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.