I’ll Be “The Damned” - Cullen Bunn talks “Prodigal Sons”

Cursed by beings known as the Verlochin and endlessly scheming against rival demon crime families for his own survival, Eddie seems to have chosen a dangerous life for himself, a life that always seems to get him killed. Luckily (or maybe unluckily), Eddie’s curse is such that he returns to the land of the living when some unfortunate soul happens to touch his corpse.

Described by some as “The Sopranos Go To Hell,” Oni Press’ supernatural gangster graphic novel “The Damned: Three Days Dead” showed readers why Eddie’s inability to remain dead isn’t always so convenient. The new miniseries by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt, “The Damned: Prodigal Sons,” brings Eddie’s quirky curse a little closer to home. With the second issue of “Prodigal Sons” on sale next week, CBR News caught up with Bunn to discuss the lighter and darker sides of “The Damned.”

When Eddie dies, as he’s prone to do every now and then, he can catch glimpses of the afterlife. During one of his last jaunts to eternity, Eddie saw his mother wandering kingdom come as a lost soul. “How she got there is still a bit of a mystery, but Eddie doesn’t want her to be trapped there,” Cullen Bunn told CBR News. “So, like Orpheus seeking to rescue Eurydice, he plans to rescue her. It’s a cocky plan, but Eddie makes a habit of being overconfident in his own abilities. He’s so overconfident, in fact, that he’s willing to kill himself to get what he wants.”

Early in “Prodigal Sons,” readers learn of another twist to Eddie’s resurrection curse: every time Eddie dies, his brother Morgan receives a new tattoo-like scar. There is also a mystery surrounding Eddie and Morgan’s father, who apparently made a bargain with the Verlochin sometime in the brothers’ childhood. “The deal Eddie’s father made, the fate of Eddie’s mother, and even the scars upon Morgan’s flesh are all connected,” Bunn said. “While this story arc is about family, the series as a whole often concerns choices -- why we make them, how we live with the consequences of said choices, and how we react when those choices are taken out of our hands.

“Do we accept our fate? Or do we fool ourselves into believing we’re still in control? Eddie believes he’s got it all figured out, but as he descends into the underworld, he begins to realize that nothing is as it seems, and no matter how sure of himself he might be, he’s just one small piece of a puzzle that is much, much bigger.”

For all of this, though, “The Damned” is not mired in grim existentialism. The creators have a lot of fun with the demonic characters, which are frightening but largely human as well. “From very early on, we both knew we wanted our demons to be monstrous, but we didn’t want them breathing fire or shooting eye beams or casting big, explosive spells. We like the idea that the demons are, in many ways, just like us,” Bunn said. “They’re stuck in a tough world, and they’re trying to make it the only way they know how.

“What’s more important is the notion that the demons are forgetting what they used to be; they’re being seduced by the very vices they use to tempt humans. The Aligheri and Roarke families have definitely fallen victim to the temptations of the mortal world. The Verlochin, on the other hand, hate what their brethren have become, and they long for the bad old days. This rivalry is a major driving force of overall story Brian and I want to tell.”

There is also a bit of gallows humor as to Eddie’s inability to stay alive and the madcap adventures he gets up to when he’s dead. There is, however, equal presentation of the less funny aspects of mortality -- the demons do cut people apart, and Eddie takes some extreme measures in order to reach hell. “We’ve always thought that horrific and comedic elements complement each other quite well,” remarked Bunn. “The comedy serves as a nice change of pace from the darker aspects of the story. The comedic elements lower the reader’s defenses a bit, and once they’re off guard, the horrific elements are all the more sharp.

“That said, we don’t see 'The Damned’ as a horror story so much as a supernatural crime yarn. The first series had much more of a mystery/private eye vibe. 'Prodigal Sons’ goes the route of pulp adventure. 'Daughter’s Danse,’ the next series … now that’s a little darker and more gothic horror. “

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