Return To Sender: Chris Sebela's Talks 'Dead Letters' Boom! Studios

Christopher Sebela is one of the busiest writers on the scene today. He currently writes HIGH CRIMES for Monkeybrain, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR and GHOST for Dark Horse. He’s launching a neo-noir series in April for Boom! called DEAD LETTERS, and we had a few questions about it. Let’s jump right in! Nick: What have you been reading to get yourself psyched to write Dead Letters? 

CHRISTOPHER SEBELA: Well, when we started working on it, I brushed up on a lot of the big sources I had in mind when I pitched the book: Dashiell Hammett, Chester Himes, David Goodis, Dan Marlowe. Lots of old, prime hardboiled detective books, as well as some more modern-day crime fiction like Charlie Huston and Walter Mosley. This is all the stuff that led me to want to tell this story in the first place, so it helps keep me grounded in what I wanna do when I go see how the masters of the form do it. It also keeps me humble as hell, which is never bad.

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Nick: Why Boom? What made you want to publish with them?

CS: I got to know BOOM! when I was just starting out in comics and they were one of the few publishers who wrote back to me after I gave them copies of my first book. That goes a long way with me, the actual human touch. I like working with publishers where you can build a relationship, where you genuinely like the people you're working with and are actually excited about working with them and they're excited about working with you. It helps make the whole comics process—a process that can be maddening and overwhelming sometimes—from ever slipping over the edge. It's nice to have editors who work with you on your story and keep you honest, and a publisher that really believes in what you're doing and wants to get it out to as many people as possible.

Beyond that, with the new creator-owned stuff they've been putting out the last couple years and the BOOM! Box stuff coming out now, BOOM! is a company interested in letting creators go off and build a world of their own, which is about the best blessing you can get in comics or anywhere.

Nick: How long have you been building this world for yourself? How far do you see it extending in terms of issues?

CS: When I pitched the book, I knew where it started and where it ended, but I didn't know all the stuff in between as well or how we would get to it, so the last year has been me building a bible, establishing the major touchstones of the world, and then sort of trickling down to details—decorations to where I feel like everything makes sense, as much sense as everything makes to us in our everyday lives. Honestly, we could hang out in this world for as long as humanly possible and never exhaust it, but with this specific story, I don't have solid numbers, but somewhere over 20 and under 40? We're still very early into this story, so I feel like it'll let me know when it thinks the time is right to start tying all our threads up and heading for the door.

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Nick: What's your favorite part about working with Chris Visions? Are there team jackets for the Chris's yet?

CS: Where do I start? I could go with how Chris is so amazingly talented, I'm mostly grateful I get to work with him at all. That he's got a style that's completely his own and he's wielding it like a master already. That he knows how to tell a story and makes changes and suggestions that take things in directions I never thought about but make complete sense.

But I think my favorite part of working with Chris is that we got along right away and we're both excited about the same things. We talk about old movies and typefaces and fashion and buildings we just sort of share a similar aesthetic that made it really easy for us to gel on this book and sort of amp each other up as we go along. Like I can just drop a movie title and we'll both nod at the same time (I guess—I can't see him when we do this) like we both know what the other one is saying with those couple words about something specific on a page or the whole issue or whatever.

And Chris Rosa is one of our editors, so we've had to work out a very ornate system for what each Chris' codename is in our group emails. Jackets would probably just confuse us even more.

Nick: If Dead Letters was a Twilight Zone episode, what would the Rod Serling monologue at the beginning be like?

CS: Oh god, this is like some oddly personalized Voight-Kampff test. Okay, here goes:

“Snapshots of a man named Sam Whistler, who woke up in a motel room and is trying to put his life back together. He doesn't know who he is, or where he is, but soon none of that will matter. You see, Sam Whistler's problems are bigger than that, because he just stepped out of what we cheerfully call everyday life and into a town known as Here, where even the secrets are keeping secrets. Don't look for it on any map, you'll only find it…in the Twilight Zone.” -- And that’s all the news that’s fit to print! A huge, huge thank you to Christopher for taking time out of his busy writing schedule to answer some of our questions. Don’t forget to check out Dead Letters #1 on April 23rd. In the meantime, be sure to follow for any and all updates.