Loverd & Haun talk "Berserker"

The word "berserk" is thought to be derived from the historical Berserkers, Norse warriors of great prowess who are reported to have gained an edge in battle by entering a state of uncontrollable rage. Later this year, writer Rick Loverd explores what might happen if descendants of those remarkable warriors were unleashed on the world of today in the pages of "Berserker," a new miniseries from Top Cow and "Heroes" star Milo Ventimiglia's DiVide Pictures. With a special preview issue of "Berserker" on sale next week, CBR news caught up with Loverd and artist Jeremy Haun to get the details on the new series.

"The real Berserkers were guys who wore no armor (some say they fought naked), had the strength of ten men, felt no pain, and killed indiscriminately on the battlefield, ultimate bad-asses," Loverd told CBR.  "And no one knows what their secret was.  Drugs?  Magic?  Collective Effervescence?" In "Berserker," the source of the warriors' strength is rooted in hard science. "The rage is triggered by the same fight or flight response we have when we see a snake or a letter from the IRS.  We've all heard incredible stories about mothers lifting cars to save their babies or men taking a dozen rounds and surviving.  I researched a lot about the human body, including speaking with Dr. William Crowley Jr., a brilliant endocrinology professor at Harvard, who generously helped me work out what a Berserker in the real world might look like."

Artist Jeremy Haun has been a fan of Norse mythology since he was a kid. "Back in the late '80s, there was this book called 'The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were' that I was pretty obsessed with," Haun said, adding that checked the book from the library for the entirety of his junior year in high school. As such, the artist as no stranger to the history of Norse berserkers when Loverd first pitched him the project. "While the project takes place today, it definitely has its roots in Norse legends.  Visually, this is a very modern, grounded, working class kind of book.  Throughout the series, though, I'm taking every opportunity I have to tip a little nod to the mythology."

Loverd's berserkers may be formidable warriors, but they are far from invincible. "Berserkers have medical conditions that tip the odds in their favor, but they're very much mortal," Loverd explained.  "If you 'serk out, you'll be the strongest dude in the room, but there's no reason for a sniper, for example, to fear you.  The limits of their power will most definitely be explored throughout the books. Anyone can die in this book... and will."

When comics characters like the Hulk go on a rampage, there tends be a great deal of property damage but few to no casualties. Not so in "Berserkers." "Bruce Banner has to live with the consequences of being the Hulk, and it's an overwhelming burden. My characters will have that and, additionally, have to wake up with blood quite literally on their hands, knee deep in the muck of what was once their loved ones," Loverd said.  "Before we see Manhattan leveled, we'll see every Manhattanite die ugly."

Loverd's berserkers are split into two factions, the Asgaard and the Midgard. "The Asgaard Berserkers are much stronger, but they don't have control over their blood lust," Loverd explained.  "Midgard Berserkers believe there is a trade off: some control in exchange for diminished strength."  

On sale next week, the "Berserker" preview book introduces us to Farris, a Berserker who prefers to think of himself as a victim of circumstance with no control over his own destiny. "He doesn't believe in controlling his power because it would be an admission that a lot of innocent people didn't have to die by his hand," Loverd said.

We're also introduced to Clint Trucks, Farris' hot-headed but good-hearted best friend. "By the way, it really sucks to be best friends with a Berserker," Loverd remarked.

The first issue of "Berserker" also features Aaron Bural, Rowena Daubott and Ty. "Aaron's story will mirror Farris' in some ways and allow us a chance to see moral dilemmas from multiple perspectives," Loverd said.  "Aaron is your average, working, poor high school student, tough because he's had to be.  His two loves are wrestling and his girlfriend.  By the way, it really sucks to be a Berserker's girlfriend."

Loverd described Ty as a lone wolf. "Think Boba Fett, a bounty hunter with no allegiances.  He also may be the most efficient killer of any of the Berserkers."

Rowena is the best that Midgard has to offer. "She perfectly demonstrates Midgard's underlining philosophy: that it is possible to control your 'serk outs if you don't fully give in to your rage."

The first six issue arc is only the tip of the "Berserker" iceberg. "There are many characters in the berserker universe who tie into a deeper mythology from which we'll be mining a great deal of story," Loverd said. " In fact, there's a huge war going on that will only be touched upon in the first six comics."

It was the work of director Timur Bekmambetov that inspired Loverd to write "Berserkers." "His film 'Night Watch' got me excited about shape-shifters a few years ago," the writer said.  "Every culture has shape-shifters in their mythology, whether it's Native American Skinwalkers or European Werewolves."

In researching shape-shifters, Loverd came across the Norse Berserkers. "I started thinking about how horrifying being a berserker would be in a contemporary setting and wondering what it would mean if there were a scientific explanation for their powers, if they had no control over a medical condition that made them that way."

Loverd originally wrote "Berserker" as a television pilot, but his agent Steven Selikoff advised him that it was "way too violent and edgy" for television. A huge "Heroes" fan, Loverd was excited when Selikoff passed the script off to Milo Ventimiglia and his partner at DiVide Pictures, Russ Cundiff. "When Milo said he wanted to try and make it into a comic, I realized that a 'Berseker' book would create all sorts of great avenues for story."

Ventimiglia and Cundiff already had a relationship with Top Cow, and Loverd is of course a fan of their work. "I love The Darkness, Wanted, and Witchblade franchises, and also think Paul Dini's 'Madame Mirage' and Mark Waid's 'Hunter-Killer' are fantastic books," Loverd said.  "I didn't conceive 'Berserker' as a Top Cow title, but as soon as their company came up as a possible home for it, everything made sense.  They like stories based in rich mythologies, with powers or artifacts that span deep into history.  They also have dark sensibilities and aren't queasy about insanely twisted violence.  It was just a perfect fit."

Rick Loverd said that as producers, Ventimiglia and Cundiff are very involved in the project. "They're excited to get involved and they'll go to hell and back to make sure you're supported," he said.  "They're also doing incredible things to put the word out about the book that everyone will be able to check out very soon."

Jeremy Haun had a great experience working on "Alibi" with Josh Fialkov, Filip Sablik and Rob Levin for Top Cow's Pilot Season , and the artist has been chomping at the bit to work on another Top Cow project ever since. Levin mentioned "Berserker" and promptly put Haun in touch with Loverd. "After that, Rick Loverd and I had this great conversation and we were exactly on the same wavelength," Haun said. "The moment I hung up the phone, I had to do the project.  How could I not do a book where guys go ballistic and punch holes through people?!"

Fans who attend New York Comic Con this weekend will get a sneak peak at the "Berserker" preview book that hits stands next Wednesday. "Berserker" #1 is slated for release this June.

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