CM Punk And Cullen Bunn Talk About Writing The New DRAX Series For All-New All-Different Marvel Comics

Marvel recently interviewed the new driving force behind new DRAX series, co-writers CM Punk (formerly of WWE and now with UFC) and Cullen Bunn:

All-New All-Different Marvel Drax #1 How did you two get together?

CM Punk: Marvel suggested that I have a co-writer to which obviously I agreed because I’m pretty new to all this. Formatting a story, even writing a proposal—I kind of have no idea what I’m doing. So they asked me who I’d like to work with and after they told me Alan Moore probably wouldn’t do it, Cullen’s name was the first one I jumped at because I’m such a fan of his work. I loved [his independent series] The Sixth Gun so I thought it’d be a cool, easy way to rub elbows with somebody I’m a fan of.

Cullen Bunn: Little did he know that I have no idea what I’m doing either. [Laughs]

CM Punk: That’s probably why I was so drawn to you. Cullen, did you know CM Punk before you got into this?

Cullen Bunn: Yeah, I think I’ve jokingly said my kid has his action figure. I was aware.

DS: Did you have any trepidation?

Cullen Bunn: I don’t think so. We talked early on about how we were going to work together. I’ve co-written a number of books over the years and it’s always a different experience. This time, going into it, we knew exactly what we were going to be doing and who would be shouldering what part of the job. How do you guys have the workload split up?
CM Punk: I spit my idea on paper and everybody said it was cool. Cullen does the heavy lifting. He went through and helped me understand how to break it down into a five-issue arc; how to divide up action and end with a cliffhanger on the last panel of an issue. Then he does the breakdowns and we just split it up and write.

Cullen Bunn: I do some outlining and then we break the issue up page by page. But we’re both writing the same number of pages each issue. Then at the end we look it over and make sure nobody out there will be able to tell there’s two writers. We want it to look seamless.

CM Punk: This whole thing is tremendously fun for me because I’m working with people that I love their work and I respect them and I feel respect coming back. They’re not treating me like I’m an idiot even though probably sometimes I am.

Cullen Bunn: I think it’s a lot of fun because I see these pages and, not to blow smoke, but Phil’s pages make me want to up my game.

CM Punk: Oh, come on.

Cullen Bunn: No, I read it and I think, these are some really good pages. So why Drax?

CM Punk: Simply put it was offered to me. I’d been kind of angling to anybody I could to let me write Punisher, and they came back with this. It’s pretty cool; Guardians of the Galaxy is a huge property for [Marvel], obviously, and almost every other character has had a solo book

I was interested because I really have no connection to the character—not like with Punisher. I was more familiar with the Jim Starlin Drax; Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity Watch, Infinity War. I wasn’t too up on what [writer Brian] Bendis had done with the character [recently], so I did my homework. But I knew that I could sort of do what I wanted with him. Well that’s the thing that jumps out to me about Drax: he’s a huge multimedia property, but he’s kind of a blank slate. How do you approach that?

Cullen Bunn: Well, Drax has changed so much over the years. I remember when I was really young, reading a story about Drax and Thanos fighting over a flower. That might not be a story that really exists, but I remember it. [Laughs] That was my first exposure to him, when I was a little kid. Then I got really into WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH. All of his iterations have been really interesting to me. Now we have our version; even though he’s in the Guardians, this is the first time we really get to see his point of view. It’s the first time we get to see what makes this Drax Drax.

DS: Do you feel any pressure living up to the popularity of the movie? Has Marvel given you any rules to keep in line with the film character?

Cullen Bunn: Oh no. There was no direction to make him more like the movie Drax.

CM Punk: The only restriction I had was on characters I could and couldn’t use. Originally I wanted to use Mole Man, but they said that wouldn’t work, but out of that came something better. I came up with a more ridiculous, obscure villain. But as far as the movie stuff goes, nobody’s said a single time “You can’t do this because of that.” It’s been pretty great. It’s clear reading the book that you guys had a lot of freedom. It reminded me in certain ways of Deadpool—who I know you’ve written, Cullen—where the character is the story, and the rest of the universe is in service of the story.

CM Punk: We did run into a few continuity things, but they’re all small changes. In the first few pages you have Peter Quill as Star-Lord, and that changed, and Venom’s on the team. And I’m delighted to say that Ben Grimm is on the team so I get to write him yelling “It’s clobberin’ time!” That’s pretty awesome.

Cullen Bunn: The book is in continuity, but the nice thing with cosmic stories is that space is so vast and there [are] so many corners of space and so many things to explore out there that we can sort of do our own thing and drop Drax like an atomic bomb into all these different situations. There’s a surprise appearance on the last page that I’m not going to spoil, but as far as I remember he was dead prior to Secret Wars. Is this a thing where you can do whatever you want in the post-Secret Wars world?

CM Punk: [Laughs] No, we explain it. That’s been the most fun part about comic books for me. If someone’s dead in comic books, you can always find a good way to bring them back.  You said it reminded you of Deadpool and I take that as a compliment, because there’s a serious side to Drax, but we don’t take it too seriously. He’s on a team with a talking cyborg raccoon.

Drax #2 cover by Scott Hepburn This series could be anything from a character study to a space western. Where do you see it going?

CM Punk: The big picture for me is Thanos. We already have the first arc done. The second arc is planned, and beyond that I have some ideas. So the endgame is Thanos, but along the way developing all these characters and bringing back people who have been dead and introducing new characters, and Drax building the relationships along the way. I think a space western would probably be a good way to describe it when it’s all said and done.

Cullen Bunn: You said we could tell any kind of story and I think that’s the key to the series. The first arc is a really fun arc; fun for a guy who has “Destroyer” right there attached to his name. There’ll be more serious stories too. And we’re really building an ensemble supporting cast for him right from the very first arc. We talked about how big Guardians is now. There are all these movie fans, and all the comic book fans, and then there’s this potential crossover to wrestling fans that Punk brings. Does that factor into your calculus at all?

CM Punk: No. Probably much to Marvel’s chagrin I’m not focused on sales. I don’t know if there’s a writer in comic books that writes with that in mind, but to me, I’m a comic fan, and I hope all the comic fans out there like it. And if somebody only buys this because they watched me wrestle and they’re going to buy this, that’s great. I hope they like it too.

Cullen Bunn: You want fans to connect to the book, even movie fans. But if your sole purpose is to write towards a certain kind of fan, that way leads madness. The goal is to write a story that you’re proud of and hope the fans like it as well. What are you doing with Drax that’s going to surprise readers?

CM Punk: Drax is more human than anybody realizes. He has this badass exterior, but in reality, he doesn’t fit in. He’s a square peg in a round world. When he’s with the Guardians and they’re destroying the bad guy, everything’s kosher. But everything falls apart for him when he’s forced to be by himself. He doesn’t really know what to do with himself.

Cullen Bunn: That’s what excites me the most. I think it would have been easy for us to write Drax as this robotic figure, but being out on his own and in unfamiliar territory, we get to see Drax as somebody who screws up just like the rest of us, and I really like seeing this seemingly unstoppable figure in that position. Are you learning about Drax as you go or do you have a concrete idea of who he is?

CM Punk: I’m pretty flexible. He’s not going to change drastically, but I think not being overly attached to the Drax character give me freedom to tweak the edges of the character. And working with Cullen helps too. It would be easy to write a story where Drax is smashing the bad guys, but that’s boring to me.

Cullen Bunn: We know who Drax is, but there’s room to grow. I’ve found that when you write these characters they’re going to surprise you from time to time. Punk, I just saw your old on-screen manager and later nemesis, Paul Heyman, saying that your fearlessness is what would make your MMA career possible. That seems really apt for comic books too. It takes some guts to jump into such a big book. Do you feel like you’re fearless, or are you motivated by the challenge?

CM Punk: I think people who say that they’re fearless still have to recognize that fear does exist. I don’t live in this nightmare world where I’m going to wake up and be devastated because people don’t like my book. I also don’t live in a world where I’m scared of losing my first fight. Those are both possibilities, [and] that’s fine. The true fear should come from not even trying. That’s what I’m scared of. If you read my book and you don’t like it, well, there’s somebody who probably did, and none of that would be possible if I didn’t charge in fearlessly, as you put it. It’s a hell of tremendously fun opportunity. I have fun with it and I enjoy doing it. I just hope it’s good. Cullen, Punk says he dreamed of writing Punisher. Did you always dream of writing Marvel characters?

Cullen Bunn: I’ve always wanted to play in that universe and write these characters and contribute to these stories. I’m a Marvel reader from way back when—apparently I’m even making up stories. I don’t know if that flower story even exists or if I just dreamed it up. If it turns out that story doesn’t exist you have a great story for down the road.

Cullen Bunn: Yeah, Phil, just so you know, in the third story arc—

CM Punk: Don’t worry, we’re going to get a flower in there somehow.