Smash Pages Q&A: Sebela & Kambadais serve up crime in ‘Short Order Crooks’

If you read the Eisner-nominated High Crimes, you know Christopher Sebela has a talent for turning crime stories on their head, setting them up in interesting places with compelling characters. With Short Order Crooks, Sebala leaves Mount Everest behind and heads to Portland’s food truck scene, enlisting the talented George Kambadais and Lesley Atlansky to help cook up a story with equal parts comedy, crime and cooking.

With eight days left on the timer, Short Order Crooks passed its funding goal yesterday on Kickstarter. As they look ahead to their stretch goals, I spoke with both Sebela and Kambadais about the project, food trucks and more.

Smash Pages: Reading the description for this makes me think that the food truck scene in Portland must be REALLY competitive. Where did the idea come from for Short Order Crooks?

Christopher Sebela: It’s an idea that Kelly Sue DeConnick and I came up with several years ago, doing a cooking-centric comic of some kind, and pretty quickly we’d decided on food carts and a ‘Rockford Files’ type bent to it. The food truck scene here is pretty calm, but I wanted to take a ‘Repo Man’ approach to it and make it as off-kilter as possible.

I shouldn’t be asking these questions before eating lunch, because now I just want to talk about food. We’ve got a pretty good food truck culture going on here in the Bay Area, but what are you seeing in Portland? Do you have any personal favorites?

Christopher Sebela: Cartopia is my pod of choice. They’ve gotten very fancy in the last few years where they have all sorts of amenities there that will spoil you on other pods. My favorite is still Potato Champion. They serve Belgian fries in all sorts of variations that are all amazing. The other is Brunch Box, which is now a brick and mortar restaurant, but they have the most disgustingly good “eat this on a dare” burgers you could think of. A cheeseburger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun immediately comes to mind.

How did the two of you first meet and decide to work together? George, what attracted you to this story?

Christopher Sebela: I first saw George’s stuff on the book he did with Jamie S. Rich at Monkeybrain, The Double Life of Miranda Turner, and I thought his style was completely his own and really engaging. So then we eventually started talking about something to work on together and I thought George’s stuff would make a cool counterpoint to some of the downer moments of this story and could really bring a lot of the stranger moments to life with a lot of levity.

George Kambadais: Back in 2014 I bought the first issue of Dead Letters, and I loved it! I became fan of Chris’s work, and I was really surprised when he told me that he liked my work, too! We talked about working on a project together, and he sent me the concept of a “madcap caper detective book/cooking comic” that he was working on. I’m working mostly on superhero stuff, so this was something new to me, and I thought it’d be nice to experiment with something different. When I read the story I was intrigued! At first I liked the fact that it was a crime comic without any serious crime happening. He told me about godfathers, culinary femme fatales, pirates and gang wars between pods and food trucks, and that sounded crazy! I was sold! I really wanted to do this book.

George, if I’m not mistaken, you live in Athens, Greece. What sort of research have you done to capture the setting for this project?

George Kambadais: I’ve never been in Portland and there’s no food truck scene here, just a couple of small carts here and there, so I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for photos of food trucks, parks, food truck roundups, etc. As for Portland, I used Google maps, the street viewer, to see what this town looks like, even though we don’t see much of the town yet. I like spending time researching. Every time I’m working on a new project, I create a new folder on my computer, and I usually spend the first two days gathering photos and references for it.

How has it been working with colorist Lesley Atlansky thus far?

George Kambadais: It’s great! I love her work! Every time I finish a page, I can’t wait to see what she’ll do to it! I send her the pages, she send them back when she’s done and that’s it! No corrections, no changes, nothing. She’s a great colorist and fast, which is very important when you have tight deadlines.

Christopher, this is your second Kickstarter — the first being your rather famous “clown motel” campaign, which I didn’t back because I was afraid you really would say my name out loud in the graveyard next door. What did you learn from that first campaign that you applied to this one?

Christopher Sebela: I guess I mostly learned to never do that again. And that shipping sucks hard. For this one I’ve ordered postage printers and scales and stuff, and I’m doing all the hard work at home and just dumping it off en masse at the post office. Otherwise, I dunno really, Clown Motel was me getting familiar with the Kickstarter platform and what stuff you had to fill out and figure out, etc. So I felt somewhat more prepared when I started making this one, but I still messed up about a dozen things and when I sit down to do analysis on this Kickstarter, it’ll hopefully help me streamline my next campaign.

You guys are just on the verge of passing your goal for the campaign as I type this (it’s at $15,997 as I prepare to hit send), so it’s very likely the five-issue series is going to see print at this point. First off, congrats! Second, what are your plans for it after you produce the series? Will there be a collection at some point?

Christopher Sebela: Thanks, we hit the goal yesterday afternoon while I was taking a nap, so that was pretty nice to wake up to. And we still have a week to try and hit our 4 stretch goals. And yeah, we do pan to collect it in trade at some point, hopefully with a publisher who’ll be able to spread it much further and wider than we can as a self-publishing crew. Plus we’d like to do another arc or two of this book, so we have that as a potential down the road, if people like this one.

Head over to Kickstarter to back the project and to see what rewards are being offered.

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