Over the past two years, Cullen Bunn has pitted Deadpool against the Marvel Universe as a whole (2012’s “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe”), literary characters (“Deadpool Killustrated,” released earlier this year), and multiple versions of himself (the recently wrapped “Deadpool Kills Deadpool”).
Dubbed the “Deadpool Killogy,” that chapter of ‘Pool’s life is now over — so what’s left for the Merc with a Mouth to take on in “The Sixth Gun” writer’s next Marvel miniseries? Well, after all of that killing, Wade Wilson — a version much closer to the classic Marvel Universe iteration than the significantly more sinister star of Bunn’s previous stories — is, as teased in the final panel of “Deadpool Kills Deadpool,” taking on the undead in the January-debuting four-issue series “Night of the Living Deadpool.”
January 2014 is a zombie-centric month for Marvel, between Bunn’s book and the release of “Empire of the Dead,” a 15-part series written by genre pioneer George Romero. And, as made clear by the title, “Night of the Living Deadpool” takes cues from Romero’s legendary work for both its writing and Ramon Rosanas’ art, fleshed out with a few zombie “quirks” Bunn said he’s had in his head for years. CBR News talked with Bunn for more on his “new take on the zombie apocalypse.”
CBR News: Cullen, I was somewhat surprised when I first saw the “Night of the Living Deadpool” announcement, because I kind of thought “Deadpool Kills Deadpool” was your last word on Deadpool, at least for a while.
Cullen Bunn: I thought “Deadpool Kills Deadpool” was going to be my swan song with Deadpool as well, but there was some discussion about other things we could have done, and while I was working in the early stages of “Deadpool Kills Deadpool,” I was even pitching Marvel on a second ongoing Deadpool series. I had an idea that I thought could spin out of the “Killogy.”
I talked to [“Deadpool” editor Jordan D. White] a bit — it wasn’t broken. These miniseries, they’ve been very successful for Marvel. The idea was that we would continue doing these miniseries as long as there were some interesting stories to tell, and “Night of the Living Deadpool” was the first thing we discussed. It’s not a continuation of the “Deadpool Kills Deadpool” story; it’s a new Deadpool story.
Right, since those series were all in their own separate continuity.
Yeah, it all started in “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe,” and that character continued on into “Deadpool Killustrated.” We wrap his story up in “Deadpool Kills Deadpool.” And that story really does end. [Laughs] The last issue really wraps that story up. “Night of the Living Deadpool” will be a four-issue story that stands on its own, in its own little pocket universe.
So even though the series is in its own universe, this is still more of a traditional version of Deadpool than you were writing before?
It’ll be the Deadpool that readers are used to. It’s not the homicidal Deadpool that we introduced in the Killogy. I’ve seen some of the initial discussion about what the book might be about, but I still think it’s going to surprise people when they read it. It’ll be a different type of Deadpool story for them.
Well, let’s get a little bit more into the story without spoiling those surprises — now more than ever there’s a challenge of doing a zombie story that’s at least somewhat different, since there is just so much zombie fiction. What’s your approach?
To some degree, I kind of embraced some of the tropes of zombie stories, and then I tried to turn them on their ear a little bit. Once you introduce Deadpool into that mix, it changes everything. [Laughs] He has that chaos effect — any kind of story you put him into is going to twist a little bit. I’ve been a fan of zombie stories for a long, long time — in terms of movies, comics, fiction, for many years. I kind of call on a lot of those things I remember from those stories that resonate with me, and I try to put those back into this book.
In terms of injecting some new life, which is a funny term when it comes to a zombie story, one of the things a lot of people don’t know is that I did a lot of short fiction, a lot of prose in my time, and it’s almost exclusively been horror-based. That’s what I have always liked to write. I have a zombie novel in my heart — I decided never to pursue the zombie novel, because there were so many out there that were so well done, but I had what I thought was a really creepy angle on zombies that I was going to introduce in that novel, and I was able to now repurpose that for this story. These zombies have what I think is a very creepy sort of quirk — that starts out as a quirk, but as the story continues becomes a pretty important story element.
It’s interesting that you mentioned your past writing horror — even though a lot of your comic work has had horror tinges, I never thought of you as a “horror writer.” But now you’re doing “Night of the Living Deadpool,” “Night Trap” at Lion Forge — basically, a lot of horror stuff right now.
It’s something that I think shows up even in the straight superhero stuff I’ve done. Even “Fearless Defenders,” which I’ve always said is an unapologetic superhero book, there are still some horror elements that surface. It’s a natural thing for me to revert to. My creator-owned stuff — “Sixth Gun” has a lot of horror elements, but it’s kind of gone more into the dark fantasy realm.
But a lot of the creator-owned stuff I’m working on now that has not been announced yet — they’re horror stories. I started looking at a lot of the projects that I’ve been talking to people about lately. To some degree, I’m trying to be a little more picky about some of those things, taking projects that do lend themselves more to who I am, and the things that speak to me. “Night of the Living Deadpool” was a natural fit. I love Deadpool anyway, but to put him in this horror situation was perfect for me.
Plus, you get to repurpose some ideas you’ve had for quite a while.
I’ve had this zombie concept for years that I wanted to use, but didn’t have anything to use it in! While it is a Deadpool comic, it’s very much a zombie story. It’s not just a Deadpool story with zombies on it. It is a new take on the zombie apocalypse, with my brand of zombies in it.
And the interior art is by Ramon Rosanas?
Yes. And he’s kind of amazing.
He was on quite a few Marvel books a few years ago, but it feels like it’s been a while.
He’s been working, just maybe not a lot in the US. When Jordan said, “How about this guy?” and sent me the art, I was just blown away. The stuff he was sending was all very real world, very grounded artwork. It was gorgeous, but there were no zombies in it, for sure. In the first script, I wrote a lot about different zombie movies — paragraphs and paragraphs examining the special effects makeup of Tom Savini, who did the effects on “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead,” and how his bites looked, and things like that. “This is how zombie bites should be portrayed in the comic.” Because I just wasn’t sure if zombies were something that Ramon would be into. He has jumped in with both feet.
I think in a zombie story, it could be easy to make all the zombies look the same, and make them look kind of boring. But even in these panels with hundreds of zombies, each zombie has its own personality.
It’s interesting that it’s called “Night of the Living Deadpool,” and it’s debuting the same month as Marvel’s “Empire of the Dead” story, written by “Night of the Living Dead’s” George Romero.
I’m hoping that Mr. Romero likes this approach! [Laughs] I’m hoping he reads it and enjoys it, because he has been a big influence on me for many, many years. His movies, the original “Dead” trilogy, would probably be what I would rank up there as some of the top influential movies for me.
In a similar sense, it seems deliberate that the art is mostly black and white.
Yes! It’s a mostly black-and-white, grey tones book, which is obviously sort of a nod to the original “Night of the Living Dead.” I think we even mention in the script a few times that we’d be using chocolate syrup instead of fake blood here, because of the black and white. [Laughs] The twist on that is that Deadpool, since he is such an odd insertion into that kind of world, shows up in color throughout the story. I think the colors in the story really have a big impact, and really have a big role to play in how the story unfolds. In the script, I’m really trying to be conscious of the color aspect — during flashbacks, for instance, before the zombie apocalypse, the world is in color, that kind of thing. We play with the colors in the story quite a bit.