Peter Bagge is back with Other Lives, which is actually his first graphic novel ever. I got the chance to interview him when he published the series Apocalypse Nerd in 2005. Here it is in its entirety, and this is also the prequel to the upcoming grunge week on my blog.
In 2005 I got to interview Martin Kellerman’s favourite cartoonists for his Rocky magazine. Luckily, people like Joe Matt, Julie Doucet, Daniel Clowes, and Mats Jonsson were also personal favourites. Here’s my interview with Peter Bagge in full, where he talks about The Bradleys, grunge, Marvel, the Hate movie, comics journalism and Apocalypse Nerd.
ØH: What and who got you inspired to keep on reading comics and making them yourselves?
PB: As a child, my favorite cartoonist and biggest inspiration was Charles M. Schulz. Later it was Robert Crumb. There were many others, though – too many to list!
ØH: The Bradleys were your big breakthrough. Were they an reaction to healthy comedy families like The Cosby Show, and why do you think we keep on being interested in dysfunctional families like The Bradleys, The Bundys and The Simpsons?
PB: The Bradleys were a cross between my only family and The Brady Bunch, where I used the former to satirize the latter. The stories became more autobiographical and less satirical as time went on, however. Why are people interested in dysfuntional families? Because they’re funny, and everyone relates!
ØH: How did it feel when Hate got caught up in the zeitgeist when the grunge explosion flooded out of Seattle in the early 90’s, especially when you actually didn’t like the music much (from your comics it seemed you, or at least Buddy, didn’t). What was the most idiotic, frustrating and fulfilling consequences of this?
PB: The grunge phenomenon helped generate a lot of publicity for my comics than it would have received otherwise. Of course, now there are many people who think of my work soley as «grunge comics», but those people have obviously never read Hate and never will, so who cares what they think?
ØH: How close have you gotten to getting your characters transformed to other media, and is this still something you wish to happen?
PB: I liked the idea of turning Hate into an animated TV show, and I had two separate development deals in the past to do just that. Both opportunities failed, however, and the chances of it happening again look highly unlikely. People still call me all the time about doing a live action «indy» film based on Hate, but so far all of those people have turned out to be no talent flakes.
ØH: I think I’ve read that you used your life and surroundings as inspiration in some way in creating the comics about Buddy Bradley, only with 10 years or so distance. How did this change when you became a parent? I loved your portrayal of yourself as a somewhat fascistic parent, but I’ve only read one story about it. Doesn’t parenthood make a good inspiration for making comics?
PB: I’m doing stories now in which Buddy is a parent, so I would agree with your hunch, though those stories generate very little feedback. The problem is readers of alternative comics tend to be in their early 20s, and are far more interested in stories about courtship and finding one’s place in the world than they are about more middle aged concerns.
ØH: Parenthood seemed to have an impact in one way; you got more interested in making comics that kids could read. How is the situation for making kids’ comics in USA today?
PB: Based on my own experience: not too good! Kids are far more interested in electronic media: video games, cable TV, movies, the Web etc. Comics simply can’t compete. Very few kids read comic books these days.
ØH: How was it making Marvel comics? Did you get many shocked responses from old fans and colleagues? And do you want to do more of this?
PB: I finished a Hulk comic, which was in the same format as my oneshot Spider-Man comic, but Marvel put it on hold, where it continues to linger. I got little direct criticism over my Spidey comic. People seemed to like it, and it was fun to work on (as opposed to the Hulk comic, which the new owners of Marvel greatly interfered with). I’d gladly do more for them if the situation changes.
ØH: Apocalypse Nerd was inspired by your loss of internet connection. How would you have made out without electricity and other aspects of modern life?
PB: Who, me? Good question! My gut reaction would be that I would just shrivel up and dies, though I’d like to think that I’d be resourceful enough to survive somehow. I hope I never have to find out, though!
ØH: Comics journalism seems to be something more comic creators work with. How are your experiences with this form of reporting, and do you still work with it?
PB: Yes, I still do it on a regular basis for Reason Magazine. It’s hard work, and I still feel like I haven’t come up with the perfect format for it, but it’s definitely worth the struggle. The challenge involved is invigorating!
ØH: What comes after Apocalypse Nerd? Have you any plans to pick up your old characters from Neat Stuff, Hate, Yeah! or Sweatshop again (except for the Hate annuals)?
PB: Reviving Yeah! and Sweatshop would be up to DC, which they’ve shown zero interest in doing. Meanwhile, I have my hands full with my Reason features and with a weekly Bat Boy strip I’m going for The Weekly World News (a satirical supermarket tabloid here in the US). If other opportunities present themselves in the meantime I’m sure to jump on them.