Image's CROWDED Heads to LAS VEGAS As Assassins Try to Cash In

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)
Credit: Gaby Epstein (Image Comics)

Image Comics' Crowded prepares to launch its second arc with a whole new setting as Charlie (the girl with a mysterious three-million-dollar target on her head) and Vita (her 1.4 rated bodyguard from the Dfend app) are on the run from – well, everyone. The duo travel east and find themselves in Las Vegas, where they encounter assassins who are desperate for Charlie’s rising bounty. These events will be sure to test Charlie and Vita’s budding relationship as they continue to learn more about each other’s past and how this will affect their future.  

With Crowded #7 due out July 3, Writer Christopher Sebela and artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt shared with Newsarama what readers can expect from Vita and Charlie as the characters explore the new terrane of Las Vegas and their relationship. We also discuss exciting action sequences, new settings, and the creators’ thoughts on teaming up for a comic book series with the Big Two.

Image Comics' Crowded is back - and Charlie and Vita are on the run. With July 3's Crowded #7, the duo travel east to Las Vegas and are targeted by assassins looking to cash in on that $3 million bounty on Charlie's head.

Writer Christopher Sebela and artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt talk with Newsaraam about this new arc, the new terrain of Sin City, and the changing relationship between Vita and Charlie.

Newsarama: Christopher, what can you tell us about your second arc?

Christopher Sebela: Our first arc was a lot about setting up the world of just around the corner and how it all functions, especially in terms of how our two leads, Charlie and Vita, function - both with each other and with the world around them that's trying to murder one or both of them.

Now that we've laid the groundwork and done a lot of heavy lifting, we're going to be heading East as Charlie and Vita (and Dog) search for some kind of shelter and some kind of solution to the Reapr campaign, which is already nearing 3 million bucks.

Nrama: What’s it like writing in the Las Vegas setting instead of California?

Sebela: Vegas as it is right now is a pretty rich setting for any kind of story. There's a whole dynamic to being in Vegas in an endless, all-night sea of trashed and angry people who have just flushed their dream of a boat down a craps table. Vegas' whole reputation is "you can do things here you'd never do at home" and so it's been fun to take a lot of what makes that town what it is and play with it to our advantage and also change a lot of stuff up because: future.

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)

Nrama: How are the assassins different in Sin City?

Sebela: Hopefully our travelogue will make it clear that people are desperate all over, no matter the city, town or prefecture. There's always going to be people who have a sudden bill drop on their head that threatens their ability to pay all their bills or even hit their rent for the month. None of that is any different for the people who either live or vacation in Vegas, but maybe the town gives a bit more permission to do things you'd never do at home. Also, while the content may fluctuate from person to person, most everyone has alcohol in their blood.

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)

Nrama: Ro and Ted, what were you most looking forward to drawing with the comic book’s new setting?

Ro Stein: I like how in our version of Vegas there are no pedestrians, with people using little shuttle pods to zip around the city. Also the vast number of palm trees has been fun so far.

Ted Brandt: Mostly what I’m enjoying is what I enjoyed about the first arc: finding a way to make a fictionalized version of a place feel real and solid. And using background gags to try flesh out the culture of their world more.

Nrama: Are there any new assassins that were fun to design for this new arc?

Stein: There’s no one we could class as an actual assassin; there are a lot of would-be killers and members of the public though, and it’s always fun to go a bit crazy with them.

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)

Brandt: There aren’t any big new names, no. This arc is much more focused on Charlie and Vita acclimating to their new reality, and working out how to survive it, as well as each other.

Nrama: What can you tease about Charlie and Vita’s dynamic?

Sebela: It gets complicated. They spent so much time figuring each other out while not dying in the first arc that now they have room to dig a little deeper. Vita wants Charlie to explain herself and why people want her dead. Charlie wants Vita to open up too, but in more of a 'let your hair down and do shots with me' kind of way.

If anything, in this next arc, Vita definitely begins to fall sway to some of Charlie's tendencies, which is fun all on its own. Oh, and remember how they almost kissed in the first arc? That's not something we're done looking into either. The plot is the plot and I'm trying to make that as fun as possible, but Charlie and Vita are the heart of the book, so I never get tired of throwing them into each other and seeing what happens as a result.

Credit: MJ Erikson (Image Comics)

Nrama: Are we going to meet any more people from Charlie and Vita’s past?

Sebela: Oh yeah. As much fun as it is to just have the two of them interact, I think it's always fun to watch how your friends behave around people that you're not mutual friends with, so both Vita and Charlie will have folks from their past popping up as we go. I always sort of pitched Crowded as "This is Your Life, But You Were Kind of a Jerk".

Nrama: What sequences are you most excited for readers to see in this second arc?

Stein: There’s a chunk in issue #7 which was a really tricky action sequence to put together because of all the moving parts; I’m excited for people to see that!

Brandt: I’m most excited for a sequence coming up in the middle of the arc; it’s much more of a focused character study than we’ve really had time for so far, so it’s great to stretch some different muscles and give the readers something new about the book.

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)

Nrama: What are you most excited for fans to read?

Sebela: All of it? I dunno, I think Ro and Ted have gotten even better than last arc, somehow, and Triona on colors is blowing the whole team away. I hardly had to change a lot of the letters and the storyline's been worked out all the way to the end thanks to Cardinal and Juliette, respectively. I think the first arc was all of us getting to know each other, becoming a unit. Now this is us with some seasoning getting to go absolutely ape house on a story where no one can tell us what to do.

Nrama: Are there other settings you would like to explore?

Sebela: So many. And a lot of them I have planned for. But I can't say much about it without ruining stuff. Suffice to say, you won't have to wait till the third arc for that, we're trying to mix it up a little on the second arc and Vegas isn't our home base for the whole thing. The place they go after that is a location I've been dreaming about putting in a comic for years now.

Brandt: In Crowded? The narrative is obviously going to keep moving around the country, so there will definitely be other places. Charlie and Vita’s story doesn’t end in Vegas.

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)

Nrama: Are there any Marvel or DC books you would like to work on as a team?

Sebela: Not really. I think we're all having a great time doing this book and we own this book and we can make it whatever we want. We get to take the characters in all sorts of directions and explore all sorts of things about them. We write the canon and no one can tell us we're wrong or to do it another way or that we have to put our stuff aside to fit into the fourth line-wide event this year.

Working with Ro and Ted on Crowded is the best job in the world. If we were to work together on something after it, I'd want to make another creator-owned book, but built it with them. They're not just great artists, they're great storytellers and they've changed so much, big and small, about where the story has headed since we started.

Brandt: Honestly, making Crowded is enough work that I haven’t stopped to think about other projects properly. I would definitely be interested in going back to the Big Two one day, but right now all I have room to think about is creator-owned stuff.

Stein: I had fun when we worked at Marvel, but I don’t have the same connection to superhero books that Ted does, so working for the Big Two again could be fun, but it’s not something that I think about often.

Credit: Ro Stein/Ted Brandt (Image Comics)

Nrama: Are there any other creator-owned titles in the pipeline that you want to work together on?

Sebela: I mean, I would put a ring on it right now and lock Ro and Ted into a creative marriage situation if it were doable, but I also know that they have things they wanna work on after Crowded and I'm excited to see what they do with another creator, especially after how much I see their pages change just in the pages of this book. You can't miss each other if you don't go away, I guess.

Stein: Crowded is still going on for while hopefully, so it’s hard to think beyond the current issue we’re working on.

Brandt: Plus, being on the art side we’re generally the ones pitched to for projects rather than initiating them! You never know what the future will bring, though.

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