Chris Sebela is an American comic book writer known for his books High Crimes, We(l)come Back, and I Lived In A Clown Motel. Robert Wilson IV is an American comic book artist known for Knuckleheads and Like A Virus. The two collaborate on Heartthrob for Oni Press.
Tim: Now that Heartthrob has been picked up by Hollywood, how does it feel to have made it in the comics industry?
Chris: I'll tell you in like three years when I actually have. I mean, it's a nice boost. And it's nice that other industries see potential in the story we're doing. We still have the plan that we've had all along, so it doesn't affect that. But I'm cautiously optimistic it'll turn into a show.
Robert: A good show.
Chris: Or even a bad show. Just a show would be cool.
Robert: It would definitely be more shows than I've had in the past.
Tim: How is the collaborative process between the two of you? Who comes up with the dad jokes?
Robert: Chris comes up with the titles. Although, we're collaborating more closely for volume three so that could change.
Chris: The final issue of the second season we worked pretty closely to figure out how it was going to end.
Robert: The end specifically.
Chris: We're just now digging into season three. I asked Robert if he wanted to work on it together and kind of co-plot. It's been smooth sailing. We definitely hit some road bumps in the first season. We were trying to figure out how the other works. But once we got past those road bumps, it's been one of the best collaborations I've had.
Robert: Totally. I feel like Chris and I, our storytelling styles and our personalities are super different. We had to figure that out but once we got in a groove, that's a real tremendous strength.
Tim: So Heatthrob melds different genres: romance, heist, drama. Is that a natural melding?
Chris: Yeah? I knew I wanted to do a crime book and I also wanted to do a romance book. So, there's a precedent for those two going together. The way my brain works, I can't just do a normal Bonny and Clyde-type story. It has to have that extra thing to keep me intrigued. If it's just like two regular folks on the run... There's clearly a way to tell that story interestingly, but I have to maintain my interest and throw something in there that confuses even me. Putting in these supernatural elements made it work for me. Once I came up with the heart transplant angle, everything became clear to me. In this case, it was the key that unlocked the whole book for me.
Tim: What's so dang good about Fleetwood Mac anyway?
Robert: The songwriting, first and foremost.
Chris: I've definitely been obsessed with Fleetwood Mac for several years now, but it's not just the fact that Rumors was the biggest album when it came out. That was the initial inspiration. I liked the idea that we signified the real world by having Rumors be sort of everywhere. That was a thing that became much deeper. One of the things I love about Fleetwood Mac is there's so much interpersonal dynamics behind the scenes. People are sleeping with each other and cheating on each other. People doing drugs. It's like a very weird family. That's what we kind of put together with Heartthrob is giving Callie this very odd family and seeing what happens. People will betray each other.
Robert: There's a lot of repeating themes between the real life Fleetwood Mac story and Heartthrob.
Chris: For sure. I don't know. I just like Fleetwood Mac.
Tim: Did you listen to a lot of Fleetwood Mac when you were drawing?
Robert: Definitely. I tried to soak myself in Rumors specifically, but also stuff from that era. Kind of the stuff that Callie would be listening to. I had Bowie's Low and Heroes both in pretty heavy rotation because they both came out in 1977. A lot of period stuff and a lot of stuff with similar mood.
Tim: What is it about period pieces that draw you to them?
Robert: I don't know. I think that's the one thing about Heartthrob that made me hesitant because, for the artist at least, it's a lot of work. It's almost a whole extra part of your job doing the research, making it feel like it's not something that's right now. That's my default. You're so of your time as a person, so it takes a lot of effort for me to make it look and feel like the '70s. I've never been to the '70s.
Chris: The main inspiration was that I wanted to do a book before there were cell phones. It's hard to do a crime book where you're not spending half your time explaining how they did that thing. I just wanted to take it back to a time where you could go on a crime spree and not get busted. For whatever reason, I just kind of have a fetish for the 1970s. I think music and movies were great back then. Kind of before everything started to slide into hell. I know a lot of it is idealized because I didn't live through most of that. I'm sure things were pretty garbage back then. There's something about the mood of the 1970s that sort of does a lot of the work for you.
Tim: Death, life after death, and cheating death are kind of a recurring themes throughout your books.
Chris: No. I've noticed it, but I feel like death is something I keep coming back to because it's the biggest mystery of all. Nobody knows what happens so there's a lot of fertile ground to play around in. It's the one universal truth for all of us. We'll all die. All the people we love will die. Nobody knows what will happen. Maybe that's just how I settle my anxieties about death. Maybe I'm doing my death fan fiction of how I want it to be. I don't know why that's the case. I've started to move away from it a little bit with some of my newer stuff. But I've noticed that I haven't started to move away from it at all. I'll probably be writing about death until I die and I'll have figured it out so I won't have to write about it anymore.
Tim: While Robert Wilson I and Robert Wilson II quickly became cult classics, Robert Wilson III was critically panned. What gave you the confidence to revive the franchise with Robert Wilson IV?
Robert: Oh man. That's such a loaded question. Like everything in my life, it wasn't even a choice. It was a compulsion. I follow my heart.