Peter Bagge

Peter BaggeThe great cartoonist Peter Bagge is 57 today. Is he really great? I think he is. I remember when he first started publishing, his rubbery characterizations and his outrageous sensibility were very new. I’ve always thought that he and Bill Watterson looked kind of similar, but he took it to extremes that fit what he was trying to do with it.

I probably first saw him in Weirdo in the early 1980s. But I really got into him with the first issue of Neat Stuff. Looking at it now, I find it kind of embarrassing. The artwork is great, but the writing is kind of like Mad Magazine for teens. But they had their moments. There was Studs Kirby, every Fox News viewing man you’ve ever met — with sentimental periods where he drinks himself to sleep listening to Brenda Lee records. And there was The Bradleys, a highly dysfunctional family — not really well written but wonderfully rendered. As I recall, this is from the end of a strip where Buddy has purchased The Yardbirds’ greatest hits or something:

The Bradleys - Peter Bagge

You don’t find much Bagge on the internet. At least you don’t compared to the far greater Bernie Wrightson. I assume this is because Bagge is a greedy man who just can’t get enough money. The last time I saw him, he was publishing cartoons in the libertarian Reason Magazine. I’ve since learned that he also writes articles. I really don’t want to know. You start with an artist — generally not the greatest analysts. Then you combine that with the libertarian thinking of someone at the top of his profession — who had success very young. This is not a formula for deep thinking. But Woody Allen being a child molester doesn’t make his films any less great. Peter Bagge being a libertarian doesn’t make his comics any less great. Am I saying these are the same? Only in the sense that they both show a lack of impulse control.

Happy birthday Peter Bagge!

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