If, like me, you grew up reading The Hardy Boys (or Nancy Drew) and The Boxcar Children, and you also have a soft spot for Twin Peaks and other comforting yet disturbing Lynchian dreamscapes, then you should find a lot to enjoy within the quaint and creepy pages of Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes' Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of the Missing Men. Set in a secluded Canadian town where a group of teenage sleuths kill time by trying not to be killed while solving macabre mysteries, Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of the Missing Men is now available in color for the first time from Oni Press (following its previous black-and-white publication by Conundrum Press), and Daily Dead had the pleasure of catching up with Kris and Alexander in a new Q&A feature to discuss their unique approach to the teen sleuthing genre, their eclectic cinematic and literary influences, working with Jason Fischer-Kouhi and Oni Press to bring this story to life in color for the first time, and what readers can look forward to in future volumes of Hobtown Mystery Stories!

You can read our full Q&A with Kris and Alexander below, and we also have a look at the chillingly charming cover art and preview pages from Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of the Missing Men!

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, Kris and Alexander, and congratulations on the new release of Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of The Missing Men, which features your story in color for the first time! I absolutely love this graphic novel and these characters. Looking back at how it all started, where did you both initially get the idea for Hobtown Mystery Stories?

Kris Bertin: Alex had the idea to make an eerie, small-town mystery that was set in our region of Canada and did some interesting things with Stratemeyer Syndicate-esque heroes (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc.) but couldn't find a way into the story. He asked for my help in developing the idea and I had so much fun that I asked to write it for him and it went from there. I just so happened to be reading about the folklore of our region and felt like there was a lot of crossover between Alex's ideas and the ancient weirdness of Nova Scotian myth, so I was able to come up with the thing he didn't have, which was the mystery itself.

As someone who grew up reading The Boxcar Children, The Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and The Adventures of Tintin, I found so much to enjoy within Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of The Missing Men, which feels both nostalgic and fresh. How important was it for you both to pay tribute to the teen sleuthing genre while also subverting it and infusing it with your own style?

Kris Bertin: In writing the series, we decided the idea was not to simply ape the existing heroes but to take those types of characters and add the things that were never really present in them, namely flaws. Nancy Drew is completely perfect, the only difference between the Hardy Boys is that one has dark hair and the other doesn't, and Tom Swift or Johnny Quest, despite doing nothing but adventure, are perfectly well adjusted. We just decided that if you were “perfect,” you might put so much pressure on yourself that you'd sometimes go crazy. Or that if you were a jet-set little boy engineer, you might be unable to understand human beings. And that there simply have to be more differences—and problems—between the Hardy Boys than just their red and blue shirts.

While Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 were previously published by Conundrum Press in black and white, these new versions feature coloring by Jason Fischer-Kouhi. What has it been like to see these stories in color for the first time?

Alexander Forbes: Jason's work has breathed new life into the series. It took some back-and-forth in the beginning, but Jason worked very hard to understand our weird and specific aesthetic and come up with a suitable palette. Many of the scenes benefit from his dramatic lighting, and colour helps to visually organize the busyness of some of the panels, making it a less daunting read for more casual comic readers. We're very pleased!

As childhood friends who grew up in New Brunswick and currently live in Nova Scotia, have you instilled elements of your surroundings into the fictional setting of Hobtown? There seems to be a Twin Peaks vibe to Hobtown’s otherworldly ruralness.

Kris Bertin: Absolutely, we have. The character of the town is informed by all those things you simultaneously love and desire to escape from in a small town: the quaintness, the insular culture, the secrets, the ignorance. The aesthetic, too, is important. There are stately, beautiful buildings tied to a pretty dark and harrowing colonial past, sitting right next to crushing poverty, all of it divided by tracts of deep forest and surrounded on every side by the imposing grey Atlantic Ocean. I think Twin Peaks understands that small towns are worlds unto themselves, and Hobtown gets compared to it because that's what it is, too. A place that is realistic, but realistic in its idiosyncrasies and closed-off culture.

As a writer and artist, how do you both collaborate in the creative process while working on Hobtown Mystery Stories? Is the script completely written before the illustrations begin, or do you both work on the story at the same time?

Alexander Forbes: Kris writes the script before I get started and is always sure to include whatever silly ideas I have from our long discussions. He's often working on the scripts for the next books as I'm slowly finishing pages. As he does so, he'll use information from my drawings, such as background characters or details in the scenery, and work them into the forthcoming scripts. This allows for a more layered and careful plot that has a lot more payoffs along the way than if we didn't do it.

I love how Hobtown Mystery Stories is set in the 1990s. What was it about that decade in particular that made it the perfect time period to tell these mysteries?

Kris Bertin: For us, it's just when we were kids, and at the time of its initial release, there wasn't a lot of media set in that period. Of course, it's great to barely have cell phones or internet, but the rural setting pushes the clock back even further. If you grew up in the middle of nowhere in the ’90s, it can feel more like the ’80s or ’70s, depending on how far away from the rest of civilization you are. That's what we wanted most of all, for it to feel almost timeless. Strangely, rural Canada in 1996 feels like it has more in common with 1964 than 2024.

Do you have any favorite books, comics, movies, TV shows, or video games that have influenced you while working on Hobtown Mystery Stories?

Kris Bertin: Someone said Hobtown was Blue Velvet directed by Wes Anderson, and I thought that was apt. Both directors loom large, though I think it's actually the Wes Anderson movies he co-wrote with Owen Wilson that are the most human and moving. We love Cronenberg, Carpenter, Haneke, and Paul Thomas Anderson. I'll let Alex answer about the comics, but I also come from a literary background, so it's stuff like Don DeLillo, Alice Munro, and Flannery O'Connor that really inspire me. But I read anything, and Hobtown borrows from trash magazines, conspiracy and occult craziness, UFO abduction folklore, and DIY self-published ghost story and tall tales books (like the kind Dana and Pauline uncover in the Game Club).

Alexander Forbes: The way characters act and move in Studio Ghibli films has always been a big deal to me. I’ve always been drawn to the atmosphere in Moebius books and the mood in Chester Brown’s. When I think back to something that moved me to pursue creative work at a young age, the SNES game Earthbound was a profound experience, and still has a home in my brain and heart. Also, I listened mostly to Boards of Canada while I drew Missing Men, whose albums are like unofficial Hobtown soundtracks to us both.

What has it been like to team up with the team at Oni Press as you prepare to bring this new version of Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1 into the world?

Alexander Forbes: Working with Oni has been excellent. Editors Zack Soto and Bess Pallares have shown a great deal of respect for the story, and working with designer Sarah Rockwell has been a treat. Our colourist, Jason Fischer-Kouhi, has really helped us make our dreams come true (when we manage to explain them properly). It’s nice to have a team in place who can help us do all the things that we used to have to try to do entirely on our own.

In addition to full-colored re-releases of Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Oni Press will also publish the all-new Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 3, coming in 2025. What can readers expect from this anticipated third volume?

Kris Bertin: The unexpected! It sounds like we're doing it to be jerks (we're not), but from the beginning, we decided to not give people what they want or expect with these stories. Like the decision to side-step the big school confrontation and instead tell it from multiple point of views after the fact or having a jumbled timeline, or making our second book take place elsewhere with only two castmembers, Hobtown is meant to be weird and fun and experimental. The third book is maybe the weirdest one yet, called The Secret of the Saucer, where Hobtown is attacked by a UFO during their mayoral election. It's told largely from Dana's point of view while she loses everything she values most in life (namely control), and it's in reverse chronological order, starting at the end and working its way back to the beginning. It's ambitious and bonkers and will really reward readers who like to reread and scour for clues.

Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of The Missing Men, whether they’re revisiting this series or reading it for the first time?

Kris Bertin: We want new readers to fall in love with Hobtown like we have. Fall in love with the kids, with the totally strange denizens of the town, and the mystery itself. Hobtown isn’t for everyone, but it is for people who are tired of the Marvel-ized world we inhabit and want something complex, subtle, and different from other media. It doesn’t spoon-feed the reader and it isn’t interested in neat little answers that resolve everything. It asks you to pay close attention, to do a little work and to be a detective yourself. If you’re interested in that, we’re so happy to have you along for the ride. For those who are returning—who bought the original indie rock black-and-white punk rock version and are back for the full-blown technicolor release—well, you already get it. Thank you for coming back and helping to spread Hobtown’s message of love and friendship. We’ve missed you, and there's lots more coming!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers and artists who are just getting started?

Kris Bertin: Read widely and understand that there exists an entire universe of fiction that has existed before you and will exist after you're gone. Whatever you think is new probably isn’t. Take your ego out of the equation! Success and failure in storytelling is determined by how honest you can be with yourself and the work. And respect the reader, never condescend to them! They're there for you to communicate ideas to, to ask questions of, and to share a journey with. It's about them, not you.

Alexander Forbes: It's hard to give advice on how to make art aside from putting in the time and work needed to get good. I'd just say that it's important to have stuff of substance to draw from. Go out into the world and pay attention. Be curious and get excited about how strange and funny people can be, and how you can find beauty even in the mundane. Don't let media by other creatives be your only reference point. Show us what you see in the world in a way that's true to you and only you.

With this new version of Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case of The Missing Men out now from Oni Press, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tease for our readers?

Kris Bertin: After Volume I, the second book The Cursed Hermit comes in the fall, which follows Pauline and Brennan to a creepy, spooky boarding school where they face an ancient evil that can barely be understood. Then it's The Secret of the Saucer, followed by A Journey Into the Abyss, about the kids going underneath Hobtown, where the treasure (and horror) that the old-timers have been talking about all this time. Then, Volume V, The Return of the Mini-Man, which is TOP SECRET.


Previous Press Release: (October 5, 2023) Next spring, Oni Press, the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic book and graphic novel publisher, is publishing Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1: The Case Of The Missing Men, the highly acclaimed, stylized noir by Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes, in color for the first time with a brand new cover. Set in the 1990s with a cast of teen detectives investigating folk horror in rural Canada, Hobtown Mystery Stories are one-part mystery, one-part horror and one-part teenage coming-of-age adventure. The first two volumes were previously published by Conundrum Press in a long sold-out B&W format and will now be fully colored by Jason Fischer-Kouhi. In addition to re-releasing the newly updated Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Oni will also be continuing the series with several all-new, never-before-seen volumes, beginning with Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 3 in 2025.

Welcome to Hobtown, a charmingly bleak village (Population: 2,006) and an easy place to get bored if you don’t make your own fun. Hobtown Regional High’s top girl, Dana Nance, runs the Teen Detective Club—a registered after-school program that makes it their business to investigate each and every one of their town's bizarre occurrences including pagan secret societies, psychic assaults, and possible “wee man” sightings. Their small world of missing pets and shed fires is turned upside down when real-life kid adventurer and globetrotter Sam Finch comes to town and enlists them in their first real case: the search for his missing father. Something strange is going on, and no one in Hobtown will talk about it. It turns out Sam’s dad is the sixth man to go missing this year. The rot runs deep in Hobtown, and it’s up to the teen detectives and associates to stay alive long enough to crack the Case of the Missing Men!

“Hobtown Mystery Stories is about the beauty and horror of the small town, and the lengths its young will go to unearth, understand, and escape its history,” said writer and co-creator Kris Bertin. “It's also a labour of love between two best friends, a place we’ve visited for over a decade to explore and imagine together.”

“To have found a home for Hobtown Mystery Stories with Oni Press—and to see it in breathtaking color for the first time—is an absolute joy, and one that we're so excited to share with new (and return) visitors to our funny little town,” said artist and co-creator Alexander Forbes.

Nominated twice for the Angoulême Sélection Fauve Polar SNCF (Favorite Mystery Series) in France Hobtown is already a favorite among early adopters of the series that explores themes of acceptance, friendship and the traumas that haunt and horrify across generations. Perfect for fans of Twin Peaks and Nancy Drew, the Hobtown Mystery Stories take the teen investigator genre to new levels as they explore small town identity and the surreal.

“Hobtown is one of the most fun reading experiences I’ve had in years,” said Oni Press Editor-in-Chief Siera Hahn. “I was immediately swept up in the interior lives of these teens whose small town friendships and sleuthing feel eerily familiar to my own upbringing in rural Washington. It hit a personal chord, while illustrating this gorgeous and richly rendered world that asks you to linger on the page and wonder what horrors await just off panel. I’m hooked.”

Here’s what critics are saying about Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1…

"Powerfully rendered."

–The New York Times

“A weirdly warm-hearted nightmare.”

–Booklist (Starred Review)

“An exceptional, odd mystery.”

–Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

Hobtown Mystery Stories Vol. 1 will be available at retailers everywhere on May 22, 2024.

About the creators

Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes are childhood friends who studied separate disciplines in order to reunite and make comics as adults. They grew up in Lincoln, New Brunswick, and live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

About Oni Press

The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group is a premier comic book and graphic novel publisher located in Portland, Oregon. Merged with Lion Forge Comics in 2019 but established in 1997, Oni Press publishes a thoughtfully curated line of award-winning original and licensed graphic novels and comic books for readers of all ages. Notable titles from the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group include: The Tea Dragon Society, Sheets, Gender Queer, A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, Scott Pilgrim, and Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty™.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.