Going 'Berserker' - Rick Loverd Talks New Top Cow Series

Berserker #2

Cover to Berserkers #1
Cover to Berserkers #1
Cover to Berserker #1

Blind rage might be a concept that more and more people have become familiar with in the last year or so. Anyone with a 401k plan has probably fought the urge to do some damage to something - be it an inanimate object like a chair or that financial advisor that talked up putting you investment dollars in Citigroup stock.

But what makes us human is the ability to resist the rage. In writer Rick Loverd's new Top Cow series Berserker, he introduces us to some people, who descended from Norse Viking warriors, don't have that off-switch. In fact, when switched on, nobody and nothing is safe in their immediate vicinity.

We recently spoke with Loverd about the origins of the story, how Heroes co-star Milo Ventimiglia might have saved it from collecting dust in a draw, and the visceral appeal of the sort of carnage he promises in this day and age.

Newsarama: Rick, we've previously talked to your artist Jeremy Haun about Berserker, but this is our first opportunity to speak with you. Before talking about the series specifically, can you tell readers about your background as a writer, and whatever other relevant professional experience you have?

Rick Loverd: I came to Hollywood in 2001, dreaming of becoming a writer. I worked my way up from an agent’s assistant to developing my own material at production companies around town, mostly TV pilots. Along the way I wrote a television pilot script on spec called Berserker. Little did I know it, but that was the start of my life in comic books.

NRAMA: Okay, now if I we understand it correct, the comic book series is based on an original screenplay or pitch that you wrote, that found it’s way to Milo Ventimiglia’s production company? Correct? Can you fill us in on the secret origin of Berserker, with as much detail as you’re willing to share with readers.

LS: I stumbled upon stories about the historical Norse Berserkers while doing research on another idea and I immediately got excited to write a script with these creatures at the center, but updated to a contemporary setting. What would a berserker’s blind rage look like on a city street, or in an office? I obsessed over Norse Mythology for about a month and then I cranked out a couple of drafts. After a few rounds of tinkering, I gave it to my agent, who thought it was way too violent for television - he was like “I can't do anything with this.” I was crushed by the realization that you can’t rip off a man’s clavicle and stab him in the eye with it during prime time.

page from 'Berserker #1'
page from 'Berserker #1'
page from 'Berserker #1'

I resigned myself to the idea that Berserker would become one of those scripts that you always love but that’s doomed to sit in a drawer. Next thing I know, my agent’s calling me because he gave it to Milo Ventimiglia who thinks my passion project would make a good comic book. A week later, I found myself sitting across from Milo and Russ [Cundiff, Ventimiglia's partner in their Divide Pictures production company – ed] in a diner over a couple of eggs, as they told me they knew people at Top Cow who might like it.

Shortly thereafter, I was sitting at a conference table with a life-sized model of the Witchblade - made to look like Sara Pezzini herself was about to emerge through its wood top - across from Top Cow's Matt Hawkins and Filip Sablik, with the opportunity to make Berserker.

NRAMA: Now we’ve feature stories on the series a couple of times by now, but as the concept’s creator, can you summarize it for us in your best Hollywood pitch speak?

LS: It's a book about people discovering that they have an ancient Norse power, a curse that will haunt them the rest of their lives. We follow them as they learn that they must choose a side in a war that will determine the fate of humanity.

NRAMA: Can you cite any influences on the concept? It’s been a few months since we talked to Jeremy but since then Fight Club has come to mind.

LS: I do love Fight Club. Funny enough, you’re the first person to ask me that question. Of course Norse Mythology influences this project heavily not just with its stories, but with its characters as well. Other projects/characters that come to mind - Jekyll and Hyde, the Hulk, Wolverine, Punisher, Hunter-Killer, 100 Bullets, and the Brubaker Criminal books.

From film and TV there's -The Shield, Aliens, Terminator, 28 Days Later, and, yeah, definitely Fight Club.

NRAMA: Perhaps this is anecdotal, but there seems to be a growing interest (at least in the comic book world) in Vikings. Image Comics has a new buzz series coming up. Vertigo has been publishing Northlanders for a while now. Is there something about Vikings that makes it appealing for this particular time and place?

LS: I didn’t mean to have my finger on a Viking zeitgeist, though I’d happily lead the charge to get people more interested and aware of Norse Mythology. I don’t know, if people are, in fact, having some sort of resurgent interest in Viking lore, or what it might be that’s drawing them in at this particular moment in time.

page from 'Berserker #1'
page from 'Berserker #1'
page from 'Berserker #1'

One of the things I related with most in Berserker is the idea that sometimes, no matter what you do, there are circumstances beyond your control and understanding that will wreak havoc in your life (mortgage-backed derivatives and the stock market come to mind) - what defines us as people is how we pick ourselves up from the wreckage, keep going, and even thrive.

NRAMA: Speaking of wreckage, in our conversation Jeremy made it clear that this is a pretty violent story, and for readers to expect a generous amount of blood and torn limbs. Would you agree with him? And pardon what might sound like a pointed question but is really intended without judgment, what’s the appeal of that sort of visceral carnage to you?

LS: Partly, I’m just twisted. I laughed at the bunny boiling scene in Fatal Attraction.

Another piece of the puzzle for me is a desire to explore the human animal. Civilization, thankfully, trains so much of our blood lust out of us, but it’s never totally going to be gone. Why else would the northbound lane on the freeway slow down when there’s an accident headed south but a sick primal instinct to see blood? It's an idea these books play on and it’s what hopefully makes Berserker cathartic to readers.

Who doesn’t have the urge to 'serk' out sometimes? I’m probably the most even-tempered guy you’ll ever meet and, if I sometimes want to rip off mandibles and cause blunt trauma with them, there must be other people who will find the same release I do in thinking about this stuff.

NRAMA: Now as creator of what was conceived as a live-action TV show and writer of the comic book, has the concept developed at all from the original idea to what it is now, because it’s being executed as a comic book first?

What, if anything, has changed? Has Jeremy been executing what’s in your head to the best of his ability, or has he brought anything to the table that has made you re-imagine an original concept?

LS: A lot has changed, but the bones have stayed the same. Nothing’s been so radically altered that you wouldn’t recognize the Berserker story if you read the original screenplay today. Everything we tweaked was in an effort to adapt the story to the comic form or just plain make it better. I know I’ve never written a script that I wouldn’t make changes to if I had a chance to work on it again.

Berserker #2
Berserker #2
cover to 'Berserker #2'

Specifically, the biggest change was in [lead character] Aaron’s story. We wanted to explore his family a little more than was in the original conceit and let the readers get to know him before we ruined his life. In the screenplay, Aaron 'serks' out near the first act break (and those are TV act breaks, so that’s really fast).

Jeremy’s brought a lot of story ideas to the table. He and I talk about the book a lot and he’s makes it better every day we work together.

NRAMA: How the response been to the #0 issue, both from a sales and reception standpoint?

LS: I don’t know the exact sales numbers, but I’m told by Top Cow that it’s been doing well. I know they have high hopes for the rest of the series, and so do I. It’s a story that means a lot to me and I really want to do more after this order’s done.

As far as I can tell, the reception has been pretty good from the comic community. Most of the reviews I’ve read gave the story good or very good marks, and love the art. Considering that there were only eight pages in book #0 to tell the story, I’m very happy with that.

NRAMA: So what’s the future of Berserker looking like at this stage? Is there any news on the TV/movie front? Anything about its future you can share?

LS: I’d love to see Berserker make it to the screen one day, and we have had some interest on that end, but the first thing I want to do is give Top Cow fans a good story with some twists they hopefully didn’t see coming and some nice big torn-and-bloody endings. I'm not focusing on a feature right now.

As for the comic, I’ve been thinking a lot about where to take it in the future and I have two words for you - disco berserkers. That’s right, you heard it here first.

NRAMA: Well as tempted as we are to end on that note, any last impressions you want to leave readers with as they await their chance to check out issue #1?

LS: @#$%’s about to get messy. Can I say @#$%?

NRAMA: Well, sort of…

Related:

Artist Jeremy Haun Talks Top Cow's 'Berserker'

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