Name: Riley Grace Nicknames: Riles, Pup Sexuality: pansexual Height: 5’9” Fatal Flaw: too trusting Demigod weapon of choice: bow and arrow Favorite food: pancakes Favorite drink: coffee Loves: history, wolves, rain, women’s soccer, people playing with her hair Hobbies: collecting records, camping with her dad, adopting dogs Grows up to be: dog trainer
I was pretty much a standard issue crappy teenager. Moody, petulant, a real pain in the ass to just about anyone who knew me, friend or foe. Most of the time, I was my own worst enemy, but I had a preternatural capacity for alienating the people around me. It wasn’t that I had bad intentions, I just didn’t get the way the world went, and felt happiest and safest thumbing through stacks of old records in a thrift store.
Around the age of 15 or so, I started reading Peter Bagge’s Hate, which was then being published a few times a year by @fantagraphics. Along with Dan Clowes’ Eightball, it was one of the few comics I kept up with during my late teens and early 20′s, after sort of tapering off of superhero comics a year or two before (around the time Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. left Daredevil, though I stuck it out with JM DeMatteis/Keith Giffen Justice League for a while, and Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man). Eightball was great- moving, funny, literary yet stylish. Hate was something else entirely. Hate was real. Buddy Bradley, the book’s protagonist, was a guy I could relate to. With my shaggy hair, plaid thrift store shirts, black Levis and omnipresent cigarette, I even kind of looked like him. He was one of the first figures in art or media that I identified with fully, good and bad, since while Buddy was cool, living on his own in Seattle, drinking beer, dating girls and collecting records, he was also about as petulant and temperamental as I was, and had the same penchant for pissing off strangers, friends and loved ones.
Hate ran for 21 years (for me, ages 13 to 34), and in it, Bagge did kind of an amazing thing- he let his characters grow with the series. The artist has said Buddy and Lisa and the rest of the crew’s arcs mirror, in many ways his own, and in many ways they mirrored mine as well. Buddy became an upstanding member of society, or at least alright guy, a lot more comfortable with himself and generally more good-natured and easier to get a long with. I, too (despite what some of my co-workers might tell you), went on a similar journey. Not even a journey, really, just getting older and growing up, learning not to make some mistakes twice, or making the same mistakes over and over again until they’re too painful to continue. Change comes naturally and through work. There’s no set path.
Just as Buddy mirrored my adolescent years (though he always did much better with women that I could manage, though neither of us nor the women we pursued were any less dysfunctional), his growth mirrored my own. Hate became totemic, and much of the pleasure in reading it was the chance to check in with Buddy ever few months (then later once a year), to see how far we’d both come. And looking back on the most recent issues, reprinted in Buddy Buys A Dump, it’s a long way that we’ve come, in different directions, but we’ve both found our niches professionally, our friends who have stuck around over the years, and a greater general sense of peace from within, tempered with more than a hint of curmudgeonliness. It’s not such a bad life, no matter how much either of us likes to complain…
Anyway, all of this is to say you must read the first two Hate collections, Buddy Does Seattle, Buddy Does Jersey and Buddy Buys a Dump, which are out now from @fantagraphics. If your youth was anything like mine, you’ll find at least something to relate to in these books. If it was nothing like mine, you’ll get an insider’s view to a world of sullen, shaggy haired misfits. And if you just care about comics, it’s a hell of a story, full of wild scenes, a few cringe inducing moments and a lot of good laughs. It’s sort of like Seinfeld where the characters have less money, better hair and record collections and deep, crushing existential dread. In other words, it’s perfect.
Harris Smith is a production coordinator and comiXology’s main Tumblr guy.