Long before his days as Mr. Robot, Christian Slater was fueled by a baboon heart in the 1993 gem “Untamed Heart” and years later – post “X-Files fame” – David Duchovny’s on-screen girlfriend Minnie Driver ended up being saved via cardiac transplant thanks to his dead wife’s heart in the 2000 film “Return to Me.” But if you think those stories of heartbreak are brave, bold and bizarre, they’ve both got nothing on “Heartthrob,” Oni Press’ indie hit by Christopher Sebela, Robert Wilson and Nick Filardi.
Returning for Season 2 on June 7, the story of “Heartthrob” follows Callie, a woman born with a bad ticker who gets a transplant only to learn her new heart previously belonged to a criminal mastermind named Mercer. Actually, the proper verb tense would be ‘belongs’ because Mercer still exists – at least in Callie’s mind – and the two fall in love and embark on a crime spree that would make Bonnie and Clyde proud.
When Season 2 opens, Callie has run away to Canada in attempt to put her life with Mercer behind her but you can’t run away from love or Dudley Do-Right. CBR connected with Sebela to discuss the events leading into the second volume of “Heartthrob” and the writer, who has recently started writing for DC Comics after participating in the company’s Talent Development Workshop, revealed which Fleetwood Mac album would best describe it after the first volume felt very much like its soundtrack was the band’s bestseller “Rumours.”
CBR: While “Heartthrob” is equal parts comedy and drama, romance and crime thriller, at its heart – pardon the pun – is a young woman’s successful heart transplant which triggers all of these events. Do you know someone who endured a heart transplant, or was there another reason that inspired you to build a story around this life-saving surgery?
Christopher Sebela: The main inspiration came from listening to a paranormal radio show about people who got organ transplants and the strange effects it had on their personalities, or how they’d recognize their donors without ever having met them. Specifically, someone’s heart beating faster when they see their photos. I came up with the bones of the story on the drive home.
Did you always know the story would continue beyond the first volume, or were you pleased with where and when the initial story ended? If that was the conclusion, was that going to be okay?
I always saw it as a three-part story, but I wanted to craft it where if it never got past the first part, it would still be able to stand on its own, with just enough unresolved threads to inspire some fanfic.
Callie is quite a character. She’s not the most likeable leading lady, nor does she try to be, and yet, I just can’t get enough her. Do you think its the journey that has hooked readers, how she deals with her life’s challenges, or perhaps something else entirely?
For me, the journey she takes and how she deals and who she is are all the same thing. I’ve spiked a lot of ideas I had in mind at the start of all this because once I got to know Callie, she made it clear she wasn’t going to go along with them anymore. I’m not sure what other people like about her. I think because she’s not likeable and she has a lot of issues, it’s easier to see bits of yourself in there. I sure do.
For the longest time, I wasn’t sure exactly who or what Mercer is or was. Actually, full disclosure, I am still not entirely sure. Do you have a definitive answer for us or would you like us to keep guessing?
We have a definitive answer, but we’re totally okay with you guessing until we get around to the big reveal.
Like Callie, Mercer isn’t exactly the most likeable character, but with any good villain (if he is the villain), you want to love to hate him. Have we seen the last of Mercer? If we haven’t, what’s his ultimate goal?
Maybe it’s a thing with me, but I don’t go in for traditional villains. I like people who straddle the fence. I buy into the adage that villains are the heroes in their own stories. So Mercer is the villain, but he’s also kinda… not? I don’t know. But you haven’t seen the last of him by a long shot.
Did you know a Mercer growing up, because he reads like a very real person to me.
No. He’s just a person I made up. I put bits of people I know in there, same as I do with others, but maybe with Mercer it was more of a particular side of people I knew. The duplicitous and vaguely sleazy parts, as well as the charming and manipulative parts.
When the new volume starts, does Callie still have feelings for Mercer?
Definitely. If nothing else, his heart is in her chest, there’s no getting away from the idea of Mercer, much less her feelings for him. It’s also because of him that she is where she is now – her whole life is different. It’s kind of the worst breakup in history, so getting over it will take her a bit.
The new volume opens in Canada. How do you know so much about our home and native land? Because your details about Toronto – including a shout out to CHUM FM – are spot on!
I do a lot of homework! I always want things to have a patina of reality so then we can come along and do a lot of messed up stuff on top of that and it’s all a little easier to swallow. Plus, I’ve always loved seeing a story set in a place I lived and checking it against the reality I experienced, so it’s what me as a reader would want.
Do you really think it would be that much easier to commit crime and robberies in Canada?
Not at all. In my head, it’d be that much harder to commit crime in Canada. It feels like you’ve got a better handle on that stuff, but I’m sure back then it was as easy as it was to commit crimes in America. I’m equal opportunity, and I love Canada, so I wanted to share with you guys. Plus, there are story reasons, but I won’t spoil those.
What else can you share about what we’ll see in the second volume of “Heartthrob”?
Robert and Nick’s work together is getting even better. Like, I feel amazed that I get to work with people so talented and I also like them a lot as human beings. It’s a double lottery.
Story-wise, things get a little darker, a bit more complicated. If volume one was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” then this one is “Tusk,” with all the messy feelings and dynamics and weirdness that that entails. Also, we get more time with Scout, who quickly became a favorite for Robert and I.
“Heartthrob,” Season 2, #1 arrives June 7.