Under the Surface with Kris Bertin

Nov 3, 2017 by

The Case of the Missing Men is starting to pick up momentum. The duo behind the book have just finished their Maritime Tour and are on their way to Brooklyn (NY not NS) and Montreal for Expozine. This accomplished graphic novel was reviewed in Halifax’s Coast as well.

Below we present a Q&A web exclusive with the writer behind the book in the first of our “Under the Surface” interviews with Conundrum artists.

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This fall, Kris Bertin and Alex Forbes published The Case of the Missing Men, a graphic novel about a group of teen detectives who stumble into the darker parts of their hometown while investigating a mysterious missing persons’ case. Alexander MacLeod describes it as “an amazing collaboration, unlike anything I have ever seen or read before,” and The Coast calls it “a page-turner, with meticulous black-and-white line drawings that are incredibly nuanced and deft at creating suspense.” But behind the book’s recent success, there’s a long history of collaboration between Bertin and Forbes.

Conundrum Press: How did you and Alex meet?

Kris Bertin: Alex and I grew up in a place called Lincoln, New Brunswick. I was a military kid and he lived in the trailer park. We met when we were six, when a kid noticed we were both good at drawing and said we should be friends. We thought he was right, and have been friends ever since. Alex and I have spent a lifetime imagining stories together, drawing pictures and planning out epics that would never come to be. It wasn’t until we were a lot older and we were both living in Halifax that anything came of it.

CP: Where did the idea for The Case of the Missing Men come from?

KB: I was just starting to publish short fiction while he was finishing an art degree at NSCAD, when he had an idea for a comic book. He had made some small comics by then, which I loved, but that he never sent away for anyone to see. He asked for my help on a new idea, the seed of what would become The Case of The Missing Men. He wanted to write a detective story about a group of kids and the mystery of what borderline-homeless fifty-something males were up to. He had a number of key images in mind, a few character sketches and ideas about secret societies, but didn’t know how to put it all together. Initially, I came on board to help him organize his ideas, but pretty soon I came to understand that this was something I would love to write, so I did.

CP: What was the artistic process like?

KB: We’ve worked on the book since 2011, and it’s taken a few different forms. We took them from pulp fiction analogues to real characters. We learned a lot about maritime folklore and used it to explain a lot of the story’s stranger elements. The giant 300-page book was originally going to be two parts, but we thought it would be better if it were one big one. There was a time where Alex’s fine art sensibilities had him trying some more experimental stuff, which he put aside for a more traditional black-ink look that instead has very specific stylistic flourishes in each chapter.

If he has an idea, even if it’s something I’m not sure fits, I try to find a way to make it make sense, to find a home for it, or translate it into something I’ve been working towards already. Likewise, the things Alex draws, when I see them, often fill me with ideas, and I get a sense of a concept I’ve tried to go after (and been uncertain about it) that is stronger than what I started with. One of the greatest things about our collaboration have been the people that populate the fictional Hobtown—he’ll draw a crowd scene and there will be someone in there that speaks to me, that represents someone I’ve been meaning to invent. Someone he doodles in the back ends up becoming a real character with a name and dialogue and a purpose.

CP: What has your long friendship added to the project?

KB: Our knowing each other and our closeness really has made this collaboration something special. I get to make reference in the script to things that only he and I understand, but that’s not as important as the shared vision we have. We’ve been best friends for so long that we’ve experienced a lot of the same things, have developed similar tastes, shared books and movies and comics. We know what we want, and what we don’t. There’s never been an argument about what happens in the story, because it sort of makes sense to both of us. We also really respect what the other person is bringing to the table.

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