In the 1960s, legendary creators like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck ushered in a new era of iconic superheroes for Marvel Comics with the creation of the characters and titles that laid the foundation for the company’s shared universe. But a decade earlier, they utilized the same wild imagination and character design skills to create a whole host of strange, fun and sometimes frightening giant monsters. Many of these creatures made their way into the Marvel Universe, but for the most part, these two eras of Marvel’s history have never really come face to face in a major way.
That all changes this January with the launch of the five-issue bi-weekly event miniseries “Monsters Unleashed” from writer Cullen Bunn and artists Steve McNiven, Greg Land, Leinil Yu, Salvador Larroca and Adam Kubert, which pits the heroes of the Marvel Universe against an army of iconic, obscure, and fan favorite giant monsters from the company’s past.
In an in-depth interview with Bunn, the writer reveals tons of previously unknown information about the event. He spills on the major players involved in the monster fighting action, the mystery behind the sudden wave of Kaiju style monster attacks, and plenty more, including an exclusive preview of the first issue, and one of Steve McNiven's new monster designs!
CBR: We know that "Monsters Unleashed" is very much an all-hands on deck situation in the Marvel U, since all these classic giant monster characters suddenly begin attacking people and places all over the world. For readers who may not be familiar with that era of Marvel just how big of a threat are the heroes contending with in this story? Roughly how many monsters are involved?
Cullen Bunn: With this series, I really wanted to focus on the fun and mayhem surrounding these gigantic monsters stomping around the Marvel Universe. But make no mistake: this is an extinction level event. The Earth will not survive if the superheroes can’t find a way to turn the tables. When we reach the other side of this event, there will be absolutely no doubt that these classic monsters are a force to be reckoned with and taken very seriously.
As for how many monsters we’ll be seeing -- it’s hard to say. We’re including so many of those classic era behemoths, but we’re also creating some new creatures as well. The words “dozens” and “hundreds” come up quite a bit in the descriptions of monsters in the scripts for the book.
Who are some of your favorite Marvel monster characters? What do you enjoy most about writing these creatures?
Fin Fang Foom is the easy choice, right? CM Punk and I dealt with the space dragon quite a bit in our series “Drax.” There are plenty of others that I love, too. Devil Dinosaur and Groot both rank pretty high on my list of favorites. But let’s talk about some of the more “obscure” beasts. Goom and Googam (Son of Goom) are terrific, as is Monstrom (the Dweller of Black Swamp), and Gorgilla. I could really go on and on!
These classic monsters so often seem like brutes on the surface, but they all have such interesting personalities, and I love trying to capture that in this series. I love that Goom and Googam have this father/son dynamic. I think it’s a lot of fun that Tim Boo Ba has had it up to his ears with Fin Fang Foom thinking he is the leader of this band of monsters. I like the inherent tragedy and sadness behind the fierce visage of Vandoom’s Monster.
I want to treat each and every one of these monsters as real characters. And there’s so much room to explore their histories and personalities. Some of them have had more play than others over the years, but this series really gives them a chance to shine. Again, I want readers to see these characters differently when this is all said and done.
I want readers -- many of whom have never encountered these monsters before -- to have their own favorites after reading this book.
The Marvel monsters attacking are a diverse bunch, with many different agendas, including a few forces for good who have their own titles, like Groot of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Devil Dinosaur of "Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur." That, of course, begs the question of what causes the monsters to attack en masse? What can you tell us about that mystery? Is there a larger power behind the monster attacks?
The reasons behind the monster invasion is a bit of a mystery for the heroes to try to figure out. There is a power at work here, a power that has a history going back thousands of years, a power that has impacted numerous worlds besides Earth.
Early on, we’re going to meet a young man who has the incredible ability to summon monsters out of thin air. Whether these creatures come from the depths of the Earth or the depths of space, this guy can call them up in the blink of an eye. It’s a terribly powerful gift, one that this young man doesn’t really understand. His lack of control could very well bring about the apocalypse.
Now, as you read that last part of my answer, you might think you know the direction in which this story is headed.
Trust me. You don’t.
There are some crazy twists and turns ahead.
Will "Monsters Unleashed" follow a core cast of characters throughout? Who are some of the major players that you will spend some time with as your story moves forward?
For a guy like me, one of the biggest challenges I face when writing this kind of story is that I want to include every character. My initial outlines for the series had huge lists of characters, some of whom we haven’t seen for years or even decades. Of course, I had to cut that back quite a bit for the sake of clarity. That said, the cast is still massive, especially if you consider all the cameos and brief guest appearances.
There are a few key characters that the readers will follow in the series. The Avengers and the Champions have significant roles in the book, with Captain America, Ms. Marvel and the Hulk sort of rising to the top as focal point characters. The Inhumans (particularly Medusa and Karnak) are important to the story, as are the X-Men (both groups). The Guardians of the Galaxy, with their connection to Groot, will have big stakes in this story, too. The same could be said for Moon Girl. After all, you can’t have a classic monster event without her partner Devil Dinosaur being pulled into it. Lunella has a big role to play in this series. She’s one of the smartest people in the world. She’s got some thoughts on why the monsters are attacking. Expect big things from her.
Since this project was announced, I’ve been asked the most about the possible appearance of one monster-bashing character in particular: Elsa Bloodstone. I can now confirm that Elsa is a star character in this series. Of course she is! She’s the foremost monster expert on the planet! And she’s one of my all-time favorite characters. How could I not include her? She’s a fun addition to the cast, because she’s more accustomed to battling monsters on a much smaller scale. She’s also going to be the key to the world’s best hope for survival.
Other characters you’ll see include Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight, Deadpool, Valkyrie, Hippolyta, the Thunderbolts, the Winter Guard, Dr. Strange -- the list goes on and on. Some characters have brief appearances. Some get a little more panel time. This threat is impacting the entire world, and the heroes are mobilized to the far corners of the Earth!
I understand "Monsters Unleashed" is very much meant to be new reader friendly, but it's coming in the aftermath of "Civil War II." What can you tell us about the dynamic between your various monster-battling heroes? And will it just be the Marvel heroes taking on the monsters, or can we expect some villains to step up and defend against these attacks as well?
This story takes place in the current landscape of the Marvel Universe, so the tensions between the characters are reflected -- but I didn’t want this book to be about those dynamics. I really wanted this to be about the best in these heroes. I wanted to see heroes working together to battle a unifying threat. The monster attacks bring the heroes together without a lot of time to argue with one another. They pause to do that, and a city gets destroyed.
At the same time, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with villains, either. I want this book to be about the monsters and the heroes, but there will be a very unexpected alliance forming in the later issues of the series.
So, yes, this book is extremely new reader-friendly. You don’t need to read “Civil War II.” You don’t need to know what’s happening with “Death of X.” Anyone who wants to see superheroes fighting monsters and saving civilians, this is the book for you! And it’s big enough of a story that some really cool things will come out on the other side!
What can you tell us about the pace and tone of "Monsters Unleashed?" How quickly does the story unfold?
Within two pages of the first issue, the first massive monster attack occurs and the Avengers must blast onto the scene to save the day. From that point forward, the monster attacks start occurring at a frantic clip. The heroes have no time to recuperate and no time to plan.
One of the big draws of this series for you has got to be the chance to see your story brought to life by the five all-star artists doing the different issues: your "Uncanny X-Men" collaborator Greg Land, Steve McNiven, Adam Kubert, Salvador Larroca and Leinil Yu. What's it like writing this story for these five artists with their diverse styles? What's the order of the issues they'll be working on?
It’s no secret that I love getting pages of comic book art in my inbox. It’s one of those elements of instant gratification that makes comic books such a joy to write. Now I’m getting pages from titans in the industry! Titans drawing titans! What’s really terrific is that this team—like myself—loves monsters, and it shows in the art. They have lots of room to revel in the destructive awesomeness of these beasts, and they are making the most of it.
The order of the artists is Steve McNiven, Greg Land, Leinil Yu, Salvador Larroca and Adam Kubert. Take a moment and let that line-up sink in. These are some of the top artistic talents in the world!
As I noted earlier, we are creating some new monsters for this series. Some of these monsters have starring roles, and each of these artists (and one surprise guest) designed a specific new monster for the series.
Seeing the designs for those new monsters fills me with the same sense of wonder I had when I saw my first giant monster flick as a kid.
Anyone familiar with your work knows you love both superheroes and monsters. So what's it like telling a story that appears to be one part massive Kaiju movie and one part giant superhero adventure utilizing the unlimited visual budget that the medium of comics affords you?
It’s incredible. To some degree, I feel like I’ve been training to write this story all my life. The scale of this story is staggering, and when you see the first few pages of the series, you’re going to be blown away. What’s even more exciting for me is how important these monsters will be in the Marvel Universe post-”Monsters Unleashed.” It’s almost like an entire new world is being unlocked! When I think about where this story is headed, what we’ll have on the playing field once the event is done, I get absolutely giddy. I don’t believe anyone will guess where this is headed. I know they won’t expect the types of stories we’re going to be able to tell in the future.
Finally, I know "Monsters Unleashed" will have a number of tie-in issues. What can you tell us about the types of tie-ins we'll see?
I think there will be roughly eight tie-ins in total. I’ve read a few of them so far, and they’re going to be a lot of fun. Monster attacks are occurring all over the world, dozens of heroes are standing against these creatures, and I’ve already lamented that I can’t include all the characters I want to in the main series! The tie-ins provide us with some monster-related business taking place outside the main series.
Most of the tie-ins aren’t just stories of heroes punching giant monsters. Instead, you’ll see how the day-to-day adventures of the heroes might get fouled up by the sudden appearance of monster attacks. You’ll see that a number of different kinds of stories can take place against the backdrop of the monster apocalypse. These books will really show how widespread the event is and how it will impact the world.
Cullen Bunn, along with Steve McNiven, Greg Land, Adam Kubert, Salvador Larroca and Leinil Yu, bring devastation to the Marvel Universe when "Monsters Unleashed" arrives in January.