Cullen Bunn is not yet the household name that writers like Rick Remender and Matt Fraction are to comic book fans, but he's working on it--in fact, over the course of the last six months or so, he's taken over titles from each of the two, currently writing both Venom and the forthcoming Marvel NOW! relaunch of The Defenders. No longer tied to Dr. Strange or the previous Defenders series written by Fraction, The Fearless Defenders is in fact more in tune with the first part of the title--The Fearless, Bunn's 12-issue maxiseries from Fear Itself which saw him take on the Asgardian heroine Valkyrie. In the series, Valkyrie was pitted against Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull, as the pair raced to try and assemble the hammers that fell to Earth at the end of the core Fear Itself series. At the end of the story, Valkyrie finds herself pledging to reassemble the Valkyrior, this time gathering worthy bearers for the artifacts from Midgard rather than Asgard. At the start of Fearless Defenders, however, she's failed to get the process off the ground, putting herself and the world in a dangerous situation. Bunn joined us to discuss his upcoming, ongoing Fearless Defenders series, and along the way we nudged him a bit to see where things stood with the television adaptation of The Sixth Gun, Bunn's supernatural Western, which was first optioned by Syfy but somehow made its way up the NBC Universal food chain to NBC and is currently set to be produced by Lost's Carlton Cuse. ComicBook.com: How'd this title come about? It's not exactly as though Marvel has had a particularly easy go with either female-led series OR Defenders books in the recent past. Cullen Bunn: The idea for the series actually took shape while I was working on Fear Itself: The Fearless. I was trying to figure out a few interesting points to end that limited series on, and I had this notion that Valkyrie might be required to pull together a new team of Shield Maidens from the women of Earth. I sent the idea to my editors, along with a note that they could expect a series proposal from me soon. I think Marvel is willing to take a chance on a book if they think the idea is solid. ComicBook.com: Maybe this is colored by stories from other creators at other publishers, but the idea of sending an unsolicited series proposal for something like Marvel NOW! seems doomed to fail. I'm guessing you didn't know at that point when the launch would be happening? CB: Yeah, I think unsolicited proposals have a much harder time finding their footing. I was taking a chance since the idea jumped into my mind so clearly formed... and I had some time working with Tom Brevoort (who was editing Fearless at the time). At the time, though, I had no idea about Marvel NOW!. Well, I think I knew something was on the horizon, but I wasn't sure what it was. ComicBook.com: There's something really interesting, I think, about the fact that the premise of this book is kind of that Valkyrie is starting out way behind the curve. You told Newsarama that she's failed utterly in putting together a new team, or somethnig to that effect. CB: Because it took a while for the book to be approved, I decided that maybe Valkyrie had been dragging her feet. That gave me a reason why it has taken so long for the team to come together. I thought it might be interesting if Valkyrie basically couldn;t find anyone she thought wasd worthy of being a Shield Maiden. She's a snob that way. And, yeah, because she has been procrastinating, ther doors have opened for something terrible to return to Earth.
ComicBook.com: It also opens up the Defenders connection, because obviously neither Red She-Hulk nor that team name were quite as available a year ago. Was she part of the original idea or did she come as a link to the most recent Defenders? CB: The original pitch was, of course, not for a Defenders title. That came much later. Red She Hulk, though, is probably not going to be a regular part of the team. I've been keeping the final team make-up a bit of a secret. ComicBook.com: Between the team members we've seen and the interviews you've given, the book definitely seems to go off the beaten path a bit...which is something that's worked really well for Marvel in the recent past (Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Daredevil to varying extents, and definitely Venom). Was it intentional to craft an offbeat book or is that just how you write? CB: I think my natural inclination is to go for a more off-beat approach to the team. That said, I wasn't sure if Marvel would take a chance on this kind of team. I was pleasantly surprised that they've been so supportive of this strange team of characters. ComicBook.com: On top of strange, of course, this is an all-female team, which is going to be the thing that probably gets the most ink. And there are fans who are going to steer into or away from the book specifically because of that, none of whom are easy to please. Are you aware of that as you write or is it just like any other project--do it as well as you can and let the critics be the critics? CB: I realize there will be eyes on this book (or turned away from this book) because it's an all-female team. In the end, though, I pitched a project that I thought would lend itself to fun, dynamic stories and characters. I think it will be completely different from any of the other books in Marvel's line-up right now. ComicBook.com: One nice thing about having a group of less well-known characters is that you get to go pretty nuts with them and do some cool things you can't do with, say, Wolverine or somebody. (See also the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League.) Will the cast here be fairly set once they're in place or will they rotate in and out a bit? CB: The book will have a pretty expansive group of characters (especially if you count guest stars). The final team will have 9 members, but that's too many for most arcs. So, the cast will rotate a bit. MAybe you'll see 2 or 3 members in an arc, then another 3 in another arc, etc. When all of them come together, it will be because something really big is happening. ComicBook.com: And you've got "pretty big" slated for right up top, right? You've got a completely new villain you've created who from context sounds a bit like the Lex Luthor type--manipulating and menacing and doing it all without actually throwing a punch. CB: Yes, this new villain really capitalizes on Valkyrie's inability to choose a new group of Shield Maidens. She takes charge and sets some terrible stuff into motion. She'll be a recurring threat in the book for some time to come. ComicBook.com: So is it safe to say that Valkyrie is kind of "the lead" for the first arc, as the team origin and its greatest threat both revolve around her lack of resolve? CB: I think that's a fair statement. I'm really trying to set it up so that Valkyrie, Misty, and Dani play the co-leads, each bringing something different to the table. But... and this may be a good thing or a bad thing... I've introduced a new character in the first arc who might just steal the show. ComicBook.com: The villain, or another new cast member? CB: Another new team member. ComicBook.com: As someone who's done creator-owned work in the past, what do you see as the upside to creating new characters for your work-for-hire material? I know there are people who would rather hold off on original creations if they don' think they're going to "get something" out of it. CB: That's an interesting point, but I try not to think about it that much. To some degree, the characters I create for the Marvel Universe will only ever work in the Marvel Universe. And it's not like I ever have a shortage of ideas. ComicBook.com: Is there a difference in terms of the approach you have for something that you're building from relative scratch like this, versus Venom, where you got a bit of a clean slate with the move, but mostly it's continuing existing concepts with a new twist? CB: Maybe there is a difference in terms of approach, but I'm not sure I'm aware of it. In both cases, I'm trying to tell a story that is something that only I could tell. I go into every situation hoping to bring something interesting, something new, and something fun to the book. ComicBook.com: I first noticed, really noticed, this title becuase you were promoting it through social media. Is that something you'd do all the time or is this title a special case where you think it deserves more of a look than it will necessarily get without a push? CB: I think this title deserves the attention. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle, especially with so many "big" titles coming out. But I try to do as much promotion for all my books as possible. I have to spread the word somehow... and nobody's gonna love me as much as I love me! ComicBook.com: And one last, unrelated thing--any idea whether the Carlton Cuse version of The Sixth Gun is still moving right along? It's rare that you get one of these options that fails to yield a pilot, and then gets MORE exciting rather than less. CB: The project is definitely still underway. There's a lot of excitement over it! I'm really thrilled with what they have planned.