|Fearless Defenders #1 preview art by Will Sliney|
By Paul Montgomery
The Asgardian warrior maiden Brunnhilde has little time for pleasantries, but if you’re to call her anything, she answers to Valkyrie.
That title comes part and parcel with a noble heritage and ancient responsibility. As the last of the Valkyrior, Brunnhilde now finds herself tasked with gathering a new sorority of shield maidens.
Together with an unlikely ensemble of the world’s most formidable heroines—from the street-wise Misty Knight to the intrepid Dani Moonstar and even the newly resurrected goddess Hippolyta—Valkyrie will charge headlong into the shadows.
They do call themselves, after all, FEARLESS DEFENDERS.
We spoke to writer Cullen Bunn about the importance of assembling this eclectic cast of characters.
Marvel.com: Take us through the process, where did FEARLESS DEFENDERS originate?
Cullen Bunn: The origins of FEARLESS DEFENDERS date back to when I was writing the FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS series [with] Valkyrie as the protagonist. About halfway through, I knew I wanted to end it on something that would at least shake things up for Valkyrie a little bit. The numbers sort of played together. The Serpent’s hammers were out there. I read somewhere that the number of hammers and the number of shield maidens meshed. There were eight hammers and eight valkyrie. I thought it might be interesting if there was a reason for those numbers to be the same. Those eight valkyrie had to be the ones to get rid of those hammers and get them out of the Marvel Universe. Once I came up with that idea, I decided that Valkyrie herself would have to reform the shield maidens. It might be interesting if she had to do that from the super heroes of Earth. I came up with that idea and sent it to Tom Brevoort, Matt Fraction, and Chris Yost. I said that this was how I’d like to end the series. I put a little note at the end of the e-mail to Tom that if this flies, to expect a pitch for a follow up series from me in the next day or so. That’s where it started.
|Fearless Defenders #1 preview art by Will Sliney|
Marvel.com: You said you wanted to approach a team book differently. How different is FEARLESS DEFENDERS from other books in your approach?
Cullen Bunn: It’s different from any other team book that I can think of that’s out there right now for a number of reasons. I think the biggest difference in terms of approach, is that I’m not revealing all nine team members in issue #1, or even in the first arc. It’ll take a few arcs before the main team is established. Some people don’t like that idea. I’ve seen some people who really want to know who’s on the team from the very beginning. I’m just not going to do that. Part of what I want to do with this book is to watch Valkyrie try to pull a team together. The benefit of doing it that way is that we get to spend a little bit more time with each of these characters instead of just throwing them all in and having a panel or two each issue be the most you spend with those characters. Most of the characters that have been shown so far are not characters that you’re reading a lot about in other books. You’ve seen Captain America in six other books; if he doesn’t get a lot of face time in a team book, it’s not a shocker. In this case, I wanted to spend a little more time with each of these characters because this is one of the only places you’ll see them.
Marvel.com: So, this is Brunnhilde’s effort to restore the Valkyrior. What has that group meant historically and why is it important to maintain that force in the modern day? What’s their mandate, for lack of a better term?
Cullen Bunn: Historically, the valkyrie were the choosers of the dead. When a warrior died, they were the ones who grabbed the noble warriors and took them into Valhalla. What we’re going to find is that the team has to grow a little bit. The All-Mother has decided that the valkyrie have to represent more than just life after death and the promise of paradise. They have to stand up for all things good and they want them to be this sort of defending force for Asgard and Midgard. What we will find is that the valkyrie have always had a bigger purpose than just being the choosers of the slain. There’s always been another reason for them to be called together. The fact that they’re not there at the beginning of the series is going to cause a lot of trouble. The fact that Brunnhilde has not pulled together this team is an issue.
|Fearless Defenders #1 preview art by Will Sliney|
Marvel.com: You’ve said that there’s a vacuum and a cosmic need for them?
Cullen Bunn: Right. She’s dragged her feet putting together the team. Supernature abhors a vacuum. And because there have been no valkyrie, it has opened the door for some very bad people to do very bad things. There are loads of super heroes that could stop them, but in the end, Valkyrie is going to find that she needs to stop them. She needs to start taking an active role in this destiny that she doesn’t even know she has.
Marvel.com: Brunnhilde has to choose from the champions of Midgard as opposed to the other realms. If she had her choice from the other nine realms, who would Valkyrie choose to join her in the ranks of the shield maidens? Where’s the ideal talent pool?
Cullen Bunn: I think Valkyrie would choose from Asgard, if she had her choice. She’s kind of a snob. She’s basically decided that even though she’s spent all these years fighting side by side with all these other heroes, nobody really lives up to what she thinks an Asgardian valkyrie should be. My guess is that Valkyrie would choose some of the greatest warriors from all of the realms. She would go for the real power players. But that’s not necessarily the right team for her. What she’s going to find is that her definition of what makes a hero and what makes the right team, doesn’t necessarily mesh with the reality of what makes the right team.
Marvel.com: Since you bring that up, what’s the danger of selecting the wrong people for the job? Is there a danger of that power being abused?
Cullen Bunn: You’re somewhat right. There is an Asgardian force out there that she could gift to the wrong person. I don’t want anyone to think that when you read this book it’s about a bunch of characters that have a whole new power set. That’s not what’s really going to happen, at least not right off the bet. Choosing the wrong person, for Valkyrie, is about the reputation and the honor of the shield maidens.
|Fearless Defenders #1 cover by Mark Brooks|
Marvel.com: So what is the boon of becoming a shield maiden? What are you getting and what are you giving up?
Cullen Bunn: There is no benefit whatsoever.
Marvel.com: No benefit at all? There’s just prestige?
Cullen Bunn: Well, I’m playing the long game. There is some benefit in terms of power down the line. My idea is that you won’t see the “Valkyrization” of the characters until the entire group is actually chosen. And then you might see that there are some additional powers.
Marvel.com: What about sacrifice and responsibility? If you sign on to be a shield maiden or you’re chosen to be a shield maiden, is it like you’re a volunteer firefighter? Do you have to sleep at the firehouse a couple of nights a week? Are you in the reserves? What are you giving up?
Cullen Bunn: These characters that will be joining Valkyrie will definitely be giving up a little bit of their free time. They’re not going to be as free as they were. These are not characters that are going to be joined at the hip. Not every issue of FEARLESS DEFENDERS will have every character on the team in it. You will see a rotation of the core group and even some guest stars coming in to fill slots. I don’t think you’re going to be seeing many issues or arcs where you’re dealing with all nine Defenders. But, these characters are going to be saying that, “We’re joining with you and we’re standing at your side against these threats that no-one else will stand against. We’re going to stand by your side against them.”
Marvel.com: How do outsiders, even other groups within the Marvel Universe such as the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D., view what they’re doing? How visible are they as a group?
|Fearless Defenders #2 cover by Mark Brooks|
Cullen Bunn: Initially, they’re not going to be as visible. People won’t be very aware of what they’re doing. It may just seem like a group of super heroes that gathered to deal with this issue. Other groups will become aware that there is another team that is at work. Not just other super heroes and S.H.I.E.L.D., but the public will soon become aware of the Fearless Defenders. When that first happens, that will change things for Valkyrie. At first she’s concerned with trying to decide what makes a hero and what makes the right super hero team, who is worthy of being a hero. There will come a moment where she’s not only dealing with those things but she’s dealing with the celebrity of being a super hero. She’ll also deal with being a celebrity in a group made of all female heroes. How celebrity paints the picture of the all female team. It’ll change the public perception of them and it’ll affect the way other teams view them. It’ll also change how some of the members of the team see their role.
Marvel.com: You mentioned worthiness. Dani Moonstar and Misty Knight are not, strictly speaking, goddesses, though Dani does have some experience with Norse power. What makes them appropriate candidates for this job?
Cullen Bunn: Misty, Dani, and Valkyrie all get thrown together. It’s not like Valkyrie goes out and says, “Misty Knight, I choose you.” Circumstance brings them together. Misty is not someone that Valkyrie would choose. I think it will be very obvious that Misty and Valkyrie would probably not choose to team with each other right off the bat. Valkyrie will come to find that Misty is a right candidate. This is how Valkyrie’s perception starts to change about what a hero is. Misty and Dani, in particular, change how Valkyrie sees these super heroes and gives her more of a down to Earth perspective.
Tomorrow, Cullen shares more about the roster and relationships that make up FEARLESS DEFENDERS!