Friday, January 19, 2007

Influences: Peter Bagge

Peter Bagge

There are only two comics titles of which I have feverishly tried to collect every issue. One is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (surprise). The other is HATE by Peter Bagge. HATE follows misunderstood youth Buddy Bradley throughout the nineties, and coincides directly with the Seattle grunge movement (was it a movement?). I picked up my first Bagge comic at a used book store near my house, and ended up collecting the entire thirty issues at comic book stores in three countries. [Actually, it was a The Bradleys -- a Bagge comic about Buddy's family -- that was my FIRST Bagge purchase from the used book store. I'm assuming HATE was a spin-off from that.]

What drew me to Bagge initially was his rich cross-hatching. More to the point, it was the unnecessary nature of the cross-hatching that amazed me. It was so tight and so heavily layered, and I knew from experience that it must have been physically exhausting just to do a single page. But the results were worth it, as they could turn a nine-panel page of Buddy talking on the phone into a work of art. For some reason Bagge dropped his cross-hatching and turned to color mid-way through the series. I have to imagine he had a kid or something and suddenly the act of spending fifteen hours a day drawing parallel lines ceased being an option.

So I stole Bagge's cross-hatching tricks immediately, but only recently I've found myself drawing on Bagge's linework and rubbery limbs. The whole time I was reading HATE (maybe seven years ago), I was only using a rapidograph or stiff crow quill nibs, had never picked up a brush before, so I didn't really have a need to emulate his line quality. IN FACT, I remember being FRUSTRATED by his linework, and subconsciously vowed NOT to emulate it. I thought of Bagge's loosey-goosey limbs as juvenile and an easy way out -- at the time I was concerned with mastering anatomy and I saw Bagge's forms as a kind of regression. No, it took an art history seminar on German Expressionism (thanks, College!) for me to appreciate how the contortion in Bagge's bodies went hand-in-hand with the general or specific emotions expressed in the story. So when I eventually became more interested in drawing what I FELT than drawing what I SAW, the lessons and influence of Bagge came hurtling back.

And while I'm talking about Peter Bagge, I also have to mention his retro pop band, the Action Suits. I brought an Action Suits 45 to college my senior year and played it for my friends. They all got into it hardcore on an ironic level and downloaded every Action Suits mp3 that they could find. With lyrics like "I've got a four track mind" and "fun flies when you're having time," and syrupy sweet harmonies, they became perfect songs to blast down our hallway at three in the morning. I saw these college buddies last weekend, and at least one of them had uploaded the Action Suits onto his ipod (along with album cover art). I don't know that the Action Suits directly influenced my art style, but seeing Bagge behind the drum kit has made me attempt to get a life outside of comics.


danno, who now comments more than Don Ha and Shad's Mom combined said...

"One is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (surprise)"

okay, and of the millions of creators who haved worked on the Ninja Turtles, who is ranked as your favorites?

I think AC Farley is by far the best. I prefer Laird over Eastman.
And i still think Jim Lawson, who has probably drawn more Ninja Turtle adverntures than anyone, is just plain awful.

Also, I know I should have done it long ago, but I just reserved HATE volume one at the library.
I loved that book Bagge did for DC about cartoonists, so I guess its time I finally started at his beginning.

Kevin Cannon said...

I'm sure Lawson is a great guy, but no, I never liked what he did with TMNT. He's a good example of a guy who's talented, but whose style contradicted everything the turtles stood for (in my 12 yr old mind).

As far as Eastman vs. Laird, I guess I don't really know who did what. I like the gritty style of the first several issues the best ... but then again, I also love the thinner style, like when they go back to Casey's farm.

I can't remember Farley too well. Did he do a cover of the turtles wrestling an alligator? If so, no, not a huge fan.

danno said...

i dont know if he did a cover of them vs an alligator.
he did all the covers for the CITY AT WAR storyline(the issues following issue 50 that eastman/laird did)

also, i would love to see a kevin cannon rendition of TMNT

Kevin Cannon said...

I'll have to dig up some old sketches (or do some NEW ones ...)

Eric Reynolds said...

What a great post to stumble across! Thanks from a former Action Suit....

Anonymous said...

What Eric said! And thanks for the kind words re: my funny books. One caveat: Those color issues of HATE were far more laborious than the B&W ones. All that crosshatching was just mindless busy work, really.

Anonymous said...

Oops! "Annonymous" is me, Peter Bagge.

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