Monday, October 28, 2002

A MUCH, MUCH BETTER BAG THAN THAT FREAKING BAG IN AMERICAN BEAUTY: BugPowder sends us over to Two-Handed Man's interview with Peter Bagge, which is wide-ranging and great. I hadn't even thought of his color HATE! issues in the way he was thinking of them, but it makes sense:

THM: How did the move from working to black and white to working with colour make your job as an artist harder and/or easier?

PB: My work habits generally remained the same, but what I was going for stylistically changed drastically. The basic art and stories in the colour HATEs were much more dense, intense and personal than in the earlier HATEs. As a result, I kept the linework cleaner and added colour to make it both easier to read AND digest. Those colour HATEs were much sadder and complex than the earlier ones, which basically were just Archie and Veronica/relationship nonsense.

THM: Hey, that's true. There was less of a wild carnival atmosphere, but the stories had a lot more emotional depth to them, as Buddy and Lisa got serious about making it work. And the colour made it look less like an underground comic and more like a nice classic Sunday strip.

PB: Yeah, the colour belied the content. There was a bit of a contradiction there. I basically was doing what Chris Ware (creator of the Acme Comics Library, published by Fantagraphics-THM) became more celebrated for, which was combining traditional, iconographic comic art and colours to tell rather grim subject matter.

THM: So the `friendlier' look that the colour gave it helped the audience deal with material that was stronger and more serious. Smart.

PB: I dunno how smart it was. I don't know if people appreciated what I was trying to do, for the most part. Some people did, but certainly not all.

THM: Maybe not on a conscious level, but it works on the level of being a well-told story, and that's where it counts.

PB: Those colour HATEs were the best things I've ever done by far. I'm extremely proud of them. I seem to be better-known and celebrated (if at all) for the early black and white HATEs, though.

My Ware-exposure is somewhat limited, but I can tell you that I can't see why he's gotten all the "best cartoonist of his generation" nods when good ol' P. Bagge's more mature HATE! being right there. Well, maybe they're different generations, but still. I think Bagge is perfectly justified in being slightly bitter here. The interview also brings up the Peanuts influence on HATE!:

THM: You're a big fan of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, but I don't seem to see any Schulz influence in HATE. What do you like about him?

PB: Well, from the late 1950's to about 1970 Schulz was the best cartoonist in the world. I loved the way his characters interacted, especially Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown. The ones starring those three were brilliant. And I see a similarity (which sometimes borders on being a rip-off) between those strips and many of my early comic strips. Girly Girl and Chucky Boy were Lucy and Linus, basically.

It's true the Schulz influence crops up in the character interactions. Another Schulz thing is the way Bagge--instead of using a bunch of different things--perfected his own style to such a degree that HATE!, like Peanuts, speaks a unique iconographic dialect. And both of their styles are inherently interesting--the facial expressions, the crazy tongues in Bagge--so perefecting said style is a very good thing. HATE! is only HATE! and Peanuts is only Peanuts. Something like that. And there's this "say it ain't so, Pete" moment: "I think that older, stable and mature people outgrow their need for fiction PERIOD. They're no longer searching for themselves or `the truth' because they've already found it." And he completely insults the Stones, gaining points with me, and fritters away those points by loving The Beatles, but regains them by putting The Beach Boys on the same level as The Beatles, which works for me because I think a lot of my Beatles hate comes from me thinking that there are people on their level and nobody evey mentions them or at least it comes across that way in the media. Plus The Beatles are too precise and emotionally distant to be of any use to me. But anyway, it's a great interview for us Bagge fans.

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