Andrez Bergen has been a friend of 8th Wonder Press since our first book. He’s an incredible talent and a heck of a nice gentleman, so when we heard he was KickStarting his latest graphic novel with Under Belly Comics, it was time to check back in and see how he was doing.
Andrez, when we spoke last, it was when the first volume of ‘Uncanny Adventures’ came out last year, with your story “Zig Zag”. Since then you’ve released a short story collection (‘The Condimental Op’), two novels (‘Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?’ and ‘Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth’), a graphic novel adaptation of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat’, and two comic series. So my first question is: are you ever NOT writing?
Um… sometimes? Ha Ha Ha, I do try not to write, I swear, especially when my daughter Cocoa is around. She’s nine years old and has a strict catch phrase if I’m ignoring her: “Two minutes!” But actually I jest. Cocoa often lends a hand, especially when it comes to particular images or cover artwork I’m thinking about for the comic books. Writing is just something I love to do, whatever the medium. It makes me happy – which, I think, makes me a better dad!
In all seriousness, you’ve put out a lot of work in two different media. Is there one you prefer to the other?
Yeah, this is a tough question. Writing novels and comics are completely different propositions, but they do intersect and one often helps you when considering the other. Same with journalism – which is a great way to hone the skills of research, working fast, self-editing, and abiding by deadlines. Can I opt for all three? Definitely I prefer writing fiction, however, whatever the medium.
Your next project is a return to your Heropa characters, a KickStarter for the collected edition of the first 12 issues of ‘Bullet Gal’. Who is Bullet Gal, and why is now the right time for a solo series for her?
Bullet Gal is Mitzi, last-name-unknown, but I guess the question is: Who is Mitzi? Is she the character defined in ‘Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?’, or is she closer to the protagonist in ‘Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth’? Truth is she’s neither. Those novels helped me to shape (in my own mind) the personality and idiosyncratic nature of this individual, but ‘Bullet Gal’ is definitely a stand-alone tale in which her particular journey is defined. She arrives in Heropa at age 17, flaunting twin 9mm automatics with the goal in mind of cleaning up this city – and then encounters a progression of ulterior characters that alter or enhance the journey she’s chosen to undertake. The fact that some of these people are gunsels, clones, Capes (superheroes), one-eyed cops, femmes fatale, copy-cat Ant-Man types, and dangerous ballerinas adds to the equation.
I’m not sure that “now” is in fact the right moment for her voyage of self-discovery, but a progression of factors over the past century have enabled it to work better at the present time – from Dada a century ago, right through hard-boiled detective stories, pulp, the changes in comic books, and digital technology. Plus I simply love the character. She gives me room to breathe, as a writer and artist, especially the way in which she interacts with the oddball characters around her. Sure, this is noir in a purist sense, but it also runs with modern sensibilities and tongue firmly in cheek.
What is it about Heropa that makes it such an interesting place for you to visit?
I think that this city is an ideal, an urban fortress of solitude so to speak, with such an ethereal spirit – yet it contains all the flaws and hidden agendas of the people that made the place. There’s a grimier underbelly beneath the veneer, which is what I always loved about the classic film noir I grew up with. And the fact that super-powered beings also populate this place is beside the point.
And you’re handling the artwork also, as you did with the TSMG collected-edition? It’s a very novel art technique that you don’t see in many modern comic books. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’re putting it together?
I decided to place any arty side in a straitjacket, of sorts – to refrain from too much drawing and/or painting – and bird-dog instead the idea of the collage-as-art, of using disparate ‘found’ images and somehow making them work together as a sequential tale. People have done this before, such as the Dadaists way back when, along with Terry Gilliam’s animation and Chris Marker in his 1962 film ‘La Jetée’. Also Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko applied some of the same techniques in the ‘60s, but you’re right – you don’t see this too much in comics now. It’s tricky and at times doesn’t work, so you need to constantly rethink how you apply images and words to paper. But with the digital technology available these days, this is much easier than the scissors, ruler, glue stick and photocopying machine that I used to use!
Once the Bullet Gal Kickstarter wraps, what’s next on the docket? More comics? Novels? World domination?
World domination sadly is overrated, especially in this day and age – yikes. So I’m thinking about a series of comics based on ‘Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?’, with a combination of art by myself and Matt Kyme. We’re also set to start #4 of our comic book anthology ‘Tales to Admonish’ over at IF? Commix, this time with some talented new artists. And I need to get next novel ‘The Mercury Drinkers’ into some kind of order that makes sense outside my own headspace! Other ideas are floating about, but they’re intransient morsels at this stage.
No, thank YOU – you guys seriously gave me my first proper comic book break last year with ‘Uncanny Adventures’, so hats off straight back at’cha.
The Bullet Gal KickStarter runs until December 10th.