Not long after teaming up on Marvel's Thanos, comic creators Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato reteamed for Berserker Unbound, a gruesome creator-owned book the combines the world's of Conan the Barbarian with a modern superhero tale. The series' initial four-issue mini-series just wrapped and shortly after the calendar turns to 2020, Dark Horse will be releasing the entire story in a collected hardcover edition. Ahead of the release, ComicBook.com spoke with Lemire and Deodato through e-mail, and here's what they had to say about Berserker, creative liberties, and more!
Jeff, you’ve got plenty of irons in the fire, right? Continually building out the Black Hammer-verse for Dark Horse, some projects for DC, and all loads of other creator-owned projects. With so many things of all shapes and sizes, where’s an idea like Berserker Unbound come from?
Jeff Lemire: Berserker came from a simple desire to work with Mike again, and to do something different and fun that played to all of his strengths. I had never really done a fantasy-type story, and grew up watching reruns of the Conan and Red Sonja movies on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid. I thought it would be an interesting genre to play with and for Mike to bring to life.
Mike, Berserker is one of the first projects you had the chance to work on after announcing you’d be leaving Marvel. Certainly, since it’s a creator-owned book, there are fewer requisites when dealing with the characters and making sure it’s on-brand and the like. Tell us a little bit about the freedoms involved with something like Berserker Unbound rather than doing, say Savage Avengers or Infinity Wars.
Mike Deodato Jr.: I must confess, I was not used to so much creative freedom, and I loved it. Being able to decide whatever I wanna do with our character is so reassuring as an artist. I was definitely able—and felt willing—to experiment more than when I was working on other books.
Speaking of those freedoms, Berserker is chock full of quite gnarly art — blood, guts, beheadings, decapitations, the whole gamut. Was that the only way you two wanted to portray the character?
MD: Visually, I just wanted it to be not only the most beautiful barbarian book I’ve been able to draw, but the most beautiful barbarian book ever. I don’t think it’s for me to say if I accomplished that, but that was my goal.
Jeff, the only other book/franchise you’ve done with Dark Horse is the Black Hammer world of stories. Do you anticipate Berserker Unbound moving into a franchise/universe like BH or do you think it’ll be a self-contained story in and of itself?
JL: I think handing one universe, in addition to all my other projects, is probably more than enough right now. Berserker definitely has room to grow and more stories to tell, but I don't see it as something that spawns multiple titles. I would want to keep the story focused on Berserker and Cobb and their friendship.
You and Mike have now worked together on this. You also worked on that killer Thanos story a few years back. Is there anything else between the two of you in the works?
JL: I think Mike and I are interested in seeing where Cobb and Bez go next. We have definitely had conversations about this and some ideas have been tossed around. I’d love to work with Mike again, and I think this world we created has a lot of potential for us to explore.
So, Unbound’s done. Mike, you’ve said you’re no longer doing exclusive work with Marvel. What’s next on the slate for you? More Berserker? More creator-owned? What projects are you looking forward to most?
MD: I am looking forward to the potential to do more Berserker Unbound with Jeff! I can’t wait to tell more stories of Berserker and Cobb. In the meantime, I have been working with J. Michael Straczynski on a new series called The Resistance that will be launched in March 2020 by AWA Studios.
The Berserker Unbound hardcover collection is due out Q1 2020 and can be preordered here.