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ECCC EXCLUSIVE: Peter Bergting Joins “Baltimore” for “The Witch of Harju”

by  in Comic News Comment
ECCC EXCLUSIVE: Peter Bergting Joins “Baltimore” for “The Witch of Harju”

Vampire hunter Lord Baltimore, introduced in 2007 by writer Christopher Golden and “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola, has starred in a number of adventures at Dark Horse Comics over the past few years, most recently in this year’s two-issue series “Chapel of Bones.”

A new installment starts in July with the three-issue miniseries “Baltimore: The Witch of Harju,” this time with a new addition: Peter Bergting, known for writing and illustrating “The Portent” and “Domovoi,” joins Golden and Mignola as illustrator on the story, following regular “Baltimore” artist Ben Stenbeck. It’s a special project for the Swedish creator, who cites Mignola as an influence as far back as pre-“Hellboy” stories like “Gotham by Gaslight” at DC Comics.

CBR News has the exclusive first interview with Bergting about his work on “Baltimore: The Witch of Harju,” collaborating with Mignola and Golden, and his upcoming graphic novel “The Portent: Ashes,” scheduled for release from Dark Horse in June.

CBR News: Peter, you’ve acknowledged Mike Mignola as an influence on your work, and you worked on the art for a “Hellboy” roleplaying game. How significant has his work been to you as a creator?

Peter Bergting: I’d say very significant, from very early on in my career when Mike was still working on titles like “Gotham by Gaslight.” I loved and still love the way he can make even the most mundane and boring object into art. That’s something I’ve tried to bring into my own work. At a point I really felt the style working against me since I was constantly being compared to Mignola. After the roleplaying game, I was confident enough in myself as an artist that I started to incorporate some of my earlier influences into the art. Most artists are an amalgamation of influences, and for me, [it’s] Moebius, Bilal, Alcala, Bernet and Mezieres, mingled with the Mignola style to hopefully create something new.

And given that, what has the experience been like thus far, collaborating with Mignola and Christopher Golden on this miniseries?

It’s been great! There’s been some back and forth, mainly with [Dark Horse editor-in-chief] Scott [Allie], who encouraged me to really push my own style and not lean so heavily toward Mike’s style. And I’ve known Chris since the RPG days (we worked on a short story as well where I did the art). The RPG was a long time ago, and I wasn’t ready to be a comic book artist by then, but I kept in touch with most of the guys involved, trading mails with Mike and Scott. [John] Arcudi wrote the foreword to my “Domovoi” book. I got a really nice mail from Mike last week about my progress on “Baltimore,” which was very encouraging. Really made my day.

How excited are you to be joining the world of “Baltimore”? What is intriguing to you about the artistic challenge presented by the series?

I love the fact that “Baltimore” is so grounded in reality. I keep a lot of files handy for reference, and the fact that the specific story is set in Estonia, which used to be Swedish 400 years ago, meant there were people here in Sweden I could bug for specific reference. But the biggest challenge would have to be drawing Baltimore himself, who is so crowded with weapons. You have to find a way to layer all that stuff and still make it look good.

How does your artistic approach to “Baltimore: The Witch of Harju” compare to your past work? Did you have a pretty firm idea of what you wanted to do going into it, or have you been surprised with where the project is taking you?

Yeah, here’s the deal. I’ve wanted to work in this world for a long time. But this stuff never happens by accident. A lot of younger artists just breaking into the business think gigs like these fall into your lap at some point. But this, for me at least, was 15 years in the making. And when it finally happened, thanks to my editor asking me to do a test page, Mike was like, “I didn’t know you wanted to …”, and I was like, “I thought you’d never ask!” I do believe that if I want to work on a book like this, I can ask, but that won’t help if the other people involved aren’t up for it. So I’d rather not ask. And to that point, I had done the “Domovoi” book for Dark Horse and was halfway through “The Portent: Ashes” when I got the question. And I think both those books, in style, were instrumental in getting me on this title.

The first test page I did was a a lot of back and forth to nail both the style, but also minor details like Baltimore’s chin. Going into it, I wanted to push my art more toward Mike’s, but he’s never drawn this comic, and so we had a lot more freedom to bring our own style to it. My biggest surprise was Scott adamantly pushing me to work in my style.

Does the fact that it is a series with a strong visual identity — all past stories were illustrated by Ben Stenbeck — shape your perspective on it at all? Do you find there’s still much room for interpretation?

I can’t really work in Ben’s style, however similar we may be. I try to keep the face as close as possible to what Ben is doing. It’s tempting for me to go in and add a lot of shadows.

“Baltimore: Chapel of Bones” just ended last month. What can you share at this point about this latest “Baltimore” story, and what kind of artistic opportunities it’s provided?

Ha, I probably can’t share more than I already did. It’s a great story with great characters.

Colorist Dave Stewart has a long history with Mignola’s creations, and this will be your first time working with him — how meaningful is that pairing to you?

A dream come true. And for me, who is scared to death of letting anyone else color my art, Dave is one of the few I’d be thrilled to see what he can do. But it does present a challenge since I usually sketch loosely, do some preliminary inks, color and then re-ink. Now I have to deliver final art to be colored.

Another Dark Horse project from you, “The Portent: Ashes,” is scheduled to debut in June. What’s new in your latest return to “The Portent”?

Yeah, this is a weird book. It’s so personal, while being a fantasy romp with demons and Asian mythology. At the same time it’s really melancholic. It’s been almost 10 years since the first installment, and I’ve matured as a writer to the point where this book could easily have been 128 pages of my character brooding as she comes to terms with stuff my 10 year younger self had her do. Picking up the pieces of that story was a dark journey about loss and how to deal with returning to a world that no longer wanted you. I do hope it finds the right audience.

“Baltimore: The Witch of Harju” is scheduled for release on July 30.

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