[SPOILER WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR “FEARLESS DEFENDERS” #1, ON SALE NOW]
When your world is home to immortal gods and undead monsters, like it is in the Marvel Universe, the past never truly stays buried. Sometimes it comes back to haunt you in mundane ways like the consequences of an unfulfilled obligation. Other times the specter of the past manifests in a more fantastic and unusual way, perhaps in the form of a horde of villainous zombie vikings out to maim and murder you.
Both of those events came to pass in the debut issue of the new ongoing “Fearless Defenders” series by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Will Sliney. In today’s edition of CBR’s COMMENTARY TRACK, Bunn, Sliney and series editor Ellie Pyle: join us for a discussion of those events and some of the other pivotal pages of “Fearless Defenders” #1.
CBR News: Here we have Valkyrie ignoring a pretty dire portent, the fact that it’s raining blood. Cullen, the last time we talked you mentioned that part of the reason this series is happening is because Valkyrie neglected her duty to create a new team of Shield Maidens. So let’s talk a little bit about Valkyrie’s penchant to ignore and neglect things. Why do you think she does this?
Cullen Bunn: [Laughs] I think Valkyrie is in full blown Asgardian procrastination mode. She’s in denial.
She’s been tasked with choosing these Shield Maidens. And even though she’s worked side by side with so many powerful and skilled women in her career as a super hero, when it come down to it, she doesn’t see anyone worthy of the title of Valkyrie.
Valkyrie can come across as a little cold because she’s ancient and she’s a demigoddess, but I think this procrastination, trying to delay the inevitable, and ignoring the signs is one of the most human things she’s done.
On this page she talked about how when she was a girl the seers warned her about storms, but she didn’t listen to them. It seems she has a history of ignoring or closing her eyes to things she doesn’t want to deal with, is that right?
Bunn: Yeah, I think she has. In my mind the Asgardians have a close connection to omens and portents, and Valkyrie may rail against that a little bit. That’s something that she’s not completely comfortable with.
Here we have private eye Misty Knight’s first appearance in the issue in a sequence that reads like Indiana Jones meets James Bond. Is that what you were going for in this sequence on the ship?
Bunn: Definitely. One of the things I want to deal with in this book ‘the secret history.’ I even reference that later in the issue. To me that evokes this idea of an Indiana Jones style adventure and uncovering things that in certain cases man was not meant to know.
I think it speaks to some of my sensibilities and the things I like in terms of this sort of swashbuckling, cliffhanger-style adventure.
In terms of tone, will ‘Fearless Defenders’ have some of the elements of other Marvel books where the mythic and modern worlds collide like, say, “Journey Into Mystery” or “Incredible Hercules?”
Ellie Pyle:: We’re kind of going for a blend of the two tones that our two leading ladies both bring to their individual adventures. We want aspects of the Asgardians, but also aspects of Misty’s world of street level adventure. I think Cullen did a great job of capturing the point where those two places meet.
Of course most of this issue is about Misty being thrown into Valkyrie’s world, but later in the series we’re going to see Valkyrie thrown into Misty’s world. Also I think it was important for readers to see Misty in her element a little bit before we took her out of it.
Bunn: I think what you’ll see is the tone, the genre, and sub genres will change from story to story. I think the one thing we’re all in agreement about is that we wanted the book to have a sense of fun throughout.
Cullen, since this sequence marks the first time you’re writing the character, how was it writing Misty Knight? From the pages it seemed like you had a lot of fun right off the bat.
Bunn: Yes. She is a fun character to write. She came very naturally to me too. I didn’t really struggle with her voice. In a lot of ways her voice was easier for me to capture than Valkyrie’s voice had been; Valkyrie being a character I’ve had more experience writing.
So Misty just came pretty natural to me. That may be because I like the character and have liked her for a long time. She’s accessible for me, and I’m hoping she’ll be accessible for the readers as well.
Will, what was it like to draw Misty in these initial scenes where readers are meeting her for the first time in this book? Which of her qualities did you want to capture and convey from the get go?
Sliney: It was a lot of fun. Funnily enough I’m very at home on a cargo ship in the middle of a storm, I’m a member of the RNLI [Royal National Lifeboat Institution] here in Ireland, so I had to laugh to myself when I read the script at first, it was almost as if Misty was coming into my world.
I wanted to get across how skillful she was even with the constant movement that a rolling deck can bring. You are going to be constantly shifting your centre of gravity out there. Even with that I wanted the reader to know that a few henchmen would barely make her break a sweat.
Here we have a scene on a helicopter. Does this mark the debut of the new female villain we talked about in our last interview?
Bunn: It does.
Let’s talk about some of the information you reveal about her in this issue. First, the name LeFay is an infamous one, both in pop culture and in Marvel history. Are you able to reveal if Ms. LeFay has any connection to the Marvel sorceress?
Bunn: I’m able to, but I won’t. [Laughs]
Pyle:: Also keep an eye on next month’s solicits to find out when you will find out that information. There is a plan and we will tell you eventually, but not yet.
Bunn: Yeah, this villain’s connection to the Marvel Universe as a whole will be pretty exciting. My initial plan for Ms. LeFay was to avoid identifying her by name for a few issues. Ellie convinced me though that it was the right move to tell readers her name early on.
Pyle:: I wanted you guys to talk about it for a couple months.
Bunn: [Laughs] Right.
Ms. LeFay has soldiers in her employ with military grade weaponry and an attack helicopter. Is it safe to assume that she’s quite wealthy?
Bunn: Yes, she is not a character with super powers, but she does have the resources along with the sheer tenacity and meanness. Those things combine to make her a huge threat.
It’s interesting that unlike other criminal masterminds Ms. LeFay is right there on the mission with the people in her employ. What is it about her that makes her want to be part of this mission by piloting the chopper for her men instead of directing things from her base of operations?
Pyle:: She wants something done right…
Bunn: [Laughs] Ellie just hit it right on the head. She doesn’t necessarily trust other people to do things right without her overseeing them.
Here we get the introduction of another new character, Misty’s employer, Dr. Annabelle Riggs. Based on the dialogue we have here, and Annabelle’s dialogue and actions elsewhere in this issue, I’m guessing she’s a pretty impulsive character?
Bunn & Pyle:: [Laughs]
Bunn: That’s safe to say. She can definitely be very impetuous. She’s an interesting character to me because I think she kind of walks the line between being reserved and impulsive. And yes definitely in this issue you see her taking the reins a couple times and giving into her impulses.
What inspired her creation?
Bunn: I always intended for there to be important characters in this book who were not necessarily super powered. That’s probably where Annabelle came from initially. Plus, I wanted to write a character that I feel readers would absolutely fall in love with.
Pyle: I definitely fell in love with her! Annabelle is my very favorite. [Laughs] I was just thrilled when I got the script in and it had this human and totally accessible character who is just so much fun.
I thought Cullen did a great job of writing this character where all of these things she studied are suddenly alive and in front of her face. What’s more fun that that?
Will she be a regular supporting player in “Fearless Defenders?”
Bunn: She will be, yes. She plays a very important role in the series.
Will, how did you come up with the look of the character? What inspired her appearance?
Sliney: Cullen set forth a few ideas in the script that I ran with really. I am a big fan [of] characters that people can relate to. Almost every day I see a person in the street that could pass for Peter Parker. I wanted the same for Annabelle, and funnily enough a fringe and glasses can really help with that. Underneath those cosmetics it could be a lot of girls so hopefully that helps the reader emote with her right from the get go.
Here Misty reveals that her arm can transform into version 2.0 of the the Satan Claw. So let’s take a moment to talk about Misty’s bionic arm. How versatile is her arm? And are there limits to what she can do with it?
Bunn: There are definitely limits, but I wanted to make it more versatile than we’ve seen in the past. So without having to do pages of exposition on what the Satan Claw is we can have her arm transform into a version of it. It helps paint the picture that this is a bigger world. And some of these little surprises just add to the fun of the action.
I imagine you don’t want the arm to become like a cybernetic Swiss Army Knife where she can just pull a solution to a problem out of her arm?
Bunn: [Laughs] I may want to do that at some point, but I’m pretty sure Ellie would temper my excitement over that idea. So it will not become Inspector Gadget’s arm. It won’t have helicopter blades and things like that.
It’s Stark tech, though, and Tony Stark has always enhanced his armor. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that since he gave her that bionic arm that it’s been upgraded over time.
Sliney: Now I kind of want Penny from Inspector Gadget to join the team!
You mentioned the Satan Claw as being a reference to the larger Marvel Universe. It’s interesting to note that it began as the signature weapon of one of Marvel’s most vile villains, Baron Strucker, but over the past few years we’ve seen heroes employ it including Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, the Punisher and now Misty. Cullen and Will, what’s the appeal of the device from a visual and story perspective? Is it just that it’s a very cool looking weapon?
Bunn: I think it will be interesting going forward to look at the idea of this weapon being used for evil or good. I’m not going to say I wrote to a certain theme, but that theme has resurfaced in the series.
Sliney: Visually it really puts her over the edge too. If you see that claw being formed in front of you, you sure are going to imagine the scar that it could leave on your face.
Here we have a scene that really felt like the opening of a buddy action movie. It feels like our heroes are meeting each other for the first time and noticing their differences. Was that buddy action feel what you were going for?
Bunn: Yeah. I think for me, out of the entire book, this was probably the buddy cop moment. I’m also pretty certain that little exchange of dialogue was one of the first things I wrote. I then sort of brainstormed the issue.
I just thought that both of those characters have such a unique way of speaking. Misty doesn’t necessarily understand why Valkyrie talks in a certain way. And Misty’s speech patterns are probably foreign to Valkyrie. So while they don’t get “it.” They get the results of what they’re doing.
Pyle:: This was also the first page that Will drew.
Bunn: That’s right! It was.
Sliney: [Laughs] I have fond memories of that all-nighter! I really got the buddy action feel from that script page alone.
I think those differences are the charm in the book for me. I’m a few issues in and each character that has joined the team carries themselves completely differently. I want the reader to be able to tell them apart by their body language alone.
Is this the first time that Valkyrie and Misty have met in Marvel history? Or have they crossed paths before?
Bunn: Misty has fought side by side with a Valkyrie before, I believe, but it was the Samantha Parrington [version], not Brunhilde.
Let’s talk about the reveal of the Doom Maidens here. They sound a lot like Valkyrie and this new team’s opposite numbers. Can you comment on them at all? Or are they something we’ll find out more about as the series progresses?
Bunn: We establish that whoever they are they’re a big threat, but yes, we’ll be revealing more about them and talking about their history over the next couple of issues.
Are these characters new creations? Or are they part of Norse myth or the established Marvel Universe mythos?
Bunn: We created them for this series.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON “FEARLESS DEFENDERS” #1
Pyle:: I’m thrilled by all the positive feed back we’ve gotten so far, and by the fact that we already seem to have a fan base out there that’s just so excited and so supportive. I think that’s just awesome.
LOOKING AHEAD TO “FEARLESS DEFENDERS” #2
Pyle:: In issue #2 you will definitely find out more about the Doom Maidens and we’ll have a couple of surprise guest appearances.
“Fearless Defenders” #1 is on sale now.