Firing On All Cylinders: Cullen Bunn

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Cullen Bunn, writer of The Sixth Gun from Oni Press chats to BF about gross-out stories, dreaming of an iPhone-free world and more. Bunn’s first comics work, also with Oni, was The Damned, which centered on three demon families during the days of prohibition. His new series The Sixth Gun follows Civil War gunslinger Drake Sinclair as he strives to protect an innocent girl from the grasp of evil men trying to claim a powerful pistol of supernatural origins. 

Every Tuesday in December Oni Press ran a part of Bunn’s prose tale set in the world of The Sixth Gun, entitled, Them What Ails Ya: A Christmas Yam. Bunn’s co-creator/artist in the series, Brian Hurtt created artwork to go with the short story, and has also revealed spoiler-free panels from the book to generate interest, and that is something that will surely rise once The Sixth Gun debuts in Oni’s Free Comic Book Day Offering on May 1.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Oni obviously believe in The Sixth Gun, as their blog carried your short stories, and it’s being featured during Free Comic Book Day this year. How gratifying is that?

CULLEN BUNN: Oni has always been great to work with, but their support of The Sixth Gun has been absolutely thrilling. It’s really nice to see them try new approaches to promoting the book well before the release, and being included in FCBD was a wonderful surprise. I never planned on the book being released as part of the event, but I couldn’t be happier that Oni wants to get the first issue into the hands of as many readers as possible. 

BF: Is the FCBD issue a stand-alone introduction to the series?

CB: I wrote the script long before I knew the book would be part of FCBD, and the issue in question is the entire first issue of the series, introducing the main characters, their plight, and the world they live in. 

BF: Both The Damned and The Sixth Gun are set in the days of old. Does that mean you’re averse to today’s technology and would prefer simpler times when moustaches were long and hats were worn indoors?

CB: I think it just means that I believe cell phones ruined a writer’s chances of telling a rousing story. It’s tough to isolate your characters when all they have to do is whip out their iPhone and call the cavalry or—worse yet—download all the information they could ever want on how to kill a vampire or mummy or Cthulhu directly from the Internet.

Just kidding. Kinda.

Actually, I think Brian and I both just find days-gone-by to be interesting in terms of visuals (from clothing to architecture to technology) and characters (from attitudes to speech patterns and slang). And sometimes a certain time period just fits.  With The Damned, that story worked best in the Prohibition era. With The Sixth Gun, my initial idea had the story taking place in modern day New York, and I just couldn’t get it to work. When I started toying with the idea of changing the setting, it clicked.

I’ve got a couple of projects coming down the pike that are definitely set in the here-and-now … although my preference is for an alternate present in which cell phones were never invented. 

BF: Seeing as you’ve worked with Brian Hurtt on The Damned a few years ago, does that make it easier to collaborate now?

CB: We haven’t killed each other yet!

Collaborating with Brian has always been pretty easy. We each get where the other is coming from. I don’t remember any rough patches when we were working on the first arc of The Damned, and I think we continue to work together in the same way. Now, with The Sixth Gun, we wanted to try some different things that would set it apart, storytelling-wise, from The Damned, and I think that led to some scripts that were a little more challenging to draw. So I guess I’m much more apologetic this time around. 

BF: And are you working with him on the new The Damned series?

CB: Yes. The third arc of The Damned will be titled Daughter’s Danse, and, if we have our way, it will be released late in 2010. Like the second arc (Prodigal Sons) it will be a three-issue series. In terms of tone, it will be our darkest story yet. The first arc was more of a noir mystery. The second was a two-fisted pulp adventure. This story is a really dark horror tale. It will also answer a lot of questions and set up some major events to come. Once that arc is complete, Prodigal Sons and Daughter’s Danse will be collected together in the second trade.

BF: At the start of the year you mentioned on your blog that you’re committed to writing 850 words a day. How’s that going?

CB: It’s hard to say, actually. I think I’m getting close. I do a lot of my initial drafts in longhand, and I’m measuring word counts the way my mama measured biscuit ingredients—by feel. Once I type all this stuff up, I might find that I’ve shortchanged myself … or gone way over. Either way, I’m trying my best to attain some writing goal every day. My pal Mike Oliveri, author of The Pack, may have a better take on things when he says that his goal is to create something every day.

BF: You have Raze coming from Evileye and Heaveworld which is out now from Skullvines Press. Care to offer a few words to describe those projects? I think Heaveworld definitely needs a description.

CB: Raze is a series of graphic novels and prose novellas that I’m working on with co-writer Shawn Lee. It’s a fantasy series, but there are no dragons or elves or flying monkeys. This is a world that has suffered through countless religious and race wars—a word that is moving towards its demise. It’s a pre-apocalypse story, and the main characters, Siris and Kast, are a sexy pair of self-destructive engines of entropy with sinister and unfathomable ideals and agendas.

Heaveworld is a collection of gross-out stories, most of which were created to compete in the World Horror Convention Gross-Out Contest. The contest has taken place at the convention for years. Basically, a bunch of horror writers create the most vile story they can think of and read it before a panel of judges and an audience of up to a couple of hundred people (mostly horror writers). I managed to win the contest every time I entered, which means there must be something wrong with me. It’s been a (dubious) honor, but very exciting, especially considering that some of my writing idols, such as John Skipp and Joe R. Lansdale have sat on the judging panel. In addition to my four winning stories, Heaveworld includes a never-before-published novella, Great Balls of Ire, a kind of epic-length, cosmic horror gross-out story that takes place against the backdrop of the Midway County Testicle Festival.

BF: What do you do to get yourself in the mood to create winning gross-out tales?

CB: Tequila. Lots and lots of Tequila. 

Actually, I just had to prepare myself to work on something with absolutely no limits, to really cut loose and not hold back.

BF: You’ve written an Immortal Weapons issue for Marvel, as well as stories for a few smaller publishers. Was writing for many different publishers always the plan, or just something that happened?

CB: I always intended to work with as many publishers as possible, especially at the outset of my writing career. I wanted to expand my publishing footprint, so to speak. I’ll continue to look for as many outlets as possible to tell the stories that are rattling around in my head, but I’ve been lucky so far that I’ve found at least a couple of publishers who seem to be on the same wavelength as me. 

BF: What distracts you from writing?

CB: What doesn’t? I’m a new father. My wife and I adopted our son a few months ago, so my life has really changed and become a lot busier. My family isn’t a distraction at all. However, I’ve realized that I had to eliminate a lot of the other distractions I took for granted—watching far too much TV and movies, for example—to make sure I had time for both my family and for my writing. I still haven’t gotten it right yet, but I’m starting to schedule specific time to dedicate to writing every day.

The Sixth Gun debuts in May 1’s FCBD offering from Oni Press, with the actual series beginning soon after. Go here to see a 7 page preview.

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