October’s going to be a busy month for Christopher Sebela and Oni Press. The writer has returned to the publisher with not one but two books, both coming this fall: Dirtbag Rapture, a brand-new five-issue miniseries, and a print collection of Short Order Crooks, which was previously available only in a crowdfunded limited edition.

Dirtbag Rapture features art by Kendall Goode and Gab Contreras. Here’s how Oni describes the series:

She’s stoned. She’s selfish. She’s all that stands between us and the end of the world.

Where do you actually go when you die? Kat, a stoner with a flexible moral code, can answer that, and the answer is: not very far. Unfortunately for Kat’s peace of mind, a near-death experience has left her with the ability to see and hear ghosts, as well as take them into her “mindscape” so she can bring them to locations of their choosing, essentially playing transporter to the deceased—but at a price. How else is she going to fund the alcohol and drugs that muffle the ceaseless ride-share requests from the departed? But when Kat discovers she’s the key to a demonic plan to screw up the whole world, she is forced to take an active role in the battle between good and evil. And she’s not thrilled about it. Christopher Sebela (Injustice: Ground Zero, Crowded), Kendall Goode (The Doorman), and Gab Contreras (Witchblood) team up for a supernatural, stoner action-comedy that puts the “boo” in booze cruise.

The inspiration for the new series came from an unlikely place: Twitter. “It’s an idea I came up with making a joke reply to someone on Twitter,” Sebela told The Beat. “It was a thread about vaping or something. Chris Conroy at DC made a reply about Jason Statham starring in [a movie called] Ghost Sucker, and I replied, ‘It’s The Frighteners meets The Transporter.’ As soon as I hit send on that, I was like, ‘that’s a really good idea.’”

The tweet that inspired Dirtbag Rapture. Screenshot courtesy of Christopher Sebela.

The story and mythology of the world of Dirtbag Rapture came together quickly, Sebela said, over a matter of weeks. After the initial artist for the project bowed out, Sebela thought of Goode for it. The pandemic also gave the writer the opportunity to pay Goode up-front. “Last year I wasn’t going to cons, [so] I wasn’t spending nearly the amount of money I would in a non-pandemic year,” Sebela said. “Kendall popped into my head as someone who might be perfect on this, and I just reached out to him and I was like, ‘hey, I can’t pay you a lot, but I would pay you to draw the first issue and then we’ll figure out what we do with it when we have it done.’ It’s the first time I’ve funded a whole issue of comics with zero idea what I was going to do with it,” he added. “I just felt like I had to do something.” By the time the first issue was completed, Oni was onboard to publish the series, and Contreras joined the team to color the book.

Dirtbag Rapture was among a number of ideas Sebela submitted to Oni for consideration. “I have too many ideas that I want to do,” he said. “I literally sent them like ten things I wanted to do, and they picked Dirtbag right away.” With one project underway at Oni, the addition of the Short Order Crooks collection, a food cart caper set in Portland (Oni’s home base), was almost a no-brainer. The five issue series by Sebela, artist George Kambadais, colorist Lesley Atlansky, and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou was originally Kickstarted back in 2017. “Once Dirtbag was getting set up,” Sebela explained, “I sort of idly mentioned to them, ‘You know, I have this five-issue crime cooking comic that we did the single issues on and I printed a small run of trades to sell at shows.’ But, you know, I had never really gotten anything close to a wide distribution, and they were super interested. I sent it along and later that day they were pretty much on-board.”

Here’s how Oni describes Short Order Crooks:

Rockwell Granger put his misspent life on the line in pursuit of cooking for a living…and it’s not going well. In debt to the notorious Bardem Brothers, who control the Portland food cart scene with an iron fist, he struggles to make a profit and fights with the few customers he has. When the Bardems call in his marker and force him to track down a rogue truck invading their turf, Rock has no choice left but to say yes. Meanwhile, Rock’s taco truck has been invaded by his newest (and only) employee, Harper Marbury, who took backseat driving to a new level, replacing his menu with her vegetarian agenda. As Harper polishes her cooking skills, she’s thrown into the chaotic food cart underground, helping Rockwell on his morally gray mission for the Bardems. With two jobs on their plate, Rock and Harper will have to learn how to get along, and, even harder, how to cook together, as they navigate a world of food pirates, evil hippies, and irate foodies, before Rock gets 86’d forever.

Sebela said that bringing Short Order Crooks to a publisher like Oni was always part of his original plan for the series: “That was always my goal with Kickstarting Short Order Crooks. I know there’s only so much I could do as a single creator to get my stuff out there, and I always wanted to take it to a publisher and have them put out the trade so it could finally get a wider readership. And luckily [Oni was] looking for stuff like that. It was like an O. Henry story but good. We each had what the other wanted and we managed to come together at the right time.”

These two books are just the latest Oni projects for Sebela – Oni previously published Heartthrob with artist Robert Wilson IV and colorist Nick Filardi, and Dead Dudes with artist Ben Sears and colorists Ryan Hill and Warren Wucinich. Oni publisher James Lucas Jones is happy to expand their working relationship with Sebela. “[We] have a long history together, so we’re thrilled to be working more closely together in the immediate future, Jones told The Beat. “Sebela has worked with top creative minds in the industry and it’s an honor to be in partnership with him yet again.”

Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Alex Segura also praised Sebela as a writer Oni is happy to continue to support. “Like many of the creators working with Oni, Chris is a talented, versatile, and unique voice in comics. We’re so happy that we can provide talent with the tools they need to actualize their creative visions, including editorial and marketing support and a true, creative partnership for their stories and characters.”

As for Sebela, his connection with Oni goes back to the beginning of his comics-writing career. “The first thing I ever sold in comics was to Oni,” he explained, “In no small part, due to at least one editor there encouraging me to send them stuff. This was back when I was thinking I wanted to break into comics, but it still seemed pretty impenetrable, and they were the first publishers who I felt like were interested in me, and luckily that hasn’t waned.”

Heartthrob was Sebela’s first project with Oni Press

Sebela also appreciates the freedom Oni has afforded him with his projects. “Sometimes it’s really hard to get a publisher to agree to what works best for the story,” he  said. “Sometimes they’re really locked into, like, ‘we only like to do this many issues in this format.’ But Oni’s always been super-open to, like, ‘I need this to be longer or, you know, to tell a story the right way.’ I don’t have to worry or second-guess about them. They’ve always been very transparent and super supportive. And it’s nice to work with people who value you as a creator instead of just looking at numbers.”

As for what the future holds, more is coming. “I’ve got a horror book that’s going to be a five-issue series, I think. Right now I’m just about to write the last issue of Dirtbag and then move on to the horror book, and then possibly one or two other things. I’m by no means done working with Oni once these wrap up. I want to keep doing books with them as long as they’ll have me.”

Dirtbag Rapture #1 (of 5) arrives in stores on Wednesday, October 6th, while the Short Order Crooks collection drops in bookstores on Tuesday, October 19th, and in comic shops on Wednesday, October 20th.