Ever since it was first released as a digital comic, “The Bunker” has been exceeding expectations and selling a ton of issues. A book about destiny, friendship, and, yes, time travel, each issue has both expanded the scope, and tightened the focus of the story. The upcoming #4 wraps up the first arc with a deeper look at Billy, one of the breakout characters of the series thus far. We have three exclusive pieces of Joe Infurnari art from the issue throughout the interview, and make sure to pick up the issue on May 21st.
Now that the series is in full swing, what one piece has changed the most from initial conception to execution? Is any character surprising you in just how different they are than how you originally planned?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Future Grady has become a real cornerstone of the series in a way that was never intended. I figured he’d show up eventually, but, his hand is being felt much more concretely than I’d have ever imagined from the jump. What’s nice about this book is that Joe and I, along with Robin and James, our editors, have a true collaboration going. We talk and argue about the direction and the motion of the book on a daily basis. So, it evolves and strengthens every single iteration.
Time travel is my personal favorite trope in a sci-fi story, but it can also be a very messy device to use. What is “The Bunker” version of time travel? Are you considered at all about paradoxes or things of the like?
JHF: I’m a huge time travel nerd, too. But, part of what i think works best in most time travel stories is when it becomes, more or less, transparent. So, other than the initial piece of time travel that sets up the story, we’re not going to get much more for quite a while. Eventually we’ll get into the science and all that, as well as the idea of paradox and contradiction, but, right now, the book is firmly about the characters, and that’s enough.
As a fellow time travel nerd, what is your favorite time travel story? Has any one piece of media totally nailed it for you?
JHF: Back to the Future or Doctor Who. Both of which, the time travel, again, is almost secondary to the character work within. If you watch the very first few Doctor Who stories (from the 60’s) the fact that they travel in time feels like a bit of an afterthought, and I really think that while the sci-fi stuff plays nice dress up in the first BTTF, it’s relegated for comedic effect, and the character stuff drives the story forward. That’s what I hope to do with “The Bunker.”
The book seems to be playing with the idea of destiny versus free will, using the future selves as the drivers for that discussion. Do the young/current time versions of these characters have an accurate idea of how much control they have over their lives? It seems to me like they need to believe they can control more than they actually can, just to make them do what they are supposed to do.
JHF: I wanted it to feel just like real life. We have no idea how in control we are about any aspect of our lives. Right now, you could be unemployed and have no idea. Your job could be being outsourced to India, and they’re arent’ telling you because they don’t want you to quit until the exact right second. That’s not even time travel, and we don’t know we’re not in control. You could have a tumor growing inside you right now, or, a genetic marker for alzheimers just waiting to get you… All of those things are controlling us, just as much as our instincts, and our past experiences, each and every part of our lives is barely holding on to our concept of ‘control.’ But, the truth is, a bus could come and crash through my house and kill me. Right now. Right… NOW.
Talk about working with Joe, the one-man comics machine. Does having the creative process begin and end with just two people change the dynamic of making the book?
JHF: It does. Like I said, with Robin and James to guide us, it’s a very small group, with zero outside interference, and a genuine desire to keep reinventing what we’re doing and making it better and better and better. Joe’s a genius, so that helps.
If current day JHF could travel back in time to meet himself at the age “The Bunker” characters are, what would you tell him? Avoid that burrito that gave you food poisoning? Avoid working for a certain publisher?
JHF: That’s the question, isn’t it? If the terrible things that happened in the past to get us here don’t happen, then, we don’t get here. Sometimes the destination is worth the journey. And sometimes, it really isn’t. But there’s no way of knowing. There was a time when I’d left DC that I wanted to just up and leave comics. I was done with the industry, but, without realizing it, the things that happened there opened the doors towards “The Bunker” and “The Life After,” and my Marvel work, and all of that stuff that blossomed because of the nastiness at the end of my time there.
You’re a dad – does writing stories in which the future is fucked a more emotional experience for you now than before you had a child? Do these stories now hold more resonance for you? I know they have for me as a reader once my daughter was born.
JHF: Oh, definitely. But, I actually think more about how my behavior and my relationships with my daughter and with my wife and with the world at large are going to effect her down the road. For example, today, I caught my kid stacking a chair on top of a chair and climbing to the top of it. I grabbed her off the teetering tower of death, and I yelled at her. “NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. DO YOU HEAR ME? IT’S DANGEROUS!” and she started to cry. And I softened and comforted her… And then she said, “Daddy, I need to go take my nap to think about what I did.” And she climbed into bed and went to sleep.
Did I do some sort of emotional damage to her? Was that emotional damage more than what would have happened if she’d fallen over and cracked her skull or broken her arm? How the fuck am I supposed to know, y’know? That’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.
So have those experiences of learning how to be a parent influenced this story? Does that internal dialogue, the “did I just do something she’ll be talking to a therapist about in 15 years?” questioning, influence a story very much about how today affects tomorrow?
JHF: Oh, of course. Every one of my books comes from a personal place like that, whether I intend it to or not. Hell, even writing a book like “The Ultimates” was a story about how it feels to want to prove yourself to the world, and being, well, wrong. That’s something I understand, and feel on a daily basis. By grounding it in those simple emotional places, I feel like I can let the book just…tell itself.
Multiversity is turning five this week – will “The Bunker” still be going when we turn ten?
JHF: I sure as hell hope so. We’ve got the plan to do it anyways, and the audience is growing by the issue. The best thing people can do to make that happen is to keep talking about the book, keep lending their copies out, and, of course, pick up the trade paper back, out in August from Oni!
Obviously without spoiling, but what sort of stories do you think “The Bunker” will be telling in five years?
JHF: I have a pretty good sense of what the last year will bring, and, it’s going to be completely fucking nuts. I think probably the best word to use to describe it all is “Doubleback.”
We are showing off some art from issue #4 – what can you tell us about this issue?
JHF: This one’s a funny issue. Not ha-ha funny, but, strange. It went through, probably, more iterations than any other issue, to get the tone and, especially the cliffhanger. We wanted the book to really say something about the characters, to serve as an outro to the first arc, and as a photograph of the things to come. It’s by far my favorite issue we’ve done yet.
Since this is closing the door on the first arc, what can you say about the second arc?
JHF: The second arc is after the bombs have been set. Literally and figuratively. Everyone knows more or less what ground they’re standing on and that they have to each decide their own path forward. Now the trick is figuring out who decided what.
So. Much. Fun.