Comic Book Diary: Andrez Bergen Part 6

ANDREZ BERGEN returns with more tales of hardship, hospitals and heroes. Here’s part six of his Comic Book Diary…
I feel like I’m trapped somewhere between the frozen central zone and Floor 7½ in the Ninth Circle of Dante’s vision of Hades.

It’s not wrong to torture people is it? At dinner last night in my new place of abode THE LADY OF MANY VOICES (one of the countless “characters” also living here) accused me of being a monkey because I declined to sit at her table, so I told her I wasn’t just any old simian, but a flying monkey – leading to a rambling diatribe from her about the Planet of the Apes, so I said all my winged brethren were up on the roof preening one another and waiting for a bit of action. She goggled a fraction, scoffed down her remaining food, and went outside to look. Flying monkeys. Heh.

Shhh. Hey, I have a brain injury. What’s right and what’s wrong is not so clearly apparent, plus I have the best excuse in the world for overstepping lines.

This lady is worthy of the jest. She looks like a flapper who’s aged a hundred years, decanted with Stevie Nicks on a bad hair day, she swears at staff, pinches my food and touches me all the time. Ack.

Worse still, this lady keeps muttering that she will say prayers for me. I don’t need ’em. To be honest, I’m kind of sick of certain individuals setting themselves up to take all the kudos for my recovery over the past year or so – it devalues my efforts and those of bona fide mates.

So, yeah, I escaped the hospital – and miss staff and patients something chronic. I swapped that for a place in Brunswick that optimistically calls itself a lodge, but actually is a special accommodation home for the elderly and mentally disarmed. In their pamphlet it also says their “commitment is to offer a dignified, happy and fulfilling lifestyle to the individual residents,” most of whom smell of urine and cigarettes. I certainly didn’t expect to be sharing bread with the smelly homeless hoboes I used to see round Fitzroy way back when I ran my record label IF? Records.

What initially attracted me were the bohemian atmosphere of the big central boudoir, their noir-like ceiling fans and the idea of freedom – finally after months of in-hospital treatment and rehab. I am tortured in return by scatterlogical conversations, especially from THE LADY OF MANY VOICES, who has inducted me and my friends’ names into her own memories.

As a cover ploy on the phone, I’ve started using names from The Thunderbirds like Virgil and Miss Penelope. This makes life a wee bit easier and… somehow sane?

Still, a part of me keeps expecting to look up from this keyboard and see John Malkovich masks pasted to my in-mates’ faces.

So, yeah, the fans fooled me. I blame the noir. Anyone who knows me will understand that particular drift. Over the past few months I’ve been blissfully smacked in the mush by artist Ken Best’s take on the genre, for two different strips I wrote to be included in Magpie, namely ‘The Blow-In’ and ‘Crash Soirée’ which coincidentally started out as adventures of the same character, split apart. And then came together under his assured draftsmanship.

Meanwhile we’re still fleshing out the Magpie anthology book, and last week I suggested to Nat [Karmichael], our publisher at Comicoz that we should create a separate imprint to carry it. He really digs the idea too; and I think having a separate entity run with this relatively new idea might have a better shot at a new audience. On a more cynical level, it’s good for promo too.

I’m a big fan of what Gerard Way has done with Young Animal over at DC, so – yeah – something like IN FLIGHT – which also makes you wonder about the true meaning of the ‘IF?’ in IF? COMMIX, which I used to run with Matt Kyme, and bounces too out of the Magpie theme.

You know what I’m getting tired of here at the new place of abode?

The people making their dodgy little plays/cons by feigning friendliness, and then trying to coerce cash out of me.

Yes, I might have a damaged lite brain (I’d now sing that from the rooftops with some dumb pride), but I’m not stupid. Huh.

Meanwhile, Frantz Kantor currently puts together the final chapter (for now) of ‘Magpie’ herself, while I continue to get put off getting stuck into the ‘Onna Bugeisha’ art since I’m still smitten with the work done by Gareth Cilliton for her initial outing.

To be honest, I’m still also looking for any artist who may be able to commit themselves to two of our other Maggie strips, ‘Charlie Atlas’ and ‘The Vibrator’.

We have another secret project in the wings too that, at this stage, I cannot reveal.

In other news, last Saturday right after I settled into the Lodge and illusory freedom, I took a short constitutional round the block to go fetch coffee and had my first seizure on the street. This was a bad one that threw me head first into a parked car, proving the Bergen family have the hardest heads on the block – as me and my daughter Cococa once discovered when we accidentally head-butted one another, and winding me up back in hospital – this time the Royal Melbourne for a CT scan and chest x-ray to ensure no repeat infection there.

The most intriguing thing was when a doctor analysed the chest x-ray and asked: “So how did you break your ribs?”

I sat there gobsmacked, and then glanced at my mate Brian – who’s been with me throughout this nightmare-in-motion, and he shrugged as well. The only thing I could think of was the heart surgery last year, as apparently they break bones to gain access to the valve, but this medico shook his head. Closely studying the x-ray like some kind of Christian palaeontologist flaunting the ability to carbon-date fractures by sight . “No, this would have been in May.”

We sat stumped – another medical mystery to add to the golden staph last year… until yesterday, when I remembered my first seizure, which would’ve happened in about May, was a particularly violent one that threw me off a stool in a restaurant and I have no memory after that.

Danny Zemp drafted up an illustrated response to my Facebook crack about the Christian Palaeontologist doctor and as always Danny knocked it out of the ballpark, with even an allusion to THE BIG GAME HUNTER from my super hero group THE CRIME CRUSADERS CREW. Heh.

What embitters me most about the latest seizure was that I’d just received medical clearance to fly back to Tokyo and had built up the confidence to do so; in my mind I was going to do so round Christmas to see my daughter – a Christmas miracle, if you will. That plan is now clearly again on the backburner.

So you start again. Work out new tactics and remain busy.

I still think I’m lucky – having finally watched the devastating Louis Theroux documentary A Different Brain, which follows the recovery of people who have suffered a traumatic (more than mine) brain injury. I’ve known people like this back in the hospital. I mean, I can still communicate and still write; if I’d lost those skills I’d be far more devastated. The self-edited ability might be all at sea, but in the grand scheme of things I count my lucky stars every day.


Art credits from the top:
Hylax spotlight by Ken Best.

Onna Bugeisha by Gareth Colliton.
Christian Palaeontologist by Danny Zemp.

About GC

Gary Chaloner is the creator of Flash Damingo and The Jackaroo, The Undertaker Morton Stone & Red Kelso. He's also worked on Will Eisner's John Law, Robert E. Howard's Breckinridge Elkins, Astro City, Doc Wilde and Unmasked. He's the co-convenor of The Ledger Awards and the host/publisher of the

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