After attending a panel for Top Cow’s new series, Berserker, on Saturday, I had a chance to talk to producers Milo Ventimiglia and Russ Cundiff, as well as writer Rick Loverd and artist Jeremy Haun. Well, okay, mostly Russ, Rick, and Jeremy, as Milo had a line of girls going halfway across New York waiting to get their issues of Berserker #0 signed by the Heroes star. Hit the jump for more.
DiVide Pictures is the production company for Berserker. What role in the creative process does DiVide play?
Russ: We don’t do anything. We found the talent, the basic ideas. We just kind of nurture it, discover what medium we want it going to. It’s been really great. Basically it’s like a side editor, since we can’t edit full time, because we don’t have a lot of time. We just give notes on the project, visual notes, and also kind of regular notes during the writing process. We actually own the property. We try to nurture young talent.
What are some of the challenges of adapting what was supposed to be a television pilot into a comic series?
Russ: A lot. We have to actually start from scratch and really break down the script, and kind of almost reimagine the story and beat it out into six books. We almost kind of have to take the core treatment idea and kind of run with it, and break it down for a book. So, it’s a lot.
[A loud crash is heard somewhere in the room.]
Milo: Don’t go berserk!
If you wanted to bring Berserker to another medium in the future—video games, TV, movies—besides the obvious toning down the violence, what kind of changes do you think you would have to make?
Russ: I think it’s really difficult to take a traditional comic book and make it an exact movie, so I think we would have to narrow down characters and probably combine characters, that would be a natural change. Otherwise, we really want to try to maintain the core idea, the original idea that we have. We would really try to be resistant of any changes.
What is the plan right now for how long Berserker will run?
Russ: The story arc is actually six episodes, six issues. I know we’ve actually discussed that it could go on for about 50 different issues and we would never run out of stories. And also, because it’s grounded in Norse mythology, there’s a lot of different stories that we can base it on.
What is it about this project that really made you say, “I have to do this”?
Jeremy: Mainly just the fact that whenever I talked to Rick about it, he was easily the most exciting, enthusiastic person. Like we talked about a little bit in the panel, it’s a fun book, it’s an extreme book, but at the same time, there’s such a human element to it. It’s all the stuff that I like to draw.
You said in the panel that you have kind of a weak stomach. Being squeamish like that, how were you able to draw such a violent book?
Jeremy: As long as it’s not real life, I can handle drawing any amount of blood. It’s just black, awesome splatters, so you know, I can kind of pretend it’s something else, I suppose.
Jeremy: Actually, a lot of stuff in this book, really! This is the first book that I’ve actually been able to really let go and be as gross as I want to be at times. But I just roll with it, I’m pretty easy-going.
Do you think working with so many different publishers has helped you become a more well-rounded artist?
Jeremy: Oh, absolutely. I think that I would not be doing what I’m doing today if I hadn’t worked as much as I have. I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful time working in comics, it’s the best medium in the world.
You were previously a television writer. [Side note: Rick used to write for Friday Night Lights, one of my favorite TV shows.] What kind of adjustment is it to go from writing screenplays and TV scripts to writing comics?
Rick: Comics, I think, are a much more efficient, sparse media. You really have to, even little things that you wouldn’t think about, like “he shakes his head no”, you can’t do in a comic book. Learning the pacing, making adjustments to how you can express things, it’s completely different from television. I’ve really had a lot of fun learning how to make that adjustment. Rob Levin, who was my editor for the first two books, really helped me learn, and it was amazing.
How have your experiences in television helped you as a comic writer?
Rick: Well, I had the opportunity to work under an amazing staff at Friday Night Lights, and the characters on that show are brilliantly drawn. I just think that it’s not a show that has a lot of big moments the way that a comic does, it’s not driven by action, and I think that sort of learning how the writers on that show tell a story really helped me to sort of develop my own voice for my characters, if that makes sense.
How is the Berserker story better as a comic than as a TV show or movie?
Rick: I think that in comics, you have a lot more time to explore your characters in a way that networks don’t necessarily have patience for. I think that it’s a smaller audience that’s willing to engage in the characters on a deeper level than a network TV audience would. I think those are probably the biggest differences.
If you had Berserker powers, but were aware of your surroundings, what would you do with them?
Russ: I wouldn’t tell anybody. I would just be out in the middle of the mountains and chopping down trees with my hands. I would be peaceful.
Milo: Probably stay away from people, honestly. It would depend on how controlled it was or how little control I have. When you understand what you have and what you can do, you can either apply it or stay away from people.
Thanks again to the Berserker guys, I had a great time talking to them. Remember to look for Berserker #0 in stores this week, and expect more Top Cow coverage right here on The Quarterbin.