The prolific writer discusses writing, Patreon, continuity–basically everything.
Cullen Bunn is a busy writer. In addition to writing such series as The Sixth Gun (Oni Press), Regression (Images Comics) and the X-cellent X-Men: Blue (Marvel Comics), along with the upcoming Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again and Venomverse, he recently launched a Patreon campaign to support the release of Shadowcage, a serialized prose novel.
How does Bunn do it? And what are his thoughts on the upcoming Venom movie? And what’s next for the cast of X-Men: Blue?
Clearly, we had a lot of questions. Fortunately, Bunn was willing to provide some answers!
AiPT!: You’re without a doubt one of the busiest voices in comics. With so many ongoing projects, you’ve got to be very disciplined. What’s your typical workweek like?
Cullen Bunn: I work about 60 hours a week right now. 8 to 5 every weekday like clockwork, but then I’m also working an hour or two at night and I’m toiling away during the weekend hours, too. That’s changing, though. I’m looking at ending (or coming off of) a few projects, and I won’t be replacing that work right away.
AiPT!: Your Patreon project looks great – especially the little peeks inside your creative process. In an age of social media and very short attention spans, how important is it, in your opinion, for creators like yourself to engage with readers on a more personal level?
Bunn: I think it’s vital to communicate with readers as much as possible and share your process, your thoughts on your work, and your interests outside of comics. That’s why I try (on Twitter for instance) to interact with the people who send me questions and comments. The danger, of course, is spending so much time on social media that I don’t get my work done. It can be a struggle.
AiPT!: You’re working on Shadowcage, a prose novel. How do you find switching between writing comics and prose? Liberating? Challenging?
Bunn: A little of both?
Writing prose is so different from comics, because I’m not limited by the number of issues in an arc, the number of pages in an issue, the number of panels on the page. I can just start running and keep running and let the story go like I want.
But my comic scripts tend to rely on some prose elements–descriptive bits intended to inspire editors and artists with the mood I have in mind for the story. And there is a lot to be said for efficiency of language, even in prose, so I pick a little of that up, I think.
Switching between the two can be a challenge, though. I’ve been writing so many comics lately, I haven’t had a lot of time for prose. And those writing muscles atrophy when they aren’t in use. They are slowly taking shape again.
AiPT!: How did the idea for Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again Come about?
Bunn: Dalibor Talajic and I have wanted to work together again since the first series wrapped. We had this idea we thought was funny about returning to another (totally different) murderous rampage with Deadpool at some point, and we kept pitching the notion to our editors until they finally got tired of hearing us ask, I guess.
AiPT!: Can you see yourself writing Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again … Really, Again in a few years?
Bunn: I don’t know about that.
Although I’d never say never. It all depends on the reception to this series and if we come up with a great idea for a new story.AiPT!: Monsters Unleashed, now Venomverse. So many of the projects you tackle highlight the kind of crazy fun only comics can offer. What’s been your favorite part of writing Venomverse?
Bunn: Venomverse is definitely a crazy comic, lots of action and horror and heart. I think my favorite part of the series has been developing all these new Venoms and looking at how they interact differently with their hosts. There’s this interesting element of “untold story” about a lot of these characters. How did they get their symbiote and what sort of adventures did they go on before they ended up in this series? I love that stuff, because it leaves a lot of material on the playground for myself and other creators to possibly revisit at some point. I also really love these new villains I’m introducing in this series. They are going to be a terrible threat for the Venoms to contend with.AiPT!: Are you excited to see Tom Hardy as Venom on the big screen? And as a Venom authority, what do you most hope to see in the character’s first cinematic solo outing?
Bunn: I think he’s a great choice. I’m interested to see how they reinvent the story for this movie. I really want to see how they distinguish Venom from Spider-Man here. I really want to see them lean into the whole “lethal protector” vibe.
AiPT!: Continuity can be a scary word for some creators. One of my favorite aspects of X-Men: Blue (and your past X-Men work), is your willingness to mine story nuggets and lesser-used characters from the franchise’s 50+ year history. When writing, do you set out to incorporate elements of classic X-continuity in your stories, or does the use of characters like Bastion and Miss Sinister come about naturally?
Bunn: You have to remember that I’m a huge X-fan from way, way back. I don’t necessarily sit down and say “I’m gonna lean into nostalgia today!” But I do draw on a lot of elements I love from all my years reading X-books. It’s more of a natural impulse. Nostalgia is powerful, and you have to be careful with it. I want to honor continuity, but I do not want to be so beholden to continuity that it derails my story. Also–there’s almost no way to keep up with everything that has happened for every character. Sometimes, a writer is going to miss something from the character’s past, and we just have to try and roll with it.AiPT!: Your character work in X-Men: Blue has been exceptional – especially the way you’ve been rebuilding Scott and Jean’s “friendship” following the ups and downs of the past few years. What can fans of the pair look forward to in the months ahead?
Bunn: Jean and Scott are in for some crazy surprises in the near future. During the Secret Empire arc, something happens between the two of them that will change their relationship in a huge way, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We hinted at a “familiar” love triangle a while back, and a lot of readers instantly assumed we are talking about Jean, Scott, and Jimmy (Wolverine’s son). Eh. Maybe we are! But I bet those readers have no earthly idea where this is really headed!
AiPT!: Of all the characters you’re writing right now, who is the most fun to write dialogue for?
Bunn: If we’re talking Marvel characters, I really enjoy writing Jean and Bobby. I feel like their voices come most naturally to me.
If we’re talking creator-owned, I love writing Eddie’s snappy noir-influenced dialogue in the demons and gangsters book, The Damned.
AiPT!: Finally, if Wolverine was still alive in the comics, do you think seeing Jimmy Hudson in action would inspire him to go blond?
Bunn: I think he’d consider it… for like 5 seconds… then pop a beer and forget all about it.