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Andrez Bergen Talks Bullet Gal and More

BULLET GAL novel cover250

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.

Bullet Gal by Andrez and Laksanardie250

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.

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ThinkTankCD04_CoverASo, anything going on in geekdom? We’re still at San Diego Comic-Con, so make sure to follow us for lots of announcements and cool stuff!

While you await it, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web!

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LA Times – San Diego Police Department sniper monitors Comic-Con  – So crazy!

CBLDF – Turkish Leman Censored in Post-Coup Crackdown – Sad to see.

ICv2 – Asmodee Acquiring F2Z Entertainment – This is huge news going into Gen Con.

ICv2 – Hastings Closing All Stores – This could have a ripple affect.


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Comic Attack – A-Force #7

Culture Vultures – Bullet Gal

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: 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.

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It was new comic book day yesterday. What’d everyone get that you liked? Anything that you didn’t?

While you decide, here’s some news and reviews from around the web you might like.

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Kotaku – Batman: Arkham Knight Is Full of Superman Easter Eggs – Cool to see.

ICv2 – Confessions of a Comic Book Guy–And That’s a Good Thing – A good read.


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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.

Around the Tubes

It’s a new week for comics! What’s everyone excited for? Anyone read some good comics over the weekend?

Around the Tubes

Bleeding Cool – Dark Horse’s Resident Alien Comic To Be A TV Series? – Interesting choice.

The Beat – The El Paso Comic Con is dunzo— but more cons are coming – One down, probably more to come.


Around the Tubes Reviews

Flickering Myth – Bullet Gal

CBR – Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance

Talking Comics – Spider-Woman #5

The Beat – Swamp Thing #40

Review: Bullet Gal – It’s Not You, It’s Me

BULLET GAL_Its Not You Its Me_Under Belly TPB Collection_COVERIf you love classic noir, you’ll love Bullet Gal: It’s not You, It’s Me by Andrez Bergen (Underbelly Comics/IF? Commix) only this isn’t classic noir. It’s a new millennium pastiche of every noir motif there is but done as a stylized, digitized, mind-bending visual rhapsody that’ll leave you feeling like you’ve been slapped in the face by a French femme fatale.
The protagonist of Bullet Gal is seventeen year-old Mitzi (no last name) with a murkily tragic past who arrives in Heropa with little more than the clothing a Beat poet would carry in her valise and her 9mm Model B pistols with pearl handles. She hates injustice and has seen her share of it so she has no qualms about using those pistols to wreak havoc on the bad guys. Who are the bad guys? Gangsters and composites of every gangster you‘ve ever heard of or someday will. They’ve heard of Mitzi and even though she’s easy on the eyes, they know they have reason to watch their backs.

BULLET GAL sample 143Lee, a Cape (i.e. member of the Crime Crusaders Crew) is Mitzi’s mentor in this twisted and confusing universe that’s part Gotham/ Metropolis, part futuristic Melbourne, and part Chicago in the 1940’s. Lee gives her advice and vital information, but there are eight versions of him, in varying shades of seriousness, honesty and sincerity, so Mitzi has to rely on her own sharp instincts, smarts and toughness to survive. And man, is she tough. Her worst enemy is one she barely even knows, but who knows her: Brigit, French girlfriend of Sol. He’s a bad-ass gangster but even he defers to the supreme villainy of Mademoiselle (don’t call her ma’am or madam, please!) Brigit. Like Mitzi, tragedy has followed her as well, only she’s the one who deliberately left it in her wake, often using sharp objects.

Sample excerpt 3Bullet Gal has formerly been seen in individual comic book format and those are all here, so you can start from the beginning, read each installment and conclude with the final issues yet to be released as individual comics. Funded through Kickstarter, this volume, containing the entire Bullet Gal oeuvre, contains interpretations of her by various artists, which is amazingly appropriate because throughout Bullet Gal, Mitzi takes on varying looks and shapes according to whatever visual media/beautiful/ tough-girl avatar/ image has been selected to portray her. She is always Bullet Gal, that obscure object of desire armed with pearl handled pistols only half as dangerous as she is, but the various representations only reinforce the idea of Mitzi’s sublime adaptability, an indispensable trait in Heropa.

To say that one reads Bullet Gal is somewhat inaccurate; it’s really more of an experience. There’s sharp dialogue and clever narrative but the visuals are incredibly rich and amazing, especially if you like hard-boiled noir, whether set in the past, future, or in a digitized sci-fi world that might get re-set at any time. Like I indicated at the beginning, this is noir run through a blender and spiked with a little something illicit and exotic that’ll send you reeling. At first I felt like I might be missing something, tried to go back and see if there was more explanation that would help it all make sense sooner but then I realized that partaking of Bullet Gal is like looking at an expressionist painting, reading a modernist novel or watching The Big Sleep; if you look too closely it doesn’t make sense. You have to take a step back and get lost in it; feel it.

After all, confusion, liquor, cigarette smoke, and too much coffee late at night are all integral to the mood of noir, along with a vague sense of paranoia, longing, and wicked humor. Mitzi’s world is awash in all these things but she is a creature of it and navigates the dark stairways, lonely hospital hallways and deadly streets with self-assurance and confidence — and those two polished nickel 9mm Star Model B pearl-handled pistols. Mademoiselle Brigit, beware.

Writer/ Artist: Andrez Bergen
Story: 9.5 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Andrez Bergen provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Kickstarter Spotlight: Bullet Gal: Kickstarting and Scratching the Comic Book Kingdom

BULLET GAL_Its Not You Its Me_Under Belly TPB Collection_COVERby Andrez Bergen

I have a Kickstarter campaign.

So do about a million other people and their dogs – I lie in wait for Snoopy’s request to upgrade his humble house in order that it truly could fly the dangerous skies over the Western Front in 1918.

My Kickstarter project involves a different flight of fancy taking place in another field of conflict: Heropa is a shiny old school metropolis in which people with special powers and union suits take the fight to gunsels, gangsters and femmes fatale – along with one another – in a realm that’s never quite what it appears to be.

Think traditional tropes sourced from golden, silver and bronze-age comic books mashed up with hardboiled noir, pulp and sci-fi elements, and a tongue that lingers gently inside cheek.

BULLET GAL page sample 120Bullet Gal started life this year as a limited-edition monthly comic book through IF? Commix in Australia, and the mash-up appears to have paid off.

The critical reaction from comic book and crime-related media, along with a surprisingly healthy roster of fans, has been enough to inspire me to pour my heart into the yarn and I just wrapped #12, the final issue in the arc, which is set to be published in June 2015.

Even more surprising was the reception from Canadian publisher Under Belly Comics, who were so rapt with the series that they licensed the lot for publication as a trade paperback – with a cover painting by the great Niagara Detroit – to hit up the North American market before the tenth issue even gets published in Oz.

That’s where the Kickstarter comes in, as Under Belly do their job as a champion of innovative indie comics by asking for like-minded people to support their cause.

The ulterior element that makes Bullet Gal that something unique, I hope, from other comic books is the manner in which it’s been cobbled together.

While I’m quick to cite ‘traditional’ influences like comic artists Frank Miller, David Aja, Jack Kirby, Steve Epting, Jim Steranko and their ilk, I also wear the baggage of an immersion in the ‘found’ object art of Dada, people such as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, and I’m equally enamoured with the cut-up/staccato visual styles of Terry Gilliam and film maker Chris Marker.

And then there’s the text.

Having four novels under one’s belt helps in that department, along with a love for all things Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane and Ed Brubaker.

Cinema too is influential here, from classic film noir to B-grade science fiction romps.

So, yeah, there’re a gazillion other crowdsourcing projects out there – each with their own particular merit. But if you have a hankering for comics, noir, experimentation, a sense of humour and a definitive touch of the surreal, Bullet Gal may just be up there alongside Snoopy’s.

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