Cullen Bunn Delivers Punk Action with Punk Mambo
Punk Mambo comes to comic shelves this week courtesy of writer Cullen Bunn and artist Adam Gorham. Punk Mambo is a hard-living voodoo priestess who grew up in London, then relocated to Louisiana’s Bayou Country. Now, she’s a mystical mercenary for hire. In her first-ever solo series, Punk Mambo investigates a series of abductions in the New Orleans gutter punk scene, stumbling upon a deadlier mystery that takes her to the haunted shores of Haiti.
We got to talk to Cullen about this new series, his affinity for horror, and a comparison to a certain other British horror comic.
Graphic Policy: Punk Mambo; she’s full of spit and vinegar, and must be a blast to bring to life?
Cullen Bunn: She’s so much fun! You don’t write a character like Punk Mambo and not have fun. She’s all attitude! And she has magic to back her up! In the early stages of the book, I spent a lot of time trying to get into Punk Mambo’s head. I really wanted to make sure I understood where she was coming from, where she was going, and how she tackled challenges. Once I figured her out, it was just such a blast!
GP: Even within the Valiant universe, Punk Mambo isn’t seen as often as some of the other characters. How much freedom does that give you when framing the story?
CB: I had a lot of freedom here. I really took the character and ran with her. I treated Punk Mambo as if I created her from scratch, that I was telling her first story. I really felt like I could take the character anywhere.
GP: A name like Punk Mambo has a musical feel to it; what’s your sound track when writing/drawing the comic? Do you have a go to playlist?
CB: I have a hard time listening to music while writing. Even film scores can be distracting to me. I do listen to music sometimes to set the mood, and for PUNK MAMBO I know I listened to a wide range of stuff, from the soundtrack to RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD to Joy Division (“She’s Lost Control” would likely be Punk’s intro music if she were a pro wrestler) to Dead Boys to The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets to the Dead Milkmen.
GP: Voodoo isn’t anything I’m overly familiar with; how familiar were you with Voodoo prior to the series, and how much did you need to research to stay faithful to the religion (pun not intended)?
CB: I’m familiar enough to make myself dangerous. I’ve done plenty of research on the subject. In this book, though, I’m absolutely leaning into a much more cinematic version of Voodoo. I’m more concerned with defining Voodoo in the Valiant Universe going forward. We’re establishing some rules, showing off some new “powers” in the world, and developing some new villains who will haunt the world for a long while to come.
GP: With the character being a Brit who is more than familiar with the supernatural, she does invite Constantine comparisons; in your mind, what differentiates the two?
CB: Oh, sure. I knew there would be comparisons. In fact, even I sometimes said that I wanted to establish Punk Mambo as the Hellblazer of the Valiant Universe. But Punk is a lot more action-oriented than Constantine. Constantine isn’t a superhero, but I think Punk Mambo is—even if she doesn’t see that. She is surrounded in magic and ritual, but she is also ready to jump into a fight and kick some teeth in when she needs to.
GP: You’re writing a lot of horror series and becoming well known for that genre. What draws you to it?
CB: I’m just really messed up. I’ve loved horror stories for a long time. I think there is so much great material to mine when it comes to fear. I also think that the best horror, for me for all the doom and gloom, is a hopeful genre. It shows that no matter how bad things get, the heroes must hold onto hope and keep on fighting.
GP: That it does. Thanks so much for answering our questions!