Launching on January 18, the event series “Monsters Unleashed” will see a rampaging horde of Marvel's classic beasts resurface in a colossal manner. "Monsters Unleashed" will pair writer Cullen Bunn with a superstar roster of Marvel artists (Adam Kubert, Steve McNiven, Leinil Yu, Salvador Larroca and Greg Land) to chronicle the battle between superheroes and super monsters. The series will pit pretty much every monster ever seen in the Marvel Universe against the Avengers, Champions, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men and Inhumans.
Talking "Monsters Unleashed" with the comic press today is writer Cullen Bunn as well as editor Mark Paniccia and Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso. CBR will be updating this article live with a full report of the discussion. Throughout the article, you will also get a peek at some freshly debuted pages from "Monsters Unleashed" #1 by Steve McNiven, as well as the covers to issues #2 (by Greg Land) and #3 (by Leinil Yu).
Marvel PR’s Chris D’Lando kicked off the conversation with a few questions for Bunn, Alonso and Paniccia. D’Lando said that each issue will be oversized at 30 pages and will ship "rapidly" as it’s drawn by five different artists. This series "feels like a big budget summer action movie," said D’Lando.
"It’s funny you say big blockbuster movie because I think, to some degree, this is a story that I don’t think could ever be adapted to a movie. It could only happen in a comic right now," said Bunn. "If you imagine a hundred Hulk-level threats falling to Earth and wreaking havoc on cities all over the world, and the heroes have to come together to turn the tide of this monstrous onslaught."
Alonso said that the action "starts on the first page. Our last couple events have been very mind bending, dark stuff. This is very fun, old school event with an unlimited special effects budget."
D’Lando said the event is an "all hands on deck" event that feels like an "Infinity Gauntlet" style event where all the heroes were involved. Bunn confirmed that this is the largest cast he’s worked with, as it involves the Avengers, Inhumans, X-Men, Guardians, Champions and more. "We’ve got cosmic and street level heroes in here, and it’s fun but it’s also a world threatening event. Heroes that had differences in 'Civil War II' have to unite as heroes now against a common threat," said Bunn. Of the characters he’s working with, he said that a few are the point of view characters. "I settled on a few that would help us jump around from different angles," said Bunn. "There are a handful that become the main characters that the reader will see the story through."
D’Lando pointed out that the two double-page spreads revealed in this call, seen above and below, are some of the first pages of the book. "The inciting event is monsters starting to land on Earth, the question is where are they coming from and why are they here and what do they want?" said Alonso. "The answer should be surprising. I think this is a fun story because you have every corner of the Marvel Universe represented. I think Cullen, we came up with this story at a retreat and we talked about the skeletal structure and Cullen leapt to write it. We knew we wanted it to be extra sized so artists could draw these double page splashes."
"These characters we’re using are larger than life, both figuratively and literally," said Bunn. "You have an issue of scale when you have a team dealing with a giant monster. We need a lot of room to convey the sense of awe with which these characters are dealing."
D’Lando asked Bunn about the cause of the monster attacks. "The cause of the attacks, like Axel said, is something the heroes will have to figure out quickly," explained Bunn. "These attacks are relentless and the heroes will figure out they can’t simply fight their way out of this, at least not on their own. They have to figure out how to find the source and cut it off at the source in order to save the world. There are some mysteries involved in where these monsters are coming from, and some of these trace back thousands of years throughout the cosmos. This is something that has affected other worlds in the past and they’ve not fared well."
Alonso spoke to the boy on the cover of "Monsters Unleashed" #3, saying he’s an important part of the puzzle and will help heroes figure out where these monsters are coming from. Readers will meet the boy early on in the series, Alonso said. Moon Girl will play a role in the series as well; she’ll come up with a device that will help the heroes early on. Elsa Bloodstone will also appear in the series. Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America — all the big heroes will play a role too.
D’Lando mentioned the new monsters that have been created for the series, done in the style of Silver Age artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck. "This series is a love letter to the artists of the past that created these monsters," said Bunn. "There are new monsters in this series, and we wanted artists to put their own spin on a very specific creature." Bunn said they’re bringing classic monsters back in a big role as well as creating new ones.
Paniccia chimed in saying it is a summer blockbuster that they’re releasing in the middle of winter. "Even though it’s got lots of explosions and buildings being torn down, there’s a lot of heart to the story as well. I wanted to reiterate that we’re adding new pieces to the Marvel Universe and adding to the Monster mythos. It’s a real celebration of the imagination of a comic creator." Paniccia added that all the artists were super excited to create new monsters based on the stats cooked up by Bunn. "To see what these guys came back with is amazing and a lot of fun."
The series will ship rapidly, with one in January and two in the following two months. Paniccia said having a lot of reference and a unifying colorist, David Curiel, has helped make all five artists feel cohesive in the five issue series. "Each of the five issues tells one story," said Bunn. "I tried to make each issue have its own flavor. It’s part of a larger story, but it has to stand on its own and feel like a chapter of this story. I think that’ll play very well to the five different styles."
The conversation turned to press questions, starting with one about the cast of "A-Force." "The characters of that book will appear, definitely, it’s all hands on deck," said Alonso. "Whether they’re together as a team, I don’t know." He added that if you squint, you’ll probably even see Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck fighting off monsters too. And the circumstances mean that all rivalries will be put aside as heroes cooperate and band together to stop the monsters. "Cullen has sculpted it in a way that you’ll see generals acting like generals and soldiers acting like soldiers and some cool smaller moments too."
Bunn is more than just a fan of monsters, too; he’s also a fan of the Marvel heroes. "You’re seeing heroes interacting with heroes you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see them deal with, and that’s what I’ve loved about Marvel Comics — these unexpected pairings. There are some doozies in this book, too, that will really surprise people."
The creators spoke about accessibility to new readers, with all involved saying the series will be good for new readers. Bunn said that he wants to make sure that every character is explained when he writes them, and that he actually remembered how much he loved some of the characters while writing them. "That will be felt in the series," he said. D’Lando said the tie-in one-shots will elaborate on the side events of the storyline.
There will also be more information about promotional items for retailers coming soon, and a launch party promotion might be in store for "Monsters Unleashed."
When asked if he’s adding to the backstory of all the monsters of the Marvel U, Bunn said that this story adds "some key components and new players to the field. After this story, the classic Marvel monsters will be significant players in the MU moving forward." It was revealed that the smaller monsters, like Werewolf-By-Night, won’t be involved. "If you’re shorter than seven stories, you need not apply," said Alonso.
Bunn said that the six new monsters that he designed with the artists have a special place in his heart, and the old monster Monstrom is probably his favorite based on design. Paniccia chose Orrgo, and Alonso said his was a spoiler. Speaking to their personalities, Bunn said the classic ones actually had big personalities. "You’ll definitely see some interpersonal monster politicking in the series," said Bunn.
The panel spoke about the series breakout stars, with Bunn saying there definitely are some. "There are a couple spoilers that I can’t reveal, but Captain America plays a big role. Then so does Moon Girl. One, she’s the smartest person in the Marvel Universe but she’s also tied to a classic monster in Devil Dinosaur. Axel mentioned Elsa Bloodstone as a monster hunter, she’s a big player. There’s a couple I can’t mention only because they’d spoil something and I’d be fed to the monsters."
Alonso said that they plan to spin at least two series out of the event, because they have "faith in what we’re doing, and feel we have two breakout characters we can spin out of this event."
Alonso confrimed that Riri Williams will appear in the series. Paniccia said that readers will walk away from the series with a "real appreciation for Marvel’s classic monsters and appreciate the new monsters." Alonso added that he hopes people come out of it gasping, saying that the event will be kind of like the moment in "Jaws" where the protagonists say they’re going to need a bigger boat. "It comes down to an ingenious solve on their part to save the day."
"I think we’ve all looked at each other while making this and wondered how we hadn’t come up with this earlier," said Paniccia. Bunn said he wants people to, when they finish issue #5, to have had an amazing time reading a superhero comic.
This is a self-contained story across five issues, and it’s ramifications — outside of the two potential ongoings — will be contained therein. "We have stuff spinning out the other side," said Alonso. "What’s driving this is the story. We started discussing it two or three retreats ago." The one-shot tie-ins for other series will be done outside of those series’ numbering, with .MU numbers.
A fan question asked if the little boy introduced in a recent "Totally Awesome Hulk" was the little boy on the cover to "Monsters Unleashed" #3, to which the panel said that was an astute observation. Bunn then spoke about his working relationship with the artists, saying that he wrote the scripts without an artist in mind, but did talk to all the artists and got their input on monsters they were the most excited to draw. "At the end of the day, each one of these is action-packed issues," added Paniccia. "You look at the artists on it, and whatever these artists did the last time that you loved, this is that to the tenth power. You’ll see all these artists are great at drawing superheroes and monsters."
Bunn said that the series will include elements of each creature’s history, but will move the Marvel monsters forward. "I want this to be a new series that new readers can enjoy without having to dig into quarter bins for old comics. We’re focusing on something new for these creatures," said Bunn.
Alonso said that the solution to the monster problem that the heroes figure out will have an effect on the Marvel U moving forward, and that the new monsters are here to stay.
To close things out, Bunn spoke about the problems with writing monsters. "I didn’t want the monsters, any of them, to come across as jokes. Now, some of the monsters are humorous at times and they have personalities, but the most important thing for me was that readers can take them seriously and we don’t stray too far — I didn’t want to 'see the zippers' on these monsters." Paniccia said there’s a great father/son scene between Goom and Googam. "They deserve to be treated with reverence," said Bunn.
"Monsters Unleashed" #1 arrives in stores on January 18, 2017.