When the Asgardian goddess known as Valkyrie failed to fulfill her obligation to create a new order of sacred warrior women known as Shieldmaidens, someone else stepped up to fill that void. Unfortunately for Valkyrie, that person is a ruthless and enigmatic woman named Caroline LeFay, and she just so happens to want to replace the Shieldmaidens, with their ancient, corrupted and powerful predecessors, the Doom Maidens.
In "Fearless Defenders," Bunn and Sliney have set Valkyrie and her allies -- bionically enhanced private investigator Misty Knight, former leader of the New Mutants Dani Moonstar, the resurrected Amazon queen Hippolyta AKA Warrior Woman and archeologist Dr. Annaabelle Riggs -- with the task of foiling LeFay's plans. In issue #4, their battle escalated as LeFay woke the Doom Maidens from their slumber.
In "Fearless Defenders" #4AU, the most recent issue of the series, Bunn and guest artist Phil Jimenez took a step back from the battle with the Doom Maidens for an issue that continues to move the series forward while taking a side trip into the alternate reality created by the current "Age of Ultron" event. The issue featured a number of revelations about Warrior Woman and LeFay, including the identities of LeFay's parents, who are two major Marvel villains. We spoke with Bunn about these revelations and his plans for the series.
CBR News: Let's start with the big reveal in "Fearless Defenders" #4AU, namely that the series villain, Caroline LeFay is the daughter of Doctor Doom and the Arthurian Era sorceress Morgan LeFay, which is a pretty interesting parentage and explains a lot about her personality. How did her origin come about? When you created the character, did you always intend for her to be Doom and LeFay's offspring?
Cullen Bunn: I always knew Caroline would be a descendent of Morgan, but I didn't decide that she would actually be her daughter until a little later down the line. My original plan was to drop clues to her heritage over time -- a comment here or there. Then "Age of Ultron" happened, and that changed everything! When my editor, Ellie Pyle, sent me the outline for "AoU" and told me we would be doing a tie-in issue, everything seemed to come together. Here's a world where Morgan is the "big bad" and Latveria and Asgard went to war. I wanted the tie-in issue to have impact on the main series, and revealing Caroline's origins seemed to fit the bill.
While I originally intended to keep her father more of mystery, it just made sense to go ahead and place all the cards on the table. I always wrote her as the love-child of Dr. Doom and Morgan, so I went ahead and made it official!
I imagine Caroline's retelling of her origin in #4AU has changed a little from her actual Marvel U origin since it's being told in an alternate timeline. But can we assume though that what she told is true up to the point where she grew up in the present day and was raised by her mother's followers?
Yes, her origin is a little different thanks to the changing timeline, but the major elements are the same: She was conceived during one of Doom's jaunts into the past. She was born in the dark ages and transported into the future to be raised by Morgan's disciples.
If anything, Caroline is much nicer in the twisted "AoU" version of reality! So maybe the "real" world was much, much crueler to her -- or it at least fueled her appetite for Armageddon.
The revelation of Caroline's origins also raises some big questions about her relationship to her parents. What's the current status of her relationship to her mother? And did her father even known she existed?
Have Caroline and Dr. Doom ever met? Does he know she's his daughter? Why did Morgan send Caroline into the future?
All good questions.
As the series goes forward, we'll explore those in greater detail. I'll say this: In "our" world, Caroline does know who her father is -- and if she hasn't introduced herself, there's probably a reason. I definitely think there is a confrontation between Caroline and her father somewhere in the future!
You also explore another father/daughter relationship in #4AU by having Warrior Woman come face to face with her father Ares, the Olympian God of War, who has apparently not died in this timeline. What was it like writing that confrontation, and ultimately, how would you describe the relationship between Ares and Hippolyta?
There were two versions of this script written. Both included a confrontation between Ares and Hippolyta, but the first version was much less action-oriented and much darker. I liked that version, but it didn't really reflect the spirit of the main series.
The second version is definitely a lot more fun -- mainly because I loved writing Hippolyta beating the tar out of her old man.
At the same time, though, I wanted to show that there is actually love between the two of them -- only Ares has seen so much war that he doesn't know how to express it -- and Hippolyta is most definitely her father's daughter. Ares destroyed the Amazons because they betrayed her. But Hippolyta isn't going to let him off the hook because he was lashing out in anger.
I like to think that this battle was therapeutic for them. If we had continued this storyline, you might have seen the rift between Ares and Hippolyta heal a little.
Warrior Woman shows off how powerful she is by beating her father, who then remarks that the gods of Death brought her back to be their instrument. Is Hippolyta truly the enforcer for the various death gods of the Marvel Universe? And does this mean she answers to one particular master? Or many?
To my way of thinking, the gods of Death wouldn't just help raise Hippolyta if they weren't going to get something out of it. While she doesn't really answer to any of them, there will be a price to pay for her resurrection. Somewhere down the line, there's a "Twelve Labors of Hippolyta" story that I want to tell. For now, suffice it to say that she is much more powerful than even she realizes -- and those powers were granted to her for a reason.
Maybe a sinister reason.
Ares is dead in the main Marvel Universe, but who knows what his status will be after "Age of Ultron." Even if he stays dead, he could still play a role in "Fearless Defenders." So I guess my question to you, then, is are you interested in using him again in "Fearless Defenders?"
I love Ares. I dunno why. I've just always liked him. I would definitely like to write more about him -- and I certainly will.
Most people don't know that when I was pitching concepts for "Deadpool Team-Up," I pitched a Deadpool and the left half of Ares story. This would have been Deadpool running around with half of Ares' dead body (he was ripped in half by the Sentry in "Siege") in an adventure not unlike "Weekend at Bernie's."
Oh, well. Marvel editorial missed out on that one.
If nothing else, Ares will show up (even if it's just in flashback) because of his connection to Hippolyta and the Amazons. As in the "AoU," Hippolyta is going to "get the band back together" in terms of the Amazons -- soon.
It's still unclear how the timeline problem in "Age of Ultron" will be resolved, so I'm curious will any of your cast remember the events of or fragments of the events in "Fearless Defenders" #4AU?
I can't reveal that! The beating Hippolyta gave Ares would be nothing compared to what Ellie would do to me if I spilled the beans!
Fair enough! Let's move away from the revelations of issue #4AU and back to some of the bombshells you dropped in "Fearless Defenders" #4, where we found out that Valkyrie was actually one of the Doom Maidens. When did you get the idea to have her be part of the group? Is this an idea you had back when you were working with Valkyrie on the "Fear Itself: The Fearless" miniseries?
Valkyrie's connection to the Doom Maidens came to me when I first started working on "Fearless Defenders." I know Val has a convoluted origin, but this was my chance to make it even messier! Take that, writers of the future! Actually, I thought this would add a new layer to her character. And, trust me, her past will come back to haunt her in a big way. It will change everything for her going forward.
This revelation of course begs the question: Why did she get a chance to redeem herself while the other Doom Maidens were put to sleep, so to speak?
I've touched on it a little bit, and I'll explore it a little more in the future. The gist of it is that Odin loved her more than the others. It's harsh, but true. She was his first Valkyrie -- and he had the most hope for her. He couldn't help but give her another chance.
At the end of "Fearless Defenders" #4, Misty Knight temporarily returned to her role as the control of Heroes for Hire in order to round up some recruits for a battle against the Doom Maidens. Are you able to reveal if any of the characters that answer Misty's call will stick around and be permanent members of the group?
"Permanent" might be too strong of a term, especially when you're dealing with the Defenders. In issue 6, you'll see Valkyrie set up a new charter for the non-team that should answer the question to some degree. Basically, though, the characters who show up will appear again in the series.
Based on the solicits, the characters involved in the final battle against the Doom Maidens will be part of a big fight that spans issues 5 and 6 -- and one of them won't be walking away from the battle. What do you want readers to know about the events of issues #5-6?
I want them to know that I'm gonna hurt them with this one.
That sounds ominous! Let's start to wrap things up by talking about your interior and cover artists Will Sliney and Mark Brooks. What can we expect from Will and Mark over the next few issues?
Will is one of those artists who I think is just getting better and better with every issue. I was just looking at art from issue 8, and it is the best stuff he's done yet. He draws one helluva Elsa Bloodstone -- which is good because he is drawing a lot of her.
Mark continues to surprise and amaze me with his cover designs. I think he has put together some of the most unusual covers around, which works so well for this book -- because I think it's unlike anything else on the shelves. Finally, "Fearless Defenders" #7 deals with the fallout from your first arc before issue #8 kicks off your second. What do you have planned for the book further down the road?
Issues 7 – 12 are being put together as a series of one-and-done stories that interconnect to tell a much bigger tale. I can't reveal what Caroline will be up to (not until issue 6 comes out) but we'll be seeing the results of her scheming. We'll see a new super villain team taking shape. We'll see lots of guest stars, such as Venom and Dr. Strange and Hercules. We'll see the introduction of a new character I think people are gonna love. And we'll see a couple of issues that will be completely unexpected.