"The Amory Wars" is an Evil Ink Comics series written by Claudio Sanchez, frontman of popular prog rock group Coheed and Cambria, and based on the band's heavily conceptual albums. A panel in Sanchez's honor was well attended on Sunday at Wizard World Philadelphia, with an even mix of comics readers and Coheed and Cambria fans. Many attendees wore one-day-only passes, indicating they were likely there just to see the popular musician, and some arrived over an hour early for the event.
When Sanchez arrived the panel began with a short Powerpoint presentation featuring some new artwork, including the variant cover for issue #1 and a retailer incentive cover that many fans hadn't seen before. Then some artwork from last year's San Diego Comic Con sketchbook were shown, featureing early character designs for Inferno, Claudio, Coheed, Mariaha (the currently unseen rebellion leader as the new "Amory Wars" issues continue), Mayo, Wilhelm, and Cambria.
The audience was also treated to some never-before-seen design sketches for a new alien race that has yet to appear in the comics. According to Sanchez, this race will play a larger role in series after the first installment of "The Amory Wars." Also shown was another sketch for a gun implement hidden in Coheed's arm, which too was not seen before this panel. This new gun implement is to be revealed in issue #4.
It was at this point that an exciting fight scene from issue #3 was previewed, depicting Claudio being attacked by one of the alien priest enemies. The panels showed the moment when Claudio begins to realize he has powers as he suddenly phases through a wall and turns invisible in order to avoid his attackers. The cover for issue #3 was also shown, which was an image of Claudio and Josephine being stalked by an alien priest.
The last artwork shown at the panel was the cover for issue #4. The image was of Coheed and Cambria fighting a squad of alien priests, with Coheed using his new arm gun. Their posture and general design was a clear reference to the classic "Dark Phoenix" X-Men cover of Cyclops and Jean Grey fighting the Shi'ar.
The panel then moved on to questions from the audience about Sanchez's comics and music work.
Who is your dream artist for any upcoming Coheed and Cambria related comics work?
"I just started working with Ken Kelly on the new album," said Sanchez, "and would also love for Tony Moore to do a full book and not just the covers as he is doing now."
Any plans on bringing music and artwork from the Coheed and Cambria mythos together as an anime?
"We'd like to see it happen but no plans at the moment" said Sanchez.
According to Sanchez, the last set of animatics "Did not meet the high standards of the band," and, as a result, any new animatics will be "saved for later when the technology is more intriguing."
Will "The Amory Wars" story continue past the current CD?
"There will be another five stories that continue the story to the end of the second stage story-arc" said Sanchez. To the excitement of the fans, Sanchez added, "Perhaps a prequel book could be done that focuses on the Mage Wars, or a book just focusing on specific characters like Coheed, Cambria, or Inferno."
One fan wanted to know which industry is more vibrant in terms of creativity at the moment, comics or music. Thought it was a difficult question to answer, Sanchez answered that the music side is more intriguing for him personally. However, Sanchez did point out that, "The music industry is dying and that's part of the reason the comics are coming out in order to act as extra publicity and interactive storytelling from both sides, to give the audience a much more complex and immersive experiences."
Sanchez also thinks there is a much more active online fan community speculating about the comic story by listening to the music. "It's disturbing how accurate they can be in their speculation," Sanchez remarked.
"We may continue with a prequel album. 'Star Wars' continued on after 'Return of the Jedi' with prequel stories, after all," Sanchez reminded.
One fan wanted to why, in the older issues in the previous series, were the character Coheed's reactions to Josephine different than they are now. Sanchez explained that he found the "domino effect" to initially be, "Too intense with the amount of terrible things happening to Josephine," and that he thought it should be, "toned down and more relatable in the newer series." Sanchez also pointed out that, "This mythology was created seven years ago, so maybe there are things that can be changed now that we've had enough time to re-evaluate it."
Along those lines, Sanchez said that he regrets his initial comic book portrayal of the character Coheed. "The intention should have been that Coheed is a good dad and he loves his kids," Sanchez explained. "That makes the moment when he kills his children after believing Wilhelm's lies much more powerful later on."
A fan then asked Sanchez to talk a bit bout his creative process and how he operates. Sanchez insisted, even after audible murmurings of suspicion from the audience, that he is "Up at 5:00 AM every day because that is when the creative juices for both comics and music work best. I work straight from 5:00 am to 2:00 pm and try to keep as busy as possible at all times."
Sanchez went on to clarify that he does not write down things as he thinks of during the day because, "If I remember it later when I'm at a computer, then it must have been worth it, and if I don't remember it, its must not have been good."
Another fan wanted to know why the "Good Apollo" story was the first told in comic format, when it's the fourth part of the overall mythos according to the albums. "Yes, it was a mistake to tell the fourth part of a story that has not been told yet," Sanchez confessed. "That was early in the process and that story, Good Apollo, was the one the team was most excited about."
Sanchez pointed out that "Good Apollo" is being retold to give the overall "Amory Wars" story a more logical chronology.
A fan then asked why a ten-speed bicycle was chosen to be the object of the Writer character's frustration. Sanchez answered humorously, "Solely because I did not have a bike as a kid. I had to walk everywhere."
What sort of feedback did the comic book get from the music industry?
"None really," said Sanchez, "because the idea for the comic book was never sold to a label but just to management. Thus there was no negative feedback directly from the music industry."
A particularly excited fan wanted to know when the new album would be released, and Sanchez was pleased to announce, "The last day of production was last Friday, so it is now ready for mixing and mastering, and it should be out in the late fall."
Sanchez was then asked what sort of vocal coach he uses to get his signature sound in his music, and the audience was surprised to hear, "None." According to Sanchez, becoming Coheed and Cambria's lead singer was "a total accident," and that he took over because the band's original singer never came to rehearsals and Sanchez was forced to fill in. Eventually, Sanchez explained, the other band members became "more used to me than the other guy."
Sanchez admitted that after becoming the lead singer, he did see a few vocal coaches but found their advice on how to "properly sing" cramped his style.
In response to a question about upcoming live dates, Sanchez reminded everyone that Coheed and Cambria will be on the Warped Tour this summer and that the band will likely debut new songs in those performances.
Will the "Good Hallow Volume 2" album be just as dark as "Volume 1?"
"The lyrics are darker but the music sounds more like the Second Stage album," Sanchez said, explaining that part of that is due to the band's new line up and its experiments with "gelling" and getting used to each other's rhythms.
Why break up "The Amory Wars" into two volumes as a comic book?
"Solely because I am new at [comics] and wanted to take his time and learn the ropes more and more," Sanchez answered. He also said that the "Amory Wars" story is broken up logically, "just like 'Star Wars. There is an ending in issue five that is definitive but can also be used as a beginning to volume 2."
The panel then ran out of time. There was much appreciative applause from the audience -- after all, it is not often that comic book conventions are graced with actual rock stars.
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