Fear Itself

Tuesday Q&A: Cullen Bunn

The writer of Fear Itself: The Deep helps Namor recruit an all-star team to defend the oceans against the Worthy



By Chris Arrant

Water covers 71% of the world’s surface, but when an undersea dweller becomes one of The Serpent’s Worthy, Namor finds out even the ocean’s not big enough for the two of them.

On June 1 in FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP #1, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Lee Garbett pit the Sub-Mariner against a threat so massive even he has to call for back-up. Doctor Strange and The Silver Surfer join Marvel’s first mutant along with the Savage She-Hulk and the mutant Loa. They’re facing off against one of the Worthy—but that’s not all.

As Bunn wades into the deep waters of Fear Itself, he resurfaces for a moment to discuss the nature of this new threat, the team Namor pulls together, why he himself might be the Sub-Mariner’s biggest enemy and more.

FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP #1 cover by Lee Garbett

Marvel.com: Cullen, we've talked before about FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP, but dig into it and tell us what it's really about.

Cullen Bunn:
FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP finds the Namor in—pardon the pun—unfamiliar waters. Here's the Sub-Mariner, perhaps the boldest of the Marvel Universe characters, and he's given the beating of a lifetime. He sees his dream of New Atlantis falling through his fingers. His will, his courage [and] his confidence [are] shattered. He's unsure if he can handle this threat. In this time of need, he turns to his allies and becomes even more disheartened when hardly anyone heeds his call. He's in a grim place. He still puts on a show for those around him. That's hardwired into his personality. But deep down he's not sure if he can continue to fight the good fight.

The title refers to the depths of the ocean, sure, but it also refers to the depths of despair that can swallow someone whole. That said I don't want anyone to think this comic is an exploration of nihilism. This is an action-packed series. I wanted to do something with breakneck pacing, high octane super heroics, nasty monsters, and even nastier villains. I want the readers to have a lot of fun reading this.

And I can tell you that the art team—Lee Garbett, David Meikis, and John Rauch—are simply knocking it out of the park with the work they're doing. There have been some pretty challenging set pieces, action sequences, and characters that I'm asking them to bring to life, and every time I get a page of art, I'm just blown away by how awesome it turned out.

Can you tell us which of the Worthy these heroes will be up against for this?

Cullen Bunn: My lips are sealed until the first issue comes out! You don't want me to ruin the surprise, do you?

The Worthy our heroes go up against strikes hard and fast in the first few pages of the first issue. It’s a villain who has haunted me from my earliest days as a comic book fan. One of the first comics I ever read featured this baddie, and it terrified me. So, I tried to channel a little of my own fear into writing this series. But the Worthy is only part of the problem. A group of villains also opposes Namor and company. To make matters worse, the increasing levels of fear spreading throughout the world makes it possible for these villains to make dark bargains with fiendish powers. Their goal is to claim the oceans—thus claiming the majority of the world—for themselves. I don't take it easy on the heroes in this series. Every time I thought I let them off too easy, I threw something even more horrible in their way.

I guess in that way, I'm Namor's worst enemy.

FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP #2 cover by Lee Garbett

Marvel.com: Namor's teamed with Doctor Strange numerous times, but the new Savage She-Hulk, Lyra, how does she become part of the equation?

Cullen Bunn: It's Lyra's lineage that draws her into the team. For Namor and Strange, she's an unexpected member of the group, but she doesn't have much time to prove her worth before she's thrown headlong into the action. Along with Loa, Lyra adds a fresh dynamic to a group of extremely powerful heroes. They were so much fun to write. Those two characters have become two of my favorite heroes, not just in the book but in all the Marvel Universe.

Many of these characters share a history—is that by design?

Cullen Bunn: The vibe is intentional. This group of characters has a long-standing history of coming together to face otherworldly threats. When Namor finds himself unable to handle the minion of The Serpent, he turns to his old allies for help. Of course, calling on the assistance of old allies and actually getting that assistance become two very different things. The world's in chaos and I imagine almost every hero is occupied with some threat or another. So, Namor's resolve takes another hit when his allies don't necessarily rush to meet his call.

This begs a question, I guess: Just how terrible is the threat when Namor, Doctor Strange, The Silver Surfer, the Savage She-Hulk, and Loa might not stand a chance against it?

Pretty bad.

You've really become a player at Marvel as of recent with this and the FEAR ITSELF: BLACK WIDOW book. With the whole Marvel Universe in front of you, which characters jump out as ones you’d like to write most?


Cullen Bunn: I've got a top secret list of the 50 things I want to do in comics before I die. It's sort of like a comic book Want List, but instead of issues I'm trying to collect, it includes characters I want to write about. A huge chunk of that list is dedicated to Marvel characters. Some of them are pretty big names, like The Hulk, the X-Men, Thor—I could go on. Others are a little more obscure, like Devil Dinosaur or Blackwulf. And then there's a whole roster of Marvel's horror heroes that I'd like to do something with. FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP definitely gave me a chance to cross a few items off the list.

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Thanks for the first feedback at Cullen Bunn since the Q&A!