Taking A Trip To The Dark Side: Talking Valiant’s ‘Shadowman’ With Cullen Bunn
by Tony Thornley
A little over a year ago, Valiant Entertainment announced some big plans to bring some of their major players back into the spotlight. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of those plans on pause. Now, however, with the world getting back to normal, those plans are ramping back up including a huge launch on April 28th- the return of Jack Boniface in Shadowman #1 from writer Cullen Bunn, artist Jon Davis-Hunt, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Clayton Cowles. We got a chance to sit down with Bunn ahead of the series’ debut to talk Shadowman, New Orleans and the dark side of the Valiant Universe.
Tony Thornley: Hey Cullen, thanks for sitting down with us! How did Shadowman come together?
Cullen Bunn: Senior Editor Heather Antos reached out and asked if I’d be interested in tackling writing duties on Shadowman. Heather and I have worked together for years, and we’ve always wanted to do something with more of a horror vibe. We just haven’t been able to make it happen… until now. She asked me to pitch some ideas her way, and I put a proposal together. To hear Heather’s side of the story, there was one line in my pitch that really sealed the deal. That line does appear in the comic, but not until issue 3. And it sets up some major changes in Valiant’s supernatural side.
TT: You’ve gained a reputation for southern gothic horror, so Jack Boniface’s world is the perfect fit for you. How is the setting of this story important to you?
CB: It’s very important, but maybe not in the way you think. Yes, the southern gothic blood runs deep in Shadowman, and I want that to carry through the character and the series. BUT the setting was important in that I wanted to vary it up. Shadowman’s adventures often center around New Orleans, a city I dearly love, but I thought it was important that we see Shadowman in different places. He travels a lot in this book. The first issue is Louisiana-centric, but future issues take place elsewhere in the country and the world!
TT: Voodoo is a big part of the local mythology and legends of Louisiana and New Orleans. It also goes hand-in-hand with Jack’s history. Will it be a big part of your run? How have you prepared to write it?
CB: Voodoo is central to Shadowman. He gets his power from the shadow loa. His companion in this series is Baron Samedi. He interacts with powerful voodoo spirits. So, yes, it’s important. Over the years, I’ve done lots of research into the real-world religion for various projects and to follow my own interests. I have to keep in mind, of course, that the voodoo represented in this comic book universe is not meant to be a perfect representation of the real belief system. It’s a superhero universe, after all. And luckily Valiant has lots of documentation on how the magical side of their universe works. I’m shaking that up a little, yeah, and as much as possible, I want to balance the voodoo of the real world with the voodoo of Shadowman’s world.
TT: What sorts of adversaries will Jack be facing in this volume?
CB: In the first four issues, Jack faces four very different adversaries. Some very nasty characters. I don’t want to reveal too much about them, but I think some of them have potential to become long-standing Valiant characters. And then there is the over-arching mega-villain we’re slowly introducing. You’ll see glimpses of this character for several issues until they stride onto the scene in all their awful glory and power. I’m excited about this character. I think readers will love what we’re doing. And who knows? Maybe some fan-favorite enemies might be showing up, too. Though not in the way you might expect!
TT: Your main artistic collaborator, Jon Davis-Hunt has gained a reputation for horror in the course of his career. What has he brought to the title so far?
CB: Jon has such a gift for bringing the awfulness of these monsters to life! I mean, he’s an amazing artist all the way around, but his monster designs are top-notch. He has no problem trying to scare people with the designs of these creatures! And that’s not even touching on his awesome designs for Shadowman and Baron Samedi. Also… if there is ever an Eisner category for “Baron Samedi annoys the Hell out of Shadowman” Jon is a sure thing! Those scenes are just so good!
TT: The Deadside is one of the most important pieces of lore for both Shadowman and the Valiant Universe as a whole. How is it going to factor into your story?
CB: Ah, the Deadside. Everything leads to the Deadside in this series. Shadowman’s mission involves the Blights… these places all over the world where the veil between our world and the Deadside have worn very thin. When they reach a breaking point, terrible things spill through. Shadowman has to push those things back and try to seal the Blights. His success… and his failure… will have big ramifications.
TT: Shadowman and his world always seems to have big consequences for the Valiant Universe as a whole. Will we be seeing Jack’s story crossover with any other familiar faces?
CB: I’m focusing it on the title character for a bit, but I definitely have plans for some other Valiant mainstays to interact with Shadowman in the near future!
Watch for Shadowman #1 by Cullen Bunn, Jon Davis-Hunt, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles on April 28th. Final order cut-off is today, so pre-order it now!