Monday, 10 November 2014

BULLET GAL: HARDBOILED WONDERLAND, AND THEN SOME

Andrez Bergen.
By Andrez Bergen

Most people would hardly think that a comic can hold a candle to quality hardboiled detective yarns or crime stories, but I beg to differ. In fact I’d even indulge in a round of Queensberry Rules-by-correspondence, or a willy-nilly digital slap (preferably two).

In the long history of the comic book there have been some stand-outs, like Will Eisner with The Spirit and Lee Falk in the earlier days of The Phantom. More recently writer Ed Brubaker has taken on impressive stature in his shake-downs of then-tired titles such as Captain America and Daredevil, as well as Iron Fist (with Matt Fraction). He’s also shone via his own comics Velvet, Fatale and the Criminal series.

So when I set out to write my own hardboiled monthly comic book this year, I was hardly setting a precedent.

Nor was I truly innovating via artwork, since the key influences here spanned from Dada a century ago to Terry Gilliam, Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby’s work in the 1960s.

Bullet Gal, therefore, set itself as a mash-up of stimuli my battered psyche had accrued over the past few decades - summoning moments of Eisner, Kirby, Gilliam, Steranko and Marcel Duchamp – that were stuffed into a shiny chrome art-deco cocktail shaker, jiggled, and infused with latter-day saints of the grime like Brubaker and Kenzo Kitakata.

But that doesn’t intimate the sum total of Bullet Gal.

Equally vital has been the over-saturation I’ve indulged in of 1940s and ‘50s film noir. Think of John Huston’s 1941 shoot of The Maltese Falcon, Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949), and the version of The Big Sleep directed by Howard Hawks in 1946 - all of which I watched dozens of times over. Alongside screenings, a repeated reading of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane is guaranteed to have caused some damage.

And let’s not forget science fiction, again especially cinematic, be it Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, or Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon

Nor contemporary comic book artists. People I’m currently inclined toward include Steve Epting, David Aja, Sean Phillips, David Lloyd, Frank Miller, Matt Kyme and Michael Lark – all of whom have strong leanings of their own towards… noir.

Finally? The cultural baggage: heavily skewed in favour of Australia, where I was born and raised, yet corrupted by my past 13 years in Tokyo.

So what does all this really mean?

Likely that the twelve-issue cycle shaping up Bullet Gal addressed all these things, consciously… or not quite so much. That this is a comic book, yes, infused with elements of hardboiled noir, sci-fi/dystopia, and the collage-style, take-the-piss mentality of cut-up specialists from Duchamp to Brion Gysin. That there’s a sprinkling of Australia and Japan in there, and I carry the added burden of far too much cinema I cherish.

With all these disclaimers in mind, I’d like now to refer you to a particular Kickstarter campaign that’s currently being run.

The open-minded chaps at Under Belly Comics in Canada seem to think that this genre and cultural potpourri works - in and of itself – and they’ve decided to print all twelve issues of Bullet Gal as a 300-page trade paperback.

Artist Niagara Detroit also appears to believe in the project as she provides the painting for the front cover art.

Let’s hope you and the general public are equally like-minded.


BULLET GAL KICKSTARTER: