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Cullen Bunn Takes “Army of Darkness” on a Groovy Trip to the Final Frontier

by  in Comic News Comment
Cullen Bunn Takes “Army of Darkness” on a Groovy Trip to the Final Frontier

“Army of Darkness” has been a part of Dynamite Entertainment since the publisher’s earliest days, starting with a 2004 miniseries co-presented with Devil’s Due Publishing. Multiple series inspired by the cult-favorite 1992 comedy horror film — directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell as Ash and the third film in the beloved “Evil Dead” franchise — followed, exploring a wide range of permutations on the original concept, including “Army of Darkness / Xena,” “Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness” and “Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama.”

For the latest “Army of Darkness” ongoing series — the company’s fourth — Dynamite turned to the creative team of writer Cullen Bunn (currently busy with a multitude of projects at various companies, including western fantasy epic “The Sixth Gun” at Oni Press and “Magneto” at Marvel) and artist Larry Watts, a veteran of Zenescope’s “Grimm Fairy Tales” line. In keeping with the tradition of taking the “Army of Darkness” concept to some rather unexpected places, the new volume can be summed up with three words appearing on the Gabriel Hardman-illustrated cover to the first issue: “Ash in Space.” The Deadites have targeted the International Space System, leading Ash Williams on a groovy mission to the cosmos.

READ: Bruce Campbell to Headline Starz’s “Evil Dead” TV Series

With the series debuting this week, Bunn spoke with CBR News about how his interest in horror as both a fan and a writer (“Wolf Moon,” his new werewolf series at Vertigo also launches this week) helped lead him to writing “Army of Darkness,” working with Watts on both this series and the prelude in November’s “Army of Darkness #1992.1,” and the importance of tone in a potentially “cheesy” story. Plus, Bunn compares Ash to another wise-cracking antihero he’s very familiar with — Deadpool, a character the writer has taken in unexpected directions at Marvel.

CBR News: Cullen, one of your many current gigs is the writer of this new “Army of Darkness” series. How did that came together? It certainly seems like a fun character and world to be playing with — how are you enjoying that so far?

Cullen Bunn: It’s a lot of fun. I’m a huge fan of “Army of Darkness” and “Evil Dead.” Being a long-time horror fan, of course I loved those things.

I’ve talked to Nick Barrucci at Dynamite for several years now. After my exclusive ended, I started talking to them a little bit, and we were trying to figure out what would be the right project for me. “Army of Darkness” is the one he kind of surprised me with. We were at a convention and he came over and said, “Oh by the way, I want you to do our new ‘Army of Darkness’ series.” Total surprise. It’s the kind of project, for someone like me, that I really get excited about, because it’s a property I love. It’s a concept and characters that I’ve enjoyed for many years.

[Barrucci] said, “But I want you to do something different with it.” One of the first things I pitched was this concept that puts Ash in space. He’s been everywhere else — he’s been through time. Let’s put him through space.

I don’t know if there was hesitation or not, but once I pitched the tone that I was going for with this, I think they got on board with it. They got excited about it at Dynamite — if they weren’t already. I mean, just working with me is a thrill a minute. [Laughs] I’ve seen the comments — “Ash in space, that sounds super-cheesy.” “This is where Ash jumps the shark.” But those [people] have no idea what I’m doing with this story.

I get it. You say I’m going to send this character to space, it could be cheesy. But I really feel like this is very true in spirit to “Army of Darkness.” I think fans of “Army of Darkness” will really love it. Yeah, it’s in space, but we’re just taking the “Army of Darkness” story and expanding it out a little bit. I approach it as if I weird writing an “Army of Darkness” movie that just happens to be set in space. It becomes an interesting backdrop, and introduces some new concepts for Ash to deal with, but it is definitely, full-on it’s an Army of Darkness story, first and foremost.

So you’re likely trying to avoid feeling like that “Friday in 13th” movie in space, “Jason X.”

Someone asked me if I’ve seen that — I think I’ve seen bits and pieces of it. It seems like every time I go to a convention, that movie’s playing in the hotel room. The difficulty of that one is, at least from what I’ve seen, I think they threw a lot of what made Jason Jason out the window.

The nice thing with “Army of Darkness” is, you’ve got Ash, first of all, to be your cornerstone, and to cement it in the world. So if he’s there, he helps cement it, because there’s so much you can do with him as a character, and the whole idea that this complete knucklehead is the defender of humanity. I think some funny stuff goes on, but there’s some really creepy, sinister stuff going on behind the scenes as well. I can play with some of the tropes of science fiction stories in general, and bounce those off of Ash and the Deadites.

You’ve made it clear that this is not a cheesy story, but it does sound like you’re having fun, and “Army of Darkness” is a fairly lighthearted movie — are you keeping to that spirit?

Yeah. I love all kinds of horror, but “fun horror” is my favorite. Humor/horror mixes are a big part of that. And that’s what “Evil Dead” and “Army of Darkness” were — both of the [original “Evil Dead” movies] were humor/horror mixes, and then “Army of Darkness” is much further into the humor and fantasy.

It’s a fun story. You can’t have a character as clueless as Ash getting into these adventures without it being fun. But one of the approaches I’m trying to take with this is while Ash is a goofball and a knucklehead, and he always says the wrong thing at the wrong time, and he definitely plays by his own quirky set of rules — the Deadites and the Old Ones, I play straight. They are heavy. I don’t play them for humor in the story. Ash brings the humor to this, and how he deals with these things. But evil, I play pretty evil.

Hearing you describe Ash as a “goofball” and a ‘knucklehead” who somehow does good prompts the question: Do you see similarities between Ash and Deadpool?

Sure. I think there are similarities. A lot of times, you think of “antihero” and you think of the dark, brooding hero. But I think Ash is an antihero, just like Deadpool is an antihero, just because they don’t follow any of the conventions of the hero you expect. And they do it so wrong that they should not be a hero — but they just manage to fall into heroism.

The artist on the series is Larry Watts — what can you say about collaborating with him here?

He adds a lot of visual humor to it. I was just looking at some pages — I was chuckling. Not because of the wittiness of my writing. I did a 10-page story that’s in the one-shot that Dynamite’s doing — really, it’s a prequel to this series. He did that as well. So him carrying over into the new series gives it some connectivity, and makes it all work well together.

Dynamite’s “Army of Darkness” #1, by Cullen Bunn and Larry Watts, is on sale now.

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