The most adorable hard rock, comic book creating duo in the biz is hands down Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert. Claudio is the front-man for the band Coheed and Cambria and Chondra is his wife, muse and the love of his life. It’s not hard to hear that last part when talking to them or when hearing from them over social media. Chondra who goes by Chonnye is incredibly active on Twitter and has a horde of fans who follow her simply because of how amazingly open and real she is with everyone. She has worked with her husband Claudio on the past two comic projects to come from the mind of a the composer and the results were great.
It’s not stretching reality to say that most writers that step into the comic medium from expertise in another creative field have a hard time executing in Comics. With the team of Claudio and Chonnye though, the results are the rare result of comic book nirvana. Claudio’s background comes with some comic writing of his own with The Amory Wars – a story that tells the tales behind the music of Coheed and Cambria. Claudio is also a passionate comic book fan who understands characters and their motivations. He has such a unique understanding of The Batman and The Joker that his song with Coheed and Cambria, “Deranged”, on the “Batman: Arkham City” soundtrack was lauded for its insight to the characters. The song itself is a deeply disturbed interpretation of the almost lovesick relationship The Batman and The Joker seem to have with one another.
Claudio can be heard thumbing through his stack of comics as he talks about absolutely everything he’s currently reading.
Chondra’s background is being an outsider looking in. She’s not new to comics but she didn’t grow up with them in her lunch sack like many other writers did. Instead, she’s read up and fallen in love with the medium for her own reasons. She brings a refreshing look to the writing team that made their last outing, “The Key of Z” a critical darling. She’s also the one half of an expecting couple who is doing all of the “heavy lifting”. #BabySanchez as he’s known online is due next month.
I was lucky enough to sit down with them and discuss their latest book “Translucid”. It was a long conversation between a fan playing as a reporter and an impassioned team of writers who had a hard time not talking about how much they love comics, art, and their book “Translucid”. At one point during the interview, Claudio can be heard thumbing through his stack of comics as he talks about absolutely everything he’s currently reading. The list of comics being consumed between the two of them could literally fill a comic shop, where Chonnye mentions they visit on a regular basis. The transcript below is edited down. If you’d like to hear the entire interview you can listen to it in your browser or download it from this link here.
Mark Avo: I've read the first issue of “Translucid”. As a first issue I think it did its job well because I was very upset when I ran out of pages. That’s what a comic is supposed to do; it’s supposed to make you want to keep going. That being said, for the uninitiated what is “Translucid”?
Claudio Sanchez: Chondra?
Chondra Echert: Go ahead Claud, you take this one.
CS: “Translucid” is basic your hero villain tale. Like most hero villain tales such as The Batman, you have a hero who sort of inspires his rogues gallery. This is sort of that story but to the point where the rogues gallery their roles are sort of reversed. Certainly the hero comes first but in developing these adversaries, he starts to use them as his guides to making him become the hero he is supposed to be. So basically <Translucid> is a story where the villain The Horse doesn’t necessarily want to make the hero a better hero anymore. He used to think that was his responsibility but now he wants to sever the ties between the two of them.
Did I do a good job of that Chondra?
CE: Yeah, it’s a basic hero and villain tale with a twist that, we don’t really see so much of the relationship as it is happening. We sort of pop in at the end of it when everything has hit a wall. They’re tired of each other and have grown too co-dependent to keep moving forward so our villain wants to end their relationship.
MA: Why superheroes? Is it a love letter to characters like Batman and The Joker? Given the disturbing nature of the Coheed and Cambria song for the "Batman: Arkham City" soundtrack "Deranged", I assume that Claudio feels deeply about that relatioship.
CS: I think it was time to do a superhero story. With the other three titles we have being in comics, “Kill Audio”, “Key of Z, and “The Amory Wars”, they’re all part of other genres really with Science Fiction, Horror, Comedy. I think <for us> it was about time to tell a superhero story. Also, when you bring up the “Deranged” song I think that was part of the inspiration as to why we chose to do a <story> in this way. Yes, <there is> definitely my love for those two characters and the chemistry between them. So we wanted to make this somewhat of a love letter but The Horse is certainly more, um, methodical?
CE: Honey, sweetie, maybe conniving? I think The Horse’s moves are really to provoke The Navigator in a sense that he’s not trying to create chaos just to create it or to piss The Navigator off. He wants to create a meaningful environment for The Navigator to exist in. So when you see him operating as a villain it’s never in a nasty way or an evil way, it’s always in a thought provoking way. He wants The Navigator to be a better hero because he’s been so inspired by him. So, the situations that he creates for The Navigator to fix are not coming from a sinister place per say. I think that’s something for me, as someone who never really grew up reading superhero comics or reading comics in general as a kid. What’s so interesting to me about the relationship between heroes and villains aren’t necessarily the action parts. These sort of villainous situations aren’t as exciting to me as the reasons that they’re there. So for us that’s a really big part of this book. Exploring the emotions behind the settings that they choose and the reasons why they’re picking certain victims.
MA: Chonnye, is that why you agreed to be the Co-Writer on this particular story, and that’s under my assumption that this was sort of Claudio’s brainchild and you kinda ran with it? Correct me if I’m wrong.
CE: We were just talking about this yesterday. Actually the idea sprung up a couple of years ago. The boys were doing a photo-shoot in this little graveyard where they rehearse and Claudio had seen this gravestone that was this guy by the name of Cornelius Slingerland. So originally the story was called Slingerland and the hero was also called Slingerland. Claudio couldn’t get the name out of his head and he couldn’t stop tossing it around. I think it was also around the time that they did the soundtrack song for The Batman and Joker Deranged <On the Arkham City Soundtrack>. It was basically taking all of the inspired elements and trying to create a story out of them. There were definitely a lot of ideas and over-arching schemes for Translucid but we honed them in over time to create a story with them. Definitely with the help from our Editors over at BOOM! too.
CS: For me, I’ve always wanted and I have always thought of writing a Batman story. And, I’ve always thought about superhero stories and their origin stories. What if there was a way to take their origin and use it as the ending – to use it as the demise of the hero? That was the loop that was in my mind. Chondra and I… I think anything outside of The Amory Wars I just have fun working with my wife on titles. It was just a natural thing for her and I to co-write this as we have with the other titles. I think it’s just fun for us to collaborate together. I think that answer was all over the place? <laughs>
MA: No, it hit on a lot of great points. Now, I’d have to be crazy not to ask you both about Daniel Bayliss. He is the artist for “Translucid” and his past work is kinda hard to find but I believe it’s well worth the search. How did you find him and what made the both of you choose him as the artist for Translucid.
CE: Do you want to take this one Claud or?
CS: No, go for it, go for it.
CE: Daniel came to us from our Editors at BOOM! who approached us with four or five options of really talented artists. At the time we were thinking, because the story bounces around so much, we might need more than one artist to sort of take on duties or maybe handle flashbacks with different art. We had been tossing around a lot of ideas. They came <to us> with Daniel and his test. I think the test was the double-page spread of The Horse you see in the first few pages and it was so beautiful that we just thought that this was our guy. We saw something that we hadn’t seen before with an artist we’d used in the past. It was something different and a little more illustrative in some ways, but just really cool and tactile. So, like you said we hadn’t seen a lot of his past work it seemed like he understood the story we wanted to tell and he understood the characters and he really understood the dynamic between the hero and the villain. So, yeah, we love working with him. He is really creative. He takes the script and he runs with it. Adam Metcalf who is on colors fills in all of the blanks and his colors really work with the art. We’re really proud of the way this book looks.
CS: Didn’t we? We also saw his short called, “The Deal”, which was basically a Batman Joker story. Wasn’t that one of the deciding factors as well?
CE: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Have you seen it?
MA: Yes it’s, it’s really twisted. I liked it a lot.
CE: <laughs> It’s really twisted. It’s exactly what it is. You know that for us it was the relationship he tells in that short. The darkness of it and the sort of romantic undertones that are almost present between The Joker and Batman, those were all things we felt that The Navigator and The Horse have. It’s an intense relationship that’s kind of inexplicable. We thought that the darkness he put into that short was something we wanted to see in “Translucid” for sure.
MA: It sounds to me that it was a pure collaborative process between the three of you and even the colorist Metcalf.
CE: Absolutely. It bums me out that Daniel doesn’t have a Twitter because I would just be tweeting at him all day. Here’s another page and it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen! <laughs>
MA: My closing question is: Besides becoming parents, do you have any other plans for future creative collaborative endeavors?
CS: Yeah, we are planning on following up "Key of Z" at some point. There are a couple of titles in the wings, as time allows we will probably get too that we have not put out there into the world. I wrote a children’s story that Chondra helped edit which we are hoping to have out maybe next year.
CE: We plan to take three months maternity leave and when the baby comes <we’ll> give ourselves a little time to exist with him without being on a dead line. I am sure that we will be very inspired and have a whole hand full of stories in that time that we will need to work on immediately.
CS: “Amory Wars” is around the corner. We have been working on that for a few years now. I’d like to revisit Good Apollo One in more of a clear fashion. It's just taking up so much time, the outline, because there are so many loose ends we want to tie up with these last few stories. It's just taking a lot of our focus. We just moved into some mock scripting at the moment. So we'll see
For my review of Translucid, along with some additional preview images, go here. To follow Claudio and Chondra online you can visit their Twitter pages @claudioPsanchez and @Chonnye and their Instagram pages @claudiopsanchez and @chonnye. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit BOOM! Studios and EvilInk both @boomstudios/@boom_studios and @EvilInkComics/@evilinkcomics and throw me a shout out @MarkAvo if you’re hungry for more comic news and interviews. Oh, and one more thing, a special shout out to my womano @brandigirlio who, without her help, this interview wouldn't have been possible or transcribed on time.
Images Courtesy of Boom! Studios