Cullen Bunn is no stranger to writing monsters, having populated the worlds of his creator-owned series “The Sixth Gun” and “Helheim” with all manner of demons, devils and other ne’er do well creatures. But in “Terrible Lizard,” Bunn has to think a little bigger — a lot bigger, actually — for his all-ages, Oni Press published, T-Rex-starring tale set to hit stores in November.
Joined by artist’s Drew Moss and Ryan Hill, Bunn’s story about “a girl and her dinosaur-fightin’ dinosaur” is a time-tossed tale of adventure, family and — naturally — gigantic lizards battling each other.
CBR News spoke with Bunn about his feelings on the importance of all-ages comics material and his love of the giant lizards, as the writer shared a bit about what readers can expect from his miniseries and reveals why we have plastic dinosaur toys, roadside attractions and Jack Kirby to thank for the creation of “Terrible Lizard.” Plus, an exclusive, extended preview of the first issue!
CBR News: What’s the basic premise of “Terrible Lizard?”
Cullen Bunn: This is the story of a girl and her dinosaur-fightin’ dinosaur.
Our lead character, Jess, lives with her father at a government-funded think tank/laboratory. Her father is the scientist in charge of all temporal displacement projects. One of those projects tears a hole through time and space, pulling a T-Rex into our world. This dinosaur quickly bonds with Jess, and it proves to be more mischievous than monstrous. But experiments of this nature always have complications — and the T-Rex comes with a doozy.
Residual temporal energies that are clinging to the dinosaur are pulling other creatures into our world. Unlike the T-Rex, these creatures are hideously mutated and bent on destruction. Because the dinosaur is the focal point for these gateways through time and space, he is quickly marked for death by the government. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Jess and her prehistoric friend, so they run away, pursued by the military as well as mutants.
From those humble beginnings, readers can expect to have a lot of fun! This is the story of friendship, of the relationship between a father and daughter, and of lots and lots of monster fighting action!
What defines Jessica as a character?
I think Jess is a little lonely. She is the only teenager living at Cosmos Labs. Her mother is gone and her father is consumed by his work. She feels out of place and lost. She’s got a knack for getting into trouble. And maybe she sees a little of herself in this time-lost dinosaur.
How does her bond with the T-Rex develop? How do you characterize their particular friendship — are they like owner and pet, or more just allies, or?
Jess and the T-Rex are fast friends, definitely not owner and pet. When the dinosaur enters our world, the first human it sees is Jess. It imprints upon her, becoming her protector and friend.
Were you interested in dinosaurs, yourself, growing up? Why did you decide to make this a dinosaur story?
“Terrible Lizard” is a story I’ve been training to tell since I got my first bag of little plastic dinosaurs. Those toys, dinosaur-themed roadside attractions, “Devil Dinosaur” comics, “Land of the Lost,” “Godzilla” and Harryhausen movies — all these things helped shaped my love of dinosaurs.
In many ways, this story is inspired by the great Jack Kirby’s “Devil Dinosaur,” so I always intended for a T-Rex to be the star.
Does the dino have a name? What can you tell us about it?
Jess names the T-Rex early on, calling him Wrex. Wrex is big and powerful and protective of Jess, but he’s more rambunctious than menacing. Of course, when he needs to, he can fight like nobody’s business.
How did artist Drew Moss come onboard for the series? What about his style in particular made him the perfect fit for the story you wanted to tell?
Drew and I worked on a short comic together several years ago, and I knew I wanted to work with him again. During the early stages of planning “Terrible Lizard,” I shot him an e-mail that read, “Do you like dinosaurs?” and the rest was history.
Drew is an artist who can manage a broad range of styles, from light-hearted to dark and disturbing. And he loves giant monsters as much as I do. With “Terrible Lizard,” Drew is calling on all his talents to bring character moments, humor, excitement, action and freakish monsters to life.
Ryan Hill is also on the book as colorist. What does his palette bring to the story, for you?
Ryan, like Drew, is a versatile artist. When he started on “Terrible Lizard,” though, he immediately keyed onto the type of story we wanted to tell, and he’s bringing a cartoon-like energy to the page.
How’ve you found the collaborative process so far?
This book is a blast from the collaborative perspective. Drew and I talk several times a week. In those early days, we talked a lot about the comic, and we still do. But these days we also talk about anything and everything — from movies to comics to conventions. I’m already looking forward to our next project together.
“Terrible Lizard” was moved up for a November release after one of your other Oni projects, “Hellbreak,” was moved to 2015. Did that have any effect upon the story here, or had the book already been finished?
The series was almost completed when the change in schedule occurred. Other than a couple of covers that needed to be pulled together quickly, I don’t think our schedule was impacted in any way.
You’ve said that you consider this to be your first real all-ages comics project. What made you want to tell this story?
I’ve always been a fan of all-ages stories. My novel, “Crooked Hills,” is an all-ages horror story. (Come to think of it, the short comic book that Drew illustrated for me was set in the world of “Crooked Hills.”) These kind of stories hold a special place in my heart.
Have you had to keep an eye on the tone to keep things appropriate, or has it actually been pretty easy to write for all-ages?
I’ve enjoyed working on this story a great deal. I tend to fall into the all-ages mode fairly easily. I don’t sit down to write with the intent of toning things down. I just want to do what comes naturally for the story.
Do you feel that there is still a bit of a gap in the market for all-ages books? If writers get the chance to do a creator-owned book, the first interest seems to be to write a mature comic rather than something for everyone.
I think there’s a misinterpretation of what all-ages means. A lot of folks hear “all-ages” and they think that means the story is kids’ stuff. That’s not the case, of course. It really means that the story can be enjoyed by anyone, young or old. I think writers should focus on whatever kind of story represents them best.
Do you have plans for any other all-ages books in future, having written this now? Has this made you more interested in pitching comics which anybody could pick up and read?
I’d absolutely love to work on more all-ages books in the future! I’m sure I will do more when the time comes!