The Bunker

Published by Image Comics, 2003. Out of print.

If there is one thing that I've tried to do consistently over my career in comics, it is to improve my writing and drawing skills consistently. My early work was mostly scatological humour in the underground comix vein, with dreadful drawing. But with Love To Know You (published as A Mind of Love) and the short story Bermuda Triangle (published in Street Smell #2, 1997), I started taking steps towards a mature form of storytelling, one that relied on writing more with pictures, and with characters that were more 'human' in identity and motive. For as it transpired, I am a humanist storyteller. I am interested in human beings and what makes them think, feel, act and behave they way they do, be it good or bad. I am not interested in superheroes, villains, action, shoot-outs, battles between black and white, good and evil. I have nothing against that sort of entertainment, but it doesn't interest me to commit months if not years of labour to creating such works. 

The Bunker was my first purpose created graphic novel, intended to be read as self-contained work. It was my first major work to take the lessons learnt from shorter pieces like Bermuda Triangle, and rely upon visual storytelling, with heavy reliance on facial expressions, body language, and pacing to create a sustained mood and depth of feeling that meant every panel contained the possibility of conveying more than what it depicts. What readers might actually take away from it is up to them, for they will, and always have, completed a work. Authors are only ever partial creators of their works; the readers complete the rest, bringing to it themselves, their personality, their intellect, their memories, their mood at the moment they encounter a work. Works are engaged with, not consumed passively, particularly something that requires a much greater level of active involvement such as reading a comic. 

This novel was inspired by a short comic, I Fell Asleep Waiting For Her, by Jayr Pulga in Raw Vol 2, #2. It was about a boy who waited for a wild nature girl who came into his bedroom every night, bringing animals. The boy was more interested in her gamine nakedness than the animals. It appealed to this older nerd, wishing it would happen to me, but rather than turning it into some lurid sex-fantasy, it evolved into this tale of friendship between Jason, who is 14, and Annie, 15, who have been best friends and neighbours since as long as they could remember. Adolescence mucks up their previously platonic relationship, especially for Jason, who feels he is in love with her, but he dares not make it known to her. The story weaves past through present, alternating without signs other than the difference in appearance as they grow up - a tactic I was exploring in order to see if readers would be able to quickly understand how the work was structured. I think for the most part, they did. 

It was published by Image Comics in 2003 and is currently out of print. It was Jim Valentino who, when CEO of Image Central, gave it a green light, in part because at the time, he - along with most people in comics at the time - knew that graphic novels sold in outlets beyond the traditional comic shop, were going to be a part of the future. At the time, the comics direct market still hadn't recovered from the implosion of the speculators bubble as an investment from the late 1980s and early 1990s. And so it turned out to be true, but at this early point, the book slipped through the cracks because I feel, the mature market for comics in bookshops and for indie and auteur comics had yet to arrive. So, it pretty much disappeared without much trace. I will probably republish it as a Fabliaux title at some point, polishing it up a bit as I do so.