In April, the new Boom comic series Translucid will reunite the creative husband-and-wife team of Chondra Echert and musician Claudio Sanchez, frontman of Coheed and Cambria.
The new project is a unique take on superheroes — portraying a hero named The Navigator and his arch-enemy, The Horse, while also examining the blurred line between hero and villain.
The writers admit they were influenced by the relationship of Batman and the Joker when they were formulating the story of The Navigator and The Horse. But in this story, The Horse begins to notice that The Navigator's moral compass is slipping, the villain decides to get a closer look into The Navigator's past to find out what drove him to become a hero.
Sanchez, who's sold millions of records worldwide as the creative force behind the band Coheed and Cambria, is a lifelong fan of comic books and superheroes. With Translucid, he and his wife promise to turn the superhero trope of “the neverending battle” on its head.
Echert and Sanchez formerly worked together on two other Boom Studios books, Kill Audio and Key of Z. The musician is also behind the volumes of comics and novels known as Amory Wars, which has been tied closely to stories told through the music of Coheed and Cambria.
As we reveal character designs for Translucid by the series artist, newcomer Daniel Bayliss, and one of the book's covers, by Jeff Stokely, we talked to Sanchez and Echert to find out more about their approach to the book.
Newsarama: Claudio and Chondra, how would you describe the premise of Translucid?
Chondra Echert: Translucid is our first foray into the superhero realm, and it catches up with a superhero and a villain on the last day of the hero's life. So we delve into his past and see moments that made him become what he is.
The overall theme of it is the question of morality. What makes a hero and what makes a villain?
Where do the lines blur?
Nrama: Looking at the description and art, it seems like the antagonistic relationship of these two characters is much like existing superheroes and their arch nemeses. Was there a hero and villain you guys had in mind when you were working on this?
Echert: Claudio's a big fan of the relationship between Batman and the Joker, and we were thinking about what makes Batman who he is, and how he went through a traumatic experience in an otherwise good life, and how it moved him forward to become a hero.
We thought, what would have happened if Batman's past was not good? What if his parents weren't necessarily nice people? What if he came from a troubled home and still underwent these traumatic experiences? How would he then evolve as a hero?
So you can see similarities, certainly in the hero, The Navigator. And also his villain, who's called The Horse. You can see similarities between Batman and the Joker.
Claudio Sanchez: And also, what if the Joker had the opportunity to utilize the Batman's origin to sort of deconstruct him and essentially destroy him? What if this symbiotic relationship wasn't so symbiotic? What if one of them wanted it to end, and thinks a good way to end it is to utilize the beginning?
Nrama: It sounds pretty dark, but also full of psychological intrigue.
Sanchez: Yes, it is a dark book, and it's also perplexing and filled with mysteries, because it happens in different timelines. We have this present where these two are combatting. And then there's this subconscious sort of zone, where we revisit the hero and his origin.
But yeah, it is essentially a dark story.
Nrama: As you said, the story really blurs the line between hero and villain, questioning the choices made by each, and it feels like it's among the lines of books that deconstruct the superhero trope, in the way of something like The Watchmen.
Sanchez: Absolutely. I mean, The Watchmen is one of my all-time favorites. I guess in a way, you could consider it an homage.
Echert: Even recently, we've been enjoying the new Matt Fraction run on Hawkeye, which I think does a good job of taking a hero out of his element and giving you those backstories and unexpected viewpoints of his life.
And even though Translucid is a superhero book, it's not all capes and flair. This is a book that is really a story about choices.
Nrama: And about how these two individuals took different paths, right? About what controls their moral compass?
Sanchez: It's funny that you say "moral compass," because that was one of the ideas for a possible title. But yes, it's very much about choice.
Nrama: Since you two are a married couple, how do you work together?
Sanchez: Usually, what happens is I'll wake her up at 3 o'clock in the morning and say, "I've got this idea!" And she'll tell me to basically shut the f__k up and go to sleep.
No, for the most part, we come up with these concepts and jot them down, and with this one in particular, Chondra has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting. But we come together at a point and we just make it work for both of it.
And at Boom, the editors have been fantastic, helping us strike the cord that we want.
Echert: There's a lot of pre-planning. We take a lot of long walks to make sure we've got this overarching storyline, and the vibe that we want. In terms of scripting, I'll usually sit down and put together a rough draft, then he'll take a look and make changes. From there it's really organic.
Sanchez: And we usually have multiple stories we're working on at a time, so we trade back and forth. Like, right now, Chondra's kind of taking the lead on Translucid, but I'm working on a follow-up to the The Amory Wars. So I've been knee-deep in that, as well as working on a children's story.
Nrama: Can you describe what Daniel Bayliss brings to the book?
Echert: With this series in particular, we wanted to find someone with an illustrative quality. Boom had come to us with a number of really talented artists, and we ended up with Daniel because his art is just so fresh, but also very, very illustrative and, I think, approachable.
It's not traditional to what I would envision a superhero book looking like. But it's very clean and really inventive. He just has a really good grasp on how a page should feel.
I think the only thing we researched regarding his art was his Batman and Joker, for an homage story he did. And it's really graphic and really dark, and it definitely set the tone for this book. So we thought he'd be a really good fit for this.
Sanchez: I think he also expressed a real interest in the characters, and when we saw that art he did, it made sense. It all clicked. We knew he'd understand the sort of story we're trying to tell.
Echert: He's been a pleasure so far. Really detailed. Really fast.
Nrama: I know you have a lot of different artistic outlets available. What is it that keeps you coming back to comic books? Is it mostly because you're comic readers and thus fans? Or does it offer a certain type of creative outlet for you?
Sanchez: Well, you know, for me as a kid, when I was listening to music, I always found music more enjoyable with a visual. And that was usually with my imagination. I would be in a car with my parents, and they'd be listening to a song, and in my mind, I'd envision a character running across buildings or flying or something like that. My imagination was throwing around images to a soundtrack.
And so ever since, I've always wanted to tell stories with music. Coheed and Cambria, with the outlet of The Amory Wars, has allowed me to do that.
But also, I really like the medium. I like playing around with the medium without music too. I like playing around with it on its own. And we've done that, with Kill Audio and Key of Z, and I just find it fun. There's something about having these scripts and sending them to an artist, and this language between that script and that artist, and then seeing that translated back in a visual. That's just a lot of fun. It never gets old to me. And I'm even utilizing that same sort of thing in the children's books I'm doing. It hasn't gotten old. It's always exciting.
Echert: For me, I didn't grow up reading comics, aside from an Archie digest from the grocery store every once in awhile. So for me, what I really love about the medium is what a challenge it is. I think the way all these creative minds come together to work on one piece of work is so much more difficult and interesting than some people give it credit for.
It feels like it's always this really interesting ride with every book. Every time, you're part of a conglomerate of really creative people. And you end up with this really magical product.