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INTERVIEW: Mark Bertolini, Creator Of Neck Beard: Hillbilly For Hire

Greetings fellow monster hunters! After getting lost for a few days in the suburban wilderness of my fenced-in backyard while testing my new patented “monster catching equipment,” I have returned safely just in time to catch up with Mark Bertolini, creator of Neck Beard: Hillbilly for Hire. Currently on Kickstarter, Neck Beard: Hillbilly for Hire promises monster hunting action, a quest for internet fame, and at least a few hillbillies. So what are we waiting for? Let’s see what Mark had to say!

AP2HYC: Tell us a bit about yourself and some of your previous work.

Bertolini: I’m a comic book creator based just outside of Toronto, Canada. I’m a father of two boys and a stepfather of two more, so our house is very big into comic books! I’ve had a number of comics published, including Scum of the Earth from Action Lab: Danger Zone, Knowledge and Long Gone from Markosia, Breakneck from 215 Ink, and coming this summer a new five issue mini-series from Darby Pop. I’m also a regular contributor to the FUBAR line of historical zombie anthologies, the relaunched Caliber Presents anthology and very soon, the Terminal Anthology Series from Imminent Press. I like to keep busy!

AP2HYC: What were some of the inspirations behind Neck Beard: Hillbilly for Hire?

Bertolini: A few bits and pieces came together to create what became Neck Beard: Hillbilly for Hire. I wanted to do something a little more light-hearted, something fun and slightly goofy. I also wanted to do a book with monsters. The idea of a backwoods redneck hunting monsters was pretty funny to me. Add in the whole YouTube channel, and it felt like a fun little idea to run with. Luckily, Joe thought so as well and we were off and running. I remember that Joe was sold when I called Neck Beard a redneck Hellboy.

AP2HYC: I love that Donny has a YouTube Channel. What kinds of creatures will he be encountering in his travels?

Bertolini: This is another thing that I really like about this story, because Donny isn’t going to be hunting down just the classic monster-types, he’s going to run into Were-Bears, Wraith-Snakes and Demon Goats. Lots of weird and unnatural creatures, but nothing that Neck Beard can’t handle! Although there is the Roadkill King lurking around in the background…

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AP2HYC: What are Donny’s motivations for hunting monsters?

Bertolini: Well, I can’t give away too much about his motivation because his origin is spelled out in the first issue, but suffice it to say he suffered a terrible tragedy as a child involving some supernatural creature and he spent the rest of his life training to become the best tracker and hunter on the planet. He’s like Batman, if the Wayne family lived in a trailer park and drank moonshine.

AP2HYC: What can you tell us about Donny’s camera man, Buck?

Bertolini: Buck is Donny’s buddy, and his official camera man. Buck plays a pretty large part in the story, a part that I can’t get into here because I want you to read it!

AP2HYC: Since this is a four issue mini-series, will there be a discernible ending to the story or some kind of big bad to watch out for?

Bertolini: There will be an ending to this particular storyline, but hopefully not to the overall Neck Beard story. I see Neck Beard kind of like Hellboy, as a series of mini-series. I’d love to keep doing more Neck Beard stories after this first four issue series is completed. I think there’s a ton of possibilities to create new stores and new adventures for Neck Beard to go on, and if I can keep working with the Neck Beard creative team, so much the better!

AP2HYC: How did the creative team for Neck Beard come together?

Bertolini: I had posted on a few message boards about looking for an artist for a new project, and Joe Koziarski contacted me. We batted a few ideas around until we settled on Neck Beard. Like I mentioned before, he was sold on the “redneck Hellboy” idea and we got to work. Once Neck Beard’s design was settled upon, Joe worked up the pages. I know he’s excited to design some wild and crazy monsters, so there will be some pretty crazy stuff coming up.

Once the pages were done, I found Ellie Wright on a separate post and she sent me some color samples and I really liked her style; I found that it fit what I pictured for Neck Beard really well. Her style and Joe’s style really meshed. Micah Myers is my buddy, and the guy who letters all my stuff. I have 100% faith in his ability, and he always does something special. It was a no-brainer to get him on board.

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AP2HYC: Talk a little about the rewards that are offered on the Kickstarter campaign.

Bertolini: I really wanted to try an almost-all-digital campaign. I live in Canada, so mailing to the U.S. and beyond would cost me an arm and a leg. I was inspired by the Kickstarter campaigns that Ryan K. Lindsay has run, which were almost entirely digital, and I thought that might be the right way to go. I’ve been a part of many Kickstarter campaigns, but this is the first one I’ve ever run for myself, for one of my own properties.

I also wanted to keep the costs down on the rewards. I often see Kickstarters that are pricing rewards way too high (in my mind). Charging $10.00 or more for a PDF seems a little excessive to me. So our campaign starts at $1.00, which gets you a Neck Beard digital wallpaper for your computer. For $5.00 you will get all four issues of Neck Beard as PDFs when they are complete; it’s essentially a digital subscription. There are also offers for some of my previous books. You can get trade paperbacks of Knowledge, Scum of the Earth, and Breakneck, and the high-end reward is for an exclusive Joe Koziarski sketch.

I’m also going to be gifting backers with short comics I’ve created over the years. I have a whole bunch just waiting to be sent out!

AP2HYC: What are some of your favorite comics, books and/or movies?

Bertolini: My all time favorite comic is Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. It’s the comic that made me want to write comics. Warren Ellis is my favorite comic book writer, though. His work on Planetary, Transmetropolitan, Black Summer, No Hero and so many other books has always inspired me.

My current favorite books are Saga, Lazarus, and Injection. I love the stuff coming out of Image these days. The Black Mass books are really starting to appeal to me as well. Same with Aftershock Comics, there’s a lot of really cool, innovative stuff happening. I also love the pulp style aspect of the Hellboy universe.

As far as novels go, my favorites are Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale and Duane Swierczynski. I love King’s books, I love the small town feel that so many of them have. Lansdale created two of my favorite characters ever in Hap and Leonard, and the Charlie Hardie trilogy by Swierczynski still ranks among my favorite crime novels.

As far as movies go, aside from the slate of comic book movies that I obviously enjoy, I’m a big fan of Adam McKay movies (Step Brothers, Anchorman) and Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, 40-Year Old Virgin, This is 40). I love gross-out comedies. I love a movie where you can just turn off your brain and laugh.

AP2HYC: Thanks Mark!

Getting pumped up for some monster hunting shenanigans? Head on over to the Neck Beard: Hillbilly for Hire Kickstarter campaign and show those creepy critters who’s boss!

About the author

Robert Porter

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