Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Bag O' Bagge: Hate!

This is the second part of a series devoted to the work of my all-time favorite cartoonist, Peter Bagge. In my first article, I discussed Bagge’s breakout work in Neat Stuff, and how he eventually ended that magazine to start HATE, a new monthly focused on Buddy Bradley.

Buddy was an unlikely candidate for his own series. The foul-mouthed, lazy, weasely slacker showed up in time to capitalize on the early Grunge culture, and indeed, HATE #1 found Buddy living in Seattle, Washington, Grunge City, USA at the time. Bagge’s cartooning had improved greatly by this time, becoming much more assured and solid. For the first 15 issues of HATE, Bagge adopted a gritty, R. Crumb-influenced inking style that was appropriate to the sometimes dark and seedy happenings in Buddy’s life.

Bagge used an unusual storytelling device in Hate #1 to reintroduce us to Buddy, as the reader is greeted by Buddy at the door to his new apartment. Breaking the fourth wall, Buddy invites “us” in and gets us caught up with his life since the last time we saw him in Neat Stuff #15.

Buddy only spent a few more months in Jersey before teaming with Stinky to find a new place to live, and after a few false starts, their travels finally brought them to Seattle and an apartment that the two share with a third roommate. George Cecil Hamilton III is a reclusive, uptight loner who will get more attention in future issues, and Stinky is an even bigger loser than Buddy; a big-ideas man with no follow through, living in a pantry and scamming and screwing his way through life.

Hate #2 introduces the women in Buddy’s life, as he hooks up with Valerie Russo, a much classier woman than he’s used to dating, only to find out that her roommate is an ex of his. Lisa Leavenworth is thoroughly neurotic, crazily jealous, and immediately drives the other two just as nutty as she is.

It is worth reminding you at this point that Buddy is not an especially likable character in this series. He smokes, drinks, and voices his opinion with reckless abandon. He’s a racist, sexist, misanthrope, and his friends aren't much better. Bagge takes these oddballs and losers in some fascinating directions, though, and his goofy, comical cartooning offsets scenes that could have been disgusting and/or depressing were it not for the wacky art. His sense of characterization and dialogue in Hate was top-notch, making for some great, resonant stories about not-so-great people.

Buddy’s younger brother Butch makes an appearance in the fourth issue, having run away from home after washing out of high school. Butch has grown into a sullen, hulking brute since Buddy last saw him, simmering with rage, and Buddy has to spend the entire story keeping him from killing or being killed by the Seattle hippy crowd. When Butch heads back to Jersey at the end, we’re as relieved as Buddy, but this wouldn’t the last we’d see of Butch Bradley. Further stories involved a meeting with Val’s parents, more information on the enigma that is George Cecil Hamilton III (if you really want to piss him off, ask him if he’s related to that actor), and George’s one and only date with Lisa.

“Follow That Dream” was the series first two part story in issues 8 and 9, as Stinky convinces Buddy to manage an awful grunge/punk band that he’s “discovered”. Buddy finds that he can be ruthless and conniving enough to make it profitable, at least until the lead singer backs out and needs to be replaced. Stinky takes over, sticking a feather duster up his butt and renaming the band “Leonard and the Love Gods”. Things get worse for Buddy and he abandons the (doomed to failure) band, and returns home only to find out that Valerie has dumped him.

Issue #10 begins with Lisa begging Buddy to get her a job at the bookstore he works at, and ends with Buddy unemployed, Lisa moving in, and George moving out. This issue also begins a pathetic but hilarious downward spiral, as Buddy and Lisa try to break into the cut-throat “collectibles” biz, and get into an escalating war with rival dealer Yahtzi Murphy. By issue 15, circumstances led the whole cast to move back into the apartment, leaving Buddy on the sofa and at his wits end.

The next HATE storyline would lead Buddy and Lisa back to New Jersey, back to his mom’s basement, and into a controversial format change, all of which you’ll hear about in the next installment! (continued soon…)


Cully said...

I too love Pete Bagge and especialy his Hate run. I appreciate creators who can let their caractures evolce with time as he did with Buddy and company. The "Hey Stinky!" piece was a nice tip of the hat to Jaime Hernandez who did a strip called "Hey Hopey!" with the same bathtub shot. My only complaint is now having to wait so long inbetween Hate Annuals. When they do come out, it's at the top the reading list.

joe bloke said...

yey! the bradleys! oh, man, it's been years since i gave peter bagge a shot. think i may have to go seek.

Brian Hughes said...
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