The Marvel Universe is an amazing and unpredictable place where a person simply walking around the corner could suddenly find themselves face to face with a powerful super villain or in a situation where the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. With this increased chance of the fantastic happening, things that may cause a person to hesitate or act rashly, like the emotion of fear, can be extra dangerous. These days, fear is an even more hazardous feeling to experience, because it’s not just an emotion anymore; it’s a malevolent entity taking the form of an ancient god known as the Serpent who is currently menacing the entire Marvel U in “Fear Itself.”
The event is a world-wide affair demanding the attention of the full contingent of Marvel’s Earth-based heroes. In the upcoming “Fear Itself: Black Widow” and “Fear Itself: FF” one-shots, writer Cullen Bunn gives readers two tales from the ongoing conflict with the Serpent and those who would exploit the chaos of his rise. We spoke with him about both comics.
CBR News: Cullen, the first issue of “Fear Itself: The Deep” is in stores now,”Fear Itself: Black Widow” hits stores at the end of June and the “Fear Itself: FF” one-shot arrives in July. This event is obviously keeping you quite busy as a writer. What do you find most compelling about the basic set up of “Fear Itself” and how does it feel to explore the storyline with several very different characters?
Cullen Bunn: One of the things I love about “Fear Itself” is how broad and sweeping it is. Yes, there’s a main catalyst for the event — the rise of the Serpent — but the job of his avatars, the Worthy, is to go forth and spread chaos all over the world. So, in books like “Fear Itself: The Deep,” we’ve got Attuma causing all sorts of chaos in his own way. And he’s not alone. He’s backed by his barbarian hordes and all manner of nasty creatures. In “Fear Itself: FF,” we have one of the Worthy rampaging in a completely different way. And even when the Worthy aren’t directly involved, the mass panic spreading across the globe is creating all sorts of dangerous situations, which is what we see in “Fear Itself: Black Widow.”
It’s pretty satisfying to be able to tell stories featuring all these different characters in different scenarios. On one side of the coin is Dr. Strange, Namor and the Silver Surfer. On the other is the Black Widow. They have vastly different power sets and skills, but they’re all up to their necks in the living Hell that the world’s becoming. On one hand, I’m telling an old-fashioned superhero romp. On the other, I get to write a fast-paced spy thriller.
In “Fear Itself: Black Widow,” you’re sending Natasha to Paris on a mission of intrigue involving terrorists. It seems like this would be almost a routine mission for a seasoned spy and avenger, so how would you describe her mind set going into this story? Is she calm, collected and focused? Or does the chaos of “Fear Itself” have her on edge?
Natasha is in a very dark place as she goes into this story. She’s calm, yes, but there’s a rage bubbling within that’s threatening to get out of control. As we kick things off, she’s trying to channel her emotions into a kind of ruthless efficiency. But she might not be able to keep it in check. Even if she does, dealing with your feelings in such a way can be a terrible burden.
Will we get some time to see those emotions build and see the events that set the story in motion, or does the one-shot begin in media res with Natasha on the ground investigating what’s going on in Paris?
This is a pretty fast-paced book, so we’re thrown right into the middle of the story, along with Natasha.
The terrorists Natasha is up against are obviously looking to exploit the chaos of “Fear Itself,” but how dangerous are they, really? And are they Natasha’s only opponents?
The terrorists are the Black Widow’s only enemies in the book, but they have at least one nasty super villain-type on the payroll. In many ways, the terrorists represent the faceless menace that’s always lurking out there. They’re dangerous to begin with, but their own rising fear fuels a desperate and world-threatening plan. On the surface, they are the picture of a calm, sinister group. But the facade is starting to crack and, like a wounded animal, they are more deadly than ever.
So, these terrorists are planning a major operation in Paris. We know from talking with editor Alejandro Arbona that Paris will almost be a ghost town in the “Fear Itself” tie-in issues of “Invincible Iron Man.” Will that be the case here, or does your story take place before that story?
This takes place after the tragedy in Paris. The fall-out from the events in Paris plays a key role in this story.
Speaking of Iron Man, since we know he’ll be on the ground in Paris in his title, will he play a supporting role in this one-shot?
Iron Man’s too busy to help the Widow in this one. In fact, almost everyone is too busy to help! But the Widow isn’t alone. She has some high-flying back-up. When it gets down to brass tacks, though, she has to make the tough plays all by herself.
For “Fear Itself: Black Widow,” you’re working with Peter Nguyen, an artist who has spent some time working on DC Comics’ Batman titles. It seems like he would be at home drawing a highly-trained, relatively non-powered character like Natasha!
I just got a look at the art from the entire book and I think it looks great. Peter’s art has a sleek, fluid quality that works perfectly in a spy story. And he draws the Black Widow like nobody’s business. I met Peter a few months back at a convention. This was right after we found out we’d be working together. He gave me a convention sketch he had done of the Black Widow and it was fantastic. I couldn’t wait to see what he did with the script and he did not disappoint!
Let’s shift to your other “Fear Itself” one-shot featuring the FF. You wrote the Thing before in an issue of “Deadpool Team-Up.” How does it feel to be returning to the character and what’s it like tackling the rest of the FF?
The Thing is one of my favorite characters, so I was happy to write another story featuring him. This is a much different story than the “Deadpool Team-Up” story I did — it’s much darker. There won’t be a whole lot of jokes in this issue.
The FF have been long-standing favorites, of course. When I was a kid, my dad found a ratty, beat-up, run-over copy of “Fantastic Four” on the side of the road while we were on a long trip. The comic was about to fall apart (and bits of gravel had become embedded in the paper), but I read it over and over. It was a creepy issue featuring these possessed kids or something. Maybe I channeled a little of that darkness in this one-shot. Now, if only I could convince Marvel to release a curb-stomped, gravel-caked variant issue!
Without spoiling too much, what can you tell us about the dynamic of the titular characters? How personal a story is this for the FF?
The team’s definitely shaken up in this issue. After the loss of Johnny, they are scared senseless that they might lose another of the family.
Whose perspective is this story told from and which characters do we follow?
This is about how the FF deals with one of the Worthy — and about how the power of the Serpent is a corrupting force. We see this from a couple of different angles.
How would you describe the overall feel of “Fear Itself: FF?” It seems like a classic “Mighty Marvel Manner” adventure with an added element of tragedy.
I think that’s a good way of describing it. There’s a lot of big action in the story, but there’s this undercurrent of tragedy running through the whole thing.
Speaking of classic, “Fear Itself: FF” is being drawn by veteran super hero artist Tom Grummett. What does he bring to this book as an artist?
Tom is a great visual storyteller. No matter how crazy the action is, I think he’s a master at drawing the story in such a way that the reader never gets lost.
Your “Fear Itself” stories appear to be tales where you mash-up the supernatural with other genres. In your ongoing, creator-owned series “The Sixth Gun,” you combine the supernatural with the Western. Do you think “The Sixth Gun” would appeal to fans of your “Fear Itself” work? And if so, where should readers interested in the book start?
I think that if readers like the sort of things I’m doing with Marvel, they’ll dig “The Sixth Gun,” too. My proclivities as a writer show through in all my work, I think. “The Sixth Gun” just wrapped up its second arc and the third arc gets underway in June. A new reader might want to check out the first two trade paperbacks (“Cold Dead Fingers” and “Crossroads”), but they could jump right into the new arc in single issues if they wanted.
Any final thoughts you would like to share about either one-shot?
These books were a lot of fun to do and they let me flex my creativity as a writer. More than anything, I wanted to tell a couple of very different types of stories that had their origins in the chaos of “Fear Itself.” And even though they have some dark themes, I wanted to make the books fun to read. I can’t wait to hear what readers think.