Some monster stories are about how fantastic creatures with bestial appearances survive in an ever-changing world, while others are about humans with a grotesque nature and how they developed such inner savagery. Both are equally fascinating, and writer Cullen Bunn is currently telling each of these the types of monster tales for AfterShock Comics.
In the recently launched Brothers Dracul Bunn and artist Mirko Colak are telling a tale that blends history and supernatural horror that shows how Vlad Tepes became the infamous tyrant known as “The Impaler.” In Dark Ark, Bunn and artist Juan Doe are chronicling the voyages of the mirror image of Noah’s Ark; a massive ship that allowed monsters to survive the great flood, and is crewed by a powerful magician and his family.
In Dark Ark #7, Bunn and Doe kick off a new arc, which finds the monsters and crew of the titular vessel tasked with protecting their counterparts. CBR spoke with the writer about the new arc, the monsters it will feature, and their caretaker — the powerful magician Shrae. We also chatted about making Vlad Tepes a nuanced and somewhat sympathetic title character in Brothers Dracul, the role Vlad’s brother, Radu, plays in Bunn’s narrative, and the titular siblings war with the undead.
CBR: Your love of monsters and horror is evident in most of your work, even your Marvel stuff. It feels like with your AfterShock work on books like Dark Ark and Brothers Dracul, you have a place to really cut loose and have some fun with darker oriented tales. What’s it like writing these two books?
Cullen Bunn: Both of these books are a lot of fun. They’re both so very different. Dark Ark is a strange fantasy tale full of every monster you can imagine, all interacting and trying to survive (and survive each other) in this society that’s been forced upon them. Brothers Dracul, on the other hand, is full-blown historical horror, focused on Radu and Vlad as they are trained to be vampire hunters! I love that AfterShock is willing to take on such a broad range of comic properties.
The first collection of Dark Ark is very much a horror and dark fantasy tale, but it also felt like a prison story as well. Was that your intention? Are Shrae and his family sort of the reluctant guards and warden of a floating penitentiary, where they’re sort of trapped with the unruly inmates?
Yes, Dark Ark was always meant to feel a bit like a prison story. Shrae and his family watch over them, make sure they don’t cut out of line and keep them alive while they are on their journey. But the humans are very much prisoners right along with them. I wanted to show numerous factions — human “wardens”, human prisoners, various groups of monsters, etc., all working in this prison-like setting. And as we explore the bigger world (with Noah, for instance) we realize that everyone is imprisoned by circumstance.
You gave us some hints of Shrae’s sorcerous abilities in the first storyline of Dark Ark, but can you talk at all about how powerful he is? Also, how does he feel about that power? Is he reluctant to use all the forces he can command?
Shrae is very powerful. In theory, he’s ancient. Noah, for instance was said to be hundreds of years old, and Shrae’s probably in the same age range. He is a powerful sorcerer, and we see some of that when he calls down lightning or the like. Despite that, I don’t see his use of magic seeming very flashy. His magic doesn’t work the way, say, Doctor Strange’s works. I feel like keeping it more grounded gives the story an interesting feel.
Shrae and his family are just one half of the cast of Dark Ark, the other intriguing cast members are of course the monsters. It seems like you’re especially enjoying writing Kruul, the manticore. What can you tell us about the inspiration for his character? What do you enjoy most about writing him?
I don’t know where Kruul came from, but I do enjoy writing him quite a bit. He’s become a favorite character. He’s big and vicious and savage. At first glance, he seems kind of dumb, but there’s more to Kruul than meets the eye. He has secrets to be revealed, and that’s always fun.
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