Keanu Reeves wants to play his BRZRKR comic character on screen someday
This week sees the biggest launch for an original comic book series in decades. BRZRKR #1 received more than 600,000 orders from comic sellers, making it the biggest single comic issue in 30 years outside of Marvel's Star Wars #1 in 2015. But though BRZRKR (pronounced "berserker") was co-created and co-written by Keanu Reeves, it isn't based on any pre-existing franchise. Its main character, who resembles Reeves, is an immortal warrior currently offering his violent services to the U.S. government in exchange for their help researching his forgotten past.
The actor's recent John Wick movies have been a premier source of bloody, on-screen violence over the last decade, and Reeves tells EW that the kernel of the idea for BRZRKR began with a mental image that would be brutal even by Wick's standards: a fist punching through a chest.
"The idea came from me in the sense of wanting to have a character that could punch through someone's chest and come out of their back," Reeves says. "Or a fight sequence where they could rip someone's arm off, or cleave someone in half. It came to me in this milieu of a berserker battle scene, and that was probably around 2017. I was originally thinking of it as a movie character, but then I went to a meeting with the folks at Boom Studios. I grew up reading comics and loving comics, and they were also looking to develop live-action stuff. So they asked me if I had anything going on. I told them this story, and then they said, 'oh okay, well, did you ever think of it being a comic book?'"
Boom connected Reeves with prolific comic writer Matt Kindt (Ether, Mind MGMT), who has demonstrated a talent in past comics for taking simple-seeming premises and twisting them into something smarter and more interesting than readers might have expected going in.
"Going into it, I had the same reaction I think some people might have, like, 'oh it's another eternal warrior comic? What's the spark?'" Kindt says. "Over my career, I've tried to come up with ideas and ways to make stories more interesting. But then, when I met with Keanu for the first time and he was telling me the idea, I was like, 'oh he's already come up with some extra little twists on his own.' So I loved the idea."
Once artist Ron Garney was on board, a creative process began to take shape: Reeves and Kindt riff about story ideas and dialogue possibilities, all of which Kindt copies down like a court stenographer, and then turns it into a script that Garney can understand and interpret. The result is some really efficient storytelling: BRZRKR #1 is full of fight scenes but the reader never loses track of the main character or what's going on. There's enough dialogue, but no fat in terms of narration or backstory that can sometimes drag comics down especially in their first issues; only at the end of BRZRKR #1 is a twist introduced that will carry the story forward.
Reeves, Kindt, and Garney are also quick to credit their other collaborators, including editor Eric Harburn, colorist Bill Crabtree, and letterer Clem Robbins. Kindt, who has occasionally both written and drawn his own comics in the past, describes this multi-person collaboration as "electric," and all involved seem energized by it.
"What's good about it is sometimes Keanu and Matt look over some of the stuff I'm doing and they say, Hey, what do you think about this or that?'" Garney says. "The last time they made a comment it was perfect because it was something I didn't see. They were like, 'could you move this guy so he's doing more of this?' And then when I looked back at my own panel I was like 'oh yeah I get that.' I just hadn't seen it that way. So it's good to have everybody interacting, getting their first impression and giving that feedback. It's all working really good."
Garney just had one question for Reeves before he started drawing: "Is this character supposed to look like you?" As anyone who's seen any images from BRZRKR (such as the ones below) can tell, the character's long black hair and beard mean the answer was a resounding "yes" (lucky for Garney, since he says Reeves' face is remarkably easy to draw). Maybe at some point down the line, the character will cross over into other media.
"I told Ron, 'well, I do want to play the part,'" Reeves says. "But I hope it comes across that it's not just me, it's a character, but yes I am connected to that shape and I do relate to it. I'm figuring stuff out in life as well, I have my own issues, and that's part of how we all draw from our own life experience."
BRZRKR #1 is available now. The series is planned for 12 issues, with three arcs of four issues each. Read the first few pages below.