The past is always a hindrance, so after the nostalgia of the 80s, now it is the turn of the 90s, which were a few years of pathetic, wars and interventions, a moralistic apogee, Reagan handing the spoon to the little Bush (in Spain was the Aznar decade), MTV ruling Netflix like today and clothing brands selling ripped pants, garments that saw their value increased by bringing signs of some foreign experience. Such was the level of alienation.
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“Nothing is right but everything is wrong,” Siniestro Total sang shortly before. But there were also good things. The Simpsons, for example. Or the fanzine fever. And that there were record stores and the dawn of an Internet still far from dying on social networks. Be that as it may, the only sensible option for those who were young in the 90s and thought themselves worthy was the same as for any other generation before or to come: embrace hatred.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Seattle, the birthplace of grunge, year 1990. Buddy Bradley is a 23-year-old misanthrope unable to connect with his generation, which some luminaries have decided to call “X”. Employed in a second-hand bookstore and with no more vital aspirations than a few beers, some records and some comics, he shares an apartment with Leonard “Stinking” Brown, a deranged polytoxic addict, and with an asocial black man given to paranoia and seclusion named George Hamilton. III. Then there’s Valerie, his romantic and well-educated housemate, and his roommate, the neurotic and depressive Lisa, with whom Buddy has had a previous fling. And a girlfriend is unknown, but an ex is forever. It begins so Hate.
Hate, which in its day we read in the pages of El Víbora, is satire, a novel of customs and, in a way, a bildungsroman tempered and slow. A story of growth that had its germ ten years before in the pages of the magazine Neat stuff (recently compiled in three volumes as Idiot world) where Peter Bagge had created a dysfunctional family with the last name Bradley, whose first-born, our Buddy, would emancipate himself to cross the 90’s in the humble and quarrelsome format of the two-staple comic.
With an elastic drawing style and always ready to curl with anger, Peter Bagge revealed himself in those pages imbued with veteran colleagues such as Jim Woodring, Basil Wolverton, Bill Griffith, Kim Deitch, Tex Avery, Gilbert Shelton or the Peanuts of Schulz. Among his contemporaries, he gleaned the brutal honesty and zero self-indulgence policy of Chester Brown or Julie Doucet and the brothers Jaime and Beto Hernandez, two soap opera geniuses, he took good note of psychologies and human relationships.
In the background, the satirical beat that in the 60s had encouraged the pages of MAD, magazine Buddy Bradley flips through on a page of Hate while referring to its creator, cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman: “I adore that irreverent sense of humor he had. I could see through the everyday shit that most people accepted and turned it around…”.
Hate is love
The secret of Hate is that all the characters are defined in their bitterness and frustration. Here everyone argues with everyone. The premise is perpetual conflict, dissatisfaction, and attack. However, despite nihilism fin de siècle that permeates the series, never have fictional creatures evolved so much, although their only possible course was the tragedy of normality.
Peter Bagge, born in ’57, always held that Hate it wasn’t autobiographical, but that Buddy could be considered a younger version of himself. In the past, he would discover himself deeply affected by the television series of the 70s All in family, a situation comedy with a grumpy and intolerant protagonist, an ashen ex-combatant like Buddy Bradley who in his twenties understands that he has been deceived and is overcome by the rage of powerlessness. Impossible to imagine more human qualities.
Bagge, who is recognized as one of those cartoonists who hates to draw, had started in the business as a collaborator of John Holmstrom, the founder of the mythical Punk magazine, then it was of Robert Crumb and soon he proved himself an excellent storyteller destined to reign in a alternative scene that, at some point, such was the enthusiasm, comic fans were tempted to call “new underground“, a frank place and safe from the farce of culture mainstream. Her latest works are flawless but somewhat rattling hagiographies of pioneering feminists like Margaret Sanger (The rebellious woman), Zora Neale Hurston (Fire !!!) or Wilder Lane (Creed).
Thirty years later Hate returns to bookstores in a five-volume edition loaded with satellite material, including original covers, photographs, illustrations, articles contextualizing the phenomenon and even some unpublished cartoon drawn for the occasion. What Happened to Buddy Bradley? Probably the same as all of us: nothing. Only this.
In any case, those who did not live them now have the opportunity to taste precisely what it was like to be young in those elusive 90s, with fatigued light and on the verge of the good-natured scourge. A decade of hypersensitive boys looking at their feet and holding onto the cuffs of their sweatshirts to avoid plunging into the solipsistic abyss. Hate, the most effective balm for that bland but still guitar-making era, in which we were so happy, is today a piece of encapsulated time and one of the funniest comics ever drawn.