumb's Weirdo, the writer of the recent DC kids' title Yeah! and an on-line contributor to Suck.com and Adobe.

Why He's Important: Peter Bagge isn't just one of America's most successful alternative cartoonists, he's one of American humor's most influential artists. Bagge is the post-underground artist who comes closest to approximating the mainstream humorist status of a Robert Crumb or Gilbert Shelton. His work on the 1980s comic Neat Stuff was an obvious influence on popular 1990s animators like Matt Groening, John Kricfalusi and Mike Judge. Hate, a spin-off title featuring that magazine's most popular character, Buddy Bradley, garnered media attention as a dead-on take on young peoples' foibles in early '90s Seattle.

One of the mainstays of the Seattle cartooning scene and Seattle arts in general, Bagge lives in Ballard with his wife and daughter, where he pursues a number of comics and illustration projects.


TOM SPURGEON: How would you describe the Seattle comics community? I've been told you played a large role in its coming into existence.

PETER BAGGE: When Joanna (my wife) and I first moved here in '84 we missed socializing with a rapidly evolving "cartooning community" that we left behind in New York, so we tried hard to get something similar going here -- which was hard, since there were very few Alternative cartoonists living here at the time. But as the years many more artists moved here -- way more than could even be fit into one group, in fact. But other than encouraging people to move here, I didn't really start anything.

SPURGEON: What comics or cartoonists have had the greatest influence on you?

BAGGE: Charles M. Schulz and other "funny" daily newspaper cartoonists when I was a kid, as well as MAD Magazine. Later on I was very influenced by Robert Crumb and other underground artists. And I'm still inspired by some of my contemporaries, like Dan Clowes and the Hernandez Brothers.

SPURGEON: What's the best thing and the worst thing about living in Ballard?

BAGGE: Compared to the rest of the city Ballard is fairly peaceful and quiet. The worst thing about Ballard is that it's peaceful and quiet.

SPURGEON: Your comic Hate received some attention as one of the important chronicles of young peoples' lives in early '90s Seattle. Do you welcome that kind of attention, and how do you view that work now?

BAGGE: I welcome any kind of attention as long as it isn't violent. What do I think of the early Hates myself? I think I did a good job of capturing what was going on in my own head when I was in my early 20s, which was the intention of Hate in the first place.

SPURGEON: You write and draw funny comics; a lot of alternative comics are really serious. Do you see your kind of comics as something that's under-appreciated by comics readers?

BAGGE: No, I don't feel under-appreciated, all things considered. The more "serious" stuff is easier to praise and write glowing reviews for, but so few people read comics criticism to begin with. So few people read comics!


This interview was done for a travel book called The Stranger Guide to Seattle. I don't know if it was used or not.