This week, Mad Cave Studios unveils a brand-new series from writer Chris Sebela (Crowded), artist David Stoll (Metaphorical HER), and colorist Dearbhla Kelly (Red Sonja). Pantomime follows a brother and sister attending a special needs boarding school (following their mother’s death) where they befriend a group of deaf children. Eventually, the kids enter into the world of crime and deception as they take part in heists to keep their friends together. It’s an intriguing tale that explores family and friendship with a keen eye.
Before the series debuts this Wednesday, we spoke with Sebala about the series’ development process, the scope of influences, and much more.
AIPT: Where did the conceit of hearing-impaired teens performing heists come to you?
Chris Sebela: The idea actually came from Mad Cave. My editor, Chris Sanchez, contacted me and said they had an idea and would I be interested in it. So I read what they sent me, which was the core concept of the book. So I asked if they’d be up for me changing some things to make it a story I was invested in telling. And luckily they were very up for that, so from there I did a lot of homework, figured out who our characters were and built the story. So even though it’s not my initial idea, I’ve put enough of myself into it that it feels like I did, if that makes sense.
AIPT: What were your influences for this book?
CS: This is always a rough question for me because I don’t keep track, really. With crime stuff, I feel like I’ve been a fan of it for long enough that I’ve just naturally done a lot of homework reading and watching crime stories and building up the museum of criminal stuff in my head. One definite influence on Pantomime was the French crime movie RIFIFI, which has a heist sequence that’s 30 minutes of silence. I always loved that movie and it felt like a good fit with the kind of story we were trying to tell.
AIPT: How was executing the script for this so artist David Stoll, who does a phenomenal job on this, would capture the characters signing?
CS: I basically wrote the script as I normally would except I made sure to indicate when people are signing just as a general rule. We do have spoken language dialogue here and there and it was a trick figuring out how to handle that, but it was more of a group effort as we started to figure out what the look and style of the book was going to be. David really was instrumental in figuring out how to do it correctly, so I took my cues from him and adjusted my writing style to match and make sure I wasn’t making things harder for him. Justin Birch, who letters the book, handles the rest of the heavy lifting and the two of them really figured out an elegant way to do it. I just, as I always do with my collaborators, tried to not get in the way.
AIPT: How did you decide on David Stoll as the artist for this book?
CS: David was the first artist that Mad Cave showed me and I’d always liked his stuff and seeing his initial character drawings, I was totally onboard to see what he’d do with it. And he was great from page 1, only getting better. Mad Cave also got Dearbhla and Justin, so they put together an amazing team from the get-go and I feel super lucky I get to work with all of them
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