Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Christopher Sebela on Welcome Back

This is probably one of the most interesting new series from Boom Studios (who is actually impressing me immensely this year) to come out this summer. They've found newcomer Christopher Sebela and scooped him up with this awesome new mini series Welcome Back. This story features the war between two characters who are continually reincarnated to fight. Yet they are fighting a war and either one of them really remembers why. I'm very excited to have had the chance to ask him some questions about this exciting new series!

You can expect to see Welcome Back in store on August 19th.

TFQ: I really like the innovative take on reincarnation and this eternal struggle between characters. How did you develop this take on reincarnation for Welcome Back?

Chris: I tend to drift towards ideas that confuse the heck out of me, logistically speaking. I’m not sure where the germ of the idea came from, I think I came up with the phrase “reincarnation assassins” and I got really hung up on that, on exactly how that world work. And I couldn’t. I really wanted it to work but I couldn’t figure it out, so I put it away for a bit and when I came back to it, it wasn’t just about one person, but two, and they’re hunting each other over and over. Figuring out how reincarnation works was hard, because I like to have some foundation of “reality” in place with my ideas, even when reality doesn’t apply. So I did a lot of research on all the different theological takes on reincarnation, just to get a baseline and then I worked it out to where my take sort of gets along with the vague historical take on reincarnation. Except then I put a gun in reincarnation’s hand. Then I met Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and really figured out what it was all about. Stories are jerks like that, they can take forever to make themselves visible.

TFQ: The early images released for the series looks very futuristic. What time period do we begin in and will we ever see flashes of the previous lives lived by the main characters Mali and Tessa?

Chris: We start in the present, but we have eyes on the future and the past at the same time. We kinda have to keep all these plates spinning at once. I’m a real nerd for logic so I’ve made sure to go back and document each previous life that Mali and Tessa have lived, even marking down their birth and death years. Some of these past lives are a lot more shaded in than others, but we’ll definitely be seeing glimpses of when our two main characters have met before and how they got along then. (Spoiler: not well)

The future is kind of a third main character in the book. We never see it, but it’s always hanging over Mali and Tessa’s heads like a storm cloud. They’ve spent all this time growing up, becoming fully-formed individuals who (in Mali’s case) have a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. Then they get the rug yanked out from under them and find out they’re fated for something much bigger, but much bleaker. They get their futures taken away from them, which is kind of a crappy tradeoff if you’ve just hit the point in your life where you think you might be starting to figure out what you want to do with it.

TFQ: The main characters of this series are female. It always interests me when male writers center their story on females antagonists/protagonists. Do you feel there is any challenge in writing a story from a female perspective?

Chris: No. I mean, the only challenge is the same challenge I face writing any characters, which is trying to make them feel real and human, like someone I want to follow and watch and learn more about. There’s nothing inherently difficult about writing women as opposed to men, anyone who says there is is either lying or just wrong. The hard part for me is writing a person into existence that I give a crap about. And for me, it’s easier to give a crap about someone who doesn’t look like me. I’m a white dude, I’ve been absorbing white dude-centric stories all my life and I have to live with myself 24/7, the last thing I want to do is saddle myself with living with a couple more of them in my fiction too. In a lot of ways, it frees things up for me, makes the creative process more fun and challenging. Looking outside myself prevents me from drifting into autopilot or default mode, which is easy to do sometimes, getting lost in the plot and ignoring your characters. I want to write about lives I haven’t lived and experiences I haven’t had. Otherwise it just feels like treading water to me.

TFQ: In Welcome Back we've got two characters who have been fighting a war with each other so long, they no longer really remember why. Is there any clear "good guy" in this story?

Chris: I think they’re both the good guys in a way. One of the things that helped me find my way into the story was thinking about that phrase that says ‘the villain is always the hero of their own story.’ That sort of tied up all the war stuff in a way I could process. In every war, each side thinks of themselves as the heroes, while the other side does their best to paint the other side as the villains and themselves as the heroes. The war that Mali and Tessa are in, it’s been going on since people were painting on cave walls, so each side believes down to their essence that they’re the good ones and the other side are the bad ones. Mali and Tessa both believe what they’re doing is right and honorable. That’s what they’ve been taught to believe. I think each soldier who signs up for a war does so believing they’re fighting for the side of good, especially since no one is completely privy to all the moving parts that go into a war breaking out. Occasionally there are clear-cut villains, people who relish being the bad guys, but I think most people in life are the good guys in their story, even the ones who lie, cheat, steal and exploit their way through life, they’re justified and heroic in their heads.

TFQ: How did you come to work on this story with Jonathan and what can you tell me about your process?

Chris: My editors at Boom, Eric Harburn and Chris Rosa, suggested Jonathan right away once we started working on the book and I’d already been admiring his stuff on his Black Mask book with Matt Miner, “Critical Hit.” Of course I said yes right away and we started talking pretty soon after that, about what we wanted to do on the book. I had a version of the story in my head, but then we were kicking ideas back and forth and this new version of it came bubbling out and we both got really excited about it. I wrote out character descriptions for Mali and Tessa to give to Jonathan and his character sketches got us excited all over again.

Process-wise, it’s deeply collaborative. We mostly talk on facebook messenger late at night. While I’m scripting, I’ll ask Jonathan what he thinks of this idea or that sequence, and he’ll come back with another idea or he’ll be into it. Then we talk about planning out a big action sequence in the next issue and what bands Mali and Tessa like and eventually it devolves into us sending stickers to each other. When I’m writing, I mostly try to not get in Jonathan’s way. He’s already taken my script pages and turned them into something I never had in mind when I wrote them, so I set the stage without too much micromanagement. Then when Jonathan has the script, I start on the next one, just fill up a couple pages in my notebook with ideas and outlines and overthinking, and I run a lot of that stuff by Jonathan too. Comics works best for me with a lot of collaboration with my co-creator, so I try to keep it a team effort for as much of the process as both of us can manage.