Barbarians! Jeff Lemire And Mike Deodato Jr. Talk Berserker Unbound

by Josh Davison

Jeff Lemire, Mike Deodato Jr, and the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics permitted us humble comic enthusiasts of Comicon to conduct an email interview with Mr. Lemire and Mr. Deodato about their recently-completed first volume of Berserker Unbound. I took the opportunity with glee.
Berserker Unbound was a great read and Lemire and Deodato are two of the most talented creators in the industry at the moment. 
As you will see from the questions, the themes of Berserker Unbound were in the front of my head as I conducted the interview. The pairing of a nomadic barbarian king and a homeless man just struggling to survive created an interesting juxtaposition and I wanted to ask them about this.

Berserker Unbound #1 Art by Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin, and letterer Steve Wands
Berserker Unbound #1 Art by Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin, and letterer Steve Wands

Here is the full interview (Spoilers for Berserker Unbound Vol. 1 Ahead):
Joshua Davison: What inspired the idea of Berserker Unbound, the Mongrel King, his world, and the visuals therein? 
Jeff Lemire: Honestly it came from a pretty simple and fun place. Mike and I had worked together at Marvel on Thanos and we both really enjoyed the collaboration and wanted to do more together. I asked Mike what he wanted to draw and he said “Barbarians!” so that was it! I just tried to come up with a sword and sandal story that had a lot of heart and mystery and fun.
JD: How did you come to the parallel between the Mongrel King and Joe Cobb, a nomadic warrior king and a homeless man barely surviving on the fringes of society? 
JL: I was really drawn to the idea that two people, from totally different worlds, could share a bond and find common ground. I’d be lying if I said that The Fisher King, the great Terry Gilliam movie, was not a massive inspiration for this as well.
JD: The Mongrel King mentions at one point that the powerful “Mist” used by the sorcerer were only available to “the privileged, the blessed children of the Golden City.” The Mongrel King, Rhona and Elmy were of the “the mongrels, the slaves, the wretches.” Between this and the parallel mentioned in my previous question implies a class critique at the heart of Berserker Unbound. Was this intended? 
JL: For sure. We live in a world filled with inequality, where people are left to suffer and left on the fringes of society, while others have so much wealth they don’t know what to do with it. This exists all over the world, and, in our story, in other worlds as well. And I loved the idea of giving our Barbarian something to fight for.
JD: Mike, you work often with colorist Frank Martin. What’s it like to have a color artist partner whom you often work with. Does that allow you more freedom in your artwork?
Mike Deodato Jr: It does! I am his biggest fan! I know I can trust him to make my art look better. Whatever he wants to try on colors I am supportive because I know it is gonna be good. Also, because we are friends and we have no shame telling each other when something isn’t working. Which is absolutely the best thing you can get from a partner: an honest opinion.
JD: When we first meet the Berserker, he’s just coming back from battles in the Kingdom of Mists. Will we ever see more of these adventures? Can we expect more adventures starring the Mongrel King and Joe Cobb in the future? 
JL: We definitely want to explore more of this world and the bigger mythology of it. Mike and I have a trilogy of stories planned, so fingers crossed we get to tell them!
Berserker Unbound #4 art by Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin, and letterer Steve Wands
Berserker Unbound #4 art by Mike Deodato Jr., Frank Martin, and letterer Steve Wands

I loved reading their answers, and it definitely fed my fascination with Berserker Unbound. I particularly liked Jeff Lemire’s thoughtful answers about the parallels of the Mongrel King and Joe Cobb as well as Mike Deodato’s enthusiastic joy of working with Frank Martin on the regular.
I look forward to the continuing trilogy of Berserker Unbound tales, and hope the next two are as fantastic as this first tale.
The first collected edition of Berserker Unbound will be released on February 18th, 2020.

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