Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Cullen Bunn

The busy writer shares his thoughts on Captain America, Venom, Wolverine and more!



By Jim Beard
Writer Cullen Bunn impressed readers early on with his juggling of Fear Itself tie-ins, successful creator-owned works and several doses of prose fiction and non-fiction. Now, Marvel continues to keep him busy with a whole slate of high-profile projects, including such stalwart characters as Captain America, Iron Man, Venom and Wolverine.
With all this in mind, we insisted on his involvement in the following interview, knowing we’d score a ton of juicy facts from one of the busiest writers in the business.
Captain America #15 preview inks by Scot Eaton

Marvel.com: Cullen, this July you’ll be joining Ed Brubaker on CAPTAIN AMERICA. What do you admire the most about his tenure to date on the title?

Cullen Bunn: I wholeheartedly believe that super heroes can play in virtually any storytelling genre. Ed's run on Captain America illustrates that perfectly. Cap is the all-American super hero: square jaw, colorful costume, eats a healthy breakfast every morning, salutes the flag. Using that character and incorporating all of Cap's existing history, supporting cast, and previous stories, Ed crafted a tense, richly-layered espionage thriller that ranks with the very best of the genre. At the same time, he never forgot that Cap is a super hero. I love how he's balanced those elements with such grace.

Marvel.com: What does it mean to you at this point in your career to be joining him on the book? How do you see your role for your four issues?

Cullen Bunn: I've been really lucky to work with some of the best writers in the business. I brainstormed what I had planned for WOLVERINE with Jason Aaron. I worked with Matt Fraction and Chris Yost on BATTLE SCARS and FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS. I co-wrote VENOM with Rick Remender. And now I'm co-writing an arc of CAPTAIN AMERICA with Ed. For a guy who loves these books and what these writers have done, it's like a dream come true. With each of these projects, I try to learn something from these other writers and add my own style to the stories. When I joined Ed on CAPTAIN AMERICA, he had an outline for some of the things he wanted to see happen. We worked together to put that into the beats of a story. From there, my job is to put together a first draft script, and then work with Ed to make it seamless with what he's done before.

Marvel.com: Where do you jump onboard the title? What’s going on in the story?

Captain America #15 preview inks by Scot Eaton

Cullen Bunn: The arc I'm co-writing with Ed ties together a lot of the threads that have been weaving through the series over the last few months—Queen Hydra, Codename: Bravo, the Madbombs, etc.—and escalates everything really fast. In this story, the villains strike hard and fast from multiple fronts, attacking American interests all over the world. Most importantly, they attack the hopes, fears, and belief systems of the American people, causing an almost apocalyptic backlash. There is a media fear campaign going on that just needles away at everything the American people are scared of in the worst way.

This arc is big and chaotic and dangerous for Cap and his allies. We weren't satisfied with only introducing a group of ultra-powerful bad guys called the Discordians. This arc has Hydra and riots and aerial assaults and space stations and media smear campaigns and Baron Zemo. Society is actually coming undone in the story, and the clock is ticking. If Cap doesn't make some bold moves, the game's over.

Marvel.com: In CAPTAIN AMERICA & IRON MAN, the duo will be headed to Madripoor; what's your take on Steve Rogers when he's away from the USA? Does he act any differently?

Cullen Bunn: When Cap's outside of the USA, he still feels that he's representing his country. I wouldn't say it puts him on edge, but it sharpens his focus to some degree. During this team-up [with] Iron Man, he's thrown into a crowd of people he's not comfortable around, but Cap can adapt to almost any situation. He comes through like a champ and keeps his cool.

Captain America #15 preview inks by Scot Eaton

At the same time, Tony Stark will need to adapt to a very strange situation. He'll be stripped of his second most powerful weapon early on in the first issue of this arc.

Kashmir Vennema is the connection to the first arc. Cap, with Iron Man's help, tracks her to Madripoor. When we last saw her, she was running a research operation. This time, we find her attending a weapons and technology auction. Obviously, she's got her hand in more than one cookie jar. But we're just beginning to scratch the surface of just how "busy" Kash is—and just how dangerous she can be.

Marvel.com: How would you define the relationship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, both historically and presently?

Cullen Bunn: There's a moment in the first issue of the Cap and Iron Man arc when Tony tells Steve something to the effect of "I never thought you'd judge me." I think that speaks a lot to their relationship.

These two frequently disagree, sometimes to the point of blows, but they respect each other and have a deeper understanding of one another than almost any other heroes in the Marvel Universe. As the story progresses, though, we see some fractures in Cap's view of Tony's capabilities when he's not wearing the armor. Tony, of course, is more than confident in his abilities, even if his armor fails him, and he's a little insulted in Cap's lack of faith.

Marvel.com: If Stark’s all about technology, what do you feel is Steve’s outlook on it?

Cullen Bunn: To some degree, Cap will always feel a little out-of-sorts when it comes to technology. For him, it's a tool that has useful applications, but he'll always be the guy who would rather rely on his own wits, muscle power, and elbow grease. Early in the arc, you see Cap relying on a wide variety of high-tech spy gear as well as his hard light shield. But those gadgets are yanked from his hands pretty quickly. When he sees Tony's tech taken away from him, he's a little more skeptical that his friend and teammate can "hang tough" in the mission without getting hurt. Tony goes out of his way to make Cap eat a little crow.

Venom #19 preview art by Lan Medina

Marvel.com: Segueing over to VENOM, what plans do you have going forward on the title?

Cullen Bunn: With VENOM, this is my first shot at a long run on a Marvel book, and I've been having a ball planning it. I'm looking at a mix of new directions and continued plot lines from Rick's run. I'm introducing a new supporting cast and a change of scenery for Flash. My first story, “The Monsters of Evil,” is as crazy as it sounds, and it picks up on a few leftover details from both the Circle of Four story and FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS. Flash Thompson finds himself on a recon-only mission, Code: Uatu, but he can't seem to keep himself out of trouble when he sees what Daimon Hellstrom is up to.

The following story has a definite science fiction bend to it, and while I'm not allowed to say much about it, it may involve an encounter with another spider-themed super hero—and another symbiote.

The Savage Six story hasn't finished yet, but there will be a few elements of that arc that Flash will have to deal with. In particular, there will be an encounter with Venom's previous host that might very well shake the pillars of Heaven. Beyond that, I do have a bigger storyline in mind. Like what Rick did, I'd like to build toward a big payoff over the course of several issues. Flash will be going to some very dark places, dealing with some unusual threats, and learning more about the symbiote, the supernatural, and being a super hero than he ever imagined. This'll be a fun book.

Marvel.com: How would you quantify Flash's story arc to this point? And what do you want to say about his relationship with the symbiote moving forward?

Venom #20 preview art by Lan Medina

Cullen Bunn: Flash has gone from a hero-worshipping bully to a soldier to a secret agent. He's hit more than his fair share of speed bumps along the way. He's dropped the ball and screwed up and just scraped by time and again. Now, he has to learn how to be a super hero. But it won't be easy. Deep down, Flash is still the bully he's always been. He has a lot of anger inside. He knows it, and he knows he can't control it sometimes. At the same time, he wears the Venom symbiote. Right now, it's under control, but Flash also knows it's only a matter of time before it cuts loose again, and that terrifies him. A terrified bully can be dangerous, to himself and to those around him. To make matters worse, something happens to Flash in the first arc that makes his fear of losing control even more intense. In the second arc, he gets a glimpse of just how dangerous the symbiotes can be.

Over the course of the series, I'll be upping the danger levels for Flash, building the tension between him and the Venom symbiote. Soon, that tension is gonna reach a boiling point. Of course, that'll happen at the worst possible moment for Flash.

Marvel.com: And how’s it feel to be wrapping up your WOLVERINE arc? Where do you feel it hit its most successful note and challenged you as a writer?

Venom #23 preview inks by Thony Silas

Cullen Bunn: It's hard to believe that the final issue of the arc is coming out this week. It feels like I just started working on it! I'm really happy with the way it turned out, and the reaction of received from readers has been pretty exciting.

There were a couple of big hurdles to get past with the arc. First of all, I was following Jason Aaron's amazing run on the book. That's a pretty tough act to follow. I wanted to be true to what he'd done with the character while establishing my own voice. Using Dr. Rot, a villain Jason created, and building on his history and supporting cast was my way of bridging what Jason had done previously and some of the things I'd like to do in the future.

The second challenge was bringing something different to the table in terms of a mind control story. Wolverine's been brainwashed, hypnotized, possessed, and turned into a puppet time and time again. But mind control is a big part of Dr. Rot's M.O. so I couldn't avoid it. In the end, I think the mix of Weapon X programming, Dr. Rot's twisted science, coat hanger surgical procedures, and Logan's method of breaking the spell he's under will add a new twist to the mental puppetry we've seen in the past.

Going into this story, I planned on doing something that would have lasting repercussions for Logan and plant the seeds for future stories. By the end of the arc, Wolverine gets hits with a couple of big whammies that will affect him for a long while to come. I'm especially pleased with some of the developments in his relationship with Melita. Being able to leave my mark on the character in such a way was especially gratifying.

Marvel.com: What kinds of Wolverine stories would you like to tell in the future?
Cullen Bunn: I'm currently working on my second Wolverine arc. Where my first story was sort of a grindhouse horror yarn, the second is a rip-roaring world-spanning pulp adventure. One of the things I love about Wolverine is how well he plays in almost any kind of story or genre. If I had my way, I'd love to see Wolverine in a cosmic adventure all by his lonesome. One of the first ideas I had for a Wolverine story involved him waking up and realizing he'd been the victim of repeat alien abductions. From there, the story would spin into a big space-faring odyssey. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I'd love to write a Wolverine love story. There's some of that bubbling up in my second arc, but I think there's much more to tell.

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      we need that wolverine alien abduction story! make it happen marvel!