Cullen Bunn recently sent me an uncensored copy of Metro, his new Kickstarter project with Brian Quinn and Walt Flanagan. I’ve been reading and reviewing Cullen’s work for some time now, so I excitedly dove straight in, casually dismissing Cullen’s content warning as promotional hype. I am an avid horror reader, and do not consider myself prudish or easily taken aback. That being said, the opening sequence of Metro is easily one of the most shocking things I have ever read in a comic. Lesson learned. When Cullen Bunn says a thing is extreme, believe him.
Here’s the official description:
Metro is a 122-page (very) dark urban fantasy graphic novel. Set in New York City, this is a violent, chaotic story with good amounts of mayhem, carnage, and humor. It is also a story of magic and wonder, exploring the nature of the sprawling cities we call our homes. As Hunter awakens into the hidden and unfamiliar world that exists alongside our owns, he learns what it means to be a normal human… starting with the idea that there is no such thing as normal.
After reading just the first chapter, I decided a simple review wasn’t going to cut it, so I reached out to the man himself and asked him to give us a few minutes to get some answers about what this book is and how it came about. He obliged.
Brendan Allen: Hey, Cullen! Thank you so much for taking some time out to talk about this new project. Tell me about Metro. What’s the story you’re telling with this book?
Cullen Bunn: Metro is a dark urban fantasy. It’s the story of Hunter Murphy, a junkie who dies from an overdose…and then wakes up in the New York City morgue the next night. His memories are scrambled, but he seems to have some sort of strange connection to the city itself. He’s also being hounded by a group of murderous conspiracy theorist known as the Wide-Eyed Three. And to make matters worse, he’s seemingly a suspect in an ongoing murder investigation. All in all, returning from the dead hasn’t been pretty for him.
BA: I don’t even know what to say about that opening scene. To be fair, you did warn me, but that has to be the most twisted thing I’ve ever read. The hell, Bunn?
CB: This is an unapologetic and brutal and twisted book. It’s not for the kids. And we wanted to set that tone straight away. The world of Metro is not for the faint of heart. The real question is…is that the most twisted thing you’ll see in the book?
BA: How did you, Brian Quinn, and Walt Flanagan end up collaborating on Metro?
CB: I had met Brian a few years ago on Twitter. He’s a big comic book fan. My wife and I were fans of his show Impractical Jokers and his podcast Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave. We had a lot of similar interests in terms of books, and comics, and movies, and our story sensibilities complemented each other. So, at some point I asked Brian if he’d like to collaborate on a creator-owned comic. Once we got the ball rolling on Metro, Brian approached Walt to see if he would be up for illustrating the book. And there ya have it!
BA: What’s the creative process been like?
CB: The general idea for Metro is something Brian has been cooking up for years. At the outset, he sent me all the notes he had put together. We talked the story out and tweaked a few things here and there. We worked together to develop a mythology that might carry the book into a much longer series. From there, I outlined most of the issues (our original intent was for this to run in single, floppy issues) and Brian and I divided the scripting chores fairly evenly. Some issues (or chapters) I wrote more pages, some Brian wrote more. Then, we smooth the script out and send it to Walt. Walt pencils the book, and he sends the pages to Phill Will for inking and Wayne Jansen for colors. Marie Enger comes in at the end and letters the book based on our scripts.
BA: You have great relationships with a bunch of independent labels. I know you work with Image, Aftershock, Dark Horse, Oni, and a few others. Why did you decide to crowdfund Metro through Kickstarter?
CB: We considered a number of publishers for this project. In the end, though, we wanted to maintain total creative control and do this book our way. We have arranged for distribution to comic shops and bookstores, so that’s not an issue, and the Kickstarter allows us to give fans some items (like original art and the Wide-Eyed Three Manifesto) that they won’t be able to get elsewhere.
I love partnering with publishers, but not every project works for a publisher. I’ve got designs on running two or three Kickstarters a year from here on out.
BA: You hit your first goal within days of opening this campaign, and you’re quickly closing in on $75k. Did you anticipate this level of support?
CB: We thought we might get some…uh…aggressive support for the project, but none of us got our hopes up. We’re absolutely thrilled to see the campaign doing so well, though. We’ve blown through a couple of stretch goals and we’re moving on to our next one. I’m excited to see where this all ends up.
BA: With the insane level of support the book is getting, it would make sense to go back to the well. Are there future plans for this franchise beyond this graphic novel?
CB: Absolutely! As I mentioned, we’ve been building in some exciting mythology for this world. There are hints in this first graphic novel as to where the story goes next, and at the close of the campaign, we will reveal a teaser of where the Metro train goes next!
BA: Do you have any parting shots? What would you like to leave our readers with?
CB: It means so much to Brian, Walt, and me that readers are willing to support books like this! I love that there are so many exciting ways to bring stories to readers. Metro is something that I think will catch readers off guard. They won’t be expecting where this thing starts (as you mentioned) or where it goes!
Huge thanks to Cullen Bunn for taking time out of his insanely busy schedule to answer my questions. If you’d like to back the Metro project on Kickstarter, the campaign runs through 08 July, and can be found here.