Exclusive: Cullen Bunn Talks Fearless Defenders, Valkyrie & The Need For Female-Centric Comics
From Wonder Woman to Ms. Marvel, female superheroes have continually shown they cannot support a title in today’s market. At least, that has been a claim from fanboys (and girls?) and comic execs alike.
But writer Cullen Bunn (Fear Itself: The Fearless) and new-to-Marvel artist Will Sliney (Farscape) are out to prove them wrong as Fearless Defenders spins out of the House of Ideas to LCSs in February.
In an exclusive interview, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer sat down (okay, emailed) with Bunn to pick his brain about the new all-female superteam.
Cosmic Book News: Tell the readers who may not have followed Fear Itself or The Fearless -- and you know who you are -- the concept of this book and how it spins out of that big Marvel super-event.
Cullen Bunn: At the end of Fear Itself: The Fearless, the eight Shield Maidens of Asgard vanished, leaving Valkyrie as the last of her kind. The All Mother tasked Valkyrie with rebuilding the ranks of the Shield Maidens. This time, however, these women were to be chosen from the heroes of Earth.
So … Valkyrie has all the greatest heroes to choose from: Storm, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk. It seems like a pretty simple job, right?
But Valkyrie drops the ball.
She simply cannot bring herself to deem anyone worthy to become one of the Shield Maidens. And because she has not completed her task, she has unknowingly opened a window of opportunity for something terrible to return to the world …
The Doom Maidens!
Cosmic Book News: Women -- even Wonder Woman -- have traditionally had trouble in general carrying ongoings in the comic book market place. Do you think this will be a difficulty going forward and how can it be surmounted?
Cullen Bunn: This is definitely a challenge. But I often hear fans lamenting that there are no female-centric books. That all the books on the shelves are “just the same.” Well, Fearless Defenders is the answer to both of those concerns. Now’s the time that we’ll see if readers are really interested in a book like this or not. And … if they are … they should call their store and pre-order the book—NOW! With so many big titles hitting the shelves, it can be easy for new books to get lost in the shuffle … unless you tell your retailer to reserve a copy for you!
Beyond shamelessly telling folks to pre-order the book, the only way I can see to surmount the possible difficulties is to engage fans, answer questions, talk about the title, and (most of all) tell the best story possible.
Cosmic Book News: You did quite a character study on Valkyrie in The Fearless. How will that continue in Fearless Defenders? What other aspects of this goddess of death do you hope to tap?
Cullen Bunn: Valkyrie will be going through a lot of changes in this book. We’ll explore her definitions of heroism and honor, and she’ll be challenged to think of these things differently by her teammates. On one side of the team, she’ll have characters who are essentially nothing more than human. These are women Valkyrie feels she should be protecting rather than fighting alongside. On the other side of the team, there will be at least one character who is immensely powerful -- much more powerful than Valkyrie herself. Both of these characters will put Valkyrie’s point of view to the test.
Make no mistake, Valkyrie goes into this with a chip on her shoulder. No one on Earth is, in her opinion, worthy of being a Shield Maiden. But she’s immediately knocked down a peg or two when she realizes the trouble her procrastination has caused. It will also be interesting to see who she selects to join the team … and who turns her down.
We’ll also explore Valkyrie’s past quite a bit. There are some skeletons in her closet that she doesn’t even know about. When they come to light, they will rock her world. She has a lot to learn about being one of the Valkyrior, being a hero, and being human.
Cosmic Book News: We hear that Misty Knight will be one of the team members, perhaps even a co-leader? What was it about Misty that struck you so?
Cullen Bunn: Misty Knight is a perfect foil for Valkyrie, and the interaction between the two is a delight for me as a writer. Plus, a bionic Kung-Fu fighting private investigator? Misty’s just a fun character! There are so many stories to tell with Misty and so much of her personality and character to explore.
Misty’s world and Valkyrie’s world are so different, and it will be a blast seeing each of these women explore these corners of the Marvel Universe that they’re just not used to.
I think that the team of Misty and Valkyrie is a little surprising for most folks. And that’s good! That “strangeness” in terms of a team is exactly the kind of feeling we’ll be cultivating as we build the rest of the team.
Cosmic Book News: Dani Moonstar is an interesting character in that she is already associated with the Valkyrior from way back in Chris Claremont's run on New Mutants. How will she serve here and what do you hope to do with the character?
Cullen Bunn: It is Dani’s connection to the Valkyrior and to Hel that will pull her into this story. But it’s her humanity that will make her so important to the team. Misty and Valkyrie are both a little time-lost, if you really think about it. They need someone like Dani to ground them and bring them together as a team.
That said, I’ve got big plans for Dani.
If these plans unfold the way I want, I don’t think people will look at the character the same way.
CBN: Any more team members you can let slip [laughs]? Perhaps Valkyrie's old Defenders friend, Hellcat? Knight's old partner, Colleen Wing? A female New Mutant?
Cullen Bunn: I don’t want to reveal specifics about the rest of the team. I know the mystery is frustrating to some readers, but I’m building this team slowly, and part of the fun will be in seeing who joins and who doesn’t. In the end, there will be eight team members in addition to Valkyrie. That’s a pretty big team, so the cast will rotate a little from arc to arc. There will also be many, many guest stars. If you have a favorite Marvel lady, chances are she will appear in the book at some point! I’ll also be introducing a couple of new characters along the way.
CBN: Who is our team's first big bad? Will it also be a female? What can you tell us about him/her?
Cullen Bunn: The first villain to appear in the series is a despicable, ruthless woman who will remain unnamed for now. She’s a new character, though, and she’ll be plaguing the Marvel Universe from here on out. She’s the driving force behind the return of the Doom Maidens I mentioned earlier.
Cullen Bunn: The tone and “genre” of the series will vary from arc to arc. The first story is very Asgardian in nature, but future stories will range from “street level” to “cosmic.” Also, this team of Valkyrior will not be the only group that is coming together over the course of the series.
CBN: What is it like working with artist Will Sliney, who will be making his Marvel debut with this title?
Cullen Bunn: Will is really great to work with. I’m lucky in that we’re collaborating pretty closely on this project. He brings a sense of fun and action to the pages, and his style has gone a long way toward setting the tone of the series.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Cullen Bunn for taking time out of his busy holiday schedule to chat with us as well as Marvel Comics publicity maven Arune Singh who helped make this interview possible.
"Fearless Defenders" #1 hits shelves in February!