Tag Archives: andrez bergen

Preview: OI OI OI! #7

January 31st, 2016, sees the debut of a brand new superhero story in the pages of Australian national comic magazine Oi Oi Oi!

The story is called Magpie, and it has Andrez Bergen collaborating with veteran, super-talented Aussie artist Frantz Kantor.

Magpie is done very much in the spirit of, well, The Spirit – taking on the concept that people like Will Eisner and Tarpé Mills did of telling complete stories and off-beat vignettes, with a sense of humor as much as a nod to noir, over 8-page installments. While an homage to the comics we love from the golden age to contemporary ones, it also carries with it a pastiche/deconstruction of multi-media pop-culture sensibilities, and the odd fracture of the fourth wall.

Along the way, within each tale, there are nods and winks at everything – from Roy Thomas to Ghost in the Shell, M.C. Escher wrestling Russ Manning’s Magnus, Robot Fighter, and on into mass-media current affair programs.

Check out below for preview art from Magpie as well as the rest of the stories found in Oi Oi Oi! #7.

Preview: Trista & Holt #11

Trista & Holt #11

Story: Andrez Bergen
Art: Andrez Bergen

It’s been all funerals, no wedding, and this issue’s service is held for a key character.

Having survived a harrowing attempted hit on her own life and a mad car-chase, Trista needs to use every skill Governal passed on to intuit whom she can trust in this violent criminal fraternity — yet now there’s Issy beside her, offering support, and surprisingly offbeat young love is in the air.

The hardboiled-pulp seriously hits its stride — and nothing shall be the same.

TRISTA+HOLT_11_cover_Jan 2016_IF Commix

Review: Trista + Holt #8

TRISTA + HOLT_issue 8_COVER ART_IFAndrez Bergen’s neo-noir series Trista & Holt continues with issue 8, which contains still more twists and turns than the last. This time the focus is on Issy Holt’s father, Isidore “Anguish” Holt, and the story of his rise as an underworld boss. Discovering Anguish’s background, where he comes from, and where his loyalties lie, throws light on a corner of this universe that until now has been shrouded in shadow.

True to Bergen’s method of using photos of famous actors and celebrities past and present to represent his characters, Anguish Holt here is portrayed by a very sober-looking, no-nonsense Gary Oldman, perfect for the tenor and tone of this issue as his true feelings toward his late brother-in-law Moore, are revealed, along with Anguish’s difficult and winding path to his current identity.

Sample_4While an important character in the overall story of Trista & Holt, in previous issues Anguish has taken a back seat to his terrifyingly proactive wife, Alaina, who misses no opportunity to belittle Anguish for his emotional outbursts, especially following that of the death of loyal Holt wheel man, Lou Holden. Far from being simply an automaton carrying out orders for Anguish, Alaina and company, Lou was a close friend and confidante; he and Anguish knew each other from way back, and issue 8 explains their early connections and Lou’s influence on Anguish’s ascent to the upper echelons of the organized crime food chain. Lou’s funeral is also where Issy Holt and Trista Rivalen first meet, by the way—another fateful Hitchcockian crisscross in this saga.

Sample_5Issue 8 adds to the sweep of Trista & Holt as a complete, well-rounded, fully realized epic: a world of its own with roots in ancient romance (based on the legend of Tristan & Iseult) and the great gangster narratives that have endured through the years (Little Caesar, The Godfather). Anguish Holt’s backstory is as tragic as it is fascinating, adding another dimension to an already rich cast of characters. Anguish, formerly in the background, comes fully into focus now, and though he’s definitely no saint, he’s earned the right to push back against Alaina’s blithe insults. And he does, in ways she doesn’t even yet realize. The fall-out from all this is bound to be explosive—perhaps literally.

Sample_6One has to wonder just how much Issy Holt really knows about his father’s past and what he would think about Anguish’s painful journey to gangland crime boss, a position that allows Issy to live the lifestyle of minor royalty, but which also makes him a target of sorts for anyone who would want to get back at his father—which could someday include his mother. As seen in earlier issues, family ties do not make one exempt from acts of violence and vengeance, in fact they only reinforce the unpleasant responsibility of carrying them out.

Issue 8 shows that there’s much more going on with Anguish than we ever realized before. He’s earned his name and then some, and Alaina should definitely NOT underestimate him!

Story/Artwork: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10 Recommend: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Trista + Holt: Volume 1

THVol11CvrSince I jumped on board reading Andrez Bergen’s noir series Trista & Holt around Issue #3, I was thrilled for the opportunity to circle back to the beginning with Trista & Holt: Volume 1, which contains Issues #1-5.

From Issue #1 we get a sense of Trista’s hard-boiled personality (gorgeous Trista is; pushover, she ain’t). In the first issues, one becomes oriented to the urban jungle of mob violence Trista so deftly navigates and how she’s risen to the top of Marcella Cornwall’s crime organization as quickly as she has. Yes, she’s Marcella’s niece, but blood only runs so deep and Marcella is not the sentimental type at all. It’s here that we also meet Issy Holt for the first time, scion of a rival powerhouse crime family, as handsome as Trista is beautiful but privileged in ways that Trista could never imagine.

TH-4 sample 2If you’re a fan of hard-boiled neo-noir this is your cup of tea, or rather, shot of whiskey, and even if you’re new to that shadowy world where cruel fate rules and violence or the threat thereof lurks around every corner, consider this your education. Bergen is a fantastic story-teller and the characters that populate and images that illustrate the darkened alleys, mob-owned discos and grand mansions of Trista & Holt: Volume 1 run the gamut from classic femme fatales, fall guys, flunkies and gunsels to sublimely eccentric disco-era versions of same. Since this series is based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde, there are visual references to the ancient origins of that story as well, making this another example of the elasticity and supreme adaptability of noir.

TH-4 sample 3Each issue blends seamlessly into the next and as the violence escalates so does star-crossed romance. World-weary as both Trista and Issy are and have every right to be, there’s a spark the first time they meet at a grand funeral for a longtime member of the Holt crime organization. If Trista and Issy are ever reminded for a moment that they’re young, beautiful, and both have their whole lives ahead of them, the dark world of which each is a part is ever ready to yank them back into blood-soaked, shattered reality. Having been groomed their whole lives to do their respective families’ bidding, there’s a wildness about Trista and Issy that’s just waiting to break loose. Exactly how that will happen remains to be seen, but Issue #5 hints at what’s to come as their worlds start to collide.

TH-4 sample 5Trista & Holt Volume 1 is a great read and a cutting edge work of postmodern art. Inspired by an age-old romance, with classic noir motifs and the gritty glamour of 1970’s neo-noir, Bergen’s series incorporates imagery drawn from the worlds of cinema, literature, advertising, all aspects of pop culture, and yes, comics. The striking visuals and haunting narrative combine most effectively to create a noir experience that will stick with you for a long time.

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

The publisher/ creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Trista + Holt #7

TRISTA + HOLT 7_COVERTrista & Holt #7, a double issue in Andrez Bergen’s noir crime saga based on the legend of Tristan & Iseult, features inspired artwork by Bergen and this time out Renee Asher Pickup writes the origin story of Trista, taking us back to Trista’s childhood and teenage years where we learn why she serves Marcella Cornwall, and the history of Trista’s complicated relationship with friend/ mentor/ father figure, Governal.

The previous six issues have showcased Bergen’s mastery of neo-noir, set in the 1970’s, in an unnamed urban landscape blending disco-era glitz with gangland gutter grittiness. References to ‘70’s television, film, fashion and pop culture come fast and furious along with hallucinogenic interludes and dream-like imagery. This issue incorporates many of those elements as well, and like in earlier issues, #7 features the noir convention of first-person narration and witty dialogue. Here, however, the narrative shifts more readily from noir to gothic and back again, and the artwork follows suit. We meet Trista’s mother, Blanche, and step-father, DuBois (real “pieces of work”), see the foreboding house where Trista grew up and learn why she’s more than ready to go away with Governal, represented mostly by handsome images of Patrick McGoohan circa The Prisoner.
Page-015The blending of narrative and visuals that take Trista from the age of dolls and crayons to guns and cigarettes is handled quite cinematically. Images of childhood alongside the threat of violence, seamless passage of time, and thematic loss of innocence brings to mind Night of the Hunter, the “breakfast table” scene(s) from Citizen Kane, and Pretty Baby, respectively, only instead of Brooke Shields’s pre-teen character in that last film being initiated into the world’s oldest profession, Trista learns the intricacies of firearms and cards as she’s initiated into the family crime business. The appealing, ever-shifting images of Trista and the playful spontaneity of her dialogue undercut the seriousness of her situation but she’s so desperate to escape her step-father’s reach she’ll do just about anything to acquire any degree of independence, no matter how compromised it ultimately might be.

Page-017Trista’s first meeting with mob matriarch Marcella Cornwall couldn’t be tenser. Again, Marcella is portrayed by images of Angela Lansbury, this time seemingly larger than life. We get a sense of the impressive enormity of her mansion, a gothic palace with a massive chandelier as a centerpiece, and staffed by a security force clad in outlandish disco outfits, with the exception of Geoffrey, played by a terribly proper Michael Caine wielding a double-barreled shotgun at the front gate. Marcella of Issue #7 is like a less delusional, more proactive Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard, had Norma ever abandoned the idea of a Hollywood comeback and focused instead on building an organized crime empire (imagine Joe Gillis, Max, and the ”waxworks” as lackeys and gunsels).

Page-024Trista’s way too young to be so jaded, and that’s the point. She still has the heart of a young girl but her cynicism is her armor in this new realm. Dark as Marcella’s world is it’s preferable to the one Trista is escaping and this may be the only thing that enables Governal to carry out her training with such care and precision, essentially escorting a child into a violent criminal underworld with a reassuring smile and a twinge of conscience at the same time.

Trista & Holt #7 takes a step back in time while making a leap forward in character development regarding Trista, Governal and even Marcella, who’s a tad more nuanced here, prior to the bloody chaos she’s set in motion in earlier issues. Bergen’s collaboration with Renee Asher Pickup in this double issue makes for a most refreshing and unusual summer reading experience: a Warholian fantasy where Philip Marlowe holds court at a table in the back of Studio 54, black & white home movies of a very young Edie Sedgewick flickering in the background. Then again, reading Trista & Holt in general (and this issue in particular) is like buying “candy” from a kind, handsome stranger at a nightclub. You won’t know what it’ll do to your mind ‘til you try it.

Artwork: Andrez Bergen Story: Renee Asher Pickup
Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

We Talk Tales of Admonishment and Astonishment with Andrez Bergen

BC12SmAndrez Bergen, creator of Bullet Gal and Trista & Holt, is a writer/ artist with influences ranging from classic noir to classic comics. Graphic Policy catches up with Andrez to talk about the fine art of sampling popular music and popular culture, his favorite characters, fictional and real, the upcoming release of the new Tales to Admonish collection and the latest issue of Trista & Holt.

Graphic Policy: In the “modi operandi” at the end of Bullet Gal you write that noir is the “best genre construct there is.” What about it makes it the best?

Andrez Bergen: For me, noir is so open-ended. It might have a darker undercurrent and the finale may not be something that comes up roses, but the best noir has an interweaving sense of humour — dry or sarcastic or tongue in cheek. Cynicism reigns, a downbeat flip to heady optimism. Crime and suspense have their own parts to play within noir, as do the occasional detective mystery, but equally important — if not more so — are the oddball characters and cracking dialogue. Raymond Chandler was the master there. His dialogue slays me 70 years after it was written. Noir’s also great for infusing other genres too, like sci-fi and dystopia and occasionally horror.

Page_15GP: You’re originally from Australia and now that you’ve been living in Tokyo for fourteen years, how has being immersed in Japanese culture, particularly regarding art and anime, influenced your work?

AB: I was already into Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira Kurosawa and Mamoru Oshii before I moved to Japan, but since I arrived I’ve been able to interview and work with Oshii and Ryuichi Sakamoto (Y.M.O.) and discover and meet the late, great Satoshi Kon. I’ve done some odd jobs for Production I.G (‘Ghost in the Shell’) — and been able to hone in to some of the noir/suspense and darker elements at play here, from I.G’s innovative anime series ‘Ghost Hound’ and Shuichi Yoshida’s novel ‘Villain’, right through to older school manga by Kazuo Umezu and the Seishi Yokomizo gothic mystery ‘The Inugami Clan’… which is translated into English, by the way, really badly.
Embracing the whole culture, from the music, movies and art through to the food, history and architecture has been part of my experience living here — and residing in Japan also means you have to live not just with cherry blossoms but continual earthquakes. The big one three years ago helped shape my second novel ‘One Hundred Years of Vicissitude’ (2012), which is my homage to the country. In a roundabout fashion. I think Japanese elements filter through into all of my work. Lee is obsessed with the country in ‘Bullet Gal’, and Laurel’s grandmother is Japanese in ‘Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat’.

GP: Your comics feature many strong, action-oriented female characters such as Mitzi and her nemesis Brigitte of Bullet Gal, then there’s Trista and rivals Alaina Holt and Marcella Cornwall of Trista & Holt. Are any of these characters inspired by female noir characters you’ve come across in books or film, or are they totally original?

AB: I grew up with a strong mother. She wasn’t always fair, but when the going got tough at difficult times in my childhood she really knuckled down and pulled us through. My parents also loved watching old black-and-whites, from dubbed Godzilla flicks to hardboiled classics starring Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum… alongside women who matched up to them despite the general gender imbalance at the time — people like Mary Astor and Lauren Bacall, Jean Harlow crossing wits with Clark Gable, and Katherine Hepburn being more than a match for Spencer Tracy. Thirty-five years ago, along came Ripley, the kick-arse only survivor in ‘Alien’, and more recently romps like ‘Xena’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Firefly’ and ‘Buffy’ where the women were the truly strong characters. Over the past few years Ed Brubaker has fleshed-out female protagonists like Velvet and Josephine in ‘Fatale’. So I guess all these things have probably influenced me. In noir the powerful-woman trope isn’t exactly new — I just give it freer reign.

And while Mitzi (Bullet Gal) was original based around the look of the Fawcett comic character Bulletgirl from the 1940s, I think she has more in common with Will Eisner’s P’Gell or Sand Saref from ‘The Spirit’. Alaina Holt-wise, I think I was swayed to some extent by the characterization of the manipulative Lady Kaede from Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Ran’, and Marcella Cornwall has to have a bit of Martha from Edward Albee’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ decanted away inside her. I think Trista is the most unique because I initially modeled her on the legendary figure of Tristan/Tristram — reimagined in the 1970s. In a crime family. As a woman.

TH-4 sample 6GP: Who are some of your favorite writers?

AB: Top of the crop? Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, who I read on regular rotation. Otherwise Ryū Murakami, Isabel Allende, Angela Carter, Patrick deWitt, James M. Cain, Philip K. Dick, Richard Matheson, Gabriel García Márquez. For particular books? Joseph Heller (for ‘Catch-22’), Nicholas Christopher (‘Veronica’), Eugene O’Neill (‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’) — and Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’. That’s the fractured romantic in me. Comics-wise I’m heavily into Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, a lot of stuff coming from Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jonathan Hickman, Brian K. Vaughan, Eric Stephenson, classic Will Eisner, and older material from Alan Moore and Frank Miller. Manga-related? Otomo, Oshii, Kon, Umezu, Masamune Shirow, Hayao Miyazaki and Mitsuru Adachi.

GP: Who are some of your favorite characters, either fictional or real?

AB: Imaginary first, since they hold precedence: Philip Marlowe (‘The Big Sleep’), The Continental Op (‘Red Harvest’), Sam Spade, Brigid O’Shaughnessy & Joel Cairo (‘The Maltese Falcon’), Robert Neville (‘I Am Legend’/’The Omega Man’), Rick Deckard (‘Blade Runner’/’Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’), Velvet Templeton (the ‘Velvet’ comic from Image), Jonathan E. (‘Roller Ball’), Nick & Nora Charles (‘The Thin Man’), Harry Lime (‘The Third Man’), Clint Barton (‘Hawkeye’, in Matt Fraction’s run), Flora Poste (‘Cold Comfort Farm’), Captain America (in Stan Lee’s and Ed Brubaker’s runs), Ripley (‘Alien’), Sam Lowry (‘Brazil’), Buffy Summers (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’), both versions of Starbuck (‘Battlestar Galactica’), Carl Kolchak (‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’), Norma Desmond (‘Sunset Boulevard’), Professor Fate (‘The Great Race’), The Thing (in Jack Kirby & Stan Lee’s monumental 1960s run on ‘Fantastic Four’), Major Matoko Kusanagi (‘Ghost in the Shell’), Max (‘Where the Wild Things Are’), Corporal Agarn (‘F Troop’), Hugo Z. Hackenbush (‘A Day at the Races’), the masterless rōnin (‘Yojimbo’), Guy Fleegman (‘Galaxy Quest’), Tony Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, Zorro, Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Tristan & Iseult. There’re dozens of others I could slide in here!

Real life ‘characters’ I hold respect for? Creators like Akira Kurosawa, Lauren Bacall, Marcel Duchamp, Satoshi Kon, Cabaret Voltaire, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Man Ray, Toshiro Mifune, the Marx Brothers, Humphrey Bogart, Joss Whedon, Terry Gilliam, Ray Harryhausen, Vincent Price, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Christopher Nolan, and Raymond Chandler — chronic alcoholism and all — for creating Philip Marlowe. We could also throw in a hotchpotch of other people: Martin Luther King, Jr., Napoleon, Gough Whitlam, Emmeline Pankhurst, Ned Kelly, Elizabeth I, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Alexander the Great, Monty Python, and Hannibal.

GP: Your graphic novels and comics contain strong visuals and you do very innovative work in a visual medium, yet you’ve also published many short stories and prose novels. How would you compare the two methods of story telling, prose and comics? For example, do you enjoy writing description or do you like letting the pictures speak for themselves? Or does it just depend on the story and how it needs to be told?

AB: Great question, and in a nutshell? While I love write dialogue between characters, esp. a rapid-fire repartee or some meaningful soliloquy, I’ve always suffered a wee bit writing the descriptions of space, setting, character expressions and nuance. They’re vital, but they don’t roll as easily for me. And to be honest, sometimes in other people’s books I feel that the descriptions are padding out the novel and I get tired and start skipping, looking for dialogue. Sometimes. Doing comics and graphic novels has liberated me here, since I focus purely on writing narration and dialogue between characters — when I’m doing the art. If someone else is doing the art, I have to explain the descriptions of the setting/backgrounds/character “look”, although sometimes I resort to pictures nabbed off the Internet to give the artist a feel of what I’m on about. You can’t do that in novels. But novels are still more challenging because of this; sometimes I feel like I’m on autopilot doing comic scripts, so I have to kick myself.

GP: One aspect of your art and story-telling that I find intriguing and quite unusual is that the characters are well-established in the narrative of the stories, but in some of your comics and graphic novels you use different images to represent them, including famous actors and actresses, photos from ads, and other artists’ interpretations. Are various images representing one character different facets of that character’s persona, evolving aspects of their personalities or just a fun way to portray them visually?

AB: You hit the nail on the head in terms of both. Fun, for sure — I really dig seeing the different ways in which diverse artists “see” the same character, and this comes I think from my music background, when me and mates were constantly remixing one another’s tracks. But I also think this alternate viewpoint adds depth to the character, as these are three-dimensional beings that, like us, are seen differently by other people — be it because of mood, interaction, or relationship. Characters are always developing through this process, so that we finally begin to see the sum of all his/her parts.

TTHVol1Crophe cut-ups/collages in the comics do hark back to my admiration and nostalgia for Dada, surrealism and Monty Python, but recently adapting famous people into the mix has enabled me to (a) pay homage to the old movies and actors I grew up with that helped shape my own mindset, (b) match-up their particular “image” with that of the characters they’re roped into playing, and (c) inserts another element of fun: can you place the celebrity faces?

GP: What can you tell us about the imminent release of Tales to Admonish? And what of the title—is it the characters who are being admonished or are these cautionary tales for us wayward readers? Or is it a playful nod toward 1950s comic titles such as Tales to Astonish?

AB: Definitely the latter — when Matt Kyme and I released #1 in 2013, with him as artist and me as writer, thereby starting IF? Commix — we tipped our hat to a mutual love of Jack Kirby in particular and classic Marvel comics in general from the early ’60s like, you guessed it, ‘Tales to Astonish’. I just altered it a tad to reflect the “dire-warning” cautionary yarns (often with playful tongue in cheek) that I’d grown up watching on TV such as ‘Twilight Zone’, ‘Outer Limits’, ‘Kolchak’, ‘Doctor Who’, and ‘The Evil Touch’. Our stories here are far from serious, verging more upon flippant, but there are messages I guess that greed isn’t so good for your health — but snappy dialogue helps.
Matt and I decided to put together the first three issues, along with six new stories I wrote by other artists, as a trade paperback we’re releasing in Australia in August. It’ll be launched alongside ‘Trista & Holt’ Vol. 1 at Eisner Award winning store All Star Comics while I’m briefly back in Melbourne on the 29th. The added stories are by a swag of talented new artists like Gareth Colliton, Asela De Silva, Adam Rose and Ken Best. They really capture the vibe of each tale, from noir to light horror.

GP: You DJ under the name Little Nobody. Did you sample selections from popular music in your performances the way you sample popular culture images in your graphic novels?

AB: You got it — I love cheeky sampling, and was a loud-mouthed exponent of the art as a music journalist back in Australia before I moved to Japan. But sampling is its own form of “art”. If you’re going to be cheeky and appropriate stuff from other sources, then have a sense of humour and make sure you change it enough so that it becomes a part of what you’re trying to create, rather than stealing a riff and riding on someone else’s sterling efforts. It should be a cog, not the foundation of what you are trying to do. That said, I nicked stuff from bods like Madonna, Black Sabbath, James Brown, Giorgio Moroder, Desi Arnaz, Rachmaninoff and Japanese kabuki musicians — but good luck picking it! On the side I’ve also not so legally remixed ‘Aquarela do Brasil’, George Sanders, and Jack Palance. Shhh.

GP: You’re a very prolific storyteller and artist, constantly producing new work. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Does the art happen alongside the writing, or is the writing ever inspired by the images and artwork that you create, recycle, or re-create?

AB: This proliferation has only really been happening over the past four years — I guess since I published my first novel ‘Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat’ (2011). At that moment I realized doing these things was possible after all, instead of half-heartedly working on manuscripts that ended up collecting dust under my bed. But for several years before that I’d been working as a freelance journalist, meaning tight deadlines, the need to be flexible at all hours of day (or night), writing quickly, and self-editing on the fly. Add to that fine-tuning the process of research to be as speedy as possible, without letting errors slip through, and it’s a great accidental training regimen for aspiring writers.

All the different projects I’m currently doing — regular process, comic scripts, art and music — have to be squeezed in between work and family responsibilities, so I tend to wake up around 4:00 a.m. most mornings, giving me a three-hour stretch to potter on stuff. Also Saturday mornings are pretty much focused on this. I do what a feel like at the time, if possible, but if a deadline’s pressing then I attune to that project. I think visuals influence all my work, even novels. Everything I’ve seen in this world — traveling, incidents, movies, pictures, photos, even advertising — crosses over into my headspace while I write, much of it subconsciously I’m sure. When doing comics, especially as writer/artist, I do the two things together concurrently, so that each page writes and visualizes itself… often surprising me along the way, because the story might detour. I love this process because it’s completely liberated and the end of each issue is often something I never imagined when I began.

TH7CroppedGP: In the upcoming Trista & Holt #7, you collaborate with American writer Renee Asher Pickup, who scripted the story of Trista’s childhood and young adulthood while you supplied the artwork for that double issue. Was it at all helpful to have a female writer’s perspective on Trista’s youth?

AB: Actually, I never thought about it along those lines — huh. I just knew that I respected Renee’s writing, mentality and imagination, and when I decided to start this series based on Tristan & Isolde, she was one of the biggest vocal supporters of the concept. We chatted a bit about it, and then when I asked her to do the “origin” issue, she said yes — luckily. I knew I wanted the voice of Trista’s childhood to be a little different than the contemporary one I was writing, but still linked. Renee captured that and paid beautiful heed to the original legend at the same time. And you know what? She’s American, and therefore likely has more insight into the gun culture Trista is raised with than I do, having grown up in Australia. I just thought of that now. Maybe it’s of import. Maybe not.

GP: What advice do you have for new artists and creators of comics who may be just starting out? Was there anything you had to learn the hard way that you’d like to share? Any words of encouragement, caution or admonishment?

AB: You know the old expression about grabbing the bull by the horns? I’m going to cite that dusty nugget instead of resorting to Nike’s corporate “Just Do It” mantra — which apparently anyway was inspired by an infamous murderer’s last words. Where was I? Encouraging people? …Yeah, I suppose the important things to remember are that if you truly believe in what you’re doing, whatever the medium, and would like to share that with others, then you should try. Give it a shot. If it fails, well at least you gave it that whirl. If it succeeds, all the better. But don’t do it for the riches. There are none unless you’re the lucky 0.2% that may or may not be real people. Passion rules over purse, I swear. Finally, don’t expect others to shoulder the burden of getting your work out there. Do it yourself or work with kindred spirits as a democratic collective. It’s more fun, you need the camaraderie, and less of a slog.

GP: Have you ever experienced what could be called a paranormal, supernatural, metaphysical or spiritual event, or any other such psychic phenomena?

AB: Um… there’s an interesting question. I’m just trying to think. There was this one time, when I was about 11, riding my bike back from school. I was shooting down this hill in Caulfield, in Melbourne, the middle of suburbia, same as I did every day. Going toward a crossroads where I had right of way, and there was never any traffic. But for some reason I felt something telling me to slow down almost to a stop, before I reached the intersection — and then a truck shot through. It would’ve flattened me.

GP: One final thing–I know you’re a big fan of Patrick McGoohan of Secret Agent Man and The Prisoner in particular. What do you think is up with those big bubbles in The Prisoner?

AB: Ha Ha Ha… You’re spot-on, I’m a huge fan of McGoohan, but I haven’t seen ‘The Prisoner’ in years! My last McGoohan romp was a re-screening of ‘Ice Station Zebra’. Lemme think back to ‘The Prisoner’ — the balls/bubbles there kind of remind me of the omnipresent black spheres in this more recent Japanese manga called ‘Gantz’. But the ones in ‘The Prisoner’ were far more active. I just wonder if the scriptwriter’s or special effects supervisor’s kid had a bubblegum fixation…?

Review: Trista + Holt #6

Trista + Holt issue 6 COVER ARTTrista & Holt #6 (Iffy Commix), the latest in Andrez Bergen’s 1970’s noir series, opens with Trista in trouble, having been stabbed by Issy Holt’s uncle, the hard-headed, hard-charging Moore Holt. Issy has been obsessed with Trista since first seeing her at Holt wheel man Lou Holden’s funeral, and now Issy finds her at death’s door on the floor of Samson’s bar. She knows the connections they share, but Issy doesn’t, and this promises to complicate things tremendously going forward.

Bergen is a master of the tropes and motifs of high noir and Trista & Holt shows how adept is he is at capturing the spirit and tone of ‘70’s neo-noir, placing the saga of Tristan and Iseult in a much more recent time and setting it to a disco beat. Marcella Cornwall, whose crime organization works opposite the Holts, is mostly portrayed by Angela Lansbury circa Murder, She Wrote. Marcella is the one who sent Trista on the dangerous errand to kill Moore Holt in the first place and she’s grown even more demented since last we saw her. While Trista’s level-headed confidante Governal shows concern for Trista’s well-being and knew she might not have been carrying enough fire-power Page_06to dispatch Moore once and for all, Marcella believes only that the end justifies the means, taking Trista’s loyalty for granted.

Page-006The artwork Bergen chooses to show the crime scene at the bar along with the traumatic aftermath is haunting, and cinematic effects such as stark lighting and varying levels of focus make Trista & Holt a rich visual and narrative experience. It doesn’t hurt that screen idols of the era surface frequently, such as when Paul Newman portrays Issy, adding ‘70’s gloss and glamour to the urban grittiness of the proceedings. There are some significant twists and turns in this issue, and some very striking imagery sets the stage for more to follow as the plot thickens considerably and the tantalizing entanglement between Issy and Trista grows ever more complicated—and dangerous.

Art and story by Andrez Bergen
Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Bullet Gal #12

BC12SmBullet Gal #12 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix), the final issue in the series featuring one of the toughest chicks on the planet, is packed with fantastic images, the best of what has come to define the aesthetic of Bullet Gal and the mythical metropolis of Heropa. In #12, digitized reality has been re-set and all are scrambling to come to terms with all that implies.

The press is in an uproar over what the re-set means and here Bergen skillfully blends visuals of digital culture with vintage/noir imagery, including famous faces such as Edward G. Robinson and Kirk Douglas. Here also are beat reporters from central casting and images of classic autos from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s crowding a downtown neon-lit theatre district as all celebrate and commiserate about what just happened and why.

Bullet Gal 12_sample 1On all levels of society from Mitzi’s mentor Lee (who’s responsible for the re-set) and his bickering doppelgangers, to the heroes to the bad guys (and gals), there’s a palpable sense of apprehension and anticipation. The Crime Crusaders are disbanding to form a new group, and the villains are regrouping to form a new threat. Meanwhile people are partying like it’s New Year’s Eve—and they don’t really know why. It’s the eve of something all right, but what exactly remains a tantalizing mystery.

Meanwhile the duel-pistol-wielding Mitzi’s been headed for a reckoning with French femme fatale Brigitte since the beginning of the series, so when Mitzi observes the effects of the re-set on Brigitte, she’s totally thrown. This new world isn’t so much brave as it is scrubbed of its noir-ish, smoke-stained patina, sanitized and deodorized, with good and evil apparently re-categorized.
Ever the adaptable heroine, Mitzi begins to adjust to her new identity, stepping into a blindingly bright future as a defining persona of the new Heropa, but she’s not blinded by all the hype.

Bullet Gal 12_sample 2When Lee calls her away from the celebrations, if that’s what one could call the gatherings taking place post re-set, he takes on the shadowy form of Cary Grant ascending the stairs in Suspicion, a glowing glass of milk on a tray. This version of Lee seems authentic, but how to know? Can we only hope—for Mitzi’s sake? Don’t worry about Mitzi–even without her twin polished-nickel 9mm. pistols, Mitzi remains Bullet Gal at heart: bored cynicism, eternal optimism and resolute bravery combined into one formidable woman of the future.

Bullet Gal 12_sample 3Bullet Gal #12 is a visually stunning conclusion to the series, and the narrative closes on a satisfying note that still leaves the door open to the imagination. Even if you aren’t usually the type to remain in your seat watching the credits of a film to the bitter end (if you are, I probably wouldn’t need to tell you this), stay and read Bergen’s end-notes and final word on Bullet Gal—it’s definitely worth it!

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen Andrez Bergen
Art: 10 Story: 9.8 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/ creator provided a FREE copy of this issue for review.

Review: Trista + Holt #5

SmCvrTH5Trista & Holt #5 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) begins with Issy Holt and his right-hand man Brangian leaving for Holt wheel-man Lou Holden‘s funeral. There Issy sees Trista for the first time and can’t get her image out of his mind. The magic generated by their very brief first encounter is seen in points of light surrounding Issy who is instantly captivated by her. Trista and Issy are represented by pictures of handsome and lovely individuals with movie-star looks a la Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, et al. Again there’s the mood of a fateful star-crossed future for these two in this intoxicatingly stylish 1970’s noir universe.

Page_04 smallerIn the last issue Trista set out to perform her first hit on the bad-ass Holt family enforcer, Moore. She was ordered to do it by the slightly unbalanced (or is slightly an understatement?) matriarch of the Cornwall family, Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall. The ever-loyal Trista carries out the hit, but Moore’s head is so hard she doesn’t know if her small pistol actually finished the job because he crashed through a window before she could find out. What she does know all too well is that she’s been stabbed—it’s bad– and what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Page_12My guess is that Issy will find her at the bar where the hit took place, or else follow a trail of blood to the beautiful woman he met briefly at the funeral and now can’t get out of his mind. Will this jar Issy out of his world-weary ennui? Something tells me yes, but what that means remains to be seen. Will he switch sides in this war between the city’s crime families or will he and Trista try to run away together, leaving their dangerous, eccentric relatives behind?

Things will very likely be more complicated than either of those scenarios. This is noir, after all, in the truest sense of the word, so likely no happy endings here—just an ending. In the meantime, like royalty, these lead characters carry out their responsibilities with sober resolve. Speaking of royalty, this issue features a picture of Queen Elizabeth II representing Issy’s powerful mother, Alaina, and none other than Prince Phillip in tow as Issy’s father, Isidore “Anguish” Holt.

Page_13The images Bergen uses to weave this narrative are striking, witty and seductive and the writing mirrors the visual. It’s serious noir that doesn’t take itself too seriously just like the best scenarios and dialogue one might find in the office of Sam Spade late at night or riding out to Greystone Mansion with Philip Marlowe: danger laced with humor; death and deception might be around every corner, but in the meantime, hey—ya gotta live.

Page_20In any other 1970’s world Trista and Issy would be living the high life, gracing discos with their glittering presence and speeding from parking lots of stylish establishments in the finest of ‘70’s automobiles. In this world Trista dresses up to carry out a hit on a nasty brute and Issy escapes reality by watching CHiP’s on television. Trista’s latest misadventure will likely force him to face facts, to get outside his fabulous mid-century modern apartment and deal with the consequences of being who he is. In the meantime, Trista’s reality is a fight for survival, surrounded by cigarette ashes and shattered glass.

If you’re already a fan of noir, you’ll be swept away by this series and recognize the savvy neo-noir and pop-culture gems to be discovered in the imagery and narrative, and if you’re new to the genre/mood of noir but curious about its proud tradition in literature (up from its pulp-fiction roots) and film, check this out and you’ll learn something—like why guns don’t always beat knives, and ‘70’s muscle cars still rule.

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

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE cop for review.

Review: Bullet Gal #11

BULLET GAL cover issue 11The cover of Bullet Gal #11 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix), features a lovely woman in a carnival mask, an appropriate image considering how Bullet Gal’s outward identity shifts constantly as that obscure-object- of-desire/ danger/ justice (a la the lead character in a Bunuel film) adapts to situations and circumstances outside her control. This installment of Bullet Gal contains witty banter between Mitzi (Bullet Gal) and her mentor Lee, whose identity shifts often as well. The conversation is hard-boiled and existential as Mitzi and Lee discuss the reality (also ever-shifting) of Heropa, for although its look is pre-mid-century modern with vintage black terreplanes cruising the urban landscape, it’s decidedly post-modern and beyond plot-wise as Lee explains the imminent “re-setting” of the current reality and the consequences that will have on all concerned—including Mitzi. Will she be able to fly? Lee contends that she won’t. It’s a cardinal rule. But we’ll see.

Bullet Gal 11_sample art 111Though Mitzi’s look changes often, she’s ever rock-solid and true. She has her occasional moment of fear, but never lets those moments get in the way of hard-charging, gun-slinging action. No matter what version of reality she has to deal with, she’s always in the moment, fully engaged and aware, dual polished nickel pistols at the ready. She’s matter-of-fact in the best possible way and just because she’s ruled by her head and not her heart doesn’t mean she doesn’t have heart, soul, and courage aplenty, because she does. She also has a wicked sense of humor, even having being shot and “held together by painkillers.”
That’s what gives her super-hero status in this universe, flying ability or lack thereof notwithstanding. It isn’t Mitzi’s unreal qualities that elevate her to the status of super-hero, it’s the all too real action-oriented Mitzi that makes her a potential role model for women-who-get-things-done. She takes on the toughest of gangsters and meanest of their French assassin girlfriends with equal “what else ya got?” resolution. When Lee shows her a picture of Brigit, the femme fatale extraordinaire who’s out to kill her, Mitzi says: “She’s pretty.” Mitzi isn’t threatened by Brigit’s looks, weaponry, nor connections. She just acknowledges Brigit’s beauty and moves on. She may have to kill Brigit someday; but all the same, Brigit is pretty. When and if Mitzi kills her will be determined only by necessity. Mitzi does what has to be done, that’s all.

Page_21_issue 11 BUllet GalIn this penultimate episode of Bullet Gal, Mitzi prepares to step into her destiny in the new Heropa. Whatever happens, she’s ready. Mitzi travels lightly, weighed down by little else than that impressive set of pistols left to her by her late father. She’s not afraid of change and calls things by their real name. Mitzi stands at the crossroads of the present and the future, at home in the former and looking toward the latter with curiosity and a sense of adventure tinted in shades of deepest noir.

With Bullet Gal, Bergen takes us on a wild ride through a world populated with gangsters, dopplegangers, a woman who fights for justice and a woman who wouldn’t hesitate to stab justice in the throat with a switchblade. It’s gangster/ noir laced with sci-fi in an all-too-real yet digitized ethereal universe. And it’s about to all be re-set!

Savor Bullet Gal #11 and visit the present version of Heropa while you can; there’s only one more to go!

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 9.8 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The creator/ publisher provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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