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Matt Kindt on working with Keanu Reeves, turning him into a warrior demi-god in 'BRZRKR' comic series

By Jeff Spry
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Hoping to spur a rabid new wave of readership, Boom! Studios has partnered with Kickstarter to present the comic book debut of actor Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick) in a new battle-hardened 12-issue fantasy series titled BRZRKR.  

Reeves is partnered up with an all-star creative team including Eisner Award-winning writer/artist Matt Kindt (Grass Kings, Mind MGMT, Black Badge) and veteran comics illustrator Ron Garney (Wolverine, Captain America) to deliver a special venture where fans can pre-order graphic novel collections in regular, limited edition, and premium formats through October 1 via their Kickstarter campaign, which will be shipped following the initial single-issue print run. 

The debut chapter of their blood-soaked series arrives on Oct. 7 and also features the work of colorist Bill Crabtree (BPRD), and letterer Clem Robins (Hellboy). Lock and load for SYFY WIRE's exclusive preview of BRZRKR with acclaimed creator Matt Kindt. Whoa!

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In Boom!'s brutal new series, the world-weary man known simply as Berzerker is half-mortal and half-God, ultimately cursed and compelled to extreme violence, even at the sacrifice of his sanity. 

Now after wandering the planet for centuries, the immortal Berzerker may have discovered a safe haven by being recruited by the U.S. government to enter battles battles deemed too violent and too dangerous for any living soul. For his bond and his bloodshed, Berzerker will be given the thing he desires most – the truth about his unrelenting combat-centric existence…and how to finally end it.

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How did you arrive at this new BRZRKR series and what attracted you most to the concept?

KINDT: Well…I got a call from Keanu – which I’m not in the habit of ignoring (laughs). He had a story idea for a kind of 'immortal warrior.' Which was intriguing to me – I’d been kicking around ideas for that kind of thing for maybe 10 or 15 years. Sometimes with a vampire or something like that – but I could never really get it into an idea that worked for me. So I was super curious to see what he had come up with – honestly hoping he’d cracked it. And he did.

I can’t say too much without spoiling it but he had a great twist on the idea and the origin of the character that was so completely off-the-wall creative I was inspired. Let’s just say…he’s not a vampire (laughs). 

What’s great is – I think Keanu’s focus is [main character] "B," and his inner-life and how he’s dealing with his life and power and fate…but what attracts me to this concept is everything around it. The history that he’s seen and how humanity and those he bumps into – how do they treat him? What do they think of him? Is he a god? Then a monster and then in modern day a scientific oddity? Does a cult or religion grow up around him? Of course it does! I want to know that kind of stuff. When he gets blown up or chopped to pieces…? Where do his teeth go? And his bones? They would become relics during medieval times right?

Can you take us on a speedrun of the plot and your vision for the drama?

Our main character “B” – is born 80,000 years ago and can’t die. He’s used early on in his life as a kind of super weapon – fighting wars and conquering for his father and tribe. But eventually he starts to question his reason for being – his origins – and what his real purpose is. Was he just put on earth to fight and kill and destroy? It’s a fate that is hard for him to escape – and he spends…80,000 years trying to figure out how – bringing us to present day and then whipping us back thousands of years and every time in between.

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In crafting the story, were there any references to Keanu's films that you both wanted to replicate in style or tone?

I don’t think we ever really talked about that. The character of "B" is fully of Keanu’s creation – so there is a lot of him in it – so it probably shares some DNA with a few of his other characters – and it has a TON of action – which we’re all fans of – but I really think this is his most personal “role” I’ve ever seen him create. It’s wholly unique. What’s great is – we have unlimited budget – we can do ANYTHING – show anything – go anywhere. 

With Reeves' name attached to the project, does that add an extra level of pressure to deliver?

Not at all. It’s been so much fun. I think if it was just his name attached to the book? Maybe – there would be pressure on me – I don’t know? But if it was just me writing it - I wouldn’t be doing it, you know? The fun of getting together and both of us getting our hands dirty and figuring out every beat of every page? It’s its own kind of fun. One thing we have in common is our love of process. The end product is great – but if we weren’t having fun doing it? We wouldn’t do it. There’s only a few people I’ve worked with in 25 years that share the same crazy work ethic that I have – Keanu is one of them.

This being artist Ron Garney's first major work outside the Big Two, what does he bring to the table?

We talked about the story and the kind of visceral raw nature of it and he’s been able to bend his art into that more immediate frenetic line that this book really needs. It’s pretty dang violent so you can’t be shy about it. We’re literally not pulling punches.

What elements of the story did Keanu add to the project and how did you help shepherd the narrative? 

Keanu just had this torrent of ideas. So I went back to the hotel room after our first meeting – stayed up late typing ideas to add to it – world building stuff and trying to figure out a structure to fit the kind of story we wanted to tell. Every story is different – the idea should dictate the form – and in this case it just seemed too big. Too big for 4 issues or 8 – but 12 seemed do-able. We could span all of time and space and really dig down into what makes B tick. 

A lot of our working relationship comes from just asking questions – back and forth – what music would he listen to? What does he think about music? What about love? Has he had it? Does he still care about anyone – if everyone you love dies and you’re always left alone – what’s that like? We really just started posing all of these questions around the framework of the “plot” – which I put in quotes only because the plot is really just a way to get the character study of B – a guy who can’t die – and in a way he wants to – not commit suicide – but wants to know that there is an end – that there can be an end to it all – like everyone else. An ending gives your story meaning – but if the days are endless – does anything have meaning anymore? We both really have similar ideas about that stuff so those are fun topics to tackle.

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 This being Ron Garney's first major work outside the Big Two, what does he bring to the table to enhance the story?

We talked about the story and the kind of visceral raw nature of it and he’s been able to bend his art into that more immediate frenetic line that this book really needs. It’s pretty dang violent so you can’t be shy about it. We’re literally not pulling punches.

Can you see BRZRKR being adapted into any other mediums and are there plans to continue this dream team? 

Of course – I would love to. I just spent this last year adapting two of my other books into screenplays and it’s been an amazing experience. The tools you get to play with in movies are so much fun – and so very different.

I think with Keanu involved everyone assumes there will be a movie – but to be honest – our concern is to really just do the biggest, craziest, epic story in a way that only comic books can do. The other stuff will take care of itself. I love the idea that this is going to be someone’s first comic – they found it because they’re a fan of Keanu and picked it up – and then they fall into a new art form that they’re not familiar with. 

I think a lot of people look at comic books as kind of a storyboard for movies but I think that really does a disservice to the power of comic books. The best compliment you can give a book or comic is that the movie is just as good – but different. Comic book power lies in reader engagement – that magic space between panels that the reader fills in.

And I won’t lie – the comic is challenging – it throws you in the deep end right away. There’s a TON of action and it’s insanely over the top – but the way it’s told is really nuanced – multiple narrators and shifting points of view. The full power of what comics can do is going to be on display.

Boom! Studios' BRZRKR #1 hits comic shops on Oct. 7