PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Comics

Peter Bagge's Other Lives

Bagge's story is an exploration of the mediums and mechanisms that keep the riddle of the individual dancing between who we think we are, the projections and assumptions of others, and who we want to be.


Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Length: 136 pages
Rice: $24.99
Writer/Artist: Peter Bagge
Graphic Novel: Peter Bagge's Other Lives
Publication Date: 2010-05

The questions of identity, reality, and who the individual actually is and how they choose to perceive the world has been a consuming passion of scholars, writers, and artists. Peter Bagge’s Other Lives is an interesting contribution to that ongoing dialogue. Examining the multiple lives of four interconnected people, the story takes place at the nexus point where identity, reality, fantasy, and escapism all collide. It is an exploration of the mediums and mechanisms that keep the riddle of the individual dancing between who we think we are, the projections and assumptions of others, and who we want to be.

The primary characters in the series are easily recognizable archetypes emerging from the collective unconscious of modern culture. There is the neurotic writer, the cutesy girl rebelling against her parent’s expectations, the loser whose fantasy life is far more stable then his real one, and the socially inept computer geek who lives with his mom and dreams of being a hero. While hardly original in their constructions this is clearly Bagge’s intent; as cliches they serve as perfect vehicles for his story’s examination of the alternate lives we lead. The story follows the way their various “lives” overlap and influence each other.

The Internet and a fictional game called Second World (clearly inspired by Second Life) are the main tools in which Bagge discusses the way we shape and construct our fictional realities. In Second World the character Woodrow sheds his real life as a broke and divorced degenerate gambler, and becomes a powerful lord with his own castle guarded by a digital dragon. Ivy, the cutesy girl, tries out the game, exploring the world’s ability to change your look and species and begins a secret relationship with Woodrow. These two characters represent the two polar extremes of this type of escapist fantasy manifesting in a digital medium. For Woodrow the world of the game is an empowering place that allows him to be who he wants to be; everything there is filled with meaning. For Ivy however, the world is simply a place to play around in, a realm without consequence where nothing you do, be it cybersex with your fiance’s friend’s avatar or getting married online, matters in the real world. The entanglement of these two characters, and the tension caused when one takes the events far too seriously and the other takes them far too lightly are the principle driving force in the narrative.

Yet the contention that some people have a hard time differentiating reality from online fantasy, and that others use the new universe of digital interconnectivity to behave in ways divorced from repercussions is hardly revolutionary or ground-breaking. Anyone who has ever had a friend play too much Warcraft or been called a racist name while playing Halo on Xbox live knows that this is true. Fortunately, that point is only one aspect of Bagge’s nuanced discussion of his theme.

The other characters who are not pulled into the fantasy of Second World are still fraught with their own internal, yet equally powerful, issues. Javy, whose drunken lie about fighting terrorists as a government agent begins the story, has mental issues that cause him to have paranoid and self-delusional fantasy’s. Vader, the writer, is so guilty about a mistake in his past that he has convinced himself that all his subsequent works are compromised and that he is fraud. He learns an important lesson on memories impact on identity. After learning new truths about his father and his grandfather, he learns that people have other lives distinct from and in some ways irreconcilable with our own perceptions of them.

The main argument of Other Lives rests on two primary discussions, the question of identity, and the examination of the mediums with which we construct our alternate lives. By the story’s end it would be easy for Bagge to blame the latter, the online world, for the problems of the former. However, these questions are not that simple and the book would lose much of its thematic impact if it were to simply condemn the Internet as being the culprit of our existential dishonesty and self-delusion. Bagge instead appears to argue that even though the digital reality, with its avatars and fictional worlds, has brought the means of reconstructing our identities to a level of greater cultural awareness, that people are ultimately prone to to this behavior regardless of the medium. The things that obstruct your identity, whether internally or externally imposed, will be there regardless of its your real life or Second Life as both are equally arbitrary.

There is hope however. The conclusion of the story seems to argue that underneath all the fictions and obfuscation, there is an underlying truth, and ultimately it doesn't really matter where that truth gets expressed, in the real world or some digital medium, so long as it comes out. Furthermore, the more aware we are of these realities, the less likely they are to have power over us.

Other Lives is an interesting story that confirms why Peter Bagge has become a acclaimed name in the art comic world. The story is complex in its message, carefully constructed, and is an excellent read for anyone who has ever pondered the nature of identity or created a character on some digital world and temporarily lost sight of which one was actually real.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.