Paste and Staples: Peter Bagge and Weirdo
About this interview: In 1992 I first started kicking around the idea of a book about Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman and their contributions to comics not only as creators but also as editors and mentors. Breaking the book down into bite-size pieces, I decided to first write an article about the comics anthologies RAW and Weirdo. While collecting information for the article, I made contact with Peter Bagge, cartoonist and editor of Weirdo for issues 10-17 and issue 25. Bagge generously agreed to a phone interview about his tenure as editor on March 26, 1992.
It was another four years before I finally wrote the article (I got sidetracked by a new kid and two new graduate programs), but I finally hammered one out (now I'm editing, proofreading, and trying to find a publisher). I only ended up using a few lines from the interview in my article, but I thought that it was of enough interest to stand on its own, so I asked Bagge for permission to place the interview here. He enthusiastically agreed, and suggested a few changes.
McCoy: As I understand it, before you were made the editor of Weirdo, you were living in Hoboken New Jersey and you were editor-in-chief of Comical Funnies?
Bagge: Well, actually, Comical Funnies--just three issues came out in 1980, and 81, and the guys I was doing that with, John Holmstrom and J. D. King, they started their own magazine called Stop. And I didn't want to be involved with that, so I started making my own comic book, that I was going to self-publish. And there was this friend of mine, Ken Wiener, who had the same idea, and he came up with this idea that I went along with of combining the two. And that came out in '82 and that was called Wacky World. Other than that, I quit my day job in '82, right around the time that I moved to Hoboken, so I was just hustling like crazy, trying to get any work I could, writing jokes for the Topps bubblegum company, selling comics...
McCoy: Was Topps hiring people at that time? Who else was working there? I know [Art] Spiegelman was there...
Bagge: Yeah, Spiegelman was there. I didn't go to them [Topps], he just called me up and asked me if I'd want to try writing some jokes for Bazooka Joe, which I did for a while. After that I made a half-assed attempt to get more work from them, but I guess they had no use for my services, so to speak. But I guess it was around that time that Spiegelman hired Mark Newgarden, who's still there. I guess they're doing more stuff now where they hire cartoonists, but there wasn't too much back then. I guess those Garbage Pail Kids changed everything.
McCoy: I don't want to be intrusive, but were you actually able to make a living doing this?
Bagge: A real dismal one. I doubt I would have been able to get by, or it would have been a real bare-bones existence if it wasn't for my wife, who made more money than I did. Now she's just sold her business--it's only been in the last couple of years that I've been making good money--but it was real tough going. I'd be making like $5,000 a year back in those days just off my work. It wasn't until the last few years that I started making a middle-class income. So it was basically with her support that I was able to start out.
I would submit comics everywhere, but with my own comics, the ones I did just for myself, I would self-publish them. But I got burned out on that. So I started submitting to various anthologies. There used to be something called Dr. Wertham's Comix and Stories, I had a strip in there. I never bothered with RAW, because I had problems with that. I just didn't think I'd fit in, and I'm sure they didn't have any use for me either. But Weirdo I loved.
McCoy: The first issue I can think of [featuring Bagge] was issue three; you had that "Skank, Arms, and Bud" thing.
Bagge: I kept sending in more stuff, like that piece that was in Dr. Wertham's Comix and Stories got rejected, and I was really hoping that he [Robert Crumb] would run it. I had put more time and effort into that strip than anything I'd done up to that time, it was called "Sleazeball," and I thought that it would wow Crumb, but he turned it down. He had said good things about it, but he had good reasons for turning it down. I had no ill feelings towards Crumb. I always liked his support and his suggestions and he was like, "keep trying!" What I think wowed him, and I wasn't even expecting it to, was "Martini Baton."
McCoy: That was, what, issue number eight?
Bagge: Originally, I just did two. That idea was I was trying to get into the monthly newspapers, the town papers, and I submitted to a whole bunch. It was kind of stupid, because it was such a vile strip, of course these ad 'zines weren't going to run it. A few of them amazingly did, y'know, but I don't know what I was thinking [laughs].
McCoy: Well, I always enjoyed that strip a lot.
Bagge: I just finished the final installment of it.
McCoy: Oh, yeah? That's great--I was always kind of upset that it never ended.
Bagge: It was mainly the fault of the guy who wrote it. [Dave] Carrino would just come up with a bunch of raw material and give it to me, and I'd assemble it into the strip. But after the first three installments, I guess he lost interest or just wasn't inspired. A couple of times he wrote up a whole bunch of stuff that I found suitable, but then he'd just tear it all up and say, "I don't want to do these, I don't like 'em."
Oddly enough, what happened was Carrino was a fine artist in New York, and this comic book stuff like the humor that is in "Martini Baton" is nothing like what is in his "real" work. As a fine artist, he takes his stuff very seriously, it's very different. He's made a little bit of a name for himself in the New York City fine art world. But it was two very different things. Sometimes he would show the "Martini Batons" to his fine artist, New York homosexual friends, and either they didn't like it or they just didn't get it, but he rarely got positive feedback from it, so he was just getting nothing out of "Martini Baton." We both thought it was funny, and people who read Weirdo thought it was funny, but from where he was coming from, there wasn't a real payoff.
Then I don't know what happened: even though it's been like eight years since we did the last "Martini Baton" he says now people, strangers even, come up to him and say, "is that Dave Carrino?" and "I love those strips." Now all of a sudden he's getting positive feedback from it. In fact, there's a woman he went to art school with--I hope I'm not getting too far afield?
McCoy: No, no, this is great.
Bagge: There's a woman he went to art school with, and her name was--or is--Martina Baton. And that's where he got the name, even though the characters not at all based on her. She's like a fine art curator who operates in Manhattan. I just met her for the first time, and she wants to put on an art show of all the "Martini Batons."
McCoy: I have to say, everyone that I have show that strip to--people who don't read comics, either--have always had a very positive reaction to it, and I think that it's partly because it's so--your style, your graphics kind of act as a sort of a scrim through which all this scatological and sexual stuff takes place. I don't think people are that shocked by it, I guess.
Bagge: Well, it's cute [laughs].
McCoy: It is a cute story [laughs]. So, back to Weirdo. How did the transfer of the editors happen?
Bagge: Well, I was fed up with self-publishing, but I still really wanted to do comics. And the farthest thing from my mind was anyone giving me my own comic book. Since I was having a hard enough time just selling one page to any magazine, it was beyond me to imagine that anyone would give me my own comic book, although that would be the ideal. So what I thought was, with this group of artists I was working with and was close to in New York, which would be Ken Wiener, Holmstead, J. D. King, Bruce Carlton, and also Dave Kols and Kaz, Drew Friedman and people like that, I thought it would be nice if we could have our own anthology.
McCoy: Where did you meet these people?
Bagge: Just around New York, just being around New York. A lot of us went to S. V. A. [School of Visual Arts], almost all of us did, although I had been outside of school. We all knew, or had some dealings with, Spiegelman or [Harvey] Kurtzman. And when we'd do Comical Funnies, those guys would come to me to see if I'd run some of their stuff in my magazine. I decided to--this was in '83--propose the idea of an anthology with a whole bunch of us New York cartoonists to already established publishers. I was going to propose this idea to Denis Kitchen, Last Gasp, people like that. I was also thinking of hitting up Fantagraphics, since right at that time they'd started doing comic books.
McCoy: They'd just come out with Love and Rockets .
Bagge: They'd started with Love and Rockets and then they were also doing a book with a guy named Mil Knight, and his book was called Hugo. I think at that time that was it, it was just those two. Anyhow, before I started, I already had a regular correspondence with Crumb. Crumb really liked the "Martini Batons" and he encouraged me to do more of them, six of them. So I whipped out six really fast, and Crumb's response to "Martini Baton" was just really enthusiastic, and that really inspired me, I think, into doing more. Then, from that point on, the stuff that I did by myself that I'd show Robert he liked. I sent him a little one-page that he accepted, and I was working on "The Reject," that he was intending to run. At one point while I was corresponding with him, I told about the idea of an anthology for me and my friends which I've just told you about, and I said to Robert, before I go ahead, what do you think my chances are, or who'd you suggest that I approach, or how should I approach it, as far as approaching Last Gasp or Denis Kitchen. And Crumb wrote back and said, look, if you want to be the editor of an anthology, who would you like to do Weirdo?
At first it was so flippant, it was just so nonchalant, that I thought he was kidding, or if he wasn't kidding, it was something that was a fit of madness--I didn't know what Crumb was like, I heard he was a wacky, crazy guy, so I didn't know what to make of it. It was totally unexpected. Basically, after I wrote back to him he told me that he was getting sick of it. He would like to see Weirdo continue, but he was getting sick of it, all the hippie nonsense you have to put up with to be editor of something like that. He also said that based on my correspondence and the way my work was developing, and on the simple fact that I wanted to be an editor, he just figured that it might work out. Plus, and I don't know this for a fact, but at the time he seemed to be more enthusiastic about what was coming out of New York than anywhere else, and he thought that it would be good that somebody based on the East coast who knows all these new cartoonists coming up could maybe deal with them face-to-face.
McCoy: That was a real Algonquin Club that was going on up there. It was a strange time for comics--I mean, I was in high school, I don't really know anything about what was going on from first-hand experience--but looking back on it now, it seems strange that there was so much going on in New York. What do you think caused that, just luck, or was it [the influence of] Kurtzman and Spiegelman?
Bagge: We were all very much--we were the first generation of people inspired by underground comics. We grew up and were in our formative years when we read that stuff and we wanted to do the same thing, or expand on it. Basically, all of us, our dream, our ideal would have simply been to just become the next generation of underground cartoonists; unfortunately underground comics as a business, as an industry, kind of collapsed, and it was something I wasn't even conscious of--I saw how, when I started collecting comics, I was aware that there were an awful lot of them copyrighted in 1972, and hardly any that were copyrighted in 1977. But it was like there were just a bunch of us--here we all were, in New York, and we were all turned down by the same stuff. Plus at the time, New York City was a very fertile place for all kinds of artists, because it was pretty cheap to live there at that time, believe it or not. I mean, you could afford to goof off. If you were willing to live in the lower east side it was really cheap--I mean, one fifty for a decent-sized apartment.
And there was all kinds of stuff going on, like all the punk stuff. There was a whole punk attitude which was like--it was still counterculture, but it was even reacting against the Hippie culture, which had become sort of establishment. It was like a new shot of adrenaline. All the cartoonists that I knew--well, how more obvious can you get to being tied in with that than John Holmestrom being a cartoonist and being the founding editor of Punk magazine? That magazine practically nailed down that term as the official name of this kind of music, and it was completely tied in to [the cartoons]. J.D. King was in a punk band with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth in those days--the Coachmen.
McCoy: And today you see him doing illustrations for Time and the Boston Globe. It's interesting to see where everyone has gotten to--I didn't know that he was that far into [Punk].
Bagge: He's forty, so he goes way back. I guess he had two loves, music and comics, and for too long a time he would put his artwork on the back burner while he was pursuing his rock and roll business. But by 1980 he was completely fed up. He was funny--he was always amazed that Thurston stuck with it, he just figured he was too unemployable to do anything else. But through sheer tenacity, by simply not being able to do anything else, Thurston ended up becoming a rock star with Sonic Youth [laughs]. But I remember when I met those guys with J. D. King, I thought they were going to go nowhere. But anyhow, that was a big inspiration, and it kind of gave everything a style--a feel, a style, and an attitude that we all shared, and really there was nothing contrived about that either--it was a sensibility that we all had to begin with that made Punk appeal to us.
And another thing, too: even though I have very mixed feelings about the guy both artistically and personally, I have to give a lot of credit to Art Spiegelman just because he was there, we were all dealing with him personally, and whether you liked RAW or had problems with it, or had problems with him, he did serve as an example of someone who was just incredibly dedicated to comics as an art form. Just do your kind of comics. We've never even shared a sensibility--especially back then, I didn't at all--but he did serve as an inspiration, how he was just fanatically dedicated to his personal vision, and that personal vision just happened to use comics as a medium. So his presence, and his casting a very long shadow--he pretty much deliberately set himself up in the eye of this storm, the center of this whole comic thing, it seemed pretty much to revolve around him. For instance, RAW served as an example and a rallying point.
Plus, New York is this fine art capital, where a lot of people go to art school, and they may have wanted to be cartoonists, or been inspired by cartoons at one point. You wind up with fine art on the brain at art school. If you want respect, you're not going to get it as a cartoonist--you might get it as an artist. Whereas with RAW, I can tell a lot of guys looked at that as a way of solving both problems--do comics, and expect to be taken seriously. And I have a lot of problems with that.
McCoy: What I'm trying to work out in my research--What happened during the '80's, I think, is that comics were trying to find their audience and really trying to establish what their value was. I think Spiegelman had the idea that if you could validate comics as "Art" then you would bring in the art world, you would bring in this whole golden age of--
Bagge: Well, Spiegelman did have a plan, and it paid off for him. He's a very smart guy and he certainly worked very hard at it, but it was very important to him to get respect, to get write-ups in places like the New York Times or the Village Voice Literary Supplement, the New Yorker, places like that, but also in art publications. The whole this was packaged and marketed in a way that he had a very easy time--even though it's not a very big market--of getting into independent bookstores, starting with New York, but then all the other cities that copy New York. There he was, right in the heart of Soho, so all these places that sold something like Wet magazine--that's where he got the idea for the format for RAW, with this thing that came out of LA called Wet magazine; it was this very oversized thing.
McCoy: On the other hand, Weirdo from its conception seemed to be really going back to the idea of comics as a ghettoized art form.
Bagge: Weirdo was everything that Spiegelman was desperately trying to get away from. It wallowed in all those aspects of underground comics that he wanted to completely disassociate himself from, as far as RAW was concerned. It was just Raggedy Ann stuff, the work of idiot savants, putting content and personal vision above all else. It was stuff that was totally amateurish. Crumb in particular would use it if he thought the person who did it was crazy enough. He ran stuff literally by inmates of insane asylums. And the format--he made it magazine sized, but it just had the look, the feel, everything of the dirty old underground comic book published by Last Gasp, and of course, Crumb on the cover.
McCoy: This kind of segueways into my next question, which is, when you took over the editorship [of Weirdo] what did you try to do that was different from Crumb?
Bagge: Well, I just like everyone else was just not all that crazy about everything that Crumb ran. Some of it I loved, some of it I couldn't stand. But I liked the fact that if he liked it, that was the only criteria. It's what I like, that's what's going in. So, knowing that my taste wasn't exactly the same as his, and for that reason it was bound to be different in some ways, I just figured that I'd do the same thing. If I like it, I'll run it. If I have any regrets it's that sometimes I did make concessions. Occasionally, I would try to guess at what the readership wanted. I did try to guess what the potential readership was and what they wanted. And sometimes I even made concessions to Crumb: he might have really been behind something that I didn't care for. And I always regret doing that, I wish I'd never did that, and just stuck to my own taste.
McCoy: It always seemed to me that your tastes were surprisingly catholic, because you were not only able to bring in the stuff by the New York cartoonists, but you were also able to run some of the older underground comics. I remember that in the letters column you were getting flak from both sides: people who didn't want to see the young upstarts, and other people who wanted to kick out the old guard.
Bagge: Yeah. Well, it was tough--people wished me luck, but nobody, except for my closest friends--and even they gave me a lot of shit--nobody was completely behind me. It was a lot of effort to develop support. I wanted all comers, I wanted to look at everything, even though my original idea when I approached Crumb was to put something together with me and my buddies, because we all liked working together, we all liked each other's work, and we're all having a hard time getting into comic books. The guys who were in Zap, all they had to do was do another issue of Zap, and they'd have a publisher. Or they could just send it to Crumb and Crumb would always run it. Even Crumb couldn't get all his old cronies, for the most part, to contribute to Weirdo. I guess they all felt like it was the same as starting from square one. Where as with us New York guys, we were starting at square one. Those guys were getting paid fifty bucks a page twelve years ago.
McCoy: So how did this work? You were living in Hoboken, and then you moved to Seattle. How would you work out the editorship? People would send you--
Bagge: Well, you're constantly getting stuff in the mail. As soon as my address was listed, I started getting stuff in the mail. Crumb sent me a huge batch of stuff that he was sitting on, some stuff that he promised people he'd print and other stuff that he was considering. I guess I found a few things there. And at least with people I knew personally, I just put the word out, to all comers. I found a little bit here and a little bit there. And to tell you the truth, I was really surprised to find just how much talent and potential talent was from completely unsuspected sources. I thought--well, there's all this stuff going on in New York, and the old-timers were mostly based in California. I didn't know any of them personally, and I told Crumb to tell them to send stuff in, but I'm not going to promise anybody that I'll definitely run anything. And that's what drove them nuts: who was this guy to potentially turn me down? That really pissed them off. Plus, I think a lot of the old-timers were threatened and a little cut off by this whole new thing, because there was such a clear, obvious generation gap between them and what came before them, being part of that whole 60's counterculture, all that generational war, which they totally indulged themselves in. I think they couldn't help but think that the same thing was bound to happen to them. I think they just completely anticipated that the next generation of artists was going to deliberately try to date them, to try to push them aside. And I'm telling you--now I'm just speaking for myself--that wasn't true with any of us. It was kind of funny. It was pure paranoia on their part.
Crumb never felt that way, but I guess that's because Crumb is Crumb. There were a handful of others. Any of those artists who bothered to correspond with me would find out really fast that I really liked their work and I respected their work, and if they were ten or fifteen years older than me, as far as I was concerned, it didn't make any difference.
McCoy: I thought that from when you took over the magazine, that's when some of the really first strong work by women began...I guess Dori Seda had started with Crumb.
Bagge: That's a funny thing about her--especially the stuff that Crumb was running by her, I didn't care for at all. It rubbed me the wrong way. And that was a bit of a problem when I took over, too: being in Weirdo meant everything to her, and Crumb was just really supportive and thought her stuff was terrific and they were friends, and I was just like, oh, man, because I didn't like it at all. It revulsed me. It was just her whole approach, I thought it was just extremely exhibitionistic. I think her approach was, I'm being very honest and forthright like the Crumbs, Robert and Aline were. But the Crumbs are a couple with inner demons, you know? It's not like they're necessarily trying to show off like look at this, I sniff my dog's butt. And that was all I sensed from her work. I think she got much better--her style evolved and changed and got cleaner, and years later, like the couple of years before she died, I thought she got much better. I actually even kind of liked it.
McCoy: I'm in agreement with you there. I think her last work was the best.
Bagge: But knowing how important it was to her, I was open to running it, but I wasn't going to run her work carte blanche. With Crumb it was like everything she said he ran, and she got used to that. So again, it was a similar thing: as soon as I said to her...I never rejected her. She sent me a whole bunch of stuff, and she sent me roughs, too, so I assumed that since she was sending me these pencils, she was open to suggestions, and I did make suggestions. And I guess she just immediately presumed the worst. She got convinced that I didn't want to use her work at all and rejected her flatly, which simply isn't true. Her paranoid feelings were correct in that I didn't like it, but to go from that to thinking I wasn't going to use her work, that simply wasn't true, and I never said that. And she went on a Pete Bagge smearing campaign [laughs]. She just trashed me like you wouldn't believe. She'd write me these angry letters that she'd spend weeks on, just looking for my Achilles heel, and she'd find it. She'd give me a letter and I'd feel terrible for days [laughs].
McCoy: When I look back through the letters pages of Weirdo, it does seem like it must have been an incredible headache dealing with people who would glom onto the magazine and decide that they had a right to flagellate the editor, whoever it was at that time.
Bagge: Well, I guess that everybody had--especially since there was the change of editorship, and since there was clearly an exploding interest in these alternative or underground comics, or doing it yourself, and everybody desperate to find a place to publish--this was before anybody had their own book. The Hernandez brothers had their own book, but they were a couple of would-be mainstream artists that were too quirky and idiosyncratic to ever fit in, unwilling to compromise, either out of personal dedication but also out of laziness. But other than that, nobody had their own book, and getting a few things into Weirdo or RAW meant a lot.
I know that Spiegelman was always miserable with everything that was involved. I don't know what kind of personal ego battles he had with any artists, I suppose that he did, too. But even still, he had more of a reputation than I did, and I think that people were less inclined to fuck with him than with me. I think that being a newcomer, people figured they could push me around. I didn't break, but I could bend, and people could sense that and make the most of it. So yeah, people would tear me apart. I can't think of a single artist who felt like I ran enough of his work. Drew Friedman, he never gave me a hard time, but that was because whatever he drew we printed. When he gave something to me, that was like a piece of charity. That was, by far, the cheapest he would work for, because he was doing so well by that time. But even a person like Dennis Worden, who I tried desperately to run as much stuff as I could by, because I liked it--but I wanted to run other people too--I could never run enough. It was pretty insane.
McCoy: Who do you think--or who did you think--was reading [Weirdo] when you were editor? The only place I could get the comic, as a kid growing up in the midwest, was a head shop down at Illinois State University. I think one of the problems for comics--and I know this is something Fantagraphics has tried to address--is how do you get people to read comics? I never got the feeling that Weirdo was reaching a lot of the people it could be reaching.
Bagge: Distribution was a problem then and it's the same exact problem that we have now, generally speaking, for alternative comics. Yeah, I kept trying to get a picture in my mind's eye of what Weirdo's readership was, and the fact is it's just a real mishmash. It's all types of people. I mean, people read Weirdo from eighteen--I guess even younger than that, sometimes--to guys in their 50's. It was a real mix. Alternative comics have had a much higher percentage of liberal readers, needless to say, than mainstream comics. There got to be a wider variety of titles that dealt with adult matter. The whole time I was doing Weirdo I kept getting letters and submissions, more and more submissions, from midwestern artists.
McCoy: I remember that somewhere in the middle of your run, you actually got a letter from Gary Groth [Publisher and co-founder of Fantagraphics Books] in which he talked about the "smart-ass" posturing of Weirdo as opposed to the nebulousness and artsyness of RAW. As you know, Gary Groth is wont to complain about things, but...did you ever feel that way? Did you ever wonder if Weirdo, by the virtue of its title and its venue, was not reaching people that you wanted to, or were you happy with--
Bagge: Well, yeah, I did want it to reach more people, and I would have been thrilled if simply more comics shops were inclined to pick it up, or pick up more copies of it, and from day one I always tried to get it into other venues--bookstores, record shops--but it's tough, because there wasn't then, and still isn't, a distribution system set up to deal with the market. What we really need is what I would call a non-corporate market, or a non-mainstream market, where the type of material, the medium involved, is irrelevant.
Right now, it's become really obvious that in college towns and major cities, where our comics, alternative comics, do the best--it doesn't necessarily have to be a comics shop, it could be a record store, or a book store--but if they're willing to carry the stuff, all kinds of the stuff--out here in Seattle it's a place called Fallout, which is primarily a record store, a video store, but they also carry small press books, and underground comics. They're fantastic. In the biggest comic shop in Seattle, Hate sells 50 copies and issue, and at Fallout, they sell 300.
McCoy: I'd say that that's the same way it is here in Boston. There's a chain called Newbury Comics that sells CDs and comics, and I'd say that's where a lot of the comics getting sold get sold, and it's certainly where many of Fantagraphics titles do. Last Gasp, a little less.
Editorial comment from John in 2002: Of course, today Newbury Comics has all but abandoned comic books in favor of selling CDs, DVDs, and generation-x tchotchkes.
Bagge: That's the problem, there's no one distribution system. If talked to a few of these stores that would carry [the comics], if you were to interview some people, they all have different payment systems. There are systems that are a real pain. But I would say the crossover audience between the publishing company Re: Search and Fantagraphics titles--there's like an 85% crossover in the readership. Whereas the crossover between my comic and a Marvel comic would be about 5% or less. Or even DC or Vertigo comics--10% or less.
With me in particular, I think it's a little easier to pigeonhole my readership, just because of what I'm writing about, the age of people who strongly identify with leads--guys and women in their early 20's. I have the old readership who started reading this stuff in Weirdo, they're a little bit older, they're generally guys who have a general love of comics and have been buying the stuff all along, but now there's this new, much bigger bulk of college-age people who are just into the alternative lifestyle.
McCoy: To bring these questions back to Weirdo: How did your tenure there end? How did that pass over to Aline Kominsky-Crumb?
Bagge: What happened was, a year and a half into Weirdo, Gary Groth started publishing Neat Stuff, which came out at least three times a year--
McCoy: That was '85, right?
Bagge: Yeah. That ended up in itself becoming a full-time job. At first I didn't think the two would suffer, but around Neat Stuff #4 and #5 and the last two issues of Weirdo that I did--#16, #17--I just thought that both titles were suffering from me trying to keep up. I couldn't help it. I couldn't do both, and Weirdo could do without me but Neat Stuff couldn't.
I felt like I was letting Crumb down, but I just wasn't going to drop Neat Stuff, so I just thought I'd put Weirdo to sleep. Crumb wasn't too happy about it at the time. He wanted the magazine for his own work. Fortunately for both of us, Aline liked the magazine and wanted it to continue.
McCoy: Last Question. Looking back on Weirdo now, as a body of 27 magazines--28, when the new one comes out--how would you gauge the importance of Weirdo to the 80's Renaissance in comics?
Bagge: I would say it's pretty important, although I'm not the most objective of people. I think that RAW has gotten a lot more attention, and certainly a lot more praise--and for most reasons, deservedly so--than Weirdo ever did. But RAW all by itself couldn't service all the many countless artists who wanted to take a stab at being alternative cartoonists. Weirdo was a much more ongoing and active thing. There was a period of time that it came out just more often. I think it might have been a little more open to different artists than RAW was.
Other than that, I myself have mixed feelings about Weirdo, about the concept of the magazine. Everything that detractors say about it is true [laughs]. It was a really raggedy-ass thing held together with paste and staples. It didn't have really high production values. All of us ran stuff that just drove people up a wall, getting a kind of perverse, almost childish kick out of doing that. It certainly drove Ron Turner [Publisher of Last Gasp] crazy. Every single time any of us brought in an issue.
McCoy: In your work you seem to be moving farther and farther away from that style, to longer narratives.
Bagge: With me, when I look back I can see how my approach matured from something crazy to something finer--more mature sensibilities. Believe it or not, both in what I ran [in Weirdo] and my editorials and commentaries on the letters page, I was actually holding it in, trying to contain myself, trying to suppress my wise-ass nature. And now I've just recently re-read a bunch of those old editorials, those letter sections--it's like a kick in the stomach, I couldn't believe how it seems that there's...I don't know what it was that I was thinking at the time. I certainly wasn't conscious of it. I don't know where this really sharp, nasty-edged sense of humor, that was like a knife sticking out of you... [laughs] I can personally see how a lot people always thought that I must have been some really sick, perverted motherfucker.
McCoy: Do you think your success has mellowed you, or becoming a father, or...?
Bagge: Well...I guess. In person, I've always been a very easy-going guy. I don't think I've changed significantly in my personality. I feel like I'm saying more with longer stories. When you do something short and quick, it's bound to come across as a lot sharper.
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