Bunn Mounts a "Fearless" Defense for the Marvel Universe

The Marvel Universe is a place where myths like the Norse gods and their elite female warriors the Valkyrie are very, very real. These mythical beings and warriors live in a floating city located on Earth, regularly interacting with the rest of the world as they protect the regular denizens of the Marvel Universe. The most heroic members of these Asgardians are the thunder god Thor and the warrior Brunhilde, who operates under the super heroic code name of Valkyrie.

While Thor is well-known for both his solo adventures and his exploits as a a member of the Avengers, Valkyrie is a bit lower-key, with memberships in groups like the Defenders and the Secret Avengers. The recent "Fear Itself: The Fearless" miniseries by writers Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction and Chris Yost gave Valkyrie some long overdue solo spotlight time while setting up her role in a new team book which debuts in February: "Fearless Defenders," by Bunn and artist Will Sliney ("MacGyver").

We spoke with Bunn about the series which stars Valkyrie, the bionic detective Misty Knight, ex-mutant and occasional Valkyrie Dani Moonstar and several more yet-to-be-revealed female heroes.

CBR News: Cullen, how did this book come about for you? I assume it came from
the work you were doing on "Fear Itself: The Fearless," but what else inspired your pitch?

Cullen Bunn: While I was writing "Fear Itself: The Fearless," I had this idea that it might be interesting to see Valkyrie gather a new group of Shield Maidens -- not from Asgard, but from Midgard. I wanted to see how Valkyrie would go about making these all-important choices. I wanted to see which women would be up to the task, which would fall short and which would turn Valkyrie down. And, I wanted to see how a team that is essentially composed of very different people would come together to face some earth-shattering threats. That played a role in how I ended "The Fearless." The Valkyrior are gone. Valkyrie has the task of selecting a new team.

I pitched the concept while I was still working on "The Fearless." This was while plans for "Avengers Vs. X-Man" and Marvel NOW! were underway, and the decision was made to hold off until after the launch of the Marvel NOW! initiative. The delay gave way to this new idea -- that Valkyrie simply couldn't bring herself to find anyone who lived up to her high standards.

Front and center in "Fearless Defenders" is Valkyrie, a character you spent quite a bit of time with in "Fear Itself: The Fearless." What's it like revisiting Val in this series? What is it about her character that made you want to develop a team book around her?

I've been a fan of Valkyrie since her original days in the Defenders, but I'm not sure I ever really knew much about her as a character. When she came about as the main hero in "The Fearless," I was able to explore a little bit of her personality, and I realized that there is much, much more to this character than most people realize. The opportunity to explore her personality with my readers is something I'm really, really excited about.

The central premise of "Fearless Defenders" revolves around Valkyrie's failure to form a new team of Valkyrior composed of mortal women. What was the original purpose of this group in the Marvel Universe? And will the group that comes together in "Fearless Defenders" still have that purpose, or will it have changed because of Valkyrie's inaction?

The original group of Valkyrie -- if they were the original group of Valkyrie -- were meant to be a symbol. They were glorious and beautiful and noble -- and warriors who aspired to their example might chance a glimpse of them upon dying.

This new group of Valkyrie will still need to be a symbol of all that is noble and good, but they're going to need to be a little more active in order to set an example. They've got to take the fight to their enemies.

The first member to join Val is Misty Knight. What made you want to include her in this book?

Again, Misty is a favorite character of mine. What I like about her in this book, though, is that she provides such a perfect foil for Valkyrie. They are such different characters, and they'll challenge each other in major ways. Tthat is really what this book is all about, this off-beat team learning to work together. I think when readers saw Misty and Valkyrie on the cover of the first issue, they were surprised. They might have even been scratching their head a little. Good! This team should defy expectations.

How would you describe the initial dynamic between Valkyrie and Misty when the series begins? Knowing the characters, it seems like it might be similar to the initial dynamic between Power Man and Iron Fist in that we have a street wise character and a warrior from a mystical dimension -- is that what you were aiming for?

Yes! The Power Man and Iron Fist correlation didn't dawn on me until I read the solicit text for the first issue, but that's exactly the vibe I'm going for! Misty really understands nothing of Valkyrie's world -- and Val understands even less about Misty's. But neither one of them relishes the thought of admitting that they feel confused. This, of course, just causes the sparks to fly. They don't come to blows right away (like you might expect from a team-up), but I'd be surprised if we don't see a Kung Fu versus Sword and Shield clash at some point!

Dani Moonstar will also become part of this team. When can readers expect to see her? And besides her connection to the Valkyrie, what does Dani Moonstar brings to the book?

Dani shows up in the second issue. It's her connection to Hela's Valkyrie -- her connection to fear and death -- that makes her valuable to the villains in the first arc. They figure, "Hey! Here's a girl with no real superpowers. She'll be an easy target!" Of course, they couldn't be more wrong. It's fun to see Dani cut loose on some unsuspecting bad guys.

Beyond that, I think Dani brings something very important to the book. To some degree, she's the heart and soul of the team. Valkyrie and Misty are both a little -- disconnected. Dani is sort of a balance between the two. She's human, like Misty, but she's also a Valkyrie. They need Dani to bring them together and bring out the all-too-human side of their personalities.

The rest of the team will come together slowly over several storylines. Are you able to talk about the size of the team when it's fully formed? And besides the obvious trait of being female, was there a certain criteria you were looking for when you were choosing the line up for this book?

I've always envisioned this book as Valkyrie's quest to find the perfect team of heroes -- and realizing that this team is nothing like what she envisioned. I want this team to come together naturally. I didn't want to just throw the team together without there being real reasons that each and every member is the right choice for a spot on the roster.

I also want each and every member to have a chance to show their personality and win readers over. That's one of the reasons I'm taking the introduction of the team a little more slowly. Some of these characters will be somewhat unfamiliar to readers, and they need some time in the spotlight. I know some readers want to know the final team right now, but I think the wait will be worth it.

I'll try to at least give some hints: Since this is a Defenders book, there definitely needs to be a magic-based character, a hulk-like character, a cosmic-class character. I've probably said enough with that!

In the end, the core team will be Valkyrie and eight team members, and they will be a diverse group in terms of power sets and backgrounds. There will also be a couple of new characters thrown into the mix.

Now, that's a big team, but each arc will have a revolving cast to some degree. In the second arc, you may see only a couple of team members. In the third arc, maybe there will be only one. The team members who will appear in each arc will be tailored to the adventure at hand, and there will be many guest stars over the course of the series.

We've talked about protagonists, so let's chat a bit about antagonists. I understand you're introducing a new female villain -- what can you tell us about this character?

The villain I'm introducing -- and I'm keeping her name a secret for now -- has big plans for the Marvel Universe, and even though she has no powers of her own, she's not about to let something as insignificant as super heroes stand in her way. My hope is that readers will realize just how serious -- and how dangerous -- this woman truly is. She'll plague Valkyrie and her team for some time to come, but she won't be the only threat they face.

I made the choice to have the first villain in the book be a woman, but I don't want folks to think that this series is just gonna be about good girls versus bad girls. The dangers the new Valkyrie will face will follow no set criteria in terms of gender. They simply have to be extremely dangerous.

Our main villain is an opportunist, and she sees a chance to make some big moves thanks to Valkyrie's indecision in regards to selecting a new team of Valkyrie. She has a goal that she's had in her twisted little mind since she was a child. She's thought about it endlessly, built her life around it and now, finally, is her time to strike.

What she brings about really makes Valkyrie think about her perception of heroism, mortality and humanity. Valkyrie thinks she's got everything figured out, but she comes to realize she's been wrong about so much -- not the least of which is her own past.

The cover to issue #1 also suggests that Misty and Valkyrie will be facing threats from their respective worlds in the form of the Hand and are those zombified vikings? What kind of role do these characters play in the story?

Well, I'm not going to say you'll see the Hand in the first arc. The cover was really meant to represent the two worlds Valkyrie and Misty come from: The world of the Asgardian epic and the world of the street-level Kung Fu throwdown. Both of these characters are gonna find themselves in worlds they're not completely comfortable with.

So, definitely undead Vikings in the first arc, but no ninja. The Hand will be appearing soonish, though.

Artist Will Sliney will bring the heroes and villains of "Fearless Defenders" to life. What's it been working with him to develop this new series and its characters?

Will is a terrific artist. He's dynamic and he brings a lightness to the book that I thought it really needed. There's one panel in the first issue that features Val and Misty fighting this horde of undead beasties, and Will drew Val with this half-smile that spoke of an almost childlike amusement. That was perfect, I thought!

Finally, what kinds of stories, locations and genres can we expect from "Fearless Defenders" moving forward? Is this a book primarily concerned with a couple locales and genres? Or is this really a series that can go anywhere and tell a variety of stories?

This book can and will go anywhere. Asgardia, Hel, the mean streets of New York, the exotic back alleys of San Francisco's Chinatown. Other worlds and other dimensions...

The great thing about this book is that it lends itself to almost any kind of genre. That gives me a lot of room to tell some cool stories and find out more about these characters while they are thrown into some really strange adventures!

I think people who follow me on Twitter and the like have heard me say this quite a bit. At the risk of repeating myself again, I just want to say that it's important to tell your retailers to order this book for you! This is a different kind of book with a different kind of cast. That makes it a prime candidate for encouraging your friends, your family, and your local comic shop to support it!

Also -- The Doom Maidens are rising.

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