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Oregonian Author Chris Sebela On Comics, Corruptions And Coffeehouses


Covert art by Robert Wilson IV for the "Heartthrob" Issue #1. The first issue for season 2 will publish June 17th.

Covert art by Robert Wilson IV for the "Heartthrob" Issue #1. The first issue for season 2 will publish June 17th.

Courtesy of ONI Press

Chris Sebela’s thrilling comic “Heartthrob” is the furthest thing from a romance novel. Callie, a recent heart transplant patient, and her mystery man, Mercer, are falling fast and hard in a technicolor 1970s world.

“They go on a sort of Bonnie-and-Clyde love story on the run,” Sebela said, “except Clyde is possibly fictional.”

Written by Sebela with art by Robert Wilson IV, “Heartthrob” tells how Callie, got a heart transplant that saves her life, only to fall into tumult. She’s acting strangely, feeling unfamiliar cravings and seeing a foxy blond guy around town. Turns out, he’s Mercer, the prior owner of her new organ. Is it wrong to be attracted to your transplant donor? And does it matter if he spent his life as a master thief?

Where to start with this guy? Chris Sebela moved to Oregon in 2010 to break into comics and has had a very prolific run in a relatively short time.

He hit paydirt in 2015, with the graphic novel “High Crimes.” Its heroine, a disgraced pro snowboarder, took the isolation thriller to new heights. She was trying to solve a mystery and evade assassins on the slopes of Mount Everest.

"High Crimes", original published on the digital imprint, Monkeybrain, later came out as a trade paperback on Dark Horse. Sebela's words were brought to life by artist Ibrahim Moustafa.

"High Crimes", original published on the digital imprint, Monkeybrain, later came out as a trade paperback on Dark Horse. Sebela's words were brought to life by artist Ibrahim Moustafa.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

Since then he’s hammered out a broad range of stories over a relatively short time, including a chilling depiction of the Joker in DC’s “Injustice Ground Zero” to teaming up with Kelly Sue Deconnick for issues of “Captain Marvel” and “Ghost.”

But his most vital work lies outside the world of superheroes. Sebela joined the writing team for “Screamland,” a world where movie monsters are out of work. And he kickstarted a zine called “I Lived in a Clown Motel” about the month that he spent in the Nevada desert at “the most haunted motel in America.” (Not for the clown-averse.)

Among his upcoming projects: he’s kick-starting a new title for the small-imprint comics publisher he runs with some friends, Two-Headed Press. Set in Portland’s food cart scene, “Short-Order Crooks” is, as Sebela puts it, “sort of a fun madcap adventure” about a guy who just wants to be left to cook in peace, but gets drawn into the shady doings of a couple of enforcer-types in the food scene.

Is it so much to ask for a chef to be left alone with his food cart? Protagonist Rocky Granger, as imagined by Chris Sebela, George Kambadais, and Lesley Atlansky.

Is it so much to ask for a chef to be left alone with his food cart? Protagonist Rocky Granger, as imagined by Chris Sebela, George Kambadais, and Lesley Atlansky.

Courtesy of Two-Headed Comics

“I think it’s the first book I’ve ever written where someone doesn’t die,” he said.

Sebela is also grinding on a new historical fiction series for Image Comics, set in the city’s notorious Shanghai Tunnels. And, as if that weren’t enough, a five-issue crossover is on the way, pairing KISS with Vampirella (we’re not sure how no one had thought of this before).

“Most of my big ideas come from stuff I’ve been fixated on for a while,” he said. “With my first book, ‘High Crimes’ — I had an Everest obsession for years before I ever put pen to page. My projects are a way of purging this stiff from my head.”

Earlier this week, Sebela released Injustice Ground Zero no. 11 that packs in piles of DC heroes: two Wonder Women, two Batmen, in story told from the skewed perspective of Harley Quinn.

Listen to the interview in the audio player above to hear from Chris Sebela on his writing process, his favorite 24-hour coffeehouse and more.

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OPB | Broadcast: March 30, 2017