Published on December 1st, 2015 | by Amy Dittmeier
Exclusive Interview with Comic Book Writer Cullen Bunn
Chances are that you’ve read a Cullen Bunn book and haven’t known it. Bunn’s presence expands to every corner of the comic book world, from his original Weird West series The Sixth Gun to his work on Marvel’s Magneto and his upcoming Uncanny X-Men comic. He’s written for most of the major comic book publishers, and he’s not even close to being done. We talked to Bunn about some exciting new stories he’s working on as well as some of his favorite sequential art for libraries.
Q: Libraries are incorporating comic books and graphic novels into their collections more frequently than ever before. Do you have any recommendations (outside of your own work, of course!) of essential titles to include?
A: There are many books I’d suggest adding to a library’s collection. A few that spring immediately to mind are Jeff Smith’s Bone, Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet, Essex County by Jeff Lemire, and the various works of Junji Ito. The list could go on and on, of course.
Q: What was behind the decision to conclude The Sixth Gun series? Did you feel like the series had come to a natural end?
A: Artist Brian Hurtt and I had an ending planned for The Sixth Gun from very early on. I’d say it was taking shape around the time I was writing the third of fourth issues. We didn’t necessarily know how many issues it would take to tell the story we wanted to tell. We mapped out the major story beats, but left some wiggle room to expand the world and develop the characters. It wasn’t until around the mid-point in the series that we knew exactly which issue would be our last. I’ve always thought the best stories have definite endings. As much as I want the tale to continue, it’s time to bring it to a close.
Q: The Sixth Gun RPG system blew past its initial goal on Kickstarter back in May. Did you have a lot of input on how Savage Worlds adapted your series into a RPG setting? Do you yourself have a lot of experience playing RPGs?
A: I’ve played a lot of role-playing games in my day. I’ve been a fan of gaming almost as long as I’ve been a fan of comic books. That said, while I love running games, I’ve never been one to get too bogged down with rules. I was happy to have someone who really knew how the mechanics of the game worked and how to design exciting gaming scenarios to develop the game. Scott Woodard came on to develop the game. He kept us in the loop, but we really let him do his thing with the Savage World supplement. But I’ve tinkered with some scenarios for The Sixth Gun since then, and I’ll be sharing them soon!
A: When I’m writing these characters, I try to find that one bit of emotional impact I can latch onto. I might also try to figure out some cool angle for the story or setting, but I think the most important thing to make the character “mine” is to focus on what emotional elements will resonate most strongly with my readers.
Q: Outside of your work for Marvel, you’ve been writing more horror comics. What about the horror genre appeals to you as a writer? What horror works have influenced your writing?
A: I’ve always been a fan of horror. It’s a genre in which the characters–and therefore the reader–can never really feel safe. And there are many sub-genres to horror–dark fantasy, horror/comedy, cosmic horror, etc.–so there’s lots of room to play. My primary influences include the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Stephen King; the comics of Junji Ito; and a load of horror movies I watched back when I dreamed of becoming a special effects makeup artist. The Thing, Alien, Phantasm, Fright Night, Evil Dead, and American Werewolf in London are just a few favorites.
Q: Your newest title on Oni Press, Blood Feud, came out last month. I’m really excited to read a good Gothic Horror comic! What made you decide to make the setting in the South? Did your personal experiences growing up in North Carolina and Missouri influence your work on Blood Feud?
A: Blood Feud is set in Spider Creek, Missouri, a fictional town located in the Missouri Ozarks. Years ago, I moved to the Missouri Ozarks, to a town not so different from Spider Creek. Living there definitely inspired the story.
Many of my stories are set in “the backwoods” because I grew up in areas like that. I was surrounded by folklore and ghost stories from a very young age. There’s a kind of magical, spooky quality to the country that works so well in horror tales. I can’t help but work those elements into my stories every chance I get.
Q: Banned Book Week was a couple of months ago, and it’s very apparent that banned books and comics are still an issue in America. What advice would you give to librarians who are dealing with patrons that are worried about comic books and their subject material?
A: I’ve written a broad range of stories, from all-ages books like Terrible Lizard to dark and violent fantasy like Helheim. I’d suggest that librarians ask publishers for a look at the work if they are unsure where it might fit in their collection.
Q: Harrow County is being considered as a television series after the Dark Horse and Universal deal. I know that the Sixth Gun had previously been adapted for television. After reading Warren Ellis’ thoughts on how comics to TV adaptations go, I can see the endeavour being stressful on the creator. Whenever the subject of your work being turned into another type of media is broached, how do you approach it?
A: It’s difficult to keep excitement in check when media adaptations come up. That’s something, though, that I have to do. My approach right now is to let the experts–the television and film writers, directors, and producers–work their magic. I’ve been lucky in that they’ve always been very open to keeping me involved. It’s nice to see that side of things. For now, though, my goal is to focus on the comic book that I’m writing–to make the best comic book I can–and let the other creators focus on the adaptation side of things.