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‘There were so many things I wanted to do’ – Cullen Bunn reflects on his time writing the X-Men

X-Men Week continues with a look back at Cullen Bunn’s various X-Men runs!

Following the events of House of X and Powers of X, Marvel’s mutants have entered an all-new, all-different era. It is the Dawn of X. To celebrate, AiPT! Brings you X-MEN WEEK–seven days of original interviews with past and present X-Creators. Pax Krakoa!

Cullen Bunn is one of those rare individuals who had a chance to go from lifelong X-Men fan to longtime X-Men writer. And he definitely left his mark on the franchise, delivering a lengthy character study in Magneto, one of the most interesting X-Teams of all time in Uncanny X-Men and constant fun, twists and turns in X-Men Blue. Bunn was tabling at New York Comic Con 2019, where he agreed to reflect on his time in the X-Men universe with me.

Cullen Bunn at NYCC 2019.

AiPT!: You went from being a longtime X-Men fan to the writer of lengthy runs on three X-Men series. Now that your time with the X-Men has come to an end (for now), has your perception of the X-Men changed in any way?

Cullen Bunn: You know, I don’t know that anything pops into my mind about the X-Men themselves, because I feel like over the years, I formed a pretty solid interpretation of the characters as a fan, and I embraced that in the book itself. Some of my beliefs on what fans like may have changed a little bit, and for the most part, the fans were very supportive of the books that I did, so that’s not a complaint, but it was interesting to see the things they really gravitated to and the things that didn’t necessarily trigger with a large group. So maybe that–just my interpretation of how readers interacted with the X-Men.

AiPT!: What were some of the things the fans were into that surprised you?

Bunn: There were a few things I didn’t think people would be really into–a super-violent Magneto. I didn’t think people would be into a hinted romance between Sabretooth and Monet and they were. I mean, I still get questions about that all the time.

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

And there were some things like Emma Frost, for instance, appeared in sort of a villainous role at some points in my book, and I really got a lot of heat for that, even though I felt like I had to go with what was established. I wasn’t going to turn her into a hero again after IVX, so I felt like I had to follow what was set up. But boy, people really don’t like Emma Frost as a villain, and here’s the thing. I love Emma Frost, but I was introduced to her as a villain, and I followed her as a villain for all those years, so I don’t like thinking about her as a hero too much, even though in X-Men Blue she basically takes that heroic role again, or an anti-hero role, but I still like thinking of her as a villain.

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

AiPT!: You covered a lot of ground over 36 issues and one annual of X-Men Blue. But were there any stories or ideas you wanted to explore and weren’t able to get to? The fact that both Magneto and Jimmy Hudson had connections to versions of Magda Lensherr comes to mind.

Bunn: Oh, I wanted to. There were so many things. In one of the last last issues of X-Men Blue, there are all these flashes to future hints–all that stuff is hinted as stuff on a list I wanted to do. But there were so many things I wanted to do–the Jimmy Hudson stuff–there were seeds planted way back in Ultimate Wolverine that was like, OK, I can use that and explore that in this book with Magneto now, so I would have loved to have that opportunity.

AiPT!: So you know how Maggott went on to become one of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen?

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Bunn: Oh yeah, oh yeah–I have all these ideas. I mean, if you were to look at my X-Men notebooks, it’s just basically pages and pages of me daydreaming. Some are bad ideas, but some I like. Some I thought were pretty good and wanted to do something with.

AiPT!: Well, what I always enjoyed about X-Men Blue was how much story you packed into each issue. There were a lot of subplots running through that series.

Bunn: You know, it was a weird project. All of those projects were weird, especially Uncanny and Blue, because we had kind of been given marching orders that we couldn’t change anything with the X-Men. I mean, we were very limited with where we could go with the story because the plans for House of X–those were already in play when I first started writing Uncanny X-Men. We knew. It was like the worst-kept secret at Marvel. Like, “We got another plan.” Yeah, it’s Jonathan Hickman–everybody knows it! But that was in place when I took over Uncanny X-Men. To some degree, it was like placeholder stuff.

AiPT!: Before “Cross Time Capers,” when it seemed like the original five X-Men were from an alternate reality, X-Men Blue almost felt like an Exiles book, with the addition of “alternate” versions of Wolverine and Storm. What made you want to include Jimmy Hudson and vampire Ororo on the team?

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Bunn: Well, I wanted to expand the team beyond the original five and I felt like in order to keep the right theme for the team, I needed characters who were out of place–who weren’t our versions of the characters. So that’s why Jimmy was an alternate Wolverine and Bloodstorm was an alternate Storm–not to mention Bloodstorm was a character I really like. So I wanted to put her in the book, and it’s interesting you say Exiles, because my intent was to end the series with them going back into the timestream. The original pitch, which was on the board for awhile, was it would then turn into a book called The Exiles and it would be that team doing what the Exiles used to do–lost in a reality stream. But alas, best laid plans.

AiPT!: Well, speaking of Bloodstorm, in your run, one of the most surprising subplots was the love triangle between Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Bloodstorm. How did this idea come about?

Bunn: So, as a younger man, I always thought a Cyclops and Storm relationship would have been awesome…

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

AiPT!: So that was your personal shipping!

Bunn: Yeah, I didn’t know the term shipping, but I was shipping Cyclops and Storm and I thought, well with Bloodstorm, that’s something I could do.

AiPT!: Something else I enjoyed in X-Men Blue was your take on Polaris. In my opinion, Lorna, along with Havok and Emma Frost, were characters you helped rehabilitate and bring to a better place than they were in at the time. Was bringing fan-favorite characters back to a more recognizable state something you set out to do during your run?

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Bunn: Yeah, particularly with Alex and Polaris, I definitely wanted to do something to Polaris. She wasn’t treated very well in the past, I mean, really badly in the past, so I wanted to do something to show her as a cool character. Because she’s pretty great. And then Alex, I had a lot of plans for Alex. I had a lot I wanted to do with Alex, but taking those first few steps–I don’t feel like I did a lot with him because the series ended, but I would have done a lot more with him.

AiPT!: Are we ever going to see Magik and the Hex-Men, which you teased on Twitter?

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Bunn: Oh, I’d love to–come on, that would be–I have a notebook for Magik and Hex-Men! I’d love to do any of that stuff.

AiPT!: Finally, what contribution to the X-Men mythos are you most proud of?

Bunn: Oh wow… I really loved what I did with Magneto, from the beginning of the Magneto series, I felt like I did something I’m just really proud of. The whole story, from the beginning of the story through X-Men Blue. And I’m pretty sure it’s all been dug up and destroyed now, but I liked what I did with it when I had it.

Image Credit: Marvel Comics

AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time to talk, Cullen!

Be sure to return to AiPT! tomorrow for the final day of X-Men Week!

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