ComicBuzz Chats With Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes

With the release of Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1 from Oni Press in May, we are delighted to be joined by writer Kris Bertin and artist Alexander Forbes.


Hi, Alexander and Kris; it’s so wonderful to have you both here with us.

Thank you!

Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?

KB:I’m Kris Bertin, the writer and Alex Forbes here is the artist. We’re best friends who make comics together, and have known each other since we were six. I write screenplays and short stories (and have a novel or two on the way). Alex is a massively talented artist who paints, draws, plays music and also does incredible design work. Anything to add? 

AF:Whoa easy, now. How ’bout just “Alex works as a cartoonist, illustrator and fronts a honkytonk band”?

KB: No.

Could you tell us about the origins of Hobtown Mystery Stories?

KB: Alex and I were a couple of broke loser comic book nerds, living together in a basement nearly 15 years ago, and he was dreaming of making his own mystery graphic novel. He had trouble with the story and mystery elements, but knew exactly what he wanted it to feel like, so he asked me to help. I liked it so much that I asked if I could do more than look things over, and in something like 6 weeks we had a script for what we called our two-hour pilot episode, and we got to work.



How would you describe the Hobtown Mystery Stories?

KB: Hobtown is like if Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Johnny Quest and Laura Palmer all got together and made a Scooby Doo Gang in the absolute middle of nowhere. It’s set in Nova Scotia, which is the ass-end of Canada on the Atlantic, a special place with its own secrets and folklore. Hobtown, where the story takes place, is a village of 2000 where people sometimes die inexplicably, where there are reports of subterranean goblins, and where the grownups all seem to be in on some secret that our kids are dying to get in on.


Alexander, when you were creating Hobtown, what sort of reference materials did you use?

AF: I try as much as possible to draw from life. Hobtown itself is a sort of amalgam of the Nova Scotia towns I’ve spent time in (that you’ve never heard of): Lunenburg, Chester, Digby, Parrsboro, Pugwash. Likewise, I based most of the characters off people from the childhood I shared with Kris in rural New Brunswick, or off the people around us now in Halifax, particularly the many oddballs we know and love from the old dive bar we worked in together called Bearly’s (see The Dog’s Den in Hobtown). 


Kris, who are the Teen Detective Club?


KB: The Hobtown Junior Detective Club, officially, is an after-school club that our intrepid leader and genius investigator, Dana Nance, managed to tack onto the Peer Tutor Program she runs. Unofficially, they’re a gang of kids willing to spy, lie, deceive, and break the rules to uncover the truth about their weird little town. The team consists of her, Denny and Brennan Hale, two fearless jock brothers, and her best friend from the trailer park, Pauline Larmier, who is prone to prophetic dreams (coupled with gastric distress).


What can you tell us about Dana Nance?

KB: Dana is us trying to imagine what Nancy Drew would be like if she were a real person. If you really were capable of solving any mystery while getting straight As and driving around in your rich Daddy’s car, what kind of person would you be? We guess that her hyperfocus on mysteries and clues means she’s not a great friend, that she can be difficult to be around, and as hard on others as she is on herself. Her doting father, Morgan, a hugely important character in the story, is at times her best friend, and other times her most frustrating and cunning enemy, one who has just as many secrets as Dana or her enemies.



How did Oni Press get involved with Hobtown Mystery Stories?

AF: While we were looking for a new publisher, we hooked up with editor Zack Soto, who was a huge fan, and helped us get the deal together. We have a five-book deal and can’t wait to tell the rest of our story with ONI.


What can you tell us about Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1?

KB: The Case of the Missing Men is the Hobtown Detective Club’s first real case, one that has nothing to do with missing eggs or tire fires. It follows Dana and the gang as the taciturn adventurer Sam Finch comes to Hobtown in search for his missing father. As the story progresses, the kids realize that there’s a gang of men in yellow raincoats with ugly paper plate masks, taking orders from a mysterious figure to hunt and kill certain people—including Sam’s father. If that’s not bad enough, there seems to be another killer on the loose, who is two feet tall and looks like he’s made of hairy cookie dough. By the story’s end, our heroes understand less than when they started, but they’re certain they’re in for more weird and unsettling adventures.


Alexander, the new versions of the Hobtown Mystery Stories are coloured; how did that come about?

AF: When we began working with Oni, there was talk about how we can differentiate these new editions from the old ones, and we all decided colour would be one way we could do this. Kris and I welcomed this change, and after some back-and-forth, Jason did a great job matching the tone of the story and illustrations. See for yourself!


What has it been like working with Oni Press?

 AF: They’re a great team. Editors Zack Soto and Bess Pallares have been steadfast in making sure we’re good with the changes made in these editions, and we’ve been told in absolute terms to express any apprehensions. It’s also been satisfying on a collaborative level, with Jason’s moody colours and the killer design work done by Sarah “Rocky” Rockwell, who prompted the addition of a Hobtown map to the book, which we made in the fashion of the kind of paper placemat used in a diner, featuring ads for local Hobtown businesses. It’s been a lot of fun to breathe new life into the first two volumes of Hobtown. 


What can you tell us about Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 2?

KB: The Cursed Hermit follows two of our heroes, Pauline and Brennan, as they attend a prestigious extra credit winter break program in Hobtown at a school called Knotty Pines. Pauline, who was born with the gift of ‘second sight’ is immediately plagued by bizarre dreams involving death, violence and sentient plumbing. She also notices the students, and even Brennan being groomed and changed by the headmaster and headmistress to become the perfect, almost slave-like students. With the help of a crazed, rage-filled hermit named Pierre and a little ghost named Getty, Pauline and Brennan eventually uncover a secret involving the school, the kids, and the town’s founder that goes back centuries—and might even explain all of the weirdness in Hobtown they’ve encountered to date!


Kris, is there a particular character from Hobtown Mystery Stories that you enjoy writing?

KB: I love all of them, really, but Denny might be my favourite. He’s a jock and a goofball who is constantly joking, teasing, and acting like a fool, but he’s anything but. He considers things philosophically, existentially, even if he puts it into terms that sound completely stupid, he’s very sharp. He’s also the emotional glue of the team, with special, personal relationships with each of them, capable of sensing who wants what, but also what they actually need. In terms of how he looks, Alex gives him the best expressions of everyone.


Can you tell us anything about Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 3?

KB: The third book is called The Secret of the Saucer and it’s maybe our most ambitious book yet. Told in reverse-chronological order (beginning at the end and moving backwards to the start), it’s the story of a flying saucer that attacks Hobtown in the midst of the mayoral election, possibly in order to steal the election. It follows Dana Nance as she loses leadership of the Detective Club, gets her first boyfriend, and confronts everything she hates about herself—along with a baffling and terrifying mystery revolving around psychics, saucers and an ‘ape lord’ that turns upside down all of her beliefs about herself, her hometown, and her friends.


Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

KB:If you loved the stories in black and white, you’ll love them in full colour, where we’ve taken special care to get things exactly right, and share a new dimension of Hobtown with our friends. If you’ve never been to Hobtown—and you’re fans of any of its core elements, like Nancy Drew pulp teen heroes, unsettling and surreal Ito-esque folk-horror, or just quirky and unique characters and storytelling—please visit! We love these characters so much and are excited to invite new readers to our funny little town and share in the mystery. Give it a try, and if it’s the right kind of story for you, recommend it to your friends. And don’t forget to visit Hobtown.com for more clues!

We would like to say thank you to Kris and Alexander for chatting with us. We would like to wish them both the best of luck with the release of Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1.

Share now!

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Us

Scroll to Top