Peter Bagge started a new comic strip in 1990. He took Buddy Bradley, one of the characters from his previous anthology title Neat Things, and put him front and center. Hate, a comic that was reckless, bad-tempered, and sometimes hilarious, was the result.
Hate picked a wave. With his pal Stinky and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Lisa as Buddy, Bagge moved to Seattle and fundamentally conceived the slacker sitcom (ic). This helped him draw on some of the same resources and tastes of the emerging grunge scene (even if Bagge and Buddy were always at odds with it).
The result was one of the best comics of the 1990s, fuelled by the rubbery, expressive drawing style of Bagge, his willingness to say the unsayable (something that sounds much more transgressive 30 years later than it did then), and his ability to wrap it all up in a tight sitcom structure (it’s no real surprise that television networks have constantly chosen Hate, but none of them have ever been able to wrap it all up in a tight sitcom structure
Hate ran for eight years as a monthly comic, and early in the century, Bagge returned to the characters and started publishing a Hate annual once a year (obviously). In one particular age, the characters were never stuck. Let the baggage grow (or not, as the case may be) and grow older. He threw away some characters with true ruthlessness when they no longer served his intent.
Bagge has been working on cartoon biographies of historical figures like Zora Neale Hurston and Margaret Sanger over the last few years. Now a new box set hardcover version of The Full Hate has been published by Fantagraphics. A witty, sometimes surprising thrill ride is the outcome.
We took the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about Donald Trump and his passion for comics at that time and now:
First of all, I wonder what you think about the release of Hate now as a hardcover box set? I don’t think you were thinking about that a long time ago, when you started Hating.
That’s right, and to be honest, when I began Hate, I always liked the idea of making cheap ephemera – something you could use as a coaster or roll your joints on when you finished reading. But this large, costly volume also serves as a reminder of the presence of the old comic, so there’s it!
All right, time for a confession. What proportion of Buddy Bradley are we able to see in you? How close to you is he?
My general response has always been that one-third is based on the stuff that happened to me, one-third is based on my buddies, and one-third is made up entirely. That still appears to be real, I would claim, although to some degree I can relate with it.
It’s striking how easily you catch on while reading the strips again.
While doing Neat Things, I learned a great deal, like what not to do. So yeah, by the time I began Hate, I felt pretty practiced in my comic storytelling capabilities.
The trick then is to keep up with what you’re doing by constantly rebooting the sitcom. You’re writing in your notes that certain characters like Stinky just didn’t give you a lot of leeway.
Stinky wasn’t the kind of character who developed – if he did, he wouldn’t be Stinky – but that made it less fun for me to work with as well. In my mind, it made him seem almost tragic if I held him any longer, and I didn’t want to do that.
For which character did you want to write the most?
For that very reason, Lisa and Jay would be my favorite characters: they were very complicated and malleable. Lisa particularly. Being unpredictable was her character.
After all these years, what hit you when you reread these strips?
How things have changed, most of all. All the landlines! Fanzines. And Do you remember those? And people meeting face to face, as opposed to digital communication. It all feels much more immediate – because it was!
How do you think they’ll arrive in 2020? The culture has changed. (Re-reading the strips, I laughed a lot, but occasionally winced. But I’m a squishy liberal.)
People – especially younger people – have been conditioned to cringe at everything these days. In some ways that’s progress, which is a good thing, though we also seem to ignore what people’s real intentions were when they use language that is no longer socially acceptable, which is also not a good sac