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C2E2 2019: Interview with Punk Mambo Writer Cullen Bunn

Cullen Bunn is one of the most prolific comic book writers of the past decade. He has worked on Dark Horse’s Eisner nominated horror comic Harrow County, The Sixth Gun for Oni Press, comics like Sinestro and Earth 2 World’s End for DC, and worked extensively on titles starring Deadpool, the X-Men, and Venom for Marvel. Now, he turns his attention to Valiant where he will be writing the first solo series for Victoria Greaves-Trott aka Punk Mambo, a British voodoo priestess created by Peter Milligan and Roberto de la Torre as a supporting character in their relaunch of Shadowman.

Due to sickness, I wasn’t able to chat with Bunn in person at C2E2 about Punk Mambo, but was able to interview him via email.

Graphic Policy: Punk Mambo has had a lot of guest appearances in Valiant books since 2013, but apart from a one-shot, she’s never had a series of her own.  Why is now the perfect time for her to have one, and how will the solo series explore her character?

Cullen Bunn: Valiant is launching several new titles, offering readers something fresh and exciting with new characters and new settings and new adventures. Punk Mambo is a character a lot of readers might be unfamiliar with. She is a great gateway to Valiant’s supernatural world. I’m hoping this new initiative will bring in readers unfamiliar with the character, and maybe even unfamiliar with Valiant as a whole. I’ve talked to many people, who know little or nothing about Punk Mambo, but who are interested in finding out more now that there is a spotlight on her!

GP: Punk Mambo is one of several new #1’s for Valiant. How will you make this series accessible to new readers?

CB: I have written this series in such a way that you need not know anything about this character in order to enjoy the book. In a lot of ways, I’m treating this like her first appearance. Yes, if you are familiar with the character, you’ll get something different out of the book than if it is your first encounter with Punk, but first time readers will not be lost at all. Punk narrates this book so she brings the reader right along with her. And she’s encountering new threats, new enemies, and new allies; most of whom are appearing for the first time in this book.

GP: Punk Mambo is set in Haiti instead of New Orleans or London. What does this new setting bring to the series?

CB: I have written a lot about New Orleans of late, and I love the city as a setting for this kind of story, but I thought it would be fun to bring Punk Mambo to an area where we haven’t seen her. That gives us fertile ground to tell a new tale and keep the characters (and the readers) on their toes. This is a corner of the Valiant Universe we haven’t really seen, and it fits so perfectly with Punk’s ties to voodoo.

Or it doesn’t.

Part of what I wanted to do here is show that Punk Mambo doesn’t really fit into the typical voodoo paradigms. We get to play her against aspects of traditional voodoo culture, and I love that sort of thing. 

GP: How did you write to Adam Gorham’s specific strengths as an artist in Punk Mambo?

CB: Punk Mambo needed to feel action-packed and fun and a little dirty. Adam manages to bring that aesthetic to every panel of every page. The action is kinetic and frenzied. The horror beats are scary as Hell. I’m so lucky to be working with him on this book. 

GP: Even though it’s technically a superhero universe, Valiant has always had a strong supernatural corner. What will you add to that corner in Punk Mambo?

CB: With this story, I want to establish Punk Mambo as a kind of roaming paranormal investigator. Only, she doesn’t just investigate paranormal threats. She kicks their teeth in. I also wanted to expand the “pantheon” of voodoo spirits and gods. Finally, I’m introducing a couple of new villains to the Valiant Universe. These villains will be firmly rooted in the supernatural.

GP: Punk Mambo has an interesting relationship between her and her various Loas. How will you develop these relationships in her own series?

CB: The relationship with the Loa—and with voodoo as a whole—will be a key part of this series. You’ll see both sides of this… partnership. Punk Mambo has been using the Loa for some time now, and she never really stops to consider how the Loa feel about that. 

GP: You have a strong background in horror comics, and Punk Mambo seems to have some horror elements. What are some tricks you use as a writer to make a comic frightening and/or unsettling?

CB: It’s important in a horror comic to make the reader worry about the characters. There are real threats facing Punk Mambo, and if I’ve done my job, you’ll care about her and worry if she’ll survive or not. In a book like this, no one is safe so don’t assume that having a character’s name in the title means that character will make it to the end.

GP: A lot of your recent works (Dark Ark, Blossoms 666, Punk Mambo) have touched on religious elements or rituals. What do you find fascinating about faith and belief, and why do you continue to incorporate them in your stories?

CB: I’ve always been fascinated by faith and by ceremony and by the rules associated with religion. All these different characters allow me to approach those things from different angles, to pull at the frayed edges from different directions, and to explore my own questions without really smashing the reader over the head with them. My hope is that readers will come away with their own questions and their own answers. With Punk Mambo, I really wanted to look into the rules of faith and how someone who doesn’t follow any rules might still be faithful.

Punk Mambo #1 is set to be released on April 24.

Follow Cullen Bunn on Twitter.

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