IN 1990 Peter Bagge started a new comic. He took Buddy Bradley, one of the characters from his previous anthology title Neat Stuff, and placed him front and centre. The result was Hate, a comic that was salacious, bad-mouthed, and often hilarious.

Hate caught a wave. Bagge moved Buddy to Seattle with his friend Stinky and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Lisa and basically invented the slacker sitcom(ic). It helped that he tapped into some of the same energies and flavours of the emerging grunge scene (even if Bagge and Buddy were always at odds with it).

The result was one of the best comics of the 1990s, fuelled by Bagge’s rubbery, expressive cartooning style, his willingness to say the unsayable (something which, 30 years on, feels even more transgressive than it did then) and his ability to nail all this down to a tight sitcom structure (it’s no real surprise that Hate was constantly being optioned by TV companies, though none of them were ever able to make a TV version happen).

Hate ran for eight years as a regular comic and Bagge returned to the characters at the start of the century and began producing Hate annuals once a year (obviously). The characters were never stuck in a single time. Bagge made them grow up (or not as the case may be) and grow older. Some characters he discarded with a real ruthlessness when they didn’t fit his purpose anymore.

In recent years Bagge has been working on cartoon biographies of historical characters such as Zora Neale Hurston and Margaret Sanger. But now Fantagraphics has published a new box set hardcover edition of The Complete Hate. The result is a funny, at times shocking thrill.

We took the chance to ask its creator a few questions about then and now, Donald Trump and his love of comics:


To start with, I wonder how you feel about Hate being now a hardcover box set? It can hardly have been in your thoughts when you started Hate way back when.

That is true, and, to be honest, I always liked the thought that I was creating cheap ephemera when I first created Hate – something to use as a coaster or roll your joints on once you're done reading it. But this big pricey tome also serves as a reminder of the old comic's existence, so there's that!

Okay, confession time. What percentage of Buddy Bradley can we find in you? How close to home is he?

My generic answer has always been he's 1/3 based on things that happened to me, 1/3 based on my friends, and 1/3 totally made up. That still seems accurate, I'd say, though I relate to all of it to some degree.

Rereading the strips what is striking is how quickly you find your feet.

I learned a lot while doing Neat Stuff, including what not to do. So yes, I felt fairly proficient in my comic story telling skills by the time I started Hate.

The challenge then is to sustain it which you do by regularly rebooting the sit in the sitcom. You say in your notes that certain characters like Stinky just didn’t give you much room for manoeuvre.

Stinky wasn't the type of character to evolve – he wouldn't be Stinky if he did – but that also made him less interesting for me to work with. That almost made him seem tragic in my eyes if I kept him around longer, and I didn't want that.

Who was the character you enjoyed writing for most?

Lisa and Jay would my favourite characters for that very reason: they were very complex and malleable. Lisa especially. Being unpredictable was her personality.

All these years on, what struck you revisiting these strips?

Mainly how times have changed. All those landlines! And fanzines. Remember those? And people meeting face to face, as opposed to communicating digitally. It all feels more visceral – because it was!

How do you think they will be received in 2020? The culture has changed. (Reading the strips again I laughed a lot, but I did wince now and then. But I’m a woolly liberal.)

People – especially younger people – have been conditioned to wince at everything these days. In some ways that's progress, which is a good thing, though we also seem to ignore what people's true intentions were when they use language that is no longer socially acceptable, which is not a good thing. Too many of us have become cheap, lazy moralists.

What’s Buddy’s position on Trump?

I'd say that, like myself, he'd try not to think about him. Obsessing over world leaders tend to obscure our own realities.

Is there a temptation to revisit these characters in the future?

Only if there's a real commercial demand for them. I never ran out of ideas for Buddy, but my public sure lost interest in him over time.

You’ve been working on graphic memoirs in recent years. What has been the fun of that?

The "fun," if you can call it that, can be found in the fact that truth is far more interesting than fiction. And I learn a lot about the past when I research those works.

What’s next?

Lately I've been doing a lot of short, four-page bios for Reason Magazine. I enjoy it a lot. I also made an online comics course that will debut some time in 2021.

What do you love about comics? Has it changed over the years?

I love sequential illustration as a means of communicating ideas. It's the perfect way for a single artist to express him or herself, in my opinion. I also always loved the traditional comic book format, though that is becoming a thing of history. But it's such a quick, simple way to present your ideas!


The Complete Hate is published by Fantagraphics, priced £105