Fantagraphics has just published a new collection of comics from “Hate” creator Peter Bagge: Everybody is Stupid Except for Me. Originally appearing in the pages of Reason- a 40ish year old Libertarian magazine with a circulation that hovers around the sixty thousand mark- the work reprinted here runs the gamut of observations from the Seattle-based cartoonist and eviscerates causehaeds, the media, malls, bums, trains, politicians, celebrities and even his fellow Libertarians alike.
Please be aware that these cartoons appeared between the roller coaster years of 2001-2008 (though that’s not to say we aren’t still strapped in), and should be viewed less like the reactionary ramblings of some political cartoonists that cropped up in that period and considered more as social commentary documented in comics form. Keep in mind that whether you agree with Bagge’s views or not, his cartooning prowess is the real spectacle to behold here. A welcome alternative (and in some ways an antidote) to the shrill talking head Punditocracy of Fox News and CNBC in comics form.
I was a big fan of the “Hate” single issues when they ran in the nineties, and despite having recommended his stuff countless times in the NYC Forbidden Planet store, for some reason or another Mr. Bagge fell off my favorite cartoonists list, the subsequent Annuals sitting towards the bottom of the never ending reading list. Dunno why. Guess I forgot how dense his work can be irrespective of panel size and how very few of his peers can display such social vitriol with such sarcastic, humorous vigor. Or I forgot how the distinct expressions and body language of his rubbery characters can emote more than hormonally charged teenagers on crank. Either way that was pretty dumb of me and he’s once again ascended to the top of the pile.
Here Bagge’s at his finest depicting the stupid crap that spews out of the mouths of otherwise presumably intelligent beings. Among my faves: Fascists Have Feelings Too (“What’s so evil about trains running on time?”), Ex-Pats Say the Darndest Things (“…the people here exhibit a deep spirituality that is non-existent back home.”) and Taking Out Arnold (“…Twins is practically an ad for genetic engineering!”).
Above all else, Everybody is Stupid Except for Me showcases a comics artist who remains at the top his craft. Almost a decade’s worth of work years removed from that which he’s most recognized for, yet still relevant, still angry, still funny, and still cartooning about the whole mess with aplomb.
Finally, let me just take a moment to say that there are very few cartoonists on this planet who incorporate the “arrows pointing at something funny, or with self-mockery for their lack of being able to draw something” well enough to use this overdone and despicably cliched technique ever again. In fact only three come to mind: Robert Crumb, Evan Dorkin, and Peter Bagge. Everyone else: STOP IT RIGHT NOW. If you absolutely have to point at something cute in your drawings (and you probably don’t), remember: sparingly, people, sparingly.