Tag: Peter Bagge

Comics for Grownups Episode 25

by on Oct.24, 2013, under Comics

Comics for Grownups Episode 24 with Alex Rothman is now out on iTunes. Direct RSS link for Android users here.

In this episode we discuss:

Rebetiko by David Prudhomme

Moose #1-14 by Max de Radigues

Annotated #11 by Aaron Cockle

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge

Invisible Wounds by Jess Ruliffson

Ayn Rand by Darryl Cunningham

The King of Persia by Walt Holcombe (now available in this compilation)

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Holy Crap You Guys Major Backlog! (Part 3, European Artistes—and Other Stuff)

by on Jul.26, 2012, under Comics

I said when I reviewed the first American collection of Blacksad stories that the thing elevating Blacksad over any other anthropomorphized animal private-dick story was the absolutely stunning watercolor art by Juanjo Guarnido. That continues to be the case in this long, standalone story Blacksad: A Silent Hell, which brings Blacksad down to New Orleans. Appropriately, the second half of the volume is a long essay from Guarnido in which he explains in detail how he manipulated light, color, shading, and much more to create specific effects in each of several impressive panels. Highly recommended if you love comic book art and want to see how one of the best approaches his work.

Preview here.

The Incredible Adventures of Dog Mendonça and PizzaBoy is a similar case—another European comic where I like the art the best—but it’s the first comic I can think of where the most striking work is turned in not by the artist whose name goes on the cover, but by the colorist. I can’t think of another comic where I even noticed the colorist.

In Dog Mendonça and PizzaBoy, though, colorist Santiago Villa is working on a level I can’t even understand. Juan Cavia’s black-and-white drawings were very good to start with—you can see pre-colored examples in the back of the book—but Villa has turned them into something extraordinary. It’s like noir computer animation. I have no idea what process he’s using.

The stories author Felipe Melo tells through that art are fun, too. PizzaBoy loses his scooter to gargoyles and hires paranormal private dick Dog Mendonça to get it back, which leads to one insane adventure after another across and beneath Lisbon. Nazi zombies, that sort of thing. The jokes are funny even in translation, so kudos to translator Raylene Lowe too.

Preview here.

Shooters is one of the bleakest comics I’ve read in a very long time. The marketing blurbs and preface to the book make it out as an attempt to write something positive about the security contractors who worked in Iraq, and I have no doubt that’s the book co-author Eric Trautmann intended to write. In trying to show the reader how a decent military man might come to sign up with a mercenary crew, though, what he and Brandon Jerwa actually did was write a step by step account of a man watching his life completely fall apart.

Terry Glass’s absence during his tours of duty weakens his marriage and his PTSD when he comes home kills it, making him feel like a terrible husband and father. He tries to win posthumous honors for the soldiers who died beside him under friendly fire and fails. The majority of the book is him at home, slowly going to pieces. He signs up with a private security outfit because that makes him feel competent and useful, and gets a few weeks of doing good work in Iraq before everything falls apart on him again. He has a moment of epiphany then, but given all we have seen him go through it’s hard to believe his realization will bring him happiness or even much peace.

As I said, bleak as hell.

The best parts of Faith Erin Hicks’s Friends With Boys are the family character moments. Which on the one hand isn’t so surprising: Hicks was home-schooled alongside her three brothers until high school, and her book’s protagonist is a girl just starting high school after being home-schooled her whole life alongside her three brothers. She knows these people well.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s hardest to write convincing characters based on the people you know the best.

Somewhat weaker are the plots that she adds to the character mix. The kids’ mother has just left the family, which is an emotionally resonant conflict, but it doesn’t really connect to much action apart from a ghost story plot that feels like it floated in from a different book. Similarly there’s good motivating stuff about cliquishness and power dynamics in high school, but it’s largely wasted on a secondary character.

Overall pretty good, but not as great as it might have been.

Preview here.

Something is beginning to worry sci-fi writers. One episode of last year’s Brit miniseries Black Mirror imagined a perfect memory technology implant that records everything you see and hear for later playback. And Peter Bagge’s miniseries Reset, which just wrapped up, imagines a virtual reality simulation of a subject’s life, reconstructed through interviews and publicly available information. Our fetish for recording and sharing every detail of our lives pushed to extremes.

But what Black Mirror got right (and Reset doesn’t) is the insidiousness of putting the individual in nominal control of all this archiving and sharing. Bagge’s hero is a down-on-his-luck minor celebrity who signs up for a virtual reality test controlled and administered by others.

This is the second recent Bagge book to make science fiction from the internet age. (The other was Other Lives.) I get why he’s fascinated by these technological changes. I’m just not sure he really gets the details of how people interact with them emotionally. As a result, both of these attempts to deal with the big picture—in this case, of the potential for government surveillance of your entire life—feel a little off.

Also, because it’s Peter Bagge the main character is an aggressive, insecure douchebag. That’s always a hurdle with Bagge. Either you can stand his characters or you can’t. I like them, but I can certainly see why one wouldn’t.

Preview here.

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Strange Tales TPB

by on Sep.01, 2010, under Comics

The Strange Tales trade paperback is the result of a brilliant marketing gimmick: Marvel revived a classic title and under its banner invited many of the most popular indie comic book authors in the country to create very short stories featuring the company’s superheroes. As far as I can tell, they let the authors do whatever they wanted.

The results are about what I’d have expected. Authors I liked a lot from their other work produced the vignettes I liked the best here.

Peter Bagge’s Spider-Man stories alone are worth the cover price, for example: Spidey finds out his saintly uncle Ben was really just a petty crook, and in his disillusionment reads Ayn Rand and decides to use his great power selfishly. He becomes a corporate tycoon and spends his time tormenting JJ Jameson, now his underling.

By contrast, Johnny Ryan, author of Prison Pit, is exactly as puerile doing superheroes as he is in his own work.

Fortunately, there are a lot more good authors in the mix than bad ones. Tony Millionaire does Iron Man; James Kochalka does The Hulk (of course); Jason does Spider-Man; and Max Cannon does The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.

A good gift book for someone who likes comics, especially if you’re not sure what type he or she prefers.

Preview here.

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Other Lives

by on Apr.15, 2010, under Comics

About a year and a half ago I saw Keith Gessen read from All the Sad Young Literary Men. During the annoying Q&A that followed, he was asked something about characterizing the current literary moment, or something like that, and described a split in contemporary fiction between people reacting to dead realism by writing about “guys flying around and stuff” and people (like him) who were trying to explore the bizarre side of reality in the Internet age. As someone who writes about “guys flying around and stuff,” I can say that one reason I usually shy away from writing about Internet realities is that they’re incredibly ephemeral. When it can take a matter of several years for a fascination to pass from your brain to paper to a reader’s hands, and Internet culture is moving far faster than that, it’s difficult to write anything that doesn’t feel dated before it’s published.

I was reminded of this a little while reading Peter Bagge’s new graphic novel Other Lives. We haven’t seen anything at all from Peter Bagge in almost three years (and I wonder how many people even noticed that Apocalypse Nerd existed), and nothing really significant since Hate ended its legendary run in 1998. But let’s say that he’s been working on the Second Life–focused Other Lives since 2007, when Apocalypse Nerd wrapped up. I feel like about 2007 is when fascination with Second Life was at its peak; since then I’ve heard about nothing but World of Warcraft and Facebook. (Granted, I don’t travel in these circles, really. But World of Warcraft has 11.5 million paying monthly subscribers and Facebook has around 68.5 million unique visitors while last year Second Life had a record 769,000 repeat users.) So already, on its date of publication, Other Lives feels a bit like it’s fallen out of a time capsule.

That’s all beside the point, I guess. The book itself is mostly pretty good. The primary main character Vader Ryderbeck (the pen name of journalist Vladimir Rostov) feels like a recognizably Baggeish creature, full of self-loathing and insecurity, and self-aware enough to spell all of it out in thought bubbles and dialogue. He used to be fat and unpopular, but has pulled his act together enough and lost enough weight to get himself a hot girlfriend, though unbeknownst to him she’s carrying on a virtual romance with a creepy college friend of his on “Second World.” Through that creepy college friend he reconnects with a possibly insane college acquaintance who may or may not work for the CIA tracking terrorist conspiracies in Second World.

For the most part all this is likable and easygoing. The major problem with it is the ending, which is why the remainder of this review gets a major SPOILER ALERT and goes after the jump.

(continue reading…)

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