Sunday, August 30, 2009

Do Your Own Thing Unto Others

Born in 1957 in Peekskill, NY and residing in Seattle, comic artist Peter Bagge has had a pretty long and impressive underground comix career, editing Weirdo after Robert Crumb handed him the reins, as well as his own now-legendary titles Neat Stuff and Hate. But it's been a tad startling running into Bagge's work in slightly more mainstream media these days, like the Weekly World News and even MAD magazine, as well as allegedly animating commercials for Round Table Pizza, although I haven't been able to find any of them online. But as Bagge's material takes on a more political platform, the vocally Libertarian cartoonist has been featured prominently in the Lib mag Reason over the past decade. And sadly, not knowing, I have missed every one. That is, until now.

Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me And Other Astute Observations is a brand new collection of Peter Bagge's "cartoon reporting" taken from the pages of Reason over the last ten years, with all the wonderfully exaggerated rubber-limbed and wide mobile mouthed denizens that we have come to love and expect that inhabit his worlds. According to the back of the book, "Topics include the erosion of our civil liberties, ongoing boondoggles on the American public, the Iraq war, so-called art and so-called entertainment, the homeless, the mall-ification of America, politicians both in general and in particular, the conservative/religious war on sex and drugs, and whether citizens should be allowed to own bazookas." Bagge is often front and center at each report, allowing us to see the events from his point of view, which is oftentimes conflicted and confused as his inner thought-bubble tries to sus out the information -- and just as often, he sometimes never does.

Living in the relatively liberal city of Seattle gives Bagge plenty of material to work with. But in his strip "Confessions From A Reluctant Anti-Warrior" as Bagge (who strongly opposed the invasion in Iraq) takes shots at an anti-war rally in 2003, mocking the pretentious behavior of many of the protesters, he expresses a deep sense of

shame in a comic drawn one year later entitled "Confessions Of A Lazy Anti-Warrior", realizing in humiliation that when other people were making their voices heard, he himself did nothing the whole time except plop down in front of the television watching marathon reruns of Law & Order. Bagge isn't afraid to call himself out on his own bullshit when he recognizes that he deserves it.

More than anything, Bagge's work does what it always does with perfection, which is capture people doing exactly what people really do, and how they often think when they think that nobody else thinks that they are thinking it (sorry). His art is constantly moving, perpetually fluid, and instantly recognizable to a 21st century American culture raised on Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons. Whether you agree with his politics or not, Everybody Is Stupid... is thought-provoking and, most importantly, hilarious. And as a long-time lover and collector of All Things Bagge, it's finally all mine without having go deal with the annoyance of scrounging up back issues of Reason magazine. (available through Fantagraphics Books, and most booksellers)


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