Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story: By Peter Bagge, 104 pgs. By Billups Allen

After the seminal slacker comic Hate was essentially wrapped up, comic artist Peter Bagge began releasing Hate Annual, a fun magazine with only a few pages dedicated to following Hate’s main character Buddy Bradley as he stumbles through life. The bulk of the pages of Hate Annual are dedicated to compiling bits of Bagge’s magazine work along with articles and comics on topics that strike his fancy. Getting to know Bagge better through Hate Annualgives a lot of insight as to why he was so good at capturing a certain point and time in the lives of young people struggling to maintain relationships and coming to terms with their interest in nostalgia. Bagge has a knack for making real life out of history.

In his latest book, Bagge puts the life and controversy surrounding activist Margaret Sanger’s extensive struggle to educate people about birth control. Bagge’s rubbery drawing style and uncanny capacity with dialogue brings history to life without excessive dramatic embellishment. The ups and downs of Bagge’s take on Sanger’s life construct a person pushing blindly through a difficult and imbalanced society, winning all the victories and making all the mistakes that would cause her to be reviled and cause her to be seen as a hero. It’s a human story, which is Bagge’s greatest attribute as a historian: whether he’s writing about pop musicians or historical figures, he’s aware that he’s writing about people. During a time when the biopic is required to turn subject matter into Greek mythology and internet complainers trash a person because they don’t like a song, Bagge’s unique take on the world is more important than ever. Even bigger-than-life characters such as H.G. Wells and Mahatma Gandhi come across as people you might run into at the supermarket. Well, a really weird supermarket, maybe. –Billups Allen (Drawn And Quarterly; drawnandquarterly.com)