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Fearless Defenders: Fighting Fear

Fearless Defenders: Fighting Fear Pt. 3

Cullen Bunn shares what his characters fear, thoughts on collaborating with Will Sliney and more!

Fearless Defenders #1 preview art by Will Sliney

By Paul Montgomery

Stewards of fallen champions over countless battlefields, the Valkyrior know fear only too well. Of course, the legendary shield maidens allow it no purchase on their resolve.

Cullen Bunn works in nightmares too, an accomplished storyteller with a heritage in horror. Even now, he readies an endless tide of terror to challenge Valkyrie and her shield maidens in the pages of FEARLESS DEFENDERS.

What quickens the pulse of an Asgardian sword-carrier? What could ruffle the likes of Misty Knight? Where does fear live?

We spoke to Bunn about testing the resolve of the Fearless Defenders.

Marvel.com: Let’s talk about fear and fearlessness, since that’s in the title. You have an extensive background in horror. To what extent do you want to test the Defenders’ fearlessness? How scary are the threats that they face?

Cullen Bunn: The threats they face are going to be pretty extreme. The first arc has them dealing with some pretty terrible foes, but it’s going to escalate. This is not a horror comic, but there is a looming threat out there that is pretty terrifying for them. It would be terrifying for everyone if they were to find out about it.

Marvel.com: Is there anything that these characters do fear, or anything that they should fear but don’t?

Cullen Bunn: Yeah, there is plenty that they fear. FEARLESS DEFENDERS is a little misleading, because I think there are things that they’re afraid of. By the end of issue #3 or #4, you’ll see that there’s something that is very terrifying for Valkyrie. Most of these folks aren’t foolish or foolhardy. I think the only one who is truly fearless is Hippolyta. That will cause her and the rest of the team some trouble.

Fearless Defenders #1 preview art by Will Sliney

Marvel.com: How do they deal with these impossible situations? From where do they draw their courage?

Cullen Bunn: I think that’s part of what it means to be a hero. In some cases, they’re dealing with situations from what seem truly hopeless. Each of these characters would probably draw from different reserves that push them forward. It could be family, friends, a desire to protect other people, the valor of warriors in the past, or their own internal self-confidence.

Marvel.com: Why does Misty agree to take this on?

Cullen Bunn: You’re going to meet another character in the first issue that hasn’t been on any of the covers but she’s very important. Her name is Annabelle Riggs. Misty is drawn in because she’s a friend to her and doesn’t want this woman, who may make some foolhardy steps, to be on her own. Misty wants to be there to back her up if she needs it.

Marvel.com: What about Dani Moonstar?

Cullen Bunn: Dani has a connection to Hela and the shield maidens of death [that] draws her in. She has less of a choice in being brought in to the story. She finds herself very literally under the gun from our villains.

Marvel.com: You created a new villain for this series. Is there something that we can tease about her?

Cullen Bunn: I haven’t said much about her because she’s a slow burn to some degree. I haven’t even revealed her name as I’m writing issue #4. I wanted to put together a villain that would be a real challenge to our characters but I wanted her to be a little different. I didn’t want her to be “She-Apocalypse.” I wanted her to be a character that would deal with issues on her own terms. This character has no superpowers whatsoever. She can’t go toe-to-toe with any of the Defenders in a physical sense. She will prove herself to be a very significant threat. She has resources greater than any of the other characters have and the willpower and desire to see things done her way. She will take any steps necessary and is a terrible human being. [Laughs] She becomes more and more awful as it goes along. She’s a very toxic person.

Fearless Defenders #1 preview art by Will Sliney

Marvel.com: What kind of conversations have you had with your artist, Will Sliney? When it comes to depicting other-worldly horror and magic, what are you trying to conjure, visually?

Cullen Bunn: Will and I talk quite a bit. In terms of a motif, I’m going for something a little more offbeat. Offbeat is the best terminology I can think of. I want the world itself to seem a little offbeat because the team is off the beaten path itself. We’re trying to explore different corners of the Marvel Universe and see different things that you may not see in the other books that you might be reading.

Marvel.com: Will is new to Marvel which should help with bringing in a different tack and different eyes.

Cullen Bunn: We were talking today about what’s next in the series and different stories we’d like to see. We’re on the same page about a lot of things. I’m excited about that. He definitely brings a different style and a sense of energy to the book.

Marvel.com: This is more than a book with a largely female ensemble, but given the climate we live in, that distinction has a special significance. How important is it to get this right? Do you ever second guess character choices in a way that you might not have in other books?

Cullen Bunn: Every day. It’s important. I did not pitch this book and come up with this idea to have it be a statement on women in comics. That wasn’t my goal. But I keep that in mind, it’s always something that I’m going to think of. I’m also aware that it’s something I’m not going to get right for everyone that reads the book. All I can do is try to make the right choices and tell the story I want to tell. I thought it would be a vehicle for some really entertaining stories and a great showcase of some characters that we don’t normally see. My primary goal is that I want to tell a good story. I want to be true to these characters. I do think about every choice I make or story point. At some point, I have to trust my instincts or there may never be a script.

Fearless Defenders #1 cover by Mark Brooks

Marvel.com: What are your ambitions with this book? Any lessons learned that you hope to apply to this story? Any new challenges you want to embrace for yourself?

Cullen Bunn: One of the things that I know about myself as a writer is that I write for the long game. It’s not that I don’t like writing [limited series], but with this I want to write something that will be around for a while. I want to tell a longer story, and that’s my goal with it. I’m realistic to know that this is a new kind of book with characters that may not be A-listers. I know it can be an uphill battle to make sure this book lasts. I’m still approaching this book with a long story to tell. That’s my goal with it.

Pick up FEARLESS DEFENDERS by Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney beginning this February!

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