Creator Andrez Bergen’s current comic titles include both Bullet Gal and Trista and Holt. Both are set within the noir/hardboiled type of style, but take place decades apart, giving each its own distinct feeling. From one story to the next you’re constantly reminded of Bergen’s tight grip on the genre, as his characters face their ups and downs, some even doing it with super powers — which adds a great spin on his hardboiled tales.
All-Comic: What’s the usual pitch you give to those who ask what Bullet Gal is about?
Bergen: Actually, I try not to be lazy and shift this around a bit, as much to entertain me as the recipient, but sometimes I get shafted time-wise, so… um… “A dadaesque interplay with pulp, noir, sci-fi and a near-future dystopia, masks included.” That’s a new one, by the way.
But along these lines.
I mean here we’ve got a girl with two guns and mask she most often doesn’t wear targeted for destruction by low-life elements, an imported French femme fatale, and identical clones—set in a 1940s style metropolis that may not actually exist.
What about Trista & Holt?
Easier, since this is newer: “It’s the 1970s, a time in which hardboiled crime occasionally plays second fiddle to flares and disco in this rethink of the legend of Tristan and Isolde.” Plus we switched roles (Trista’s the girl), and this series has shown a tendency to explore the background of several characters, even incidental ones, rather than only the principle duo.
What draws you towards the noir type stories you’ve been developing with both Bullet Gal and Trista & Holt?
Definitely growing up with film noir—my parents dug it—and copping a viewing of movies like ‘The Big Sleep’ and ‘The Maltese Falcon’ around a hundred times apiece. I kid you not.
Noir gives you lots of room in which to flex: the characters are shades of grey, often surprising, and nothing is clear-cut. Even better is the chance to tinker with snappy repartee between these denizens.
But I also tend to bleed noir into sci-fi, because that’s another realm I’ve loved from scratch and I think the two work well together.
I’m doing this combo far less with Trista & Holt—which is a challenge.
Any certain authors you’ve read over the years that have impacted you in regards to this genre?
I’ve been a long-time fan of the original hardboiled literature, especially by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, characters such as Phil Marlowe, Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, the Continental Op. I like to read other stuff by James M. Cain and Mickey Spillane. I’m also pretty keen on more recent practitioners like Heath Lowrance, Shuichi Yoshida and Josh Stallings
And I love the noir comics’ work of, originally, Will Eisner with The Spirit, Tarpé Mills with Miss Fury, and then Frank Miller on Daredevil and Sin City. More recently? Ed Brubaker—of course!—and Jeph Loeb and Brian Azzarello.
In both series you use a style of art that takes various pictures and applies them to the page – what inspired you to approach your art this way?
I’m a huge Dada aficionado.
Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ (1917) has been my favorite work of art since high school. I grew up early on with Terry Gilliam doing the cut-up/collage animated bits of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, while reading the ‘Alien’ special editionphotonovel.
Cabaret Voltaire were doing the same thing with music in the late 1970s, and it’s the same way I started making music myself in 1995 as Little Nobody—doing cut-up collages.
So there’re all these precedents, and I’ve also done my own art, as well as idolizing the work of Kirby, Lark, Epting, Steranko, Aja, Phillips, people like that. I guess this was a chance to go a little offbeat while pursuing the idea of the “sequential” yarn. It’s definitely more difficult than do conventional art, but faster. So there’re pros and cons—but I’m really enjoying it right now.
How long does a page usually take to put together?
Depends. Some pages come together in a matter of hours. The fastest, I think, was an hour—but that was a minimalist, single-framer with no dialogue. Other pages take much longer, and I’m constantly scrapping about a third to start fresh. Doing this is like a seesaw.
Since you will sometimes use celebrities interwoven into your stories have you thought about who you would want cast if these stories were to appear on-screen?
Hah! If only. Um… the original people I’m paying homage to? Most of them have passed away, though, so that’s difficult.
I do have current favorite actors who’re alive and kicking—people like Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman—I think all of whom have starred in Christopher Nolan movies. Hardy in fact does appear in an issue of Trista & Holt (shhh). I’ve also used Oldman, Caine and DiCaprio before.
So I guess these people would be rather brilliant.
With Bullet Gal ending after issue 12 is there another project in the works that will come out alongside Trista & Holt?
Yeah, I’m mulling over stuff. I’m supposed to be working on my fifth novel—currently titled The Mercury Drinkers—but that stalled at 20,000 words while I tweaked the Bullet Gal trade paperback and got stuck into Trista & Holt.
So now I’m thinking I could convert that to a comic series as well, only working with a real artist. This is something I’m still deciding. Alternatively, Matt Kyme at IF? Commix and I are contemplating a graphic version of Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?—which takes place four years after Bullet Gal.
There’s also a horror project I’m working on, only as artist, but I’ve been sworn for secrecy there. At least for now.
And I’m doing a few short stories in which I only write, such as the Tales to Admonish comics, and stuff for 8th Wonder Press and Dirty Rotten Comics.
Any advice to others looking to get into making comics?
DIY. Seriously, do it yourself. Don’t wait to be picked up by the majors—we’re about the size of a flea on Ant-Man’s backside.
Actually, on second thought, that’s pretty darned big if he’s reduced himself down. So, a tick on Ant-Man’s derriere when he’s regular size.
Being independent means you get stuff out there that is exactly how you intend it to be, you’re not selling off your rights, and you’re being proactive rather than sitting, twiddling your thumbs, and waiting for Marvel to call.
Sales may not be what you expect, but stay true and keep persistent!
Any upcoming events or stories we should be looking out for?
The Bullet Gal 12-issue arc winds up on 1st June, although all 12 issues are already out there via the glossy trade paperback Under Belly Comics released in Canada in March. We’re about to release #4 of Trista & Holt, which will be continuing monthly via IF? Commix over the next year.
There’s a 2-page short I did for 8th Wonder Press’ Uncanny Adventures 2015.
And we’ll be publishing #4 of Tales to Admonish shortly, with visuals provided by Australian artists Gareth Colliton, Adam Rose, Ken Best, Simon A. Wright, and Matt Kyme.
Where can people find Bullet Gal and Trista & Holt available for purchase?
The original comics in digital form are available from IF? Commix for $1 apiece—the cost of postage for the hard copies from Australia is fairly prohibitive. Check out here:
Alternatively, the full 12 issues of Bullet Gal have just been packaged together by Under Belly Comics in North America—348 pages; with guest art by 25 other artists—and it looks/feels an absolute treat. That can be acquired here: