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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 349

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Remember, I promised you a Bradleys moment from when Bagge was doing Neat Stuff! So enjoy!

There are so many great moments to feature starring the Bradleys, the dysfunctional family that Peter Bagge had as one of the characters in his mid-80s series, Neat Stuff, but who eventually became the main stars of the book, with the oldest son, Buddy, becoming Bagge’s most famous character (as Bagge would later follow Buddey’s adult adventures in Hate and later comics). Bagge FINALLY got a network to approve a pilot for a Bradley’s animated series – it’s such a great fit it is a shame that it hasn’t happened sooner.

In any event, as I pored through my issues to find a good moment for today I realized that, well, there aren’t very many Bradleys stories that you can do in a few pages. So while this one is not PERFECT, it’s still a strong little strip, so here’s your Bradley moment (I suppose “the” moment is the end, where the whole thing comes together)…

That’s some strong cartooning there, even if the message is a bit obvious.

18 Comments

And the obvious message is what? We all worship something, even if we don’t acknowledge it? Seems superficial. You’re right, though, Peter Bagge’s a wonderfully expressive cartoonist. He’s great at dialogue, as well–funny and naturalistic.

I’m glad to see Bagge on here, but I think Hate is miles ahead of the comics he did in Neat Stuff.

Who’s that kid next to Buddy’s mom on pg. 14, panel 2? Did the Bradleys have a cousin I never knew about?

Great choice for a moment. I wouldn’t call the fact that the message is obvious a fault though, as I don’t think Bagge was in any way going for subtlety in this piece. From the very title of the piece he makes it very clear what it’s going to be about. I think lack of subtlety only matters when subtlety and nuance were an actual aim of the author.

And the obvious message is what? We all worship something, even if we don’t acknowledge it? Seems superficial.

It’s 4 pages with no words. How deep can it really get? Another reading could be that from the time we can think until the time we die we just keep trading one set of icons for another to fill the voids in our empty lives and distract us from our inevitable deaths.

Also, I didn’t get the “even if we don’t acknowledge it” aspect as I’m sure every character in the strip would acknowledge worshipping the things they worship.

Great moment, haven’t seen that in years.

I’m pretty sure that’s Buddy’s younger brother, not his cousin in the panel with his mom, but it’s been a really long time since I read any of it.

Buddy’s younger brother is on the first page and has a markedly different haircut than the kid in the panel with Bucky’s mom

Well, this wasn’t as painful as last time. i see some of Bagge’s strengths here, but i also am not sure what his point is. i get that everyone has ‘icons’ in their lives, but not sure if Bagge is saying that they are all of the same importance or if there is some other message. Still don’t like his artwork, and would never buy his stuff [as a matter of fact i was given a free copy of Hate at a comic book store & gave it back to them].
DFTBA

I just thought maybe his hair was made more “church friendly”.
like I said, it’s been at least 15 years since I read anything of the Bradley stories. So if I’m wrong forgive me.

Danjack: I can understand not liking his artwork, I like it a lot, except when he goes crazy with the cross-hatching and wood textures. But it’s not for everybody.

I was in my late teens early 20’s when I read the pre-hate Buddy Bradely stories, and he really seemed to nail what the teenage years are all about.

I’m partial to him because he and Dan Clowes were two artist who kept me going through the rough early ’90’s.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I didn’t realize how much i missed his work until the post last week.

@T: Four pages without words is a lot of space to get really deep for a cartoonist who knows their craft.

The way the panels transition is fantastic

Sorry. I don’t see anything great about this one at all. I’m also not sure what the point is. People worship things– is that all it’s saying?

@T: Four pages without words is a lot of space to get really deep for a cartoonist who knows their craft.

Even if that’s true, which I don’t believe except in rare instances, you’re assuming Bagge WANTED to get really “deep.” To me he just wanted to show the typical week of a typical working class family and make it relatable and realistic. What you may call “deep” others may call overcomplicated pseudointellectual self-indulgence. What I consider relatable and profoundly simple others may call shallow and a sign the artist doesn’t know his craft. And I don’t think any of us would be objectively right or wrong in our assessments.

i see some of Bagge’s strengths here, but i also am not sure what his point is. i get that everyone has ‘icons’ in their lives, but not sure if Bagge is saying that they are all of the same importance or if there is some other message.

i think that’s a strength, that different people can take different messages from it.

Sorry. I don’t see anything great about this one at all. I’m also not sure what the point is. People worship things– is that all it’s saying?

I got more out of it than that. I think the point it makes it similar to the one Ernest Becker makes in Denial of Death:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Denial_of_Death

I bolded the parts relevant to this comic:

The Denial of Death is a work of psychology and philosophy written by Ernest Becker and published in 1973.[1] It was awarded the Pulitzer prize for general non-fiction in 1974, two months after the author’s death.[2] The book builds largely on the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, and one of Freud’s colleagues, Otto Rank.

The basic premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism. Becker argues that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical world of objects and a symbolic world of human meaning. Thus, since man has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self, man is able to transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism, a concept involving his symbolic half. By embarking on what Becker refers to as an “immortality project” (or causa sui), in which he creates or becomes part of something which he feels will last forever, man feels he has “become” heroic and, henceforth, part of something eternal; something that will never die, compared to his physical body that will die one day. This, in turn, gives man the feeling that his life has meaning; a purpose; significance in the grand scheme of things.

From this premise, mental illness is most insightfully extrapolated as a bogging down in one’s hero system(s). When someone is experiencing depression, their causa sui (or heroism project) is failing, and they are being consistently reminded of their mortality and insignificance as a result. Schizophrenia is a step further than depression in which one’s causa sui is falling apart, making it impossible to engender sufficient defense mechanisms against their mortality; henceforth, the schizophrenic has to create their own reality or “world” in which they are better heroes. Becker argues that the conflict between immortality projects which contradict each other (particularly in religion) is the wellspring for the destruction and misery in our world caused by wars, bigotry, genocide, racism, nationalism, and so forth, since an immortality project which contradicts others indirectly suggests that the others are wrong.

Another theme running throughout the book is that humanity’s traditional “hero-systems” i.e. religion, are no longer convincing in the age of reason; science is attempting to solve the problem of man, something that Becker feels it can never do. The book states that we need new convincing “illusions” that enable us to feel heroic in the grand scheme of things, i.e. immortal. Becker, however, does not provide any definitive answer, mainly because he believes that there is no perfect solution. Instead, he hopes that gradual realization of man’s innate motivations, namely death, can help to bring about a better world.

If you read the bradleys series, a common theme is how depressingly ordinary,powerless and insignificant they are. They’re mind-numbingly ordinary and middle class, and each family member lives a quiet life of desperation to struggle to cope with this sense of being utterly ordinary and insignificant. Since they will never as individuals transcend being ordinary and rise into greatness, since they’re doomed to mediocrity, they all deal with it in different ways, and this insignificance anxiety manifests itself in each family members in different ways, usually in the form of depression, status anxiety, nihilism and hopelessness that various members of the family go through.

As each family member gets older, they go through their own journeys to find immortality projects and find things bigger than themselves to be part of and “matter,’ even if only by “basking in reflected glory.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basking_in_reflected_glory

Buddy uses nihilism as his defense mechanism to deal with his insignificance issues but constantly tries to surround himself in various “scenes” in Seattle in an effort to be around something bigger than himself. The sister’s immortality project as she gets older eventually becomes popping out babies, even if its with a guy who’s a bum. Since the father will never be outstanding or notable as an individual he takes pride in patriotism, he basks in the reflected glory of the place he was born, something which ultimately takes no skill, just the roll of the dice to luckily be born in the right country. The younger brother ends up a miserable loner who joins the military as his “immortality project.” In the end, they always end up crashing back down to earth pulled by the inescapable gravity of their overwhelming mediocrity, dysfunction and overall unremarkable existence.

This four page strip above wasn’t meant to be the end-all, be-all story of the Bradleys meant to solely be examined in a vacuum, it is a short encapsulation/summary of the themes and struggles that will define the Bradleys over the course of the series as it progresses. When taken in the context of the overall series it does a great job of summing up the Bradleys and their future struggles in a nutshell.

@T: I don’t think that was the case with Bagge. I think these four pages are great. Sure, the overall message is straightforward, but there’s ,much more than people are giving it credit for. Yes, we all have icons that fill a space in our lives. Great. But that ignores the way that the different members of the family approach their icons. That what is ultimately perhaps the same drive is given so much variation by the identities of the worshipers (none of who can get along too well as a family in their own right) adds a lot to the vignette. I’m just saying the power of visual communication is stronger than most people seem to give it credit for these days. So much emphasis is given to the writer and prose in comics these days and I think a lot of the their primary communicative power is overlooked because of this.

Julian, I not only agree but actually wrote a lengthy comment that elaborates on what you’re talking about but it’s stuck in moderation awaiting approval. It’ll show up whenever Brian gets around to approving it. But I do agree, people aren’t giving it enough credit because it’s so simple and unpretentious on its surface. It is definitely a lot more thought-provoking than people are giving it credit for. Another thing people don’t realize is that the four page script is only quaint when viewed in a vacuum but in the context of the overall series it gains a lot more depth.

I guess you just have to read more of the series to appreciate this, then? (I’ve never even heard of it before.)
But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of this ‘Cool Moments’ series? I thought these were supposed to be cool sequences that you could appreciate by themselves, with just the minimal explanation Brian provides. (Which doesn’t mean, of course, that they aren’t even cooler if you know the larger story.)

I thought these were supposed to be cool sequences that you could appreciate by themselves, with just the minimal explanation Brian provides.

Nope, just cool moments period.

I guess you just have to read more of the series to appreciate this, then? (I’ve never even heard of it before.)
But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of this ‘Cool Moments’ series? I thought these were supposed to be cool sequences that you could appreciate by themselves, with just the minimal explanation Brian provides. (Which doesn’t mean, of course, that they aren’t even cooler if you know the larger story.)

By those standards that would disqualify most of the moments Brian has already done. Most of them are made cooler by understanding the context both of the overall stories and of the characters involved. Otherwise why would Brian normally need an introduction recapping what preceded the scene and setting up the context in most of these Cool Comic Book Moments? You probably don’t notice just how context-dependent many of these moment are because you come into this already acquainted with the storylines and the relevant contexts already.

Why can’t you enjoy this sequence on it’s own?

Not knowing anything about the larger world of the Bradely’s shouldn’t stop somebody from being able to enjoy this moment. It’s all pretty much there in those 4 pages, if you know more about the family it adds to it, but it still stands quite well on it’s own.

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