Arch enemy relationships can be tricky things. Sure, there’s an element of animosity when two powerful forces face off against each other over and over, but there are also more complicated emotions going on that tie the two together. That’s the case when co-writers and spouses Chondra Echert and Claudio Sanchez’ bring “Translucid,” a 6-issue miniseries with art by Daniel Bayliss, to BOOM! Studios.
In the pages of “Translucid,” which debuts on April 16, villain The Horse determines that The Navigator isn’t quite living up to the heroic ideal. The Horse then decides to dive deep into The Navigator’s psyche and dig around to find out exactly what turned a normal person into a dark hero.
Echert — who runs the couple’s comic book imprint Evil Ink Comics — and Sanchez, the lead singer and guitarist for Coheed and Cambria, previously teamed up on BOOM! books like “Key of Z” and “Kill Audio.” They’re excited to mix Echert’s relative newness to the world of superheroes with Sanchez’s longstanding fandom in a comic that will, they hope, appeal to both audiences when the book launches this spring.
CBR News talked to Sanchez and Echert about working together as a married couple, taking influence from the Batman-Joker relationship and more deeply examining the emotions that come from the hero-villain dynamic.
CBR News: “Translucid” deals with the relationship between arch enemies The Navigator and The Horse. What can you tell us about them?
Chondra Echert: Essentially, the story is about a hero called The Navigator and his nemesis The Horse. We watch this codependent relationship implode when the villain realizes that the only way to end The Navigator is to unravel these traumas that have made him a hero in the first place. In terms of The Horse, he’s a very calculating, methodical villain. He’s emotional, but in a very contained way whereas The Navigator, his childhood really defined him and made him into this complex hero who is very, very tormented by his past.
What kind of superhero world do they inhabit? Are we dealing with super powers or more of the human vigilante take along the lines of someone like Batman?
Claudio Sanchez: There are no super powers in this universe. You bring up Batman; what makes The Navigator a bit of a nod to that character is his belt. He dons the power of hologram where anything he inputs into the belt will be constructed when he touches it. It’s a reaction that happens from his suit to the hologram that makes them tangible. That’s a bit of a play of 1960s Batman where any incident he got himself into, there was always a resolution in his utility belt. It’s a bit of a tip there.
What was it about The Horse that led him down the road to becoming a hero instead of a villain like The Horse? Is that question central to the story?
Echert: That actually is. The Horse realizes he’s made this person so codependent on this relationship that the only way to really have his own identity back is to end The Navigator. We find that he creates a way to basically delve into his memories and force him to relive and confront all these things that have taken place over the course of his life that have added to this direction of him becoming a hero.
Batman and Joker are pretty iconic, as is their relationship. How does the dynamic between The Navigator and The Horse differ?
Echert: I think what’s interesting and what separates “Translucid” from other stories — particularly Batman which it’s inspired by but not necessarily identical to — is that we really wanted to represent the emotions of any relationship between two people and these little complexities that come with letting another person into your life in a very intense way. We wanted to magnify the feelings and intentions that arise from being a duo on both hands — how is The Horse feeling? How is The Navigator feeling? — and really checking in on those feelings like jealousy, understanding, this push to make this other person the best they can be and then this anger when they don’t live up to your expectations. We think that The Horse is a little different from the Joker in that he finds disappointment in The Navigator when he doesn’t live up to these things and finds himself really wanting to get out of this.
Sanchez: Essentially, when we think of Batman’s rogues gallery a lot of these people are put in place because of Batman. With The Horse, he’s so fond of The Navigator that he was inspired to become something. Then to see that he’s so dependent on The Horse’s being there, that disappoints him. In a way The Horse finds a way for him to break free of that dependency, but you see what happens in the book.
Were there other relationships, either real or fictional, that also helped feed into the one you’re creating in “Translucid?”
Sanchez: For me, I’ve always wanted to tell a Batman and Joker story and I’ve always wanted to have the Joker utilize Batman’s origin as a weapon. As a character, he would probably need assistance from others to make that happen. With a creator-owned book we don’t need to follow the rules of a mythology that’s been set in place and has such a long history. That’s great, but another thing that influenced this was the movie “Inception.” This whole dream-within-a-dream and falling into the subconscious and finding those building blocks. That idea of traveling into the mind, I really liked that. Seeing what makes someone tick and using those things to manipulate them to do what they want, have their way with them or destroy them.
Echert: It’s funny because we get a lot of questions about working as a married couple and if that affects our writing style or process. [The dynamic] in this book or the relationship between Batman and Joker isn’t so unlike that of a couple who really know each other. When you’re so dependent on somebody and you’ve really merged your lives into one, it can be really easy to take these things that you know effect somebody and utilize them to take them apart. It’s really interesting looking at these two from the perspective of this really deep relationship and how somebody might take that and use it for ill will.
Chondra, you’ve said that you were an Archie Comics fan growing up, got away from comics and are now more into creator-owned books, but did you check out any superhero comics as research for “Translucid?”
Echert: I’ve been reading a lot of comics. The only real superhero comic I’ve gotten into recently is “Hawkeye,” which isn’t as traditional. It’s not that I dislike superheroes because I absolutely respect where they come from and am drawn to very weird ones like The Creeper. I like the weirdos. For me, there’s something really intimidating about walking into a mythology that’s so vast. Where do you start? From the standpoint of consumption, I need to know what’s going on, it seems like such a big undertaking. It’s not so much that I’m not interested as it’s just that I need a year of my life to dedicate to get into superheroes.
Claudio, you’re more well-versed in the world of superheroes. Do you think that your two different levels of familiarity with that genre combine for an interesting perspective in “Translucid?”
Sanchez: Certainly, I think so. I think for all of our books it helps. I love working with my wife. I tend to have these really vast ideas that really need to be reigned in and she helps me ground them in a way that maybe legitimizes them. I like that she doesn’t know. With The Navigator and The Horse, my love of Batman and Joker is all over this thing, but in what way can we make this original? Chondra helps bring that element to the table because she doesn’t have that background.
Echert: And in some ways it can work against us. [Laughs] Sometimes we run into things and it’s like talking to a wall because I have no idea what he’s referencing. The beauty is trying to come to this harmonious place where we can say, “Okay, people from both angles are going to be reading this. How can we make them both enjoy it and be educated about these historic, important books but also move into this world of a creator-owned title?”
You’re obviously around each other all the time and probably bounce ideas off of each other quite a bit, but what’s your process for actually writing a script like?
Echert: Typically what we’ll do is sit down, spend a couple weeks verbally going over a story idea and working out the kinks. We record our conversations and get them to a good place. Then we’ll put our synopsis together and typically I’ll work the first rough draft of the script. He and I will sit down with it then, he’ll edit it and then we’ll go back and forth until we’re really happy with the product. Nothing too crazy. At that point there’s usually a lot of hair pulling and tears and then eating of Chinese food and happiness and moving forward.
Sanchez: What’s also great about being marries is that, at 3 o’clock in the morning when I wake up I can say, “Hey, I got this idea.”
Echert: [Laughs] Which is true, he literally wakes up at 3 o’clock in the morning every day.
Sanchez: [Laughs] I’ll start throwing some ideas at her. Of course, she doesn’t remember them.
Echert: I’ll say, “Let’s talk about this when humans are awake.” [Laughs]
After hammering out the story you get into visual side of things. What made Daniel Bayliss the right artist to bring the world of “Translucid” to life?
Echert: We were really unfamiliar with Daniel until our editors over at BOOM! Ian [Brill] and Jasmine [Amiri] had brought us some of his work. He did a Batman and Joker fan story called “The Deal” [with writer Gerardo Preciado] and it’s basically a love story between them. It’s really beautiful and adventurous. It seemed like he understood the story we wanted to tell in regards to that relationship. There’s just something about his work that’s really fresh, clean and innocent in a way.
Sanchez: We thought he really had the tools to come at the mind storyline and flashback storyline. He compliments both storylines really well. They contrast enough that the reader will understand that one is happening at one time and the other another.
Were you worried about finding an artist who might be able to handle both the real world and mind-set scenes?
Echert: Before we found Daniel there was talk of needing two or three artists on the book. How do we make sure everything’s really clear and communicate it? He managed to take that role on all by himself. We’re really happy with his work.
This is just the latest comic you’ve done at BOOM! What keeps you coming back?
Sanchez: We originally started the relationship with BOOM! and “The Amory Wars” was the only title we had and it just seemed like the right fit. There’s a thing you get when you sit in a room with somebody and it just feels right. [BOOM! founder] Ross Richie’s enthusiasm for storytelling and comics is another thing that sold us. They have the care and attention that the books need. The editorial is really great. With this book in particular, making sure all the timelines were clear and coherent, they helped streamline to the point where people can understand them.
Echert: I could sing the praises of BOOM! all day long. I love working with them. I think they’re incredibly openminded in terms of doing original content and ideas and thinking about storytelling in ways that maybe would be shot down with other publishers. We’re really happy there with our editorial team and everything that’s happening over there in general. We feel very lucky about the relationship we have with them where we can bring them a story idea and know that we’re not going to be immediately shot down, a good deal of thought will be put into it. And they’re great team members too. So much of writing is editing and fine tuning a product. You’ve got to find somebody to help hone it.
Sanchez: You could just sit there and drown in your own ideas and feel like, “These are the ones! These are the ones!” until someone actually steps up and gives you an outsider perspective and says, “I don’t understand this.” It’s always good and it’s a great part of our relationship.
Echert: Another danger of being a married couple, you’re in your bubble. Somebody has to come in say, “Well, what about this?”
What other comic or other kinds of stories are you working on right now that you can talk about?
Sanchez: We have a couple of ideas. One that we can tease is the continuation of “The Amory Wars” because that’s been ongoing for a couple years now. We released a graphic novel with the band’s third record [“Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness”] and we’re actually going back to redo that in more of a serial fashion. Chondra has a script in the wings that she’s hoping to throw around and I have a concept for another that’s too early to talk about.
Echert: We’re also working on a follow-up to “Key of Z.” That will also take place in New York, but this time at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s a busy year.
I also read that you’re expecting as well, so you’re going to be extra busy. Congrats!
Echert: Thank you.
Sanchez: We created a being! [Laughs]
Echert: This is our first so we’re approaching it very excitedly and nervously.
“Translucid” #1 from Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert, Daniel Bayliss and BOOM! Studios arrives on April 16.