AiPT!: What was the inspiration behind Crowded?
CS: I can’t even remember, honestly. I know it was back when I was color flatting comics pages full time and I think I went outside for a cigarette and some alchemy of the world and [when] my own mind [began] wandering like it would do while flatting…I just had the idea for crowdfunded assassinations. Later I came up with the idea of it bleeding down to street level where anyone could use it. Coming up with Charlie and Vita’s story, was the longest part of the process and the biggest missing part of the puzzle. Once I had them, I had Crowded. Or part of it. Meeting Ro and Ted and working with them was the last and most vital part, cause they helped me see the whole book through a new lens and gave me permission to go wild and make this book, these characters and this world as special as I could.
AiPT!: There have been a lot of dystopian future stories over the years but I am not sure if there has ever been one that seems so close to our reality. Some on the internet already form campaigns to assassinate a person’s character; how far off are we from something like Reapr?
CS: Sadly, probably not super far off. I think that’s what attracted me to the idea and why I keep describing our time period as “ten minutes in the future” because I wanted to build a world that’s ours but it took a strange detour a few years ago and has wound up in the world of Crowded. Honestly, we’ve been rushing to keep ahead of the world sometimes while we’ve been making the book. Or we’ll come up with an idea for something in the first arc and a week or three later, that concept is in the news. But we’re not trying to be relevant or “now” or whatever. It’s all kinda happened by accident. I hope Reapr never does come to pass. But if it does, I’d probably pass on taking any credit for it.
AiPT!: The art is a great mix of comedy to very serious and sad. Who were your influences when penciling and inking the book?RO: We watch a lot of comedy in our free time (don’t tell Chris we have any), and have a great love for classic British comedy shows like Red Dwarf, so that definitely impacted our storytelling choices in terms of timing. As far as the actual art style goes, there wasn’t anything specific; honestly, I was more looking at making a comics form of the kineticism of animated shows we enjoy, like Legend of Korra, or one of the Spider-Man shows (I’m terribly sorry but the specific one escapes me — there have been so many!)
TS: Honestly, my influences here are a bit more prosaic. There’s one book I keep returning to whenever I want to reconnect with the sort of mood I think Crowded ought to have: Essential Wolverine Volume 1. Almost exclusively penciled by John Buscema, with inks by Al Williamson, Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz, the latter two having the most impact on what I put into Crowded.
AiPT!: What is the most ridiculous app you have on your phone right now?
CS: I have a social networking app exclusively for sharing and watching and (I guess) connecting with other people who like dash cam accident videos. I’m mostly ignoring the social aspects and just trying to watch dash cam videos while I wait for five minutes in some waiting room or something.
RO: I don’t really have anything ridiculous in and of itself. Probably the workout app, as little as it’s used.
TS: Same, honestly. I don’t have anything inherently weird; my phone is mostly a functional device, so I don’t have a lot going on. I’d probably say the folder marked “travel” as it’s been a while since any of those apps have been used and it’ll be a good while longer.AiPT!: The first issue hasn’t even hit stands and Rebel Wilson has already optioned the rights for Crowded in order to make a film. We have seen some good comic book adaptations and some that are not so good. How worried are you about how the movie will turn out?
CS: I’m not worried. It’s sort of pointless to get caught up in these feelings in the end, I guess, because whatever movie they make of it will be their creation. It won’t change what our book is and the work we’re doing in it and the creation we’re making. Ideally, it’s an amazing movie and we can all retire off the sequel money and just make comics in our scenic villas, but right now it’s just a nice vote of confidence and a shot in the arm as we get unready to unleash our book on the world.
RO: I think the book is very filmable, and think Rebel would be a great choice to helm it if it does happen.
TS: Not at all. I’m thrilled that Rebel likes the book, but the second a movie goes into production, if it does, that is firmly Theirs, Not Ours. I’m sure Rebel would be very capable, but it won’t impact the book, which is where my heart lies.
AiPT!: I know you can only say so much, but what can readers expect from Crowded?
Chris: We’ve got a lot of plans for where it goes. I know how it ends, down to the last line, but we’re planning on covering a lot of ground between here and there and while things are going to get bigger and wilder, I’m really excited to follow Charlie and Vita and see how they change, how they keep getting on each others’ nerves and how they start changing each other. It’s kind of weird, they feel like real living people to me now, so I’m kind of in for the ride as much as everyone else.
TS: We’re certainly doing everything we can to dial all of Chris’ requests up to 11, so I’d say you can definitely expect a lot of gunplay, tense fights, explosions, a car chase or three, and a very irate dog.
RO: Sexual tension and numerous instances of wanting to throttle one or more of the characters.AiPT!: What projects do you have in the future?
Chris: My other Image book, Shaghai Red, is wrapping up soon, we’re just putting our final issue to bed. I also have a horror book coming out from Black Crown/IDW called House Amok on August 29th with Shawn McManus drawing it, Lee Loughridge coloring and Aditya Bidikar lettering with Shelly Bond editing it. It’s really weird and bloody and scary. Other than that, just writing the second arc of Crowded and focusing on that for the foreseeable future.
RO: Nothing set in stone right now; we’ve got a long road ahead of us making Crowded.
TS: We’re already talking about what’s next, of course, because this is comics. But Crowded is a terrifying, marvelous beast of a project, and realistically we won’t be thinking of anything seriously until we’re almost wrapped.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!