Bunn & Sliney Assemble Valkyrie's "Fearless Defenders"

Last November, Marvel Comics revealed a number of new series set to drop in February for its Marvel NOW! publishing initiative. Among the titles set to launch next month is "Fearless Defenders," a series by "Fear Itself: The Fearless" and "Venom" writer Cullen Bunn with art by Will Sliney. The series focuses on Valkyrie, Misty Knight, Dani Moonstar and several other yet-to-be-revealed team members as part of a new group of Shield Maidens made up of heroes from Midgard. Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney along with editor Ellie Pyle were on hand in a special press conference call to bring new details on the upcoming series debut.

Moderator and Sales and Communications Coordinator James Viscardi kicked off the call by introducing the team and asked Bunn to elucidate the title, which he characterized as uncharacteristically action-oriented. The team will come together over time and face "all the challenges that a veteran superhero team would deal with."

The initial team will consist of Valkyrie and Misty Knight as the co-leads of the team. "If ever there was an odd couple of characters who are fighting side-by-side, I cannot imagine more odd of a couple than [Valkyrie] and Misty," said Bunn. "They're fun to write individually, but they're so much fun when they're interacting with one another. They bring an interesting dynamic to this team and immediately set it apart as completely different from every other superhero group that's out there."

For his part, Sliney stated the characters were totally different design-wise. "Misty has an awful lot more swagger to her, so the contrast between the two of them is really fun to work with," he said.

Bunn spoke briefly about the threat the team would face: a new villain, introduced in the first issue, who has seen an opportunity because there are no Shield Maidens in operation. "It puts Valkyrie on the defensive immediately because it's her fault that all the bad things are happening." Bunn stated Valkyrie will call upon the Doom Maidens, who are bad news.

Tom Brevoort jumped in on the call, stating that the team was actually a "non-team." "This is not a traditional, typical team. They're not going to have a headquarters ... there's a whole slew of characters that will pass in and out of the book," he said, further noting that the Valkyrie, Misty Knight and Moonstar will likely be the three core members.

"The initial pitch for this goes back several months when I first put this idea out there as something I though would make a good book," Bunn said. "I think it's the fact that it's such a different approach to a team or a 'non-team' as Tom said. A big part of what I wanted to show was Valkyrie choosing who she thinks would be worthy to be a Shield Maiden. Just even from that I started really thinking a lot about how different the challenges they faced would be and how diverse the group itself would be and how much fun it would be to see these very different characters -- presenting them in a different light and how we could see characters that readers might not be as familiar with. We could see them in a bigger way or in a different light."

The character on the cover to "Fearless Defenders" #3 is a new member of the group that the creative team is bringing back from the dead in the Marvel Universe. "I've approached it as a new approach to this character, " Bunn said. "We've played with the power set and we're playing with her in a different way. That is Hippolyta."

Pyle noted that Hippolyta wasn't necessarily a hero that last time readers saw her, so it will be interesting to see how she interacts with this team. "She's going to be going by the hero name 'Warrior Woman' whether she wants to or not," she said.

In terms of genre, Bunn said the great thing about the series is that its members open it up to a number of genres. "I think it's going to be just as much fun when Valkyrie gets involved in those street-level stories we've seen Misty in in the past," he said, going on to mention he hopes to put these characters into situations they haven't been seen in for past issues.

Pyle spoke briefly on the design for Hippolyta, which she worked on with Phil Jimenez. "He wanted to use a lot of the Greek imagery," she said. "We wanted to update her look a little bit. ... Phil has a background in fashion, so he wanted to bring a bit of that modern aesthetic to her look."

Sliney also discussed how he was able to add his own spin to some of the aspects of "Fearless Defenders." "This discussion started for me back during New York Comic Con," Sliney said. "As you can see from the covers, they wanted to keep those costumes quite traditional and they wanted me to match up with what Mark [Brooks] had already done. Where my design elements started coming in with the Doom Maidens and some of the villains that we see, because they tie in to Norse Mythology and Asgardians. I got to bring up a lot of the things that I was interested in. In Ireland, we have a lot of that kind of jewelry. That's where I was able to bring out my influence and style. Characters like Misty and Val, their looks are so strong already that we didn't want to go too far away from what we already had."

Pyle noted the book really captures the spirit of the Defenders. "These are characters you haven't seen working together before and characters that readers might not be familiar with," she said, stating the team would pull from all corners of the Marvel Universe.

Speaking again about the villain, Bunn continued to play it close to the chest, but he did say one of the villains that was going to be a real threat for the Fearless Defenders "isn't necessarily the choice you would think" that has no powers whatsoever. "Her resources and her mile-wide mean streak is going to make her a threat for some time to come for these characters," he said.

There will be a progression from Bunn's character development for Valkyrie in "The Fearless" to "Fearless Defenders," especially as relates to her reluctance initially to form a new team of Shield Maidens.

With that, the call wrapped. "Fearless Defenders" #1 hits stores on February.

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