Interview – Peter Bagge (1993)

Originally published in The Comics Journal #159, 1993

{mosimage}Two days after his 35th birthday, Carole Sobocinski interviewed Peter Bagge.

SOBOCINSKI: So the age of 35 is generally considered to be a midpoint in life where we reach a lot of crucial decisions about who we are and where we’re going. With that in mind, have you noticed any changes in terms of your outlook in life, your approach to life? Are you satisfied with where you are, where you’re going?

BAGGE: Yes, to the latter. As far as changing outlooks on life in general, it seems to me that as soon as I get some things figured out, there are other things that begin to confuse me. Or maybe they’re just things I begin to think about. It’s tough to say that life seems simpler or that I anticipate smooth sailing ahead from this point. One thing I’ve found out recently is that even though I’m self-employed and making a decent living at it, we’ve got a house, I’m happily married with a kid… once you achieve something like that, it’s impossible just to relax or figure you could coast from this point on. I’ve become aware of the fact that it’s been a real struggle getting that way, and that struggle, in and of itself, is something that keeps you going. It makes me wonder what kind of trouble I might get into just to keep things interesting.

SOBOCINSKI: Are you talking about economic struggle or is it more than that?

BAGGE: Yeah, it’s that and also just to strive for something instead of going through the motions and doing more of the same. Like for example, doing a comic book called Hate forever just because it’s doing relatively well. I suppose I could do that, but I hope I won’t be afraid to take any risks. So I guess an economic risk is mostly what I’m talking about.

SOBOCINSKI: It seems as if you’re also telling me that you don’t want to become complacent with your work.

BAGGE: Right. Or with anything. And Joanne, my wife, is that same way. She fights like crazy to achieve some goal that she gets in her head. But then, of course, when she gets there, she starts plotting and scheming to go ahead and try some other thing. She’s always talking about moving, things like that. We’ve moved so many times, the two of us, and every time we move it always was at her insistence. She’s much more eager to make a change. When she decides she’d like to try something different, I might agree but I’m always more inclined to wait, whereas she wants to do it right away.

SOBOCINSKI: Let’s talk about your background a little bit.

BAGGE: I was born and raised in Westchester County, New York, which is a suburb of New York City, just north of the city. That’s where my parents are both from. When I was real little, we lived in a house that looked just like this — it was a real simple bungalow. My parents, being good Catholics, had a lot more kids than they intended to.

SOBOCINSKI: How many kids?

BAGGE: Five, altogether. Five kids in seven years. My mother had trouble getting pregnant initially. She didn’t have her first until she was 35 and then, all of a sudden there were five kids in a house which had just two small bedrooms. My father was in the military — at that time he was sergeant in the Air National Guard. He wound up taking officer’s school and by the time he retired, he was a colonel. But then again, in the National Guard, it’s just like working for IBM in that there was very little military aspect to his work. He was just in charge of supplies and things like that. He wasn’t making much money when we were little and we lived on this dirt road with a bunch of old houses. It was kind of a blue collar neighborhood, bordering on being an extremely poor, rough neighborhood. But at the same time we really loved it.

SOBOCINSKI: You mentioned earlier that your parents were “good Catholics”. How strictly Catholic was your family?

BAGGE: Not very, mainly because my mother was raised Protestant. And most of my father’s family was Protestant too. My grandfather converted to Catholicism when he was in his 60s, simply because he was sick of driving my grandmother to church and sitting out in the parking lot. He finally said, “I feel like going in!” He got baptized so he could sit inside instead. But there wasn’t that ethnic or cultural Catholicism; we weren’t raised with that heavy-duty guilt. It was just this religion. It wasn’t as crazy. My parents never really seemed to believe all that stuff. The whole time I was growing up, going to church, none of it made sense while I went through my first Communion and Confirmation. I kept thinking, “Well, when I’m older, this will all come together. I just don’t get it because I’m a dopey kid.” And when I asked my parents about it, they couldn’t explain it to my satisfaction. They might give a knee-jerk reaction and say, “Oh well, you know that’s a sin.” But when they tried to explain it, it’s almost like they began changing their own minds, having to talk about it.

SOBOCINSKI: Was it that they never questioned it themselves really, or…

BAGGE: Yeah, they just were going through the motions. They still occasionally go to church, and my father seems to be into religion strictly as an intellectual exercise.

SOBOCINSKI: What was your confirmation name?

BAGGE: Paul. My full name is Peter Christian Paul Bagge. Yeah, I named myself after Paul McCartney. [Laughs.]

Continue reading this interview by downloading this PDF (44 pages, 572 KB).

Recent books by Peter Bagge (click cover images for more details)

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All books by Peter Bagge