Comics Features

REVIEW: Bertie Bear and The Dagger of a Thousand Souls Issue 1 by Andy Clift

Written by Chris Davidson

From the genius/insane mine of Andy Clift and the 6-color psychopaths at Dead Universe Publishing, comes monster hunter and adorable bear extraordinaire, Bertie Bear.

A talking teddy bear with a penchant for smoking jackets, women who could totally appear in a Marilyn Manson video if they wanted, and machetes large enough to compensate for his lack of visible genitalia, Bertie Bear is a teddy bear stuffed with the survivalism and eye-patch-wearing ability of Snake Plisskin mixed with the anthropology know-how and Harrison Ford-ian majesty of Indiana Jones stitched together with the destructiveness and sexual prowess of one James Tiberius Kirk. That being said, Bertie isn’t actually stuffed, he bleeds blood and pisses non-STD-based lightning.

How does a teddy bear bleed? “Don’t dwell on it,” suggests Mr. Bear.

Bertie Bear "Bleed"

There’s a tongue in cheek tone to Bertie Bear, yet it’s punctuated with a level of gravitas. Though it may seem like a talking teddy bear would look out of place in nearly ever medium, considering the fact that this is a world that operates with soul-stealing, living deities, and monsters so abhorrent they were likely featured on peopleofwalmart.com, a talking bear makes total sense. Once you realize that Bertie’s stitching perfectly clashes with the gash hidden under his eye patch, you start to get a proper tone of the work at large.

Bertie Bear’s minimalistic style and color scheme work to its advantage. The red, white and black palette allows for Bertie Bear’s tongue-in-cheek nature to flourish but with a peculiar red accent that gives the work just the right amount of pulp. Bertie Bear the comic may not need color, but it certainly needs blood.

The red ties it all together, perfectly accentuating the gristle and fluff of the work. Whether it is the blood pooling underneath Bertie Bear’s nose, or Orlock vampire clan leader The Rose, whose namesake is reflected in the skin-tight dress that naturally draws the eye as her color controls the room, the red ties the whole work together, giving Bertie Bear a right and proper grim edge.

Don’t call Bertie Bear Ted. It isn’t Ted. Bertie is your childhood pal and champion, who despite the wear-and-tear, button eyes torn from their fuzzy sockets, and curious stains that, best case scenario, are only drool and infused Cheeto-dust, is still as full of one-liners and severely lacking in the ability to give any resemblance of a damn as ever. Bertie Bear’s eye patch and gnarly scar combo may make him seem somewhat grizzly. (I know; lame puns are beneath me, and that one was just unbearable.) But this only works to his advantage, the greater the scars, the more Teddy Roosevelt and less Teddy Ruxpin he becomes.

Part of the fun with Bertie Bear however lies in his mysterious and elaborate past. Though this is only the first issue of the plushy monster hunter’s exploits, you have to wonder how he lost that eye in the first place, how he can smoke a Sherlock Holmes pipe in spite of his flammable demeanor, or lack of a mouth-hole.

Also, exactly how has he scored both a fully attended mansion and a vampire queen? You can literally see the stitching on the little guy, so you’re wondering what’s going on underneath… I mean I’m not saying I want to see Bertie Bear’s junk, but I wouldn’t mind watching him in action, if only out of the sake of scientific curiosity — Bertie Bear knows how to get his honey.

Actually, according to Rule 34 of the Internet, something similar to that already exists, so let’s just keep some mysteries mysterious for now.

In the calmer scenes, such as Bertie getting a rendezvous with a honeypot interrupted by an FBI briefing at his chateau, the red is noticeably absent, assuring you that the color scheme is never put to waste. In a beautiful splash page for instance, as Bertie breaks out of his ropes and into the chest cavity of some vampire flunkies, the red is incorporated as an overall bleed effect, reflecting the beast within the gentleman-bear-adventurer with the terrible machete bigger than himself as everything he sees turns to red.

As if you needed more reasons to pick up Bertie Bear, this issue revolves around the dagger of a thousand souls, an enchanted Mayan artifact that keeps track of its own kill-count by means of capturing the souls of whatever falls to its edge. If the blade ever reaches 1000 souls then the Sun God will grant the dagger’s bearer some sort of divine gift. I haven’t the slightest clue of what the gift is, but I imagine its MacGuffin-significance level ranges somewhere below Philosopher’s Stone, but not quite Klondike Bar.

Regardless, a vampire cult and a necromancer slash Mafioso have their respective red eyes affixed towards finding the blade, and the only thing standing between them and their Mayan Valhalla is a pint-sized Solid Snake in a bomber jacket that I imagine one would have to special order from Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Don’t let my putrid puns dissuade you however, as Bertie Bear avoids the corny like an oil tycoon. In short, Bertie Bear is a bloody fluffy awesome book that I can’t wait to see unfold into plushy Cthulhian oblivion.

Bertie Bear and the Dagger of a Thousand Souls is available on Comixology, as are more lovely comics from Dead Universe Publishing.

You can find out more about Clift and Bertie at Clift’s website: http://awclift.co.uk/.

About the author

Chris Davidson