Warrior Nun is based on Dunn’s controversial, manga-inspired comic Warrior Nun Areala, which he developed in 1994 at Antarctic Press — an independent comic publishing house he founded in San Antonio a decade prior. Warrior Nun Areala follows the adventures of an ass-kicking nun, who serves the Catholic Church as the head of a military order fighting the forces of evil.
Dunn, a Central Catholic High School graduate, said he knew when he created the comic that some people were not “going to agree with [his] approach.”
“I tried to look more at the fantasy aspect of it and not as the real Catholic Church,” Dunn told the Current during an interview earlier this month. “It’s basically a superhero story with the trappings of the Catholic mythology.”
The Netflix series — created by Canadian screenwriter, director and producer Simon Barry — adapts Dunn’s original work into something more consumable for mainstream audiences. While much of Dunn’s vision has been altered and new characters added and removed, the former San Antonio native was pleased with the first season.
“We never anticipated something like this,” he said. “It was like a perfect storm.”
Some of the changes between Dunn’s original comics and the Netflix series include a new lead character — Ava Silva (Alba Baptista), a dead teenager who’s resurrected after being implanted with a divine artifact that gives her supernatural abilities. With a legion of demons thirsty for her newfound power set to destroy her, Ava must decide if she’ll lead a group of un-cloistered nuns into battle or if living her life as an immortal teen is more satisfying. Instead of the book’s New York setting, the series takes place in Spain.
When Dunn first saw the series, he said he was surprised that Netflix was trying to attract a younger audience — the same demographic that probably would have tuned into Buffy the Vampire Slayer had this been 1990s.
“I know a literal translation of [Warrior Nun Areala] probably would not have gone very well with most people,” Dunn said. “The important thing is that they took the basic, raw material and did something with the flavor and the tone of the original series, while adding something new and different to reach a larger audience. I’m hoping it will be popular enough to get a second season.”
In 2003, Dunn sold his portion of Antarctic Press to his brother Joe. Later, he sold rights to Warrior Nun Areala to another independent comic publisher, Avatar Press.
Although he knew he would not be a major part of the Netflix production and that the show’s creators “were doing their own thing,” he was still thankful the new team reached out to him.
“They wanted my opinion and my thoughts,” Dunn said. “They told me they were going through all the back issues of the comic book to get a feel for the characters and for the series and for the world it takes place in. I was very confident that what they were going to do would be something I would be pleased with.”
Dunn even got the opportunity to visit the set of Warrior Nun in Spain last year during the first day of shooting.
“I met all the stars and the stunt and special effects people,” he said. “I was really happy that they weren’t treating it like the usual comic book-type property. They were treating it very seriously and with pride.”
While on the set, Dunn found time to sketch something for Portuguese lead actress Alba Baptista, who was starring in the first English role of her career.
“I thought it would be a nice memento to give to her,” he said. “She seemed to enjoy it.”
As of press time, Netflix has not released an official statement about the future of Warrior Nun.
Buzz online is mostly positive, so it’s possible Dunn will have reason to rejoice soon enough.
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