Earlier this year, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari launched “The Bunker” as a digital-only series, available in monthly 12-page installments via both comiXology and their own site. The comic, about a group of college students who receive a dire warning from the future, was immediately well-received, and benefited from being the brainchild of a relatively high-profile creative team — Fialkov is currently handling much of Marvel’s “Ultimate Comics” line, and Infurnari has worked on acclaimed graphic novels “Mush: Sled Dogs with Issues” and “Marathon” — that seemingly could have succeeded in a much more traditional publishing situation. Now they’re getting that chance.
Today, CBR News exclusively announces that “The Bunker” is joining both the print world and the Oni Press’ roster as of February 2014, starting with “The Bunker” #1, which will collect the first five chapters of the digital series, in color for the first time and resized in a traditional comic book format. From there, “The Bunker” will continue as a monthly ongoing series at Oni, released concurrently with the digital comic. CBR News spoke with Fialkov and Infurnari in detail about “The Bunker’s” big move.
CBR News: Josh, Joe, let’s start with the obvious: Why bring “The Bunker” to print? And why at this point in the series? Was it always part of the plan, at least vaguely? Since it’s not a book that’s employed digital-only techniques, it seems like a fairly natural move.
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well, the number one question I’ve gotten from people is if/when the book would move to print, so that was the first thing. There’s a big group of readers who are still traditionalists and want to see print. Secondly, both Joe and I are the self-same traditionalists, and while we’ve both got long tethers to digital, there’s nothing quite like holding a physical object in your hand, and, with this plan, we get the best of both world.
As for why now, the fifth digital chapter concludes what we look at as the first act of the much longer story. When you see them all together, you’ll see the tapestry that we’re weaving, and hopefully the beginning of what’s going to be years of crazy “Bunker” stories.
Joe Infurnari: We had always dreamed of a move to print for “The Bunker” in the form of printed trades of the digital comics. With comiXology readers being so enthusiastic for the release of each episode, it made sense to do it as a monthly that would also reach those print stalwarts who haven’t yet gotten hooked on digital comics.
What went into the decision to present the series in color, and what can you share about the conversion process?
Infurnari: “The Bunker” will continue to be monochromatic, but with more color that will give the blues, greens and violets more subtlety and rendering. Occasionally, I’ll be using flourishes of color outside that monochromatic palette for narrative and emotional impact.
Fialkov: Joe did something quite brilliant with the digital version of the book. He used the slightest of tones to help distinguish past, present and future. He did it with such subtlety that it works in an almost subconscious level.
But with the canvas of print, it made sense to go whole hog and really use the color wash to tell the story in a more obvious way. It’s also something that partnering with Oni has allowed us to do, because we have more time and more support to work on the book.
Oni says that in the transition to print, “The Bunker” will be “reformatted and remastered for a traditional comic book size.” What can you share at this point about that process? Is it fairly an easy one, given the previously stated lack of digital-only techniques?
Fialkov: I’m going to let Joe talk to the bells and whistles, but, for me having done all sorts of digital comics, we decided early on that we didn’t just want to cut a print page in half, and that constructing a story that narratively and pacing wise functioned that way was not just difficult but counterintuitive. We wanted our story to live in the medium we created it in. This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for us when we move to print. While no “facts” of the story change, there’s more layers and more detail and more fluidity in the print issue. It’s a different way to experience the same story.
Infurnari: In all our discussions about publishers, format and so on, one thing that Josh and I always maintained is that we would use this opportunity to make our story even better. With that in mind, I’ve been taking apart “The Bunker” with great care so that not one rusty bolt or tempered steel plate isn’t improved upon. Is it easy? Of course not. I’m currently reverse engineering its time traveling mechanism, and hoping I don’t find myself transported to the future. I would hate to miss the book launch!
What made Oni the right print home for “The Bunker”? Josh, you’ve mentioned that the series was originally pitched to publishers, and one unnamed major publisher dismissed it as “too smart,” so presumably it’s not a move you would have made without being sure of the right fit.
Fialkov: I’ve been good friends with the guys at Oni for years. [Oni editor-in-chief] James Lucas Jones and I talk at least a couple times a week. I’ve got a slew of projects in the pipeline over there, so, initially it seemed like it was better to focus on those projects.
But as the book started to come out and the response was, well, overwhelming, Oni made it clear to us, and I’m talking about on the first day of release, that they wanted to help us in any way possible to get the book to a wide audience. That they’re coming to us with the passion of fans and admirers really made a great case for them. Plus, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Oni has been going through quite a renaissance the past year or so. With brilliant books like “Stumptown,” “Letter 44” and “The Auteur” all either out or coming out soon, well, it’s just the right place for a book like “The Bunker.”
Infurnari: Oni Press gave me my first big break in comics [with 2006’s “Borrowed Time”] and I’m forever grateful to them for that. Like Josh mentioned, [Oni publisher and co-founder] Joe Nozemack] and James were big supporters of “The Bunker” when it was just a digital comic, and it was that personal connection, our history and the great things they’re doing now that really recommended Oni to us.
To be a little more theoretical about it, is the move intended to get the attention of a different readership? Like you said, Josh, as big as comiXology and digital comics have gotten, there are still people who insist on print.
Fialkov: Absolutely! ComiXology has done a stupendous service to the comics industry. They’ve introduced the medium to a slew of lapsed, casual, and new fans, and I think the opportunities they present for creators with their Submit platform is just staggering. The truth of comiXology is that what they’ve done best is get people reading comics again, period. They’ve been a boon for retailers as well as publishers, and that’s a very special thing for us. Now, we get to use the good will and love we got from our digital audience to launch into print, with all of the support and strength of Oni.
We’re just extremely lucky that so many people have fallen so hard for our little book, and supported us as much as they have. It’s, honestly, a dream come true.
Infurnari: As good as “The Bunker” is, we wouldn’t be where we are without comiXology. They’ve not only brought comics to new fans of all walks but with Submit, have made it even easier for the next big comic to find its audience.
Anything you want to tease about upcoming installments of the series?
Fialkov: Well, we’ve got Chapter 5 on the horizon before our print edition, and as we wrap up this first movement of the story, I think people will see that they don’t know the whole story just yet, and what happens to our friends is far from simple, and completely inescapable. And, Joe gets to continue to draw beautiful, smart, sexy women, so, y’know, go us!
Infurnari: I have murky inklings and of what Josh has in store but I can pretty much guarantee that if this is just the beginning of the “The Bunker,” I’m going to need to regrow the top of my head because Josh’s ideas keep blowing it off. He keeps blowing the top of my head off and my drawings keep blowing off parts of Josh’s body so I think we’ve got a winning team! Go us!
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