During last summer’s Comic-Con International, Coheed & Cambria lead singer, Claudio Sanchez, spoke with CBR News and likened his comic book writing career to an “adult way of playing with action figures.” Well, Sanchez has certainly amassed his fair share of toys in “The Amory Wars,” his creator-owned series that is intricately woven into the fabric of Coheed & Cambria’s music. Image Comics is releasing the second and final volume of “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” in December, which is actually the second installment in the overall “Amory Wars” mythology, despite being one of the first stories that Sanchez actually wrote. CBR spoke with Sanchez about the upcoming release and his journey as a musician turned comic book author.
Sanchez’s “Amory Wars,” which is named after the street he lived on as a child, takes place in Heaven’s Fence, a collection of 78 planets ruled by the tyrannical Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan. The story of “The Second Stage Turbine Blade,” named after Coheed & Cambria’s first studio album, centers on the band’s namesake – Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon, a married couple who are fooled by Ryan’s right-hand man, General Mayo Detinwolf, into thinking that they’ve been afflicted with a world-ending disease dubbed the Monstar virus. Convinced that the virus was passed along to their offspring, Coheed and Cambria are forced to choose between sacrificing their own family or condemning Heaven’s Fence to total destruction.
“It’s basically a science fiction tale, a little on the horror side, and some of the concepts are a bit dark – the fact that Coheed actually smashes a hammer into his daughter’s face is a bit [brutal],” Sanchez told CBR about the upcoming volume’s plot. “Coheed and Cambria have made the decision to follow Mayo and Wilhelm Ryan’s plot, and they’ve made a series of bad decisions, but realize now that they have to try and get out of the grasp of these two characters. It’s a last minute attempt, and it ends pretty badly. It doesn’t end well at all.”
The upcoming volume isn’t a mere recollection of “The Second Stage Turbine Blade,” as it also includes a never before told tale titled “33,” based on one of Coheed and Cambria’s recordings. “33” explores Patrick McCormack, who is the fiance of Coheed and Cambria’s eldest daughter. After witnessing her death at the hands of her father – a killing that’s motivated by Mayo’s vicious lie about the Monstar virus -Â Patrick finds himself running for his life, which takes us to the events of the brand new short story.
“I wanted to revisit Patrick and give him some closure,” said Sanchez. “There’s a scene where he revisits this bar where an old friend of his is, and he asks for a weapon, because he’s afraid. One of the Onstantine Priests busts into the bar and basically chases him because Patrick is a witness to the bad things that have happened. You never really saw that chase before. Basically, it’s Patrick contemplating as he’s racing away from the Priest, and he takes the initiative to make a stand.”
Sanchez admitted that Patrick’s story is rather small in the bigger picture of “The Amory Wars,” but his interest in parallel stories drew him back to the character. “Between myself and my editor, we felt that maybe Patrick wasn’t as important as some of the other characters, but I like to think big and I like to tell multiple stories at a time,” he said. “The one story arc where a character gets from A to B, I’m not so much a fan of that. I’d rather see the world and watch other characters do things that parallel the main stories.”
In fact, the existence of these parallel stories within the world of “The Amory Wars” keeps luring Sanchez back to “The Second Stage Turbine Blade,” which the writer said would never truly feel complete. “I think that ‘Second Stage’ will always kind of be a mission for me, to always keep revisiting it and adding to it – with ‘Second Stage’ in general, there are a lot of things that I kind of missed,” he confessed. “The world [of ‘The Amory Wars’] in general is very large – 78 planets with tons of stories happening at the same time. There is a ton to tell. I just love stories and I can’t stop creating other ones on top of this.”
Part of the reason that the world of Heaven’s Fence continually provides Sanchez with inspiration is the personal nature of the material. “It’s almost an autobiographical piece,” said Sanchez. “When I started writing music, I was very shy and didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t want to come out and say that these songs are about me, so I created a science fiction mythology to hide behind. All of the imagery within ‘The Amory Wars’ is very relevant – the fact that it’s called ‘The Amory Wars’ is very relevant to my life – and that’s why there’s a character in the comic called Claudio. It’s actually a funny story; I was actually kicking my ass when it came time to do the adaptation. When I was writing the main character, I didn’t have a name for him and I remember in one song, ‘Everything Evil,’ I shout out the name ‘Claudio’ and I was like, ‘Now I have to be a character! What a fuck up on my part!’ Again, it’s very relevant to my life and my upbringing. All the stories are. They all parallel something I’ve gone through.”
The connectivity seen between Sanchez’s music and his comic book work is hardly unprecedented as many musicians have worked in the comics medium over the years, such as My Chemical Romance front-man Gerard Way’s “Umbrella Academy” and Pete Wentz’s “Fall Out Toy Works.” While Sanchez couldn’t speak to what drew those musicians to comic books, he felt that his own childhood connection with comic books helped shape his current status as a writer. “I always wanted to be in the medium in some form or fashion, and I thought that writing would be a natural fit for me,” he said. “Growing up with comics, it just felt like an easy transition and something that I always wanted to do. I tried my hand at sequential art and was just not good at it, so I thought that being a lyricist and always spending time in my imagination, I thought that writing and creating would be a good place to start.”
Still, even Sanchez admitted that he hasn’t fully mastered the ability to connect his music with his comic books, despite the two art forms sharing the same world. “To make them work together, it’s still tough. I’m not so sure I know how to make them work. It’s always been a learning process,” he said. “I think of [‘The Amory Wars’] on its own. There are things within the text and imagery that call to the albums, so you can heighten the experience by listening to the music, sure. But I think they can live on their own. When it comes to the musical portion, it’s coming from a very personal place. The lyrics can be a bit ambiguous so that I think anyone can listen to them, and I feel the same way about the comics. If you wanted to heighten the experience, I think that partnering the two would be cool.”
Sanchez said that he’s aware of the stigma that comic book outsiders carry when coming into the medium, but his passion for his stories keeps him from dwelling on it too heavily. “Nowadays, when comics are such an easy go-to for film adaptations, you question the legitimacy of someone moving into this – that’s what I would do as a fan,” he said. “There are moments where I feel that. But I love the medium so much, so I’m just going to keep creating, whether people enjoy it or not. It’s what I want to do with my time. Yes, there’s ‘The Amory Wars’ and the accompanying stories that follow it, and that could take me to my death. But even with the other story arcs I’ve worked on as well – ‘Kill Audio’ [from BOOM! Studios] and a few on the back burner I’ve toyed around with – I’m going to be here.”
As for Sanchez’s upcoming plans for “The Amory Wars,” the writer said that further installments might delve into the history of Heaven’s Fence, but the story’s overall mythology would end following the second portion of “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV,” the fourth volume in the saga. Even after the conclusion, however, Sanchez won’t necessarily abandon the world he created. “You can keep revisiting the world,” he said. “A lot of other things could go on. I’m always a fan of paralleling stories – what happened over there as this was happening here – so I can see it going on for a while.”
“The Amory Wars Volume Two: The Second Stage Turbine Blade” trade paperback, written by Claudio Sanchez and illustrated by Gabriel Guzman with a cover by Tony Moore, comes out on December 9th, 2009 through Image Comics.