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An interview with Peter Bagge about his comics and favorite books.

In this issue of readersvoice.com we spend a day with a New York literary agent.First up, though, a major comics artist, based in Seattle. PETER BAGGE is probably best known for his best-selling comic HATE, which ran for 30 issues up to the late 1990s.Hate is kind of like a sitcom, portraying the gritty reality of life for Buddy Bradley, his colorful friends, and family. READERSVOICE.COM asked Peter Bagge about his comics and his reading.

READERSVOICE.COM: Could you give a list of your five favorite books of all time and what you liked about them?
PETER BAGGE: The Hunter Davies Beatles bio (THE BEATLES) I read had a big impact on me when I was a kid, as did the Holt Reinhart and Winston PEANUTS paperback collections from the 1960s, as well as RICHARD SCARY’S BEST WORLD BOOK EVER.
I still love that book!

I remember being floored by Vonnegut’s BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.”
I liked all of his books, but I loved the way that one had little doodles and drawings of assholes and such sprinkled throughout it.
I thought that was brilliant.

I also was changed forever by R. Crumb’s “HYTONE” comics, which was the first Crumb comic I ever bought, and still my favorite.
It’s also very scatological, which my puerile mind found very liberating.

RV: Can you recommend any out of the way, maybe off the planet kind of books you might have come across in your New York art school years, and perhaps later in Seattle?
PB: Everything was “weird” to me when I moved to NYC, compared to what I was exposed to in my hometown! And what might have been “obsure” then isn’t now.

I read less and less fiction though, and to this day I mostly read bios and autobios by and about weirdos (SHOCK VALUE by John Waters was a great one) or well-written history books (most history books are snoozefests written by stuffy academics, sadly).

RV: Like a lot of kids in the late 1960s, early 1970s you read a lot of MAD MAGAZINE, and then you became influenced by the first wave of underground comics artists like Robert Crumb and Bill Griffiths.
Can you give an account of where your comics reading went from there to what you like today?

PB: I touched on that above a bit, but yes, as a kid I loved MAD and a lot of the daily comic strips of the 60s.

Besides Peanuts, I also loved BEETLE BAILEY, BC, DENNIS THE MENACE and LI’L ABNER. By high school I was a big NATIONAL LAMPOON fan, which made all of the above seem like “kid stuff” in comparison.

Discovering undergrounds was a godsend for me.
I gave up on becoming a cartoonist before then, because the existing markets were so stifling and dull.
UGs made everything seem possible.

Besides Crumb, Bill Griffith, Kim Deitch, Robert Armstrong, Diane Noomin and Aline Kaminsky-Crumb were my favorites.

I still love all of them (the ones who still draw, that is), though I also love the work of countless other “alternative” cartoonists who came after them, too many to list, though I especially love the work of Dan Clowes and the Hernandez Brothers.

RV: How old were you when you started making Comical Funnies (1980-8 1) and how did you meet up with the friends who made the comics with you, and how did you go about producing and distributing them?

PB: I was 22. The other contributors all worked on PUNK Magazine in the late 70s.

PUNK went out of business, so we pooled our pennies and put out a tabloid mainly to have a place to see our longer comics (as in more than 1 page) in print.
RV: How did you start your involvement with Robert Crumb’s magazine, WEIRDO?
What was Robert Crumb like and what sort of lessons did you learn from him when you were editing Weirdo from 1983 to 1986?

PB: I sent Crumb copies of COMICAL FUNNIES back in ’81.
He reprinted something from it, and later printed those “MARTINI BATON” strips (which I made in collaboration with friend David Carrino).

Later he asked me to be the managing editor, of WEIRDO, since he was tired of doing it.
I just did it out of my home, like he did, and like Aline Crumb did after me.

Everything was done through the mail.
I was a very familiar face at my local post office.
Crumb is a moody curmudgeon, sometimes absurdly so, but he’s basically a very kind and considerate man.
He was incredibly kind to me.

Since I didn’t work side by side with him he didn’t share many art tips with me, but I gleened a lot from him attitude-wise, which I would say was even more valuable.

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