A refreshingly copious amount of Peter Bagge’s post-Hate work has found its way into print in recent years: his collection of strips Bat Boy for The Weekly World News, his various strips for the Libertarian magazine Reason, Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Observations, in addition to Yeah!, his frantically funny collaboration with Gilbert Hernandez and, what is perhaps his best work since Hate, the hilariously over-the-top post-nuclear fantasy Apocalypse Nerd. Bagge has also managed to produce two shorter, though no less impressive works of fiction, Reset and Other Lives, each like Hate are wonderfully honest and incisively edgy dissections of lower-middle class American suburban life, in particular that of the post-boom pre-millennial, Generation X set, in these crazy modern times in which we live. Now added to this plethora of books is the appropriately titled Other Stuff.
Bagge has helpfully split the book into five thematically separate sections; as a result, the cartoons do not appear in order of publication — and, in this case, the ordering by theme adds to, rather than subtracts from, the readers’ enjoyment. The first section, “Lovey,” consists of four stories recounting the misadventures of the eponymous, somewhat dim-witted, hyperactive young woman. They are fun stories, with some genuinely amusing, yet less-than-interesting characters regrettably populate them.
The second section, “Rock n’ Roll,” is based around the theme of, you guessed it, rock n’ roll, and includes nine “Musical Urban Legends,” essentially on-pagers that originally appeared in the pages of Magnet magazine. The stories include meetings with AC/DC, Brian Wilson, Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby, Dennis Wilson and Christine McVie, Little Richard and Buddy Holly, Sly Stone, and Frank Sinatra. Anyone familiar with Bagge’s exceptionally exaggerated caricatures of celebrities will undoubtedly find these vignettes painfully amusing, but they are for the most part largely forgettable. But then, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The “Rock n’ Roll Dad” stories could have just as easily been placed in the third section of the book, “Collaborations,” which consist of just that: collaborative work Bagge did with other artists, all but two of which appeared in the back up pages to Hate —those exceptions are “Go Ask Alice,” a collaboration with Alice Cooper, which also could have been placed in the “Rock n’ Roll” section, originally published in Spin and “Life in These United States,” a Clowes-esque (appropriate, as it is illustrated by Clowes) satire of suburban, middle-class, mid-life anxieties, originally published in that estimable 1980s anthology, edited by Bagge, Weirdo.
The first of the collaborations, “Me,” drawn by Gilbert Hernandez, is an odd collection of single-frame non-sequitors, and probably the least successful of the bunch. Bagge’s collaboration with Optic Nerve writer and artist Adrian Tomine, “Shamrock Squid: Autobiographical Cartoonist,” utilizes a public domain character created by Doug Allen and Gary Leib, and is an hilarious send-up of then-trendy autobiographical comics, with maliciously witty vignettes featuring such estimable comics personalities as Kim Thompson, Denis Kitchen, Joe Matt and Chester Brown.
The Alan Moore-scripted “The Hasty Smear of My Smile,” positions the Kool-Aid mascot as a real-life being, and charts his involvement in the latter half of the twentieth century, with nodding references to Ken Kesey’s acid tests, and the Jim Jones Guyana mass suicide (“That was Favor Ade, man! The inquiry said so!”)
Bagge’s collaboration with Johnny Ryan, a Dilbert pastiche, “Dildobert Joins the Al-Qaeda,” is a less successful satire, and contains some moments of truly bad taste (in particular Dilbert and Dogbert masturbating to images of the World Trade Center towers being struck by planes).
The Harvey Kurtzman strip, drawn by Danny Hellman, provides an interesting snapshot of the elder Kurtzman’s later years, while “Caffy!,” a collaboration with R. Crumb, is an often hilarious parody of the strip Cathy, imaginatively refiguring the perpetually vexed Cathy as an R. Crumb wet dream.
The loosely-connected “True Facts” section , includes several of Bagge’s comic book “dramatizations” of historical figures and events, drawn in the same frenetic style Bagge uses in his Hate Annuals (conspicuously missing from this collection – perhaps Bagge intends them for their own volume?). Here Bagge recounts events as disparate as the invention of Brownian motion, synthetic fiber and the periodic table, the last proponent of a hypothetical fifth element “phlogiston,” the discovery of the cause of the Yellow Fever, and the destruction of the observatory in Istanbul in 1574. The section also includes an ill-placed strip on the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, observational humor in “East Coast, West Coast, Blah Blah Blah” (Bagge, an ex-New Yorker, has made his home in Seattle since 1984), followed by his meeting Dick
Cheney, complaints about talk radio, and Bagge’s bewilderment concerning social phenomena in the decades following the early 1990s.
The final section of the book depicts Bagge’s characters “The Shut Ins,” strips that originally appeared in the pages of Bagge’s brilliant pre-Hate book Neat Stuff, revived here as part of an ad campaign for Adobe (yes, that Adobe), to promote their version of Flash — which, Bagge notes, didn’t work so well, so Adobe solved the problem by buying Flash instead.
While much of this material will be familiar to readers of Hate, since much of it was originally published in those pages or in the subsequent Hate Annuals that have been appearing about every year since Bagge retired the title, and while it consists of less consequential material than Everybody Is Stupid, or is a less coherent package than, say, Apocalypse Nerd or Bat Boy, Other Stuff remains a worthwhile, though not essential, collection for all you Baggers and Baggettes out there.