Tag Archives: andrez bergen

Book Review: Black Sails, Disco Inferno


Black Sails, Disco Inferno (Open Books), Andrez Bergen’s novelization of his fifteen part noir comic series Trista & Holt, is a roman noir of the first order: a brisk, tour de force in hard-boiled prose that sacrifices none of the cinematic grandeur of the original with its vivid description and terse dialogue.

Black Sails, Disco Inferno (like its predecessor Trista & Holt) takes place in an unnamed metropolis of the 1970’s where two dueling mob bosses, Isidore “Anguish” Holt and Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall are constantly at war. Drivers, lieutenants and yes, even blood kin get caught in the crossfire as does beautiful, tough-as-nails Trista Rivalen, Marcella’s niece, and Issy Holt, handsome playboy scion of the Holt empire. Complicating matters is the love that develops between Trista and Issy, a romance that begins at the funeral of Holt wheelman Lou Holden (who it turns out has a longer history with Anguish Holt than we realize at this point) and ends somewhere one would never expect, and in a completely different part of the world.


Trista’s and Issy’s relationship develops with some twists and revelations not seen in the comic version that gives their romance a bit more depth. We get to know these characters from the inside as they discover things about each other that strengthen each one’s appreciation and admiration for the other. Warning signs occur sooner here regarding Issy’s best-friend-with-benefits Brangien, whose jealousy and resentment of Trista is worse than she dare let Issy realize. Brangien’s carefree party-girl lifestyle masks the feelings she has for Issy and her terrifying willingness to do anything to win him for herself, something Issy doesn’t realize until late in the game when the stakes are sky high.

An integral parallel relationship brought into sharper focus with further detail and background this time out is the story-within-a-story of Trista and Governal, her mentor, father figure and sometimes crush—one that she grows into and never quite grows out of. In the comic Trista’s childhood chapters are written by Renee Asher Pickup and Bergen uses that part of the story in the novel as well with Governal instructing Trista in all the intricacies that life as Marcella’s confidante will entail, lovingly and firmly and with a disquieting sense of guilt behind it all. Paradoxically Governal is Trista’s steadiest influence as he schools her for life in a violent industry and is the only person left who really seems to care about Trista until Issy comes along.

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When she’s away from Governal one night young Trista witnesses a violent act that rattles her to the core and that causes her to face what happened to her real father years ago. This cruel realization represents a turning point for Trista wherein she leaves childhood behind following a lesson in revenge instigated by Governal. A new adult Trista returns, prepared to face whatever it is her future holds in this dark urban world and within the vast confines of Tintagel, a gothic apartment building that Marcella Cornwall has claimed as her palace. Trista’s eighteenth birthday party there and her debut as Marcella’s protégé is a spectacle, a “coming out”  that showcases Trista’s mastery of nerves and her new role in life,  one to which she’s now resigned, her training complete.

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There’s violence aplenty in this gangster/ romance but with the exception of the harrowing scene witnessed by Trista and the revelations about her father’s murder, it’s usually delivered with a Chandlerian note of dark humor. As much as I adore the innovative, retro-inspired eye-candy of the comic version, I was most pleasantly surprised by the vivid richness of the novelization.

If you’re already familiar with the comic version, be aware that the ending of this version is quite different. Is it a “better” ending? I was satisfied with the original bittersweet version because given the events leading up to it, I didn’t really see how else it could end, or at least I didn’t want to think about a more fatalistic/ finality for these characters. Having said that, I think this is an excellent ending. Yes, on the one hand it does have a dimension of tragedy a shade darker than the original, but also an added dimension of hope: true to character, story and genre, and to a greater measure the forces of darkness get what they deserve.

If you’re a fan of noir, anywhere from The Big Sleep to Breaking Bad, you really should check out Black Sails, Disco Inferno. Whether you’ve ever experienced the comic upon which it’s based or not, you’re in for a treat. Pour yourself a drink, turn down the lights, put on some disco and dive in.

Writing/ Story: Andrez Bergen with Renee Asher Pickup Cover Art: Frantz Kantor
Overall Rating: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Andrez Bergen provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Andrez Bergen Talks Bullet Gal and More

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Australian ex-pat writer and comic artist Andrez Bergen has lived in Japan for the last fifteen years where he continues to create new and innovative work in several genres, from noir to sci-fi. Andrez recently adapted his noir comic series Trista & Holt into the novel Black Sails, Disco Inferno, and the novelization of his comic series Bullet Gal will be released in November from Roundfire Books. Bullet Gal the comic blends both noir and sci-fi together with neo and retro imagery that borrows from pop-culture both high and low to produce a work with visual richness and narrative surprises, so we had to ask Andrez some questions about how Mitzi (aka Bullet Gal) might translate to print, and what this dynamic character might look like as she navigates this particular literary interpretation of Heropa.

Graphic Policy: Trista & Holt was recently released as the novel Black Sails, Disco Inferno, and now the novelization of your comic/graphic novel Bullet Gal will be released in the fall. What made you decide to turn Bullet Gal into a novel?

Andrez Bergen: Honestly? I’m not quite sure what prompted the decision. I suppose there was a certain synchronicity – I’d missed the character of Mitzi, we were sketching out a Bullet Gal ‘legacy’ character (Junie Mills) for upcoming comic Crash Soirée, and I still felt like there was more to the original story than I was able to express in a comic book with a limited run and a reliance on visuals. And the story slots so well between two of my previous novels, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth and Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? So Bullet Gal might be a standalone piece, but it’s also a missing link.

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GP: Like many of the characters in your comics, Bullet Gal’s visual representation changes throughout the course of the story in the comic versions.  How does that work in the prose version? Do you have the same representation of her in your mind’s eye as you’re writing the description throughout?

AB: Yeah, that was a neat edge to be able to deploy on a visual level in the comic, intimating the fluctuating nature of Heropa and what the place truly represents, but I realized early on I’d have to ditch the notion for this novel. Also, there were my own literary precedents to abide by – at the end of Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth Mina/Mitzi is a brunette, while in Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? she’s a blonde who up till recently was a redhead. So for the duration of Bullet Gal, hair colour needed to take a back seat. In my mind, I tended to picture a cross between Louise Brooks and Jean Seberg, with a touch of Michelle Pfeiffer and second-season Buffy Summers.

GP: What’s the most difficult aspect of adapting your comics into novels?

AB: The verbal descriptors – having an image convey meaning is easier, I find sometimes, than describing that feeling in words. You have to paint out the picture in text, and that can become a little tedious since I much prefer bouncing out of dialogue. Also, there are some elements of comic book story-telling that simply don’t translate well to a novel – but over all, I think Bullet Gal is far more faithful to the comic run than Black Sails, Disco Inferno was to Trista & Holt.

GP: Do you consider yourself a comic artist or a prose writer first?

AB: Easy. Writer. I do the art, more or less, to pad out the words or better define a particular tangent in a story. Sometimes, however, the words bounce out of an image – and that’s a liberating, inspiring process. So I think doing both activities is a fun way to create.

GP: Black Sails, Disco Inferno is a neo-noir in every sense, but Bullet Gal blends both sci-fi and more classic noir elements. Do you find it at all difficult to switch gears into writing sci-fi or does that just come naturally as you take us into Mitzi’s (Bullet Gal’s) world?

AB: Um – good question. I’m not sure. I’ve always written sci-fi, ever since primary school, but to be honest the love of the genre faded as I discovered others – particularly noir. I think over the past few years I’ve scrapped the idea of abiding by a particular genre or style. I just pick up a pen or pencil and start with a vignette, a character, a situation… and see where that takes me. The labels get blurred along the way. But also I like to spotlight particular niches I’m into or I really dig. Black Sails, Disco Inferno was in many ways homage to the ’70s gangster flick and disco music as much as it was a retelling of a medieval love story. Bullet Gal‘s focus was comics and noir, especially dialogue, with the science fiction elements hanging over from Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?

Mitzi by Giovanni Ballati250

GP: What noir writers inspire you most, and which science fiction authors inspire you in the creation of your own work?

AB: Noir, first and foremost? Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ed Brubaker and Ross Macdonald. They’re the top four for me. I also really enjoy the hardboiled, crime-filtered work of James M. Cain, Mickey Spillane, Kenzo Kitakata, Léo Malet, Jim Thompson, Megan Abbott and some James Ellroy. Science fiction wise I think I’ve always been a fan of Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, and I loved Arthur C. Clarke as a kid. I realize he’s better known as an artist, but Jack Kirby’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey as a comic book in the ’70s was a huge influence, along with Alan Moore doing Miracleman and V for Vendetta.

GP: After completing these two big projects in a relatively short amount of time, what’s next on the horizon for you? Will you be adapting another one of your works, creating a new comic or writing a new novel—or something altogether different?

AB: I’m actually working with a few different Australian artists to build a solo comic book anthology for my character Magpie – which I created with Frantz Kantor – along with associated characters like Crash Soirée and The Fenders, all of whom inhabit the city of Heropa together. The first issue is shaping up at around 44 pages and will be published at the end of this year. Otherwise, next novel wise, I’m trying not to rush. I’m tossing up whether to do a standalone sci-fi thing, or a detective story set in 1950s Japan.

GP: What tips or advice do you have for folks who might be thinking about adapting their work from another format into a novel?

AB: Just do it? The good thing about converting a comic book especially is that the sequential pages act as a kind of storyboarding for the writing process. They’re a great crutch to lean on!

Bullet Gal by Zack Rezendes250

GP: Do you consider Bullet Gal to be a superhero, or just one tough woman?

AB: Depends on your definition of superhero. Someone could be invulnerable, like Superman, and offer up very little in the inspiration stakes. Someone more vulnerable, like a Daredevil, can make the reader aspire to better things. Mitzi, for me, is the latter. She’s a durable individual who goes through absolute hell – and comes out the other side stronger for it. And she never loss her heart in the process. That’s her superpower. Her humanity.

GP: Would you ever consider adapting Bullet Gal into a screenplay? Why or why not?

AB: You know, I’ve seriously thought about adapting at least one of my novels and pitching it about – but a screenplay in many respects is another art form, and I’d hate to do it half-arsed. Still, I never say never, just like James Bond. We’ll see.

Review: Trista + Holt #15

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Trista & Holt #15 (Iffy Commix) is the final installment of Andrez Bergen’s epic neo-noir saga based on the legend of Tristan & Iseult. It’s a double issue that brings to a rather quiet conclusion the story of Issy Holt, son of crime boss Isidore “Anguish” Holt, and Trista Rivalen, niece of notorious rival crime boss, Marcella Cornwall. Trista and Issy fell in love at first sight early on at the funeral of Holt wheel man Lou Holden and that fateful first meeting foreshadows all that is to come, including the ending, but not in the way one might expect.

As mentioned in previous reviews, Bergen’s characters are often portrayed by images of famous actors and pop culture figures, from Paul Newman (Issy) to Amanda Seyfried (Trista), and Angela Lansbury (Marcella) to Gary Oldman (Anguish), among others. It makes for a rich and fascinating visual narrative and increases the cinematic impact of this noir comic. This time out Jenson Ackles (of the CW network’s long-running series Supernatural) begins as Issy, with various lovely ingénues as Trista. When we last left off Trista was at the Black Sails Asylum and Issy was determined to save her from the clutches of Marcella, Anguish, and Issy’s former best friend Brangien, whose envy of Trista now borders on deadly. Will he save Trista? Yes — and no. If that comes off as a frustrating paradox it might help to realize this entire series contains paradoxical elements throughout: high tragedy and wicked comedy; the blending of noir and gothic motifs with outrageous disco outfits and other design excesses of the 1970’s, gritty harsh reality and dreamy magical realism, noir narrative and medieval legend. All of these components mesh perfectly to create a comic experience like no other.

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With all that has gone before in this story: shootouts, murders, betrayals and hauntings, the finale seems extremely quiet and subdued; there is, however, a compelling reason for that given the theme of this last episode. Things had come to such a pass in Trista & Holt #14 that I had no idea how the story would end but since this series adheres tightly to true noir narrative, a happy ending was all but out of the question. Once all cards have been dealt and all hands played the ending rings true, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

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Trista, our fabulous heroine, is an incredibly tough young woman; still, since the death of her friend and mentor Governal and the sudden marriage of Issy to another woman (the last person one would possibly expect), she’s surrounded by duplicitous and treacherous individuals who’ll stop at nothing to further their own aims. Add the dimension of passionate romance to this hard-bitten yarn and you’re left with the bitterest of love stories with barely enough room to hope it might sweeten with age. If togetherness means anything and if you really believe in true love for better or for worse, you’ll find some shred of hope in the way things turn out. If you don’t, add an extra maraschino cherry to that Manhattan before you settle down to read this final chapter. It might make it go down just a little easier.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Commix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Preview: Trista & Holt #15

Trista & Holt #15

Words + Pictures: Andrez Bergen
Publisher: If? Commix
Publication Date: June 1st, 2016
Hard Copy $5, DIGITAL $1

Fighting off suicidal inclinations, Issy heads to Black Sails to rescue Trista — only to find further despair. Can anything positive (at all) come of this series finale…?

Hot on the relatively high heels of the Bullet Gal series and the upcoming Black Sails, Disco Inferno novelization comes Andrez Bergen’s Trista & Holt – a hardboiled, crime- riddled homage to the medieval legend of Tristan and Iseult, tarted up by the pulp and noir of yesteryear, dada- inspired collage cut-ups, modern digital sensibilities and… Disco.

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Review: Trista + Holt #14


Trista & Holt #14 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) is the penultimate issue in this sleek, gritty ‘70’s neo-noir, dark as a night club basement and glittery as a disco ball. As always, this issue features eye-candy artwork, muscle cars and narrative twists and turns aplenty. Things have come a long way since the first spark of romance between Trista Rivalen, tough and beautiful niece of badass mob matron Marcella Cornwall, and Issy Holt, handsome scion of the rival Holt crime family.

They met at the funeral of Lou Holden, driver for Issy’s dad, “Anguish” Holt. Since then, Trista and Issy have braved every God-awful strange, twisted event a beautiful young couple can endure and they’re still in love—however in #14 things take a particularly drastic turn for the worst.

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While indulging in another long afternoon of mindless TV viewing with his clever and perceptive cat, Andred, Issy (portrayed here by a young Marlon Brando) sees a breaking news story about the fate of his brilliant, hardtack mother, Alaina. When he goes to inform his father (portrayed here by none other than President Gerald Ford), Issy learns that Trista could be headed for a fate worse than death and it may be entirely too late to save her.

Not only might Issy be too late to save the woman he really loves, the woman to whom he’s married is volatile, dangerous and wields tremendous power over both him and Trista. Bergen is unflinching in his weaving of narrative and imagery that takes us somewhere we don’t want to be, and as this epic series winds down, we can only hope for the best.

“Hope” is the operative word here. True noir doesn’t usually end happily and this is true noir to the bone, so buckle your seatbelts, mates, this promises to be a bumpy night of the soul. The final and most serious threat facing our heroine Trista comes from somewhere I never expected and from someone I’d already thought whacked — in the sense of the gangster vernacular — so trust no one and beware everyone, including close relatives and friends with benefits.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Commix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Trista + Holt #12


Trista & Holt #12 represents a turning point in Andrez Bergen’s neo-noir saga from Iffy Commix, with surprises aplenty and a major “romantic” twist that made me wonder, Wait, did I read that right? Did that really happen? Happen it did, and the unexpected wedding in #12 has to have major consequences for the remaining installments.

Trista & Holt #12 finds Trista investigating what exactly happened to her friend/ mentor/ father figure Governal and seemingly talking at cross purposes with Marcella Cornwall as Marcella comes up with a bizarre way to stem the violence between her camp and the Holt’s. Trista and Issy are still in love as well as lust but their relationship must remain secret for the time being or there’ll be hell to pay.

Some characters that have been in the background in recent issues such as Alaina Holt, Issy’s tough-as-nails mother, and the notorious Norwegian with the nine millimeter pistol again come to the fore leaving us to wonder exactly how much Alaina knows about Trista’s and Issy’s relationship and what she’ll do with that knowledge.

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Again, Bergen’s visuals are most intriguing and the representations of Trista and Issy are delicious eye candy. There’s a glimpse of an aged, unusually emotional Marcella represented by Angela Lansbury in earlier panels and then by what appears to be an outgoing, joyful heiress in others, which just emphasizes the emotional vertigo of these characters in seemingly impossible situations. How does Trista keep her composure through the present dizzying turn of events? Must be a combination of Governal’s training and her own nerves of steel.


Issy’s longtime pal, Brangien, makes an appearance in this issue, but it looks like this may be her last. One never knows however, because characters have a way of returning from the other side to offer commentary and insights on things that are happening, even after they’ve seemingly left the stage (think Lou Holden and Moore Holt from previous issues).

As we near the end of the fabulous ride that is Trista & Holt, Bergen continues to weave a tale of love and revenge, darkness and death—and there’s wicked humor, too! What more could a fan of all things noir ask for?

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Commix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Tobacc0-Stained Mountain Goat #1


PUBLICATION DATE: Feb. 1st, 2016
BUY: http://pnpublishing.storenvy.com

Known for successful comic book series BULLET GAL, TRISTA & HOLT, TALES TO ADMONISH and the upcoming MAGPIE, writer/artist Andrez Bergen‘s latest title, TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT, is a hardboiled, sci-fi/pulp reboot of his critically acclaimed first novel, published in 2011.

“Our Manager of Acquisition and PR guru, Galo Gutierrez, had previously turned us on to Andrez Bergen’s work,” stated Iggy Michniacki, founder & CEO of PROJECT-NERD. “Now that we have positioned ourselves to publish, we are excited to be able to partner with Andrez and get this great title a further reach, especially here in the United States.”

Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat is a noir-style comic that takes place in the dystopian future. The series offers unique art and adds to an already diverse style of content that Project-Nerd Publishing will debut with its early slate of titles.

Bergen here also does the art — in his trademark collage/digitally-manipulated experimental photomontage style that’s garnered very good reviews for Trista & Holt.

Look out for the glorious variant cover by Claudia Everest of A Dog A Day fame.


Preview: Trista & Holt #13

Trista & Holt #13

PUBLICATION DATE: March 1st, 2016

Hot on the relatively high heels of the BULLET GAL series and the upcoming MAGPIE comes Andrez Bergen’s latest title: TRISTA & HOLT – a hardboiled, crime-riddled homage to the old school medieval legend of Tristan and Iseult, tarted up by the pulp and noir of yesteryear, dada-inspired collage cut-ups, modern digital sensibilities and…


Only 2 issues to go to our dramatic conclusion!

Trista and Holt come to terms with married life — but not with one another — just as Trista learns the true fate of Governal, and the real people behind all the mayhem, from the mysterious Norwegian.

The hard-boiled noir seriously hits its stride running — and nothing shall be the same.


Review: Trista + Holt #11

TRISTA+HOLT_11_cover_Jan 2016_IF CommixTrista & Holt #11, the latest installment of Andrez Bergen’s epic neo-noir story based on the legend of Tristan and Iseult, blazes forward with Issy Holt helping Trista break out of the hospital. What mysteries await Trista as she arrives at Marcella Cornwall’s estate remain to be seen, but it appears some things have happened during her time in critical care that will rock her world, possibly even breaking her determined state of calm coolness and detachment.

Trista’s and Issy’s romance continues to blossom in #11, in the unlikeliest of circumstances, under the worst of conditions. Shootouts and car chases, pop culture icons and gloriously outlandish ‘70’s outfits all make up the backdrop for young love in a time of intergenerational gang wars (the vintage “Billy the Kid” car/ tableau that Trista encounters upon leaving the hospital takes the time warp-factor to a whole new level). It would seem that the glow of young love might brighten this noir universe just a shade, but past violence sparks still more violence, and endings outnumber new beginnings.

Not since the final send-off for Holt wheel man Lou Holden have we seen such a fabulous spectacle rife with fascinating figures like those attending the funeral of Issy’s notoriously cruel uncle, Moore Holt. Offed earlier by Trista in her first official hit, Moore recently joined the ranks of roaming ghosts. This funeral follows in the tradition of Lou’s: crying and wailing by family members, poker-faced glitterati from Daniel Craig to David Bowie representing eccentric mourners sure to have their own fascinating backstories. If only there were world enough and time. Use your imagination; you’ll have plenty of inspiration.

Page-015 sampleWhat’s happening concurrently as Trista and Issy arrive at Marcella’s estate, Tintagel, seems to indicate an ending as well, but in a whole different style and from a very different point of view (a cinematic high angle).  Whose point of view is it? Too soon to say, but there are (disturbing) clues as to why this could be the end of an era for Trista.

Bergen is adept at weaving a most compelling yarn and his clever and artful juxtaposition of words and delicious, provocative images makes for a visual feast. Time spent in the world of Trista & Holt is like time spent in the cool dimness of an exclusive disco club, a shadowy noir realm populated by beautiful people glimpsed in the flash of strobe lights, neon, and yes, the occasional flash of gunfire.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Comix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Trista & Holt #12

Trista & Holt #12

Story: Andrez Bergen
Art: Andrez Bergen

Romance between Trista and Holt is just beginning to warm up — when Trista is gutted to learn of Governal’s murder. Wedding bells attempt to balance the funerals of late, but are these nuptials for the right people? As Issy suffers another death in his family and Trista mourns her mentor — still somehow finding solace with one another — Brangien is delivered up to a fate less happy.


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