Fearless Defenders debuted this week, the latest ongoing series in the ongoing "Marvel NOW!" initiative. The series, by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Will Sliney, received a healthy amount of pre-release buzz due to its premise, which sees Valkyrie (an Asgardian and Defenders veteran) choosing a new team of shieldmaidens — Valkyrior — from the female heroes of Earth.
Given the relative lack of female-fronted books at Marvel, observers were excited about the prospect, and also curious to see how the creative team would execute the concept. So far, <a href= /10876-best-shots-advance-review-fearless-defenders-1.html>reviews have</a> <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/best-shots-rapid-reviews-130207.html>been positive</a> for the first issue, which focused on Misty Knight and Valkyrie's odd couple dynamic and introduced a new character in Dr. Annabelle Riggs.
Newsarama talked with Bunn about Fearless Defenders #1, working with Sliney, the appeal of the Misty Knight/Valkyrie pair, the "Satan Claw," what's coming up in issue #2, and the responsibility that comes with writing the series.
Newsarama: Cullen, Fearless Defenders is notable in your Marvel career because it's the first ongoing series that's yours from the beginning, not something you're taking over.
Cullen Bunn: It is, and this is the first Marvel project that I brought to them. In most cases, they come to me and say, "Hey, would you like to pitch for this project? Tell us what you'd do with Deadpool killing the Marvel Universe." This was something that I took to them and worked to build from the ground up, which is kind of exciting.
Nrama: You had a history with Valkyrie, but was the series always her and Misty Knight?
Bunn: It wasn't. I was writing when the idea for this series came to me. I pitched Marvel the concept of Valkyrie selecting a new host of shieldmaidens from the heroes of Earth. I didn't even send them a team at that point, except for Valkyrie as the leader.
Even back then, one of the things I wanted to do was have a team that would build very slowly without being established in the first issue, sort of that non-team vibe from that old run. Ellie [Pyle] came to me and said, "Who would you want the first person that [Valkyrie] is going to be team up with to be?" There were a number of options; Misty Knight was probably one of the ones that I thought was the most unexpected, and in the end, that's really what made her the right choice.
Nrama: You've established that there are more significant characters coming, but would you see that at least part of the central appeal of the series is the odd couple/buddy action movie dynamic between Misty and Valkyrie?
Bunn: The interplay between those two characters really becomes sort of the cornerstone of the series from this point forward.
[Valkyrie]'s choosing a group of shieldmaidens, yes, but the possibilities are really endless. There will be a number of characters who will be appearing in the series on a regular basis, but who won't necessarily be a shieldmaiden in the end.
Nrama: You've written Valkyrie before, but was it pretty easy to get Misty Knight's voice down, and get into the character?
Bunn: I think Misty is probably easier than Valkyrie. Misty just seemed a little more grounded, and just a little more natural than Valkyrie. They have very different personalities, obviously, and I like writing Valkyrie, but it took me a lot longer to kind of get the feel for her. I dropped right into how I interpreted Misty would act and talk and interact with others.
Nrama: And you gave her a Satan Claw.
Bunn: I decided I might as well start playing with some of her abilities, and for some reason I like the idea of her having a cybernetic Satan Claw. [.]
I was talking to Jason Aaron about the series at one point — he even recommended, "You should make Misty be the new Iron Fist." I guess giving her a Satan Claw is the next best thing, and having her call it up almost nonchalantly without a whole lot of backstory, speaks to some of what I want to do with the series. I hope it's kind of an over-the-top, crazy kind of story from the get-go. I know some people will want me to tell the story of why she has a Satan Claw, but I don't think they'll ever see that. The story you come up with of how she got one is better than the story I will come up with. [.]
Nrama: And it seems like one of those instances where if you are familiar with its history, great, but if you're not, the moment still works.
Bunn: Yeah, I think a new reader who's never heard of something like a Satan Claw will get the idea that it's really powerful, and she can knock you right on your ass with it. I think that's all you really to know.
Nrama: An all-female cast fantasy action-adventure piece isn't that common of a story — what would you say has influenced you so far in shaping Fearless Defenders, in comics or otherwise?
Bunn: I don't know that there was anything that was necessarily a female-driven story. I can see a lot of the influences ranging from '80s action and science-fiction movies to anime to a lot of the current comic stuff. I really look towards books like , which has this off-the-wall vibe and unexpected feel with the types of stories you’re seeing. That's something I can see myself striving for.
Nrama: Fearless Defenders #1 introduced a new character in Dr. Annabelle Riggs. How big of a role will she play going forward?
Bunn: Not to get too spoiler-y with it, but Annabelle will be a vital part of the book, and she will become an extremely important part of Valkyrie's life. I think that a lot of people reading the first issue will think they know where we’re headed with her, but they’ll be surprised. She will be extremely important to Valkyrie, but in a way I can't imagine anybody anticipating.
Nrama: Her and Valkyrie share a memorable panel in issue #1.
Bunn: That obviously plays a big role into her character, and how she views Valkyrie. What I'm hoping will be interesting is how Valkyrie sees that herself, and reacts to that. In the end, Valkyrie is, what, thousands of years old? In my mind, she's kind of transcended our concepts of sexuality.
We're introducing Dani Moonstar in the first arc, and we're introducing Hippolyta in the first arc, but in a lot of ways, Annabelle's the fifth member of the team. She is right there in the mix the entire time.
Nrama: Another new character, resumably, is "Ms. LeFay" in the helicopter opening scene — though she definitely has a last name that's recognizable to people who know their Marvel history (well, mythology history, really).
Bunn: I toyed with the idea of leaving her unnamed for the longest time. It was late in the stages of editing lettering on the book that Ellie and I talked about it again, and we decided, go ahead and identify her, because if people know anything about Marvel, they'll wonder, "Does she have some connection to Morgan LeFay?" I'm not going to say if she does or not, but I will say that Caroline LeFay has connections to two very important, very powerful villains in the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: So she's the new villain that you mentioned in <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/fearless-defenders-marvel-now-cullen-bunn.html>previous interviews</a>?
Bunn: Yes. She's definitely the villain of the first arc, but, just like Annabelle, she has a huge role to play in the series as a whole. There's an issue coming up in the near future that essentially is going to spell her origin out in very specific detail.
Nrama: This is artist Will Sliney's Marvel debut. How have you enjoyed working with him thus far?
Bunn: Will is great to work with. He's an artist that I talk to on an almost daily basis. I like collaborating with artists, I like to hear some of the things they would like to see, and things they would like to draw, and Will's been pretty awesome. I know that there are moments in the book, such as the kiss in the first issue, that we talk about quite a bit, because they have to be depicted in a certain way, and I want to make sure that he and I are on the same page on those things.
And then there are some things coming up in the book that I kind of feel I owe him a warning about. Or maybe an apology. There are things that I feel bad that I'm asking an artist to draw, because it's so insane, or so detailed, or there are so many characters on a page. Thus far, Will has not been put off by anything. He's met all of these challenges in a very cheerful way. I'm lucky that he's that kind of a collaborator.
Nrama: It has to be something of a challenge for both of you in being male creators doing an all-female book — especially for the artist — because there's going to inevitably be a degree of scrutiny over how the characters are portrayed, and certainly in scenes like the kiss.
Bunn: We actually had a conversation about that this morning, knowing the book's coming out. We know that there are going to be some people who are going to feel like we are oversexualizing it. Or that we’re putting together a book based on fanservice, which is not our goal. We're never going to make everybody happy.
I think Will and I both approach the book from a respectful manner. I don't know that any of my scripts have ever said, "Let's really play up the sexiness of this panel." And at the same time, I don't, in my scripts, caution the artists away from doing anything. I have to trust in Will to portray the characters in the way he thinks is going to be best, and I've never, in one of the Fearless Defenders scripts, said, "Please be careful in this panel," or anything like that.
There was a scene in one of my books a while back, where I had a woman delivering CPR to another woman. In the script, I wrote the note, "Please don't try to make this sexy." Because I didn't know who the artist was; I didn't want him trying to make it a different kind of scene than I intended. I don't do that in the Fearless Defenders scripts, especially now that I know Will, because I know the way he approaches the book, and I know he's going to do the things that he thinks are right.
But, hey, we’re not perfect. It's going to be tough, and we're going to stumble along the way, even if it's unintentionally.
Nrama: To wrap up, is there anything you'd like to tease for Fearless Defenders #2?
Bunn: Dani Moonstar comes into the comic in a big way in issue #2 — she makes a very dynamic entrance. Even though she technically isn't a big force until the third issue, Hippolyta makes her first appearance in #2.
Nrama: Who now, it's been established, is being called "Warrior Woman."
Bunn: Warrior Woman! The name she cannot stand. [.] That's her superhero code name, but that doesn’t mean she approves of it!More from Newsarama:
- What We Learned From MARVEL's APRIL 2013 Solicitations
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