In a highly anticipated U.S. Book Show spotlight, Keanu Reeves discussed his comic book debut alongside his collaborators, writer Matt Kindt and illustrator Ron Garney. The discussion was moderated by Calvin Reid, senior news editor at Publishers Weekly.
BRZRKR tells the epic tale of B., a demigod with a curse for violence. He finds himself under contract with the U.S. government to fight battles that are too dangerous for anyone else, in the hopes that he may one day gain freedom from the endless cycle of violence.
“Reeves had the character, and this twist about an immortal warrior character that was something interesting and never done before,” Kindt says. The nuanced character’s origins go back 80,000 years, to a tribe suffering in battle and in need of help from the gods. A woman gives birth to a boy with a gift—one that grows quickly to be a curse. And that curse is violence.
“Part of [B.’s] character is that it allows us to look at different forms of ourselves,” Reeves explains. “B. has been on every side of history. He’s doesn’t want to kill, but the violence takes over. His role asks us, ‘what side of conflict are we on?’ ”
The inspiration for the project began, like most passion projects, during childhood. Reeves grew up reading comics, especially such superhero series as Batman, Superman, the New Mutants, and Silver Surfer. As Reeves grew older, so did the demographic of the comics he read. As a teenager, he gravitated to such graphic novels as Love and Rockets, which exposed him to different genres. That is to say, he's a lifelong fan, and his passion continues to evolve.
“When I met with BOOM! Studios a few years ago and pitched them on the idea, they asked if I wanted to make a comic book,” Reeves said. “I said, ‘Yes, please.’ ” BOOM! then connected Reeves with Kindt, a lightning in a bottle pairing. “We just kick ideas back and forth,” says Kindt. “Keanu does the line readings out loud, and you can hear right away whether the lines work or not. You have to trust each other.”
Garney shares Kindt and Reeves's excitement for the project. “My enthusiasm bleeds through the work,” Garney said. His art is striking and vibrant, meant to bolster the dynamism of the story as it unfolds on the page. In terms of style, Garney said, his influences include such action comics greats as Frank Miller and Alex Raymond, whose boundary-pushing illustrations "let the form speak for itself.”
The comic's violence, the creators confirmed, is deliberately over the top. Still, Kindt explained, “It’s more than just him going around and wrecking things.” BRZRKR is a tale of otherness, focused on a character that walks between worlds. B. walks a line of moral ambiguity, they added—which they hope prompts readers to inspect their own actions and ethics.
“We investigate his humanness, his passions and desires,” Reeves mused. “How does he survive? And how does he love?”