Peter Bagge’s Other Lives

Peter Bagge’s Other Lives
by Peter Bagge
Vertigo, 2010

A typically thoughtful book by cartoonist Peter Bagge about the insecure lives of four characters with something to hide – Vader, an alcoholic journalist consumed with guilt and self-loathing, his fiance Ivy, who is conducting an online affair with Vader’s old school friend Woodrow, a divorced insurance adjuster who lives a far more successful online life as Lord Burlington in the MMORPG Second World, and their vague acquaintance Javy/Otis who is either  ex-CIA, or a fat conspiracy theorist living in his mother’s garage, or both.

Bagge has always excelled at a particular type of self-hating character, like the inhabitants of a Douglas Coupland novel but far shabbier. Although his artwork has calmed down a bit since the splendidly kinetic spleen-venting of his ’90s comic Hate, it serves the story well, which is all you can ask in a graphic novel which actually has themes and a plot.

The book is nicely designed as well, let down only by a face-palmingly bad cover blurb which I hope Bagge had nothing to do with;  it describes the story as “Zelig meets Dr. Strangelove by way of The Big Bang Theory“, which is dreadful despite the merits of each of those works, and also uses the phrase “neurotic thirty-somethings”, as if there was any other kind in modern literature. One of the quotes also claims the characters “could be grown-up versions of characters from Hate” – of course, all artists want their new work to be recommended on the basis of its similarity to their iconic earlier work.

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3 Responses to “Peter Bagge’s Other Lives”

  1. Rhinocrates Says:

    “Zelig meets Dr. Strangelove by way of The Big Bang Theory“

    There’s a very funny sequence in The Player where a succession of directors and writers pitch screenplays to a produce as “x meets y”. I can’t remember what x’s and what y’s exactly, but it was of same the level of absurdity as ” The Sound of Music meets The Silence of the Lambs ” The point wasn’t that the films were ridiculous as pitched (although they certainly would be by the time the studio had finished with them), but that the producer’s intellect was so limited he could only comprehend a story by comparing it with films he already knew.

  2. They also pitch a sequel to The Graduate, which appeared in real life 15 years later as the novel Home School. Which is why satire is so hard.

  3. Rhinocrates Says:

    I suppose I could come up with a sort of variant on Poe’s Law… something like, “There is no concept or narrative that is so sophisticated that it will not be reduced (inaccurately) to the most banal and derivative terms in the ‘mind’ of a producer or publisher.” One might call it Occam’s chainsaw.

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