INTERVIEW: Peter Bergting on the Dark Fantasy World of THE PORTENT

I first encountered Peter Bergting’s work a few years back on Frank Frazetta’s Creatures, a one-shot he did with Rick Remender. In it, Teddy Roosevelt fights off waves of enemy cryptids in a steampunk past. I was so taken with it, the guys invited me to talk about it on the Pick of the Week podcast (Jeff probably knows the episode number. JEFF!) Some time later I had the opportunity to assist editing Peter’s short ghost story “Spirit Room” for inclusion in the Eisner winning anthology Popgun 3. In the time since, Peter has gone on to major acclaim in his native Sweden for his new fantasy novel series, which we’ll hopefully see translated to English sooner than later.

You’ve likely seen Bergting’s wonderful painted interiors for The Untamed in our recent Spotlight and interview with writer Sebastian A. Jones. But you might not be familiar with his previous work on The Portent, a dark fantasy rendered in a completely different style. It’s the kind of stuff that rivals some of the best images from the Mignolaverse of horror and fantasy, and it’s now available digitally.

Issue #3 of The Portent is available today for just $0.99 on Graphicly.

I caught up with the writer and artist to talk about his unique vision and latest projects.

iFanboy – Peter, let’s talk about your dark fantasy The Portent, which I was so delighted to revisit digitally. The color is even more spectacular than I’d remembered. For those not in the know, how do you like to describe The Portent?

P.B. – The Portent is very Swedish I’d guess. If there is such thing as Swedish fantasy. Maybe, Norse is a better word, but not Norse as in vikings. This is much more steeped in fairytales and mythology, mixing in elements from my wife’s Korean background to create a new, interesting mix, of really two different worlds. But the “essence” of it is mood over action, substance and feelings over plot. Kaluta described it best in his foreword, I have to paraphrase but his experience reading it was like falling backwards into a dark pond and just letting it embrace you. And then there are the deeper aspects of course like: What does it really mean to be a hero? and about letting go, leaving someone else to stand up and embrace the role of the hero while you disappear into the darkness. Deep shit. And Kung Fu.

iF – What are your plans for The Portent going into the future? What’s in store for Milo and this world?

P.B. – Milo took a life long vacation, or so I thought. That door has once again been opened and I’m noodling over where to take it. Had you asked me a year ago, I’d said that there would definitely not be a Portent 2 but now, with everything cooking again I’m excited to get back in there.

The Legend of Morwhayle

iF – I understand that The Portent and your prose work is doing very well over there in Sweden. You’re off to collect some (well deserved) literary awards!

P.B. – Yeah, that was unexpected as hell, but really, really fun. The Legend of Morwhayle is a fully fledged fantasy novel and I really didn’t know if I had the chops to write a book. I felt at times that maybe I should make a comic book out of it to make it easier for me, especially when the book was turned down at first. But it sold out, picked up a lot of fans in unexpected age groups (like middle aged men instead of the young adults the publisher hoped for) and is now in second printing right before the 2nd novel in the series comes out. So, to get an award for writing is sort of a diploma that I can hang on the wall when I get writer’s block. I can point at it and muse “I can write, I have this award to prove it”. Morwhayle ties into the world of the ever expanding Portent franchise even though I downplayed it in the first book to avoid comparisons.

 

 

iF – You’ve taken a very different approach in your visuals for The Untamed, though it’s just as striking. An evolution of your personal style or simply another approach to a different fantasy world?

P.B. – This is mostly Sebastian A. Jones’ doing. He inspired me with his great script and I just didn’t see myself doing the story justice with lineart. I’ve done some painted comics after I started on The Untamed. The Dunwich Horror for IDW being the latest. I have no idea how it was received, I try to stay away from reviews, but I was super happy with the script and how my art turned out.

iF – You’ve depicted some truly imaginative worlds and events, both whimsical and horrific. What draws you to genre storytelling? What inspires you?

P.B. – I’ve asked myself that from time to time, but I can’t give even myself a straight answer. Most of my personal stuff start out with a feeling, a few words or maybe just a color and it goes from there. The Portent originated as a few lines in a Uriah Heep song and that final look of quiet acceptance as Milo walks away. It was a long road from there to the finished book. I did 8 pages set in WWII, then 8 pages with a more comedic slant, then 20 pages with a more Heavy Metal feeling before scrapping everything. I did 8 new pages, sent them to Image Comics and then Milo opened his eyes on a hillside, drenched in the bleak light of the dying sun. I wish I had a better plan for my writing but that’s how I do it. But I also love Chinese and Korean period movies, like The Shadowless Sword, Seven Swords and so on.

Head over to Graphicly for the first three issues of The Portent. Issue #1 is FREE.