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Buddy the Dreamer. By Peter Bagge. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 1994. 120p. $12.95. ISBN 1-56097-154-1.


Fiction, humor

Adults, teens; language, sex (lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable)

This is a sequel to Hey, Buddy!, the first volume of Buddy Bradley stories collected from Hate (see my book for the review of Hey, Buddy!). This title collects all the Buddy stories from issues #6-10. Buddy is a 24-year-old American male slacker who works in a used book store and rooms with two less-than-stellar friends: Stinky the sleaze and George the insecure shut-in. Buddy's girlfriend is Valerie, who is rooms with the truly crazy Lisa. Together and separately, these five attempt to make their ways through life, with varying (and usually low) levels of success.

In the first story, Val and Buddy must endure "Valerie's Parents," first at a company bash and then at their upscale ranch home, complete with a pool 20 feet away from the lake. Valerie's mother is a social climber ashamed of her Italian roots; she insists on calling Buddy by his real name Harold. Valerie's father, by contrast, is an earthy (though conservative) businessman who hits it off with Buddy immediately. Valerie, naturally, can't stand either of them, though she's especially disgusted with her mother, who thinks nothing of showing Val's old Barbie collection to Buddy and detailing which doll is which.

The next story, "Paranoia Rules Supreme," creates the unlikely pairing of George and Lisa on a date. The two cannot fathom each other, and the clash of George's shyness, insecurity, and paranoia vs. Lisa's brash, thoughtless, in-your-face behavior results, finally, in George's mad dash for home after Lisa's incredibly crude attempt to seduce him.

This is followed by the two-part saga of Buddy's stint as the manager of Stinky's rock group, which goes through various name and personnel changes before Stinky ends up as the lead singer of Leonard and the Love Gods (Kurt, Kurt, Greg, and Kurt). Though Buddy is rolling in cash for once--mostly "deduction" money that he skims from the band's take--he manages to alienate Valerie by never being around any more. She decamps to France with her boss. And Buddy is starting to hate rock with a passion, especially because the band is totally out of control. The absolute low point is when he and the band begin driving to California to tour; after an argument, they throw Buddy out of the van and fire him as manager.

The final story is "The Nut," in which Buddy makes the enormous mistake of helping Lisa get a job at the used book store where he works. She makes his life both at home and at work a living hell. At one point she shaves her head and dons a potato sack and follows Buddy around yelling at him.

There are also a couple of one-page multi-panel pieces about Lisa and Stinky.

Absolutely hysterical and outrageously crude! From Buddy finding a used condom in his pocket to Lisa sticking her naked butt in the air as a come-on to George; from George's paranoia running mental commentary on his date with Lisa to Stinky's duct-tape-feather-duster performing "outfit"; there are just so many "moments" in this book. Most of the dialogue rings true-to-life, with only an occasional slip, as when two of the "Love Gods" wax uncharacteristically eloquent. For a bunch of losers and weirdos, the characters are surprisingly sympathetic, especially Buddy, who is often appalled by what goes on around him yet is unable to do anything about it or even to resist participating in it--though he shows uncommon good sense when he gives up managing the band! My personal favorite is George, shy, awkward, terrified of the world, intellectual on the fringe of everything (including intellectual pursuits). He considers himself vastly superior to Buddy and Stinky, and is crushed when Lisa tells him she doesn't think he's any smarter than them.

Bagge's rubber-limbed, bug-eyed style perfectly complements the wild stories he tells. He's definitely one of the great humor cartoonists. What's nice is that not only does he chronicle the more extreme behaviors of the characters, but he also catches small and subtle traits, such as how Buddy casually peels the label off a beer bottle as he's talking, or how he cringes when two of the Love Gods ask him to tell the girlfriend of a quitting L.G. to get her fourth abortion.

Especially recommended for the 18-24 crowd, but it should be pretty funny for older folks as well--a good title for reminiscing about one's strange adolescent behavior. However, those readers with fairly delicate sensitivities might find it a tad... overwhelming.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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