“BEARDZZERKER” Creator Don Chin Talks Heavy Metal, Keanu, and What He Really Thinks of Millennials! (Interview)

Veteran comic book creator and Parody Press founder Don Chin recently launched his second Indiegogo campaign, this time for BEARDZZERKER, a parody of Boom Studios’ BRZRKR book featuring Keanu Reeves. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to discuss his campaign, which is still available to support here.

As always, the answers below are represented as closely to “as written” as possible with only minimal edits.

The Splintering: First off, I love how you launched the BEARDZZERKER campaign on April Fool’s Day. I have to believe that was intentional, yes?

Don Chin: We were originally thinking of doing on February 29, but we would have had to wait until 2024.

TS: Before we get too into the weeds, tell us about BEARDZZERKER – the man. What exactly makes him tick as a protagonist?

DC: Ed Brogan, aka BEARDZZERKER is essentially a 1980’s teenage high-school teenager like Ted, from the Bill & Ted Movies, who goes into a cold-medicine induced coma for over 30 years. The government implants a chip into his brain and has been downloading combat training and action movies into him, kind of like Neo. So when he is awakened in 2021, he’s in a totally shredded warrior body, but still has the innocent mentality of a teen who just wants to play rock n’ roll with his buddy. The world is a much crazier place now than it was when he remembers. He makes a deal that if he can defeat the problems that no one else has been able to, he’ll be reunited with his friend so that they can jam one more time for old time’s sake.

TS: From the campaign page, it’s pretty obvious that you’re spoofing not just the BRZRKR book by Boom Studios, but also the Bill and Ted series and even Key and Peele’s Keanu movie. Can we expect for you to lampoon the full gambit of Keanu Reeves’ career? Perhaps Johnny Mnemonic, A Walk in the Clouds, or Much Ado About Nothing?

DC: Besides the Bill and Ted influence, you’ll see us send up The Matrix, John Wick, and reference Speed. If we do a second issue, I’ll definitely have to look at those titles you mentioned for inspiration.

TS: What do returning fans of your work have to look forward to in BEARDZZERKER? Might there possibly be a guest appearance by the X-Farce or the Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters?

DC: No X-Farce or Hamsters cross-overs in this book, but that’s a great idea. However, the artist on BEARDZZERKER is Bill Maus, who is the co-creator of X-Farce and my longtime collaborator and Co-Founder at Parody Press. You’ll get a lot of rapid fire MAD Magazine type humor. On our BEARDZZERKER movie poster homage, I jokingly say it’s rated “PG” for “Pretty Gnarly” and list the following content “warnings”: Comic violence, Atrocious Puns, Cat-Fu and Junk Food Use.

TS: I noticed that the female support character is named Holly Berry. There was a girl at my elementary school named Holly Berry. Did you name the character after her?

DC: That’s pretty funny about your schoolmate’s name. I bet she got teased a lot during Christmas time, eh? I actually modeled her after Halle Berry, who was Keanu’s co-star in John Wick 3. We made her a tough and sassy farmer’s daughter in our book who helps BEARDZZERKER fight off a ravenous horde of murder hornets invading the U.S.A.

TS: Your promo video lists “self-absorbed millennial musicians” as an example of villains for the BEARDZZERKER to eliminate. Did you have any particular “millennial musicians “ in mind? How do you differentiate a “self-absorbed millennial” from a regular millennial?

DC: Oh yes, BEARDZZERKER winds up at the Annual EMPTY-TV Music Awards at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall where he’s met with overwhelming boo’s and rotten fruit tossed at him, because Heavy Metal artists get no respect these days from millennials. In return for this humiliation, he lays waste to those pompous musicians in an epic John Wick-ish fight scene! If anyone remembers what Boris The Bear did to massacre funny animals like the Ninja Turtles & The Black Belt Hamsters back in the 1980’s, this is what our hero is going to do to several recognizable characters that might resemble Pitbull, Nicky Minaj, Adam Levine, Harry Styles, BTS, and even a leathery Madonna, who’s definitely worn out her 15 minutes of fame, in my opinion.

TS: You have several variant covers featuring other indie comic superstars such as Reignbow the Brute, Shi, and USAssassin. Which of these covers is your favorite?

DC: Asking me that is like asking me “which of your children is your favorite?” Reignbow The Brute Vs. Beardzzerker is a phenomenal acrylic painting by Preston Ascevedo done in a Frazetta “Death Dealer” style. Then you have Shi drawn by Bill Maus, who does amazing female-driven comics like his own NIRA X and colored by Matt Yackey who is well known for doing work with Rob Liefeld and Dan Fraga. And the USASSASSIN one is a patriotic-themed wrap around cover by his co-creator Mike McMahon, and the back cover has Bazooka Dog being teamed up with Cat Stevens, who is BEARDZZERKER’s drum-playing cat, and they are wreaking havoc along with their human masters.

Seriously, I love them all and am so appreciative for Ethan Van Sciver, Billy Tucci and Mark Poulton and Mike McMahon allowing us permission to include their awesome characters in our initial campaign. It also doesn’t hurt having Caanan White, Dax Martian and Thad Rhodes doing the other covers, all of whom are amazing.

TS: How do you generally approach the balance between the humor and action in your parody books? Was the process any different for BEARDZZERKER?

DC: I like to imagine I’m writing a comic book story that would also be a fun movie. There are different dilemmas that Ed has to solve that are poking fun at real world issues. If you can take a step back and look at things with a sense of humor, there are often nuggets of laughter to be found. Back in the 1980’s the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters had satirical encounters with fanatical Colonel Sanders worshipping racists (The Coo Clucks Clan) and put them in their place, and we also get pretty wacky with BEARDZZERKER’S adversaries.

TS: With all of the work that’s been done on your BEARDZZERKER project so far, it’s fairly obvious that you started work on it before the big Netflix announcement. That had to get you pretty jazzed, am I right? 

DC: Yes, that is very exciting news about the Netflix BRZRKR movie and possible animated series. I’m happy for Keanu and BOOM Studios and wish them the best for their creation. If our first issue is met with good reception, I hope there will be more material for us to parody, but I think he can also stand alone in adventures that are not just satirical.

TS: Have you read the BRZRKR comics before envisioning this project, or were you already mulling over ideas when BRZRKR was still humble crowdfunding campaign?

DC: I just picked the BRZRKR book up a week ago from a comics store and haven’t read it yet. My script for the comic was already done by Fall 2020 and I used all of the imagery that was in the Kickstarter launch and watched interviews with Keanu that I could find about the comic. Right after I saw Keanu’s teaser ad, I thought this would be comedy gold to spoof in our campaign, which is exactly what we did on our trailer for the book.

TS: In recent years, it seems as though parody projects have taken a big hit, with the loss of MAD Magazine being the clear standout. How has crowdfunding changed the landscape for you with BEARDZZERKER and otherwise? 

DC: Crowdfunding connects you to a dedicated and loyal audience in a way normal distribution channels doesn’t. You are catering to a specialty niche whereas going through a large distributor who ships to local comic book stores is more widespread. In the direct market, you don’t really interact with the fans other than via email or on the convention circuit, which is not really viable in this environment. Now you are seeing creators able to make a living selling 1,000 copies or less via crowdfunding, where you really couldn’t do that if you went the traditional route.

TS: Have you ever wanted to do a specific parody project, but were too afraid of a legal fight? Has anyone ever tried to push back on you or your projects from a legal standpoint?  

DC: I haven’t really shied away from doing anything I wanted to parody in my writing and publishing career. We normally only parody things we actually enjoy, and we try not to be malicious or mean-spirited. I think back in the 1990’s Marvel sent us a warning to stop publishing our Punisher parody character, The Pummeler Vs. Sgt. USA, which would have been our third Pummeler title. So we didn’t go through with that one, which is a shame as it had a pretty rad Sam Kieth cover.

TS: This is your second crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo.  How did your first experience with X-Farce (still in-demand!) inform what you are doing now with BEARDZZERKER? Any “lessons learned?”  

DC: I think X-Farce Reloaded was a good way to get our feet wet in the crowdfunding arena. X-Farce involved about 14 different creators as it was an anthology with 8 stories, so I’m learning to simplify and streamline the creative team. Other than the cover artists, the creative team on BEARDZZERKER is 5 people, which makes it a lot easier to manage.

Another thing we are doing on our second campaign is having a lower cover price. X-Farce was $25 for a 48 page book, and BEARDZZERKER will be $15 for a 32 page book. We’ll offer some nice discounts on bundles that have all variants covers, along with original art tiers.

I also learned to set my stretch goals lower, so our first unlocked stretch goal will be at $7,000 and go up in $1000 increments from there. We have some fun items in store, including BEARDZZERKER guitar picks, Rock Star Satin Ribbon bookmarks, trading cards, Cat Stevens die-cut stickers for the first 25 backers, and even costume beards on some of the tiers.

TS: Is there any chance of a sequel or follow-up if BEARDZZERKER does well? Or does being a parody limit it to a one-time deal?

DC: I would definitely like to continue this character beyond this adventure, and the first issue does leave it open ended for a sequel. And while we are doing an obvious riff on Keanu’s BRZRKR, I hope that fans of both will want to see more of our hero, as he is a lot of fun.

TS: A year from now, how would you describe success for the BEARDZZERKER project?

DC: Is a BEARDZZERKER deal at Netflix hoping for too much?

TS: Last but not least…. What would you do with the power of the Beyonder?

DC: Free Girl Scout cookies for EVERYONE!

We would like to once again thank Don Chin for taking the time to answer our questions and to have some fun with us. You can visit the BEARDZZERKER Indiegogo page here. And of course, thanks for reading!

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