Buddy Does Jersey by Peter Bagge

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Buddy Does Jersey: The Complete Buddy Bradley Stories from Hate Comics, Vol. II (1994-1998)
By Peter Bagge

Peter BaggeThe first time I spotted Buddy Does Seattle (The Complete Buddy Bradley Stories from “Hate” Comics, Vol. I, 1990-94) on a store shelf, the anthology’s size and shape struck me—the book could easily sit rather unambiguously next to selections from Marvel’s Essential series, those reissues from the comics powerhouse’s glory days. This new format—also being used by Fantagraphics in the reissuing of some of Los. Bros Hernandez’s brilliant early work—seemed to mark the entrance of one of underground’s most brilliant long-running series into the comics canon, alongside the more celebrated (or at least more well-known) works of Stan Lee and Chris Claremont.

When we had the chance to ask Peter Bagge himself about the books, during our interview, a few weeks back, the artist noted astutely, that the format (black and white, with a thick spine and smaller than standard paper dimensions) closely resembles that of manga, that old Japanese export that outsells every other comic genre hand over fist, here in the States. Bagge, is of course right on this one. My thinking was a touch too romantic—his on the other hand, is sound economics. Kids these days are being weaned on manga, and the style has perhaps eclipsed even the superhero books in terms of aesthetic familiarity for American youths. Marvel, for one, has taken a far less subtle approach, creating Manga versions of X-men and Spider-man books. As cheesy as that might be, Peter, if you’re reading this, we’ll be first in line, should you ever decide to produce a big-eyed, spiky-haired version of Buddy Bradley.

At first read, it seems a bit difficult to imagine Bagge’s Hate series having much appeal to a generation raised on Pokemon. After all, Buddy Bradley seems every bit as tied to the 90s ‘slacker’ era as Crumb’s Mr. Natural was to the flower-power generation before it. Even in this second book, Buddy and Lisa having moved back in with his parents to the suburban swamps of North Jersey, there are still the ever-present echoes of microbrews, flannel, grunge, and, well, Seattle, reverberating throughout the storyline. Buddy’s opening of an kitsch-happy antique toyshop is an unforgiving reminder of the coming of age of the generation that would go on to become VH1 execs, producing series after series of I Love the 80s spinoffs, and infinite reality shows starring ex-Public Enemy members and grownup Bradys.

If there’s one thing my twenties have taught me, thus far (besides what’s its like to work in an honest-to-god cubicle), it’s how startlingly accurate Bagge’s stories really are. Sure, they seem like harmless cartoons, a point driven home by Bagge’s Tex Avery-inspired toon takes, and okay, I’ve never had to cover up the drunken shooting death of one of my former roommates, but, I can give you a real life doppelganger for each one of Hate’s minor characters, taken from my own life experiences–girls, guys, all of them. I can personally vouch for the accuracy of Bagge’s semi-autobiographical comics, because friends, I too have semi-lived them.

The appeal of Buddy Does Jersey is plain to any person who has lived through any part of their twenties. As far as that younger generation, not familiar with the world outside of Naruto: pay attention, because some day soon, this too will be your life.

And how can we forget the special bonus foreword, featuring self-professed Baggite, Johnny Ryan’s take on the classic “Hate Island” series. If you don’t already own the series, you owe it to future generations of twenty-somethings to pickup these books.

–Brian Heater