Interview: Christopher Sebela on Image’s Crowded

Crowded #1 cover by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt

Crowded #1 cover by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt


Writer Christopher Sebela is known for his work on Heartthrob, Injustice: Ground Zero, Escape From New York, and much more. His latest comic, Crowded, takes place in the near future where anything can be crowdfunded, even assassinations. He shared more about this action-packed upcoming series from Image with Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Westfield: What was the genesis of Crowded?

Christopher Sebela: I’m not exactly sure the exact place it came from. I think it was just me on a smoke break out on the back porch when I was flatting comics full-time. Probably something in the news inspired the initial thought, but I had this idea of this really messed up vision of crowdfunding where the goal was to get enough angry people together to raise enough money to pay an assassin to kill anyone they don’t like. Like, as high as you could go, if you get enough people to throw in money, someone will risk it for a payday that big.

That’s basically all I had for a couple years. I thought for sure someone else would get to it before I did, so I tried to not get too attached to it. But then no one did and I managed to finally get past the hook of the book and start building a world and characters to live in it. That was the much harder part. It’s easy to tell someone your cool hook and let that dazzle them while you’re sweating inside that that’s all you’ve got. I felt like I had to wait for something right to fill this space and luckily, it eventually happened at just the right time, just a month or two before I met Ro and Ted and we started talking about working together on something.

Crowded #1 preview page 1

Crowded #1 preview page 1


Westfield: It seems you hear almost daily about someone being harassed or threatened online. Did that play into the series at all?

Sebela: It’s hard to avoid that element. It’s not the focus of our book, though. The thing that really stuck in my head the most, as far as what would happen when Reapr started being used against regular people, was the woman who tweeted before her plane took off that she was on her way to Africa, and then said something pretty classless after that. So while she was in the air for hours with no internet access, this tweet swept across social media and it felt like the entire internet was against her on every level. That idea of her sitting on a plane over the ocean with no idea what’s waiting for her when she lands. That’s how I see the platform really working. Someone screws up and enough people out there want to make them pay for a variety of reasons, until eventually they’ve raised enough money that it happens.

There’s a lot of anger these days, much of it justified, and it comes hand in hand with this feeling of being completely powerless to really change the big things that threaten us the most. In the face of this kind of no future vibe, in a messed up way, Reapr feels like a bloody ray of sunshine. You really can change things, all you have to do is give some money and carve off a bit of your soul. I don’t endorse it, but the way I saw it, especially in today’s climate, made it easy to see how something like Reapr could take off.

Crowded #1 preview page 2

Crowded #1 preview page 2


Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Sebela: This is a big sprawling road trip of a book across one possible future where anyone can be a killer, if they’re desperate enough. But as dark as our concept is, the book that’s come out of it is bright, colorful and fun. It’s kind of sci-fi, kind of horror, action-packed crime book. It felt like a much grimmer book when I started figuring it out, but once Charlie and Vita showed up and once Ro and Ted started drawing the book, I leaned in other directions. I knew they could handle anything I threw at them, so I started to really stretch myself on this one. It’s definitely one of my books I’m most excited about and happiest with and I think anyone who’s liked any of my stuff before will really like this one.

Crowded #1 preview page 3

Crowded #1 preview page 3


Westfield: Who are the main characters we’ll meet?

Sebela: Our main characters are Charlie and Vita. Charlie works in the share economy — she has dozens of jobs on dozens of different platforms and apps, so she can be walking someone’s dog one minute and picking up a passenger in her car to take them to the airport the next. She’s a hustler, trying to keep her head above water, of no real importance. She wakes up one morning to find out everyone wants her dead because there’s a Reapr campaign open on her that’s already raised over a million dollars from thousands of people. She has no idea why or who started it, so she tries to find protection to keep herself alive.

Vita is a bodyguard on an Uber-like app for protection called Dfend and she’s the only one who answers Charlie’s request. Vita is a bit of a mystery when we start out. She feels like a really hardnosed, no-nonsense bodyguard but she’s kind of a mess inside as she’s trying to find work with a dismal 1.4 star rating on her back. Charlie, being such a big source of attention to everyone who wants to kill her and cash in, feels like Vita’s chance to get herself back in the game. So she puts up with Charlie, who constantly tests Vita’s boundaries and tries to keep living her life while Vita is busy trying to keep them both alive.

Crowded #1 preview page 4

Crowded #1 preview page 4


Westfield: Will you address how society changed so that crowdfunded assassinations are allowed?

Sebela: We do. Not all at once. We’re sort of trying to parcel that out along with our main story. In this world, it is kind of an established fact of life for a lot of people, so we don’t want to grind things to a halt and spell out how the world has changed. Hopefully, as we go, the bigger world gets revealed in bits and pieces and people can establish some of the history for themselves. I’m a big believer in giving readers just enough and trusting that they want to or are willing to speculate on some of the stuff we don’t explicitly get into.

With Reapr being such a big part of this world, we’re going to dive in pretty deep to seeing what kind of effects that has on a society but maybe not in the way people are expecting. There’s a fun kind of speculation with a book that takes place in the near future, trying to predict what happens to staples of our life now. So we’ll also be seeing some stuff about where we’re all going in general, and then what happens when you throw something like Reapr on top of that. Spoiler: probably not great results.

Crowded #1 preview page 5

Crowded #1 preview page 5


Westfield: You’re working with artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt on the series. What can you say about your collaboration?

Sebela: Ro & Ted are amazing, to be perfectly frank. I feel like the luckiest guy in comics because they’ve been making great work but they haven’t had a book of their own to really flex on and I was just fortunate that they were looking when I had Crowded in my pile of pitches. This book would stink without them. Not only are they great at building up and designing this very near future world but they do people sitting around talking as dramatically as they do people punching the crap out of each other. I’ll give them scripts with 5 panel pages and they send them back with 12 panels on them. They’re just ridiculously talented and smart about what they do. I couldn’t be happier to have them as my co-creators on this book. They, Triona’s colors, Cardinal’s lettering, it’s a book where the team is really humming and that’s a rare thing in comics (or anywhere) so I’m just glad they talk to me, mostly.

Crowded #1 Rachael Stott cover

Crowded #1 Rachael Stott cover


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Sebela: We’re already 4 issues into this book and each one gets better than the last one. And we started out pretty great. I don’t know, I’m not used to being this legitimately, openly giddy about a book I’m putting out but this one, I’m jumping out of my skin to show everyone what we’ve been working on for the last year.

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