Smash Pages Q&A: Cullen Bunn on ‘Blossom 666’

The writer of ‘Harrow County,’ ‘The Sixth Gun,’ ‘X-Men Blue,’ ‘Unearth’ and more discusses the recently wrapped-up Archie Horror title.

Cullen Bunn has written a lot of horror comics in recent years – along with a lot of comics in a lot of other genres. In comics ranging from Harrow County to The Empty Man to Bone Parish to The Damned, he’s played with the genre in different ways.

The five-issue miniseries Blossoms 666 which Bunn made with artist Laura Braga just wrapped up, in which Cheryl and Jason Blossom compete to become the Antichrist. The Archie Comics horror line has a reputation for being shocking and brutal in a lot of strange and creative ways, but Blossoms 666 is a much quieter book compared to the others, with the horror being much more subtle and running under the seemingly placid surface.

Now that the series has wrapped up, Bunn answered a few questions about the comic and playing with an ideal version of Riverdale.

What’s your history with Archie Comics and the characters – longtime childhood favorite? You hated them? I’m curious.

As a kid, I read a lot of Archie Comics. I had tons of them. And some of those stories still stick with me as some of my favorite reads. I fell out of reading those books for a while, then fell out of comics altogether for a while, but I seemed to always be aware of what was going on with the characters. 

How did you end up writing a comic titled Blossoms 666?

I’ve been talking to the good folks at Archie about doing something with them for several years now. The timing just didn’t seem to work out until now, when they called me up and asked if I’d be interested in tackling a horror comic featuring the Blossoms. As much as I would have loved to be working with Archie for a while now, I’m glad this ended up being my first project with them. It just feels like the right introduction. 

You described the book when it was announced as one part The Omen, one part Cruel Intentions. It’s a different beast than not just other books you’ve written, but a lot of the other Archie horror books.

Blossoms 666 takes place in an ideal version of Riverdale – except that demon worship is commonly practiced behind closed doors and the Antichrist is living amongst the residents. The picturesque version of Riverdale is important, because once you start digging into the other aspects of the story, it just gets more and more creepy.

Blossoms 666 is a much quieter and subtle book compared to the others. Why was this the right way to approach this concept?

It was important to me that the tone of this book feel very different from what you’ve seen before. I love the other Archie horror books, and I love all types of horror. Here, though, with the subject matter and the characters, I wanted to show readers a different approach to the horror. There are so many styles and sub-genres to horror. It’s amazing to me that Archie is a vehicle to explore those.

So where does Julian come into this? Because I didn’t see him coming.

I wanted to introduce something new into the Archie universe – albeit a pocket universe, I suppose. When I started thinking about the Blossom twins competing to see who would become the Antichrist, I couldn’t help but think that I needed some way to unite them, too. Thus, Julian was born as a third contender for the infernal crown.
 
I think if you said you were doing an Archie horror book, and Cheryl and Jason Blossom are competing to be the Antichrist, a lot of readers – and Riverdale viewers – would go, “Okay, I’ll buy that.” So why add a third Blossom?
 
It’s all about doing something the readers wouldn’t expect. Sibling rivalry is obviously a big theme in a book like this. The only way to enhance that is to add even more siblings! Julian was fun for me. He had none of the comforts that Jason and Cheryl had, and that helped to make him an even more perfect candidate for the role of Antichrist. I like the idea of two “perfect” teens meeting a third “more perfect” sibling and turning against him.

One thing I do want to mention is that I think a lot of people when thinking about this concept would use Cheryl and sex as a plot thread, and you make a point of avoiding that cliche. You also don’t use heavily sexualized imagery in the book. You were very careful of that.

Yeah, I knew readers might be expecting that, but I just didn’t have a lot of interest in showing Cheryl in that light. She’s cunning and cruel and devious, and there were plenty of opportunities to show that.

Betty becomes the center of the twins’ schemes by the end of the book. Why Betty?

Betty is my favorite Archie character, so she had better than average chances of becoming a center of attention. In this comic, she represents this kind of innocence that is just so tempting to Jason and Cheryl when it comes to corruption.

I’m in part asking why Betty because you could have used Jughead, but you took a different tact with him.

I thought about Jughead a bit for this, but my favoritism for Betty sealed his fate. I still liked him, though, and gave him a little more of a spotlight in the victim category. He’s the guy who will be haunted by the events of this story, and I think that’s really tragic for a guy like Jughead.

You leave the book with a lot of things unresolved. Are there plans for a second series (Blossoms 667?)? What other characters do you want to explore and play with? Because you hint that Betty’s parents and a lot of others are part of this large satanic plot.

Oh, yeah! There’s a much, much bigger story here. One that goes beyond Cheryl and Jason. I’d love to return to this world and see what other devious mischief I could cook up!

I have to ask, why five issues? Shouldn’t the book have been six?

I think it should have been 666 issues, actually!

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