Alternative comic artist and public libertarian Peter Bagge has made an unexpected career move. Bagge — best known for his '90s-era slacker satires Hate and Neat Stuff — has shifted his attention from autobiography to biography and taken it upon himself to chronicle the lives of unique women in the 20th century. His first was Woman Rebel, the story of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Fire!!, his second, and most exclamation mark-laden title, tells the story of African-American author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston.
"I kept coming across life stories of women writers and/or activists from the early 20th century — particularly the years between the two world wars — who led incredibly free, independent lives, which made me very curious about them," Bagge says. "This was a full generation before the women's rights movement of the late '60s, yet you'd never know it was based on how these women went about things. They were shockingly un-self-conscious about it, too."
- Peter Bagge
So the artist started reading more about these women, identifying with them, and eventually drawing their stories in his distinctive, rubber-boned style.
"I like the way I draw," Bagge says. "It suits my purposes. It's very expressive. I'm also sadly well aware that some people have a hard time with my art, particularly with these non-fiction books. But then I think about the type of art these critics prefer — which is very straight, mainstream, and BORING-looking — and come to the conclusion that they just have bad taste."
Fire!! follows Hurston from her rural roots through her time as a student, poet, playwright, author, and cultural documentarian. It touches on her complicated relationship with Langston Hughes and constant economic struggle.
"What I hope people take away from Fire!! primarily is what a unique and creatively fearless person Hurston was," Bagge says. "She literally had no predecessors. A truly remarkable person for countless reasons."