San Diego Comic-Con Interview: Cullen Bunn

The writer discusses his tone, the supporting cast, and adaptations coming to Conan the Slayer

This year’s San Diego Comic-Con afforded me the opportunity to sit down and interview writer Cullen Bunn. His credits include The Damned, The Sixth Gun, Terrible Lizard, Deadpool Kills Deadpool, Fear Itself: The Fearless, Sinestro, Harrow County, and Conan the Slayer. This interview took place at the Dark Horse Comics booth on Thursday, July 21.

SciFiPulse: The first issue of Conan the Slayer was great.

Cullen Bunn: Thank you.

SciFiPulse: What elements do you find appealing about writing Conan that other books don’t have?

Cullen Bunn: Conan, to me, is such an interesting sword and sorcery book. Growing up when I did, reading when I did, I loved that. But Conan has this sort of undercurrent of horror. That’s right in the sweet spot for me as far as sword and sorcery mix. Not to mention, Conan is a character that’s a barbarian who is more civilized, quote unquote, than the people in civilization and I like that as an ongoing theme.

SciFiPulse: I was wondering about that because in the first issue’s first half Conan is doing what people traditionally expect Conan to be doing because they’re familiar with the films, and it’s really graphic, which was I was happy to see, compared to the Marvel comics I grew up reading in the 70s and 80s. How far are you going to go with the “slayer” aspect of Conan the Slayer?

Cullen Bunn: I’m going to take it — I’m going to lean into that a bit. It’s going to be a twenty-five issue series–

SciFiPulse: –Wow!

Cullen Bunn: I’m going to vary it up. I’m going to have some issues that are a little quieter, but some issues will lean really heavy into sword and sorcery. Monsters like you’ve seen in the classic stories and some that are just really violent. I also want to do more grounded stories. I also like the idea you can do a crime story with Conan as the protagonist.

SciFiPulse: Some readers prefer Conan with just the swords, some people want more magic. Are you looking to find a balance there as well?

Cullen Bunn: I’m hoping to have a good balance of the two. I personally lean more towards the magic and the monsters and that kind of stuff. Even with that I want to be more grounded. You walk a fine line with Conan. If you’re not careful, you can do something that’s a little too outlandish if it doesn’t fit the tone of the world. I’m all for some monsters and some creatures and you’re going to get that. In the first arc there’s a quite a bit of it. I try to keep it a little grounded. Keep the sense of realism throughout it.

SciFiPulse: Is there anything that you look at for Conan where you think, ‘I can’t include this’? You mentioned going too far with Conan. Is there anything that would go too far for you on this Conan title?

Cullen Bunn: Well, yeah. There’s a lot of stuff that could go over the edge. I think back to some of those older Marvels, which I love. There are stories where Conan goes through time. Those do not work, as much as I still live those stories, they don’t work work for the tone of this series. So, yeah, getting really crazy…going through time or making it seem like a Dungeons and Dragons game, or wizards throwing fireballs. That sort of magic seems a little off tone. There is a place for those stories, but I just don’t see that in this Conan series.

SciFiPulse: In the first issue I really like the first half of the book, which was the typical Conan. The second half had Conan tied to a pole in a tent–

Cullen Bunn: (Smiling) –Yeah!

SciFiPulse: –and he’s still the most intense person in those scenes.

Cullen Bunn: Those scenes where he’s tied to a pole by the Kozaks were my favorite stuff to write. That was the fun stuff in the first issue.

SciFiPulse: You’re building up a supporting cast in the first issue. Conan, as a comic book series, is notorious for killing off anyone who hangs around Conan for too long…

Cullen Bunn: (Laughter): Right!

SciFiPulse: Are readers going to see some of these characters survive longer than a five issue arc?

Cullen Bunn: Absolutely. One of the nice things in my run is that I’m going to be adapting two of the Robert E. Howard stories.

SciFiPulse: Which ones?

Cullen Bunn: “The Devil in Iron” and “The People of the Black Circle.” Around those I have a lot of freedom to tell my own story. I’m going to be introducing new supporting characters who will last. Some of them won’t. Some of them have got to bite it. There will be some that last. There are some characters in “The Devil in Iron” and that’s the only time they’re mentioned in a Robert E. Howard story. There’s one in particular, Octavia, and I’m going to be adding her to the series and building her up as a character beyond the adaptation. So, yeah, lots of supporting cast.

SciFiPulse: One last question. Red Sonja? There have been a lot of Red Sonja crossovers with Conan. Have you been approached for a Red Sonja crossover?

Cullen Bunn: I have not. I’d probably jump all over it. Red Sonja is such an interesting character because in the Robert E. Howard stories she’s the not character we’re all familiar with. She’s very different. She really was developed in comics.

SciFiPulse: …But if it came your way?

Cullen Bunn: If it came my way, I would at the least be very tempted.

Based on what Mr. Bunn has done with Conan in this first issue, let’s hope that after he concludes his run on this series the She-Devil with a sword comes his way.

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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