Marvel NOW! Q&A: Fearless Defenders

Marvel NOW! Q&A: Fearless Defenders

By Ben Morse

The new landscape of the Marvel Universe in Marvel NOW! requires heroes of all kind to step up to the plate, and it’s certainly going to require a solid defense from the varied threats arising.

Fortunately, the world’s got FEARLESS DEFENDERS on the way.

In February 2013, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Will Sliney launch a new ongoing series starring Valkyrie and Misty Knight as they recruit a dream team of female heroes to protect the Marvel Universe. We spoke with Bunn about what to expect.

Fearless Defenders #1 cover by Mark Brooks What is the mission statement behind FEARLESS DEFENDERS?

Cullen Bunn: Chosen by Odin ages ago, the host of shield maidens has dispersed into the ether, never to return. The All-Mother tasked Valkyrie with the selection of a new group of Valkyrior, not from the women of Asgard, but from the heroic women of Earth.

It was a great honor, a great responsibility.

And she blew it.

FEARLESS DEFENDERS will be the story of Valkyrie trying to make amends for her mistakes—mistakes that put the entire world in jeopardy—by choosing a group of heroic women to fight by her side. Circumstance will provide her with an unlikely partner in this task, as she is joined by private investigator Misty Knight.

Needless to say, Misty and Val have very different points of view and very different approaches. They will both find their definitions of heroism and honor put to the test by the women they lead and the challenges they face. How does FEARLESS DEFENDERS fit into the world of Marvel NOW!?

Cullen Bunn: FEARLESS DEFENDERS will chronicle the adventures of the female heroes of the Marvel Universe. There will be a central team of characters that will form over time, but the cast will rotate to some degree from arc to arc. This will be a team like none other in Marvel NOW. I think readers will have a good time speculating on who will be joining this version of the Defenders. The team up of Valkyrie and Misty Knight is probably unexpected for most people, and that’s just one of the surprises I have in store. This will be an offbeat team, and they’ll be facing some bewildering threats. How did this book come together?

Cullen Bunn: While working on FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS, I had this idea that Valkyrie, the lead character in THE FEARLESS, might have to rebuild the host of the shield maidens, not from the warriors of Asgard, but from the women of Midgard. I thought the idea held tremendous storytelling potential and would offer the chance to showcase some great characters that may not always get their moment in the spotlight. I latched onto this notion of watching a team come together slowly under Valkyrie’s guidance.

Since the end of THE FEARLESS, I’ve pitched and campaigned for this book. When editorial came to me and said they wanted to do it as the new Defenders series, I was thrilled. I’ve been a fan of the Defenders since I was a kid, and I’m excited to have my chance to contribute to the history of that team.

It was the addition of Misty Knight to the cast that really shook things up and made the book come together, though. The interaction between Misty and Val gives the book heart and soul and a sense of fun that I think brings everything together in a really cool way. In what ways will FEARLESS DEFENDERS follow up on THE FEARLESS?

Cullen Bunn: The primary connection to THE FEARLESS is that at the end of the limited series, the All-Mother charges Valkyrie with putting together a new group of Valkyrior. That’s really the only thing you need to know to enjoy the series, and I cover that ground pretty early in the first arc for new readers. Still, FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS gave me the chance to work with Valkyrie as a character. Readers who aren’t familiar with her—or with me as a writer—might want to pick up the collected edition. Does FEARLESS DEFENDERS spin out of the previous DEFENDERS series at all? Why does the Defenders name fit?

Cullen Bunn: Beyond the team name, there’s little connection to the previous DEFENDERS series. I enjoyed that series quite a bit, but I wanted this book to stand on its own in terms of characters, plots, and themes. It’s definitely a different approach to the team.

The team structure for Defenders has always changed, but one thing has been constant. The team is always sort of mismatched. A group of dynamic characters from differing backgrounds… often at odds with one another, but banded together against the strangest and most terrifying threats to our world? That’s one of the gimmicks of Defenders, and it applies directly to this new team.


The fact that Valkyrie has a rich history as a member of the team is just icing on the cake! Why Valkyrie and Misty Knight as the leads? What makes them an interesting team?

Cullen Bunn: I didn’t originally envision two lead characters for this book. But the goal is to see a larger team form, and I intend to see a number of guest stars circulate into the series. I felt like there needed to be a couple of main characters to serve as the connective tissue, the entry point for the readers. I want every member of the team to be someone readers will relate to, but I needed a foundation to build from. I considered a number of foils for Valkyrie. Once I put Val and Misty together and saw how much fun it could be for them to interact, it became clear that I had my leads.

As a team, the Defenders have always been comprised of unusual match ups. Both Misty and Valkyrie are these kinds of time-lost characters, and they come from very different worlds. I love the contrast between Valkyrie as a goddess and Misty as a “street level” character. They’ll be thrown into each other’s worlds and the transition won’t be easy.

These two women have different approaches to getting the job done and distinct differences of opinion in almost everything. They’ll challenge each other every step of the way. They’re becoming teammates, even friends, but this won’t be a painless process. How does your take on Valkyrie here differ from where you picked her up for THE FEARLESS? How has she evolved?

Cullen Bunn: Valkyrie has always been—distant. She’s ancient, near immortal, and she’s spent most of her existence ferrying dead heroes into paradise. That’s not a recipe for compassion and understanding. Despite her interaction with the super heroes of Earth, she still has a lot to learn about actually being human.

Valkyrie’s become jaded. She doubts that any woman of Midgard can adequately fill the role of a shield maiden. Her definition of heroism and bravery has been forged through centuries of ushering the greatest of warriors to their final resting place. Her standards are so lofty that no one fits the bill.

Misty Knight

She’s making excuses and procrastinating, Asgardian-style.

Maybe that’s the most “human” thing she’s done.

Either way, though, her delays in rebuilding the Valkyrior have allowed something ancient and terrible to get a finger hold on our world. An ancient power is starting to awaken—and it’s Valkyrie’s fault. How do you approach Misty in contrast?

Cullen Bunn: Misty, on the other hand, is our everyman character. Despite her bionic arm and perfected martial arts, she’s a pretty grounded character. This impacts how she interacts with Valkyrie and approaches some of their adventures. In the first story, they’re dealing with ancient Asgardian mythology. At first, Misty is thrilled to see how well she does in the face of such otherworldly threats. But the scope of the first adventure—the territory Misty has never seen before—quickly threatens to swallow her up. She puts on a brave face, of course, but she’s facing some things that really scare her. When will we see other characters join up with this team?

Cullen Bunn: There will definitely be other characters joining the team. In the end, the Valkyrior will consist of eight team members. But this is not a book where we see the entire team, fully formed, on a splash page in the first issue. Rather, a big part of the story will be seeing the team come together logically. We’ll take our time getting there, but some characters will be fairly well known, some will be lesser cult favorites, and some will be introduced for the first time in this book.

In the meantime, though, there will be many guest stars appearing in the series.

In the end, this is Valkyrie’s dream team, and her vision sets the tone for the entire story—making it come true, seeing it sometimes fail, and learning to adapt when changes need to be made. What kinds of threats will this book deal with? What new and old villains can we expect?

Cullen Bunn: Right from the start, I’m introducing a new villain to plague this incarnation of the Defenders. She’s one of the cruelest, meanest characters to surface in the Marvel Universe. She’ll be a very dangerous challenge for the Defenders, not to mention anyone else who gets in her way. She’s a scary villain—and she doesn’t have any super powers. What can you say about Marvel newcomer Will Sliney?

Cullen Bunn: Will Sliney has no fear of drawing winged horses. This, if nothing else, qualifies him for the gig.

I had the chance to meet Will face-to-face when I was at New York Comic Con a couple of weeks back. From the start, we were on the same page in terms of what we wanted to accomplish with the series.

Then the first few pages of art started to roll in, and I was simply ecstatic. I want this to be a fun, upbeat book—even though some pretty grim challenges await the characters—and Will brings this sense of action and excitement and fun to every panel. What else has you excited about this book?

Cullen Bunn: In addition to my delight to be writing characters like Valkyrie, Misty and all the others who will appear in the series, I’m pretty thrilled with the world-building possibilities this book affords. I’m going to be exploring as many corners of the Marvel Universe as I can, expanding the world and building on some of the history. In the first arc, I’ll be revealing some startling secrets from Valkyrie’s past. 

Also, I’m pretty excited to hear the speculation as to who readers think should be a part of the team!

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