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Monday, October 14, 2013

Peter Bagge and Margaret Sanger


What do Peter Bagge and Chester Brown share in common? Both key figures in the first wave of alternative comics, check. Both libertarians (?!), check. And both have switched gears, somewhat in mid career, and created major biographies of key, controversial historical figures. Like Louis Riel a decade ago, Woman Rebel is a compelling and engaging read, and it works so well precisely because the story is told from such a unique, unmistakably quirky perspective.

Who could have ever imagined Margaret Sanger, the early 20th century proto-feminist, portrayed by Bagge in all his rubbery cartooning glory? It all makes perfect sense to Dan Kois, writing in Slate: "And in fact the contraception pioneer Margaret Sanger is a perfect fit for Bagge’s style; with her short temper, disrespect of authority, and overall pigheadedness, she often seems like Buddy Bradley’s more intelligent great-grandmother."

Bagge not only relates an important piece of history, he hones in with great gusto and tells the story of a scrappy individual who overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As Tom Spurgeon writes in his intro, "What works for Woman Rebel and makes what follows not just a fine Peter Bagge comic book narrative but an intriguing character study independent of form is that Bagge treats this wholly unique person as just another person with problems, as someone with an inflated sense of self and a whole list of appetites and specific desires to fulfill on her way from cradle to grave."

Bagge is at his best here, in peak form. See for yourself: Woman Rebel appears in stores THIS WEEK!


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