Saturday, September 7, 2013


Piquant Peter Bagge, writer of HATE and other comix, stopped by the Recondite Pictures lot to give us a peek into the mind of the comix writer!

Here's what he had to say:

ME:  Why do you keep writing?

PB:  Two reasons: I have a lot of thoughts and ideas that I feel compelled to share. I also need to make a living, and this is how I've been doing it for the last 30 years.  It's a bit late to change course now!

ME:  Do you ever feel like you want to quit writing and just draw?

PB:  No, quite the opposite,  Drawing is a struggle for me.  Writing comes relatively easier.

ME:  How long does it take you to come up with and write a pitch? Walk us through the process.

PB:  To paraphrase Cole Porter: all it takes to get me started is a phone call from a publisher (or in his case, a producer).  If a potential client gives me even the vaguest idea of what he or she is looking for I have no trouble coming up with several ideas that hopefully will fit the bill.  Otherwise, I always have my own ideas bubbling beneath the surface.  If one starts to rise to the surface then I'll start looking for a publisher who's a good fit for it.

After that what I do is similar to what I'd compile when pitching a TV show idea: A "bible" of sorts, with a series or story description (and sample episode synopses if it's a series), character descriptions and designs, etc.

ME:  How long does it take you to write a 22-page issue? Walk us through the process.

PB:  Just to write it?  It might take a day or two to write an outline, and another 3 to 6 days to write a finished script.  But since I usually draw my own work (or rough them out if someone else is doing the finished art) I continue to re-write it through every step of the process.

ME:  What are the major themes of your work?

PB:  The human condition.  How's that for original?  Ha ha.  More specifically the clash between what people want or aspire to it the difficulty (or impossibility) of getting it.  I use humor to make my stories more palatable for both myself and the reader.  Life is too grim otherwise.

ME:  What are you trying to say with your writing?

PB:  That I don't have life answers and don't pretend to, but I keep looking for answers anyway.  My readers relate.  That's why they're my readers.

ME:  Do you ever write anything that has nothing to say and feel bad? Explain.

PB:  Ha!  Well, simply writing something is SAYING something.  Though I have written work in the past that offer no profundity, and are simply meant to be absurd.  I don't regret writing such work, though.  It's cathartic.  I would do it more often if there was more of a market for it.

ME:  Do you ever abandon scripts that aren't working?

PB:  A few times.  Though it wasn't so much that they weren't working as any real or perceived outside interest has dried up while I was working on it, and circumstances forced me to abandon it to work on something else.  It felt very regretable each time.  I hate wasting time and effort.

ME:  What are some comics that inspired your writing?

PB:  Growing up it was mostly humorous work that contained at least some degree of sophistication: Peanuts and MAD, mostly.  Later it was underground comics, particularly the creative freedom they allowed for themselves.  After that, it was the work of several of my peers, mainly Clowes, the Hernandez Bros and Chester Brown.

ME:  What do you find most exciting about writing comics?

PB:  When things fall into place the way you intended them to.

ME:  What comics are you currently enjoying?

PB:  PAYING FOR IT by Chester Brown was the last thing I read that really wowed me.  MIND MGMT. by Matt Kindt is a good series.  Too many and too varied for me to make a list!

ME:  What does every 22-page comic book story need to deliver to satisfy you as a reader?

PB:  Some self containment, even if it's part of a much longer narrative.  I always chaffed at "to be cont.", in the way that it makes that one single issue a less satisfying read.  I appreciate it when the writer can encapsulate that one issue into an enjoyable whole somehow.  TV writers -- most notably Joss Weaton -- are very good at this.  Comic book writers tend to be less so.

ME:  What issue should readers pluck from the back issue bins to get a good introduction to your work?

PB:  BUDDY DOES SEATTLE seems like the obvious place to start.

ME:  What comics do you have coming out that people should pick up?

PB:  I have two new titles coming out this fall: WOMEN REBEL: THE MARGARET SANGER STORY from Drawn & Quarterly (a much more rollicking read than I'm sure you'd it imagine it to be), and an expanded HC edition of EVERYBODY IS STUPID EXCEPT FOR ME: my collection of all my work for Reason Magazine (published by Fantagraphics).

Scott Amundson writes comics for Bluewater Productions, Heroes Fallen Studios and Recondite Pictures.

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