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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Buddy Does Seattle Review

Buddy from http://www.fantagraphics.com/Buddy Does Seattle
The Complete Buddy Bradley Stories from “Hate” Comics Vol. 1 (1990-94)
Fantagraphics; $14.95; 336 pgs.
By Peter Bagge

What I’d heard before reading this volume is that it is a unique look into the lives of Seattle twenty-somethings in the early 1990s along with some concern that the material might seem dated. Although I’m a handful of years older than Buddy and live about 90 miles north of Seattle, I’d have to say things are frighteningly similar. Sure, the music has changed, the slacker attitude has waned a bit, and there’s less of the whining “hate,” but that’s about it. Regardless, I think just about anyone from any geographic location will have met a Buddy Bradley or two in their day.

Buddy Bradley is a slacker in his early 20s, a transplant to Seattle from New Jersey. He’s a little crude, a little immature, and a little unmotivated, with a fairly malleable conscience to boot. For all Buddy’s flaws and inadequacies, though, he really is a good guy with a good head on his shoulders. It’s whether or not he decides to use that head that makes a good story. And, boy, does he get himself into some stories.

Buddy, and all of his friends, find themselves in insane situations that are nonetheless believable, however crazy. (And I say “find themselves” because most have no idea that they are responsible for what they’ve gotten themselves into.) His friends include roommates Leonard (or Stinky), a more extreme slacker version of Buddy with “rockstar” tendencies, and George, an African-American recluse. Other cohorts are his ex-girlfriend Lisa, a completely off-her-rocker obsessive personality, and current girlfriend (albeit on again, off again), Valerie, who is preppy and of a higher tax bracket, but still crazy.

Of all these people in Buddy’s life, Buddy is definitely the most grounded one. The other characters seem to have no conception of “a line” and therefore no ability to judge if they’ve gone over it or are too far away from it. I guess what I’m saying is Buddy may be a lot of things, but stupid and crazy he’s not. He’s endearing in his own way, and that’s what makes reading his wild adventures fun.

These adventures include becoming the manager of a popular, but bad, grunge band that even Buddy doesn’t like, consistently keeping Lisa from going off the deep end, stopping a crazy store owner, Yahtzi, from killing him, … and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you haven’t read anything by Bagge before, his style is to capture the thoughts of his characters – all of them – so no “decompressed” storytelling here. Just an honest look at what goes through the minds of people and comes out in their actions. The characters are all drawn in exaggerated styles, even better exemplifying their mood through illustration.

Fantagraphics was generous with the price, as well -- $15 for such a large amount of material is quite a bargain these days. So, if you’re longing for the “good old days” of the grunge scene, or just want to read some wild tales of slackers past, Buddy Does Seattle is a good place to start.

Bottom Line: B+

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