Alternative comic novelist, Peter Bagge, has called Ballard home for more than 15 years.
Alternative comic legend calls Ballard home
In the past 30 years, comic books have evolved from stories about superheroes into a new and exciting form of literature. Much of this transformation is due to the work of alternative comics, whose creators have told a wide variety of stories and showed the world the possibilities of their genre. One of the major figures in this field, Peter Bagge, has called Ballard home for more than 15 years.
Bagge, a self-described “alternative cartoonist,” writes and draws all of his comics. His most famous comic series, “Hate,” chronicles the misadventures of Buddy Bradley, a misanthropic young man making his way around Seattle in the early to mid-1990s.
Bagge, who moved to Seattle in 1985, loosely based the character on his experiences living in New York in the 1970s and 1980s. Bagge set “Hate” in Seattle because he “likes to look out the window and draw what I see.” What he saw was a Seattle that was “full of Buddy Bradleys.”
“Hate” began publication in 1990, and soon became associated with the grunge music movement. While some of his critics thought he was exploiting grunge, Bagge pointed out that sales of the comic stayed the same after grunge music became popular.
Bagge chronicled the changes he has seen in Ballard in articles like “Tavern Turnover,” which described the gentrification of the bars on Ballard Avenue. Bagge observed that while other neighborhoods in Seattle such as Belltown and Wallingford seemingly transformed overnight, change took a lot longer in Ballard.
He remembers when Ballard-based comedy used to be on display in local humor but it is now considered a hip destination. While he personally enjoys older Ballard hangouts like the Viking Tavern and the Smoke Shop he doesn’t view the changes he has witnessed as an “either-or” proposition. Bagge and his wife enjoy the new restaurants, and he likes the proliferation of trees and sidewalk strip gardens on the streets.
He also appreciates how “it never gets too hot here in the summer.”
Bagge’s main comics publisher, Fantagraphics Books, have their offices in Maple Leaf and a retail store/art gallery in Georgetown. Bagge’s work has not been limited to just comics. He is currently doing a monthly comic strip for Discover Magazine about the lives of famous scientists.
An anthology of his political comics for Reason Magazine is entitled “Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me” and will be published this summer by Fantagraphics. Bagge is also currently working on a graphic novel called “Second Lives” for Vertigo/D.C. comics that will be out later this year.
Bagge’s distinctive, irreverent style of drawing with its rubber-limbed characters and the dark comedy of his writing create what he calls a “weird clash- sweet and sour.” Bagge’s acclaimed comics have a worldwide audience and are created on a drawing board right here in Ballard.