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The Stuff of Absolute Nightmares - Cullen Bunn & Jon Davis-Hunt Talk Shadowman

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

The long awaited return of Shadowman is finally upon us. Valiant Entertainment is set to debut a brand new series starring Jack Boniface exploring the spookier side of this shared universe. Writer Cullen Bunn, artist Jon Davis-Hunt, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Clayton Cowles re-introduce us to Shadowman and all the monsters he encounters to keep the world safe. I had a chance to speak with Cullen and Jon about the book, the Valiant Universe, and more.

Jack Boniface is Shadowman, a powerful protector who keeps humanity safe from the demons that claw at the fabric of our reality. The forces of darkness are awakening and they are hungry for life. Will Shadowman be able to save us all, or will the darkness devour the world as we know it?

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James Ferguson: Where do we find Jack Boniface when Shadowman #1 begins?

Cullen Bunn: When we last saw Shadowman, his connection to the source of his power - the shadow loa - had changed and strengthened. So... when we meet up with him in this story, we find that he is more powerful than before. His abilities work in different ways. He has a new "sidekick" and a new mission. This mission will be of grave importance, and it is something only Shadowman is really equipped to handle. While we're in New Orleans at the beginning of the series, you'll be seeing Shadowman travel to different parts of the world in order to stand against the encroachment of the Deadside, this weird other-realm he is charged with guarding us against. 

JF: The creatures Shadowman encounters in this debut issue are something else. Really terrifying stuff. How did these designs come about?

CB: Every monster in Shadowman was created with a simple idea - they would be the stuff of absolute nightmares. We wanted these monsters to be something more than just a brute that Shadowman would brawl with (even though there is plenty of brawling). We wanted the creatures to be haunting. We wanted them to raise questions - sometimes disturbing questions. 

Jon Davis-Hunt: Cullen was great at quickly summarising the kind of monster he wanted in the script, with a brief description and then he was happy for me to kind of run with it and see what I could come up with. It’s always hard coming up with monsters that feel wholly original because there are so many ‘classics’ out there, but I think between us, we’ve done a pretty good job of coming up with a few shockers. My approach was to try and make them suitably grotesque, but also, have them share a kind of ‘ancient’ feel, hinting at the deep history and lore of the Deadside. And teeth. Lots and lots of very sharp teeth.

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JF: Similarly, how did you approach the look and feel for Shadowman in this series?

JDH: Jack was the first design I did. I tried to think of his actual character, so I brought in elements of his musicianship and the fact that he travels extensively, not just for his job, but also because of his obvious interest in the occult and his responsibilities as Shadowman.

His Shadowman form is a kind of refinement of his many other previous incarnations. I kept the fundamentals of his look, because I think they are really iconic and then I just kind of ‘tweaked’ and distilled them. I made him deliberately, slightly more slender and athletic than some of his previous iterations, just because I think that contrasts well against the monsters he fights, which will typically be larger and stockier, but it also accentuates his fighting style, which is fast and flowing, particularly when he wields his Shadow Scythe.

JF: Shadowman deals with great horror elements, yet it's set in the same universe as heroes like X-O Manowar and Ninjak. How do you find the dark, spooky corners in a shared universe full of brightly colored super heroes?

CB: Well, we're definitely putting the horror and spooky side of the universe first... at least for a little while. I wanted to make sure Shadowman gets the starring role in the book, and I wanted to set the tone very clearly over the first several issues of the series. I love that Shadowman is part of a bigger universe. I love that there are so many different stories to be told in this world. But these are the threats and the challenges that the more colorful heroes aren't equipped to handle. These are the horrors that might make them wet their spandex if they think about them too much. 

JDH: I think ‘superhero’ books have always been great at playing around in other genres, be it horror, or action/thriller, or high-fantasy. It’s been something that has become more noticeable to a wider audience, thanks to the MCU too, so now mainstream fans are like “okay, this is a superhero movie, but it’s also a spy/espionage movie too” and they’ll accept that those characters and genres can co-exist, within the same shared universe. I think Shadowman is great, because he truly operates as a superhero, in a world of horror. Normally, in the horror genre, the protagonist is fundamentally under-powered. In Shadowman, our hero is going into these situations with some considerable clout on his side, which lets us play around with that dynamic but also, seriously turn up the threat level.

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JF: On that note, are there any other Valiant characters you'd like Shadowman to team up or fight?

CB: Even though we're putting chills first, it's no secret that I'd love to see Shadowman interacting with some of the other (non-magical) Valiant characters. X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Bloodshot. And I have a lot of ideas about how that might work in a big, big way. In the meantime, of course, the first character who comes to mind is Punk Mambo. She works in the same circles as Shadowman, and I think her vastly different approach to all things supernatural will be exciting to contrast and compare. I think a team-up between the two of them would go a long way to further define the scope and versatility and excitement of Valiant's horror/magic side. 

JDH: Whenever anyone asks this question, I’m always like “Ninjak!” I grew up in the early '90s, so anything to do with ninjas instantly has my attention! And it would no doubt mean we’d have to have Demon Ninjas too! Double awesome!

JF: Do fans need any prior knowledge about Shadowman before diving into this new series?

CB: Nope! We intentionally crafted the first several issues in a way that someone without knowledge of the character would get enough detail to know who they are dealing with. New readers can follow right along. And since we're seeing sort of a new lease on Shadowman's powers and mission, new readers won't be in the dark compared to longtime Shadowman fans, either. This is a great jumping-on point!

JDH: As Cullen said, this really is a great jumping-on point for existing fans and new fans alike. We hit the ground running and we just go hell for leather from there!

Horror DNA would like to thank Cullen Bunn and Jon Davis-Hunt for speaking with us. Shadowman #1 is set for release on April 28th, 2021 at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle. The final order cutoff date for comic shops is April 5th, 2021.

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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