In The God Machine, Chandra Free's characters deal with love, loss and the supernatural all within the context of a goth underground. The forthcoming graphic novel follows the psychological and emotional journey of Guy Salvatore following the death of his girlfriend, Sith. The complex story is made all the more dramatic through Free's striking illustration and use of rich colors.
Free has been working on The God Machine for over a decade now. She lets readers in on her process through DeviantArt, where she posts portions of the work-in-progress, as well as her non-comic projects, including some pretty cool Venture Bros. fan art.
Last year, Free made her first appearance as a panelist at San Diego Comic-Con, where she joined Zachary Quinto of Star Trek. This week, she returns to the convention where she will appear at her publisher's, Archaia Comics, booth all four days, and will sit on the imprint's panel Friday afternoon.
You mention on your website that last year at Comic-Con was your first panel. Can you describe what it was like for you?
I was slightly nervous about it all since it was a huge room full of mostly girls just waiting to see Zachary Quinto. Though that wasn't off-putting, but the fact that there were probably about 100+ in the room was.
Things went well with what I said about my book, The God Machine. After my fellow Archaia creators and I were done talking about our respective books, they scooted us off the stage and let Zachery Quinto with the team from Before The Door Pictures on stage to talk about the two titles they would be working on with my publisher, Archaia.
After they finished announcing their titles, Lucid and Mr. Murder is Dead, they had a Q&A session. So various Quinto fans came up and asked questions about Quinto and the books they introduced. Then, curiously, there was one question not for Quinto, but for me! I was completely shocked and came over to take front stage in front of Quinto, not without being sort of fan-girlish and giving him an image of Spock that I had done and signed for him.
The person who asked the question was a very sweet girl, by the name of Kat, who's followed my work for some time. She asked me about what inspired the intricate balance between good and evil and the multiple worlds within my comic. It was such a loaded and complicated question that my mind raced through my own views on theology, mythology, and secular humanism. Then it hit me. Star Trek! One of the major things that had given a rise to inspiring me as a kid was Star Trek's constant take on alien cultures and episodic focus on humanity and how it related to us as a society. How appropriate that I would be standing in front of the new Spock.
Well, as soon as I said “Star Trek,” the Orion girls cheered, tons of others threw up “Live Long and Prosper” hand signs, and I responded right back with one as well. It was a beautiful geeky moment. For a girl who was made fun of for her admiration of Trek back in middle school, it was terribly rewarding. And for this to be my first panel was even more moving.
You are set to appear at the Archaia panel on Friday. What can we expect to hear from you then?
I will probably mostly talk about what's in store for the first graphic novel of The God Machine and the various goodies that dwell inside it's hardbound goodness. Also if you're a fan of The Venture Brothers, you might not want to miss the announcement I have that relates to my book.
And, if everything works out according to plan, I'll have limited edition God Machine mini-comics to give away.
How long had you been working on The God Machine before it was released? Could you describe what it was like when you found out that it was going to be released?
Goodness! Well, technically, I've been working on The God Machine since November 1999. I was in my senior year of high school, trying to come up with my next idea for a comic series that I would probably take past high school and try to get published.
Now, it probably seems a little strange that it's taken me so long to get my book published. A lot happened between 1999 and 2009. I went to college, got married, got involved in other people's comic projects, etc. During that time, I further developed my skills as an artist and had time to create a massive world for The God Machine to exist in.
It was February 2007 when I first started to shop The God Machine around for a publisher at New York Comic-Con. That's when I met Mark Smylie (then co-owner and publisher of Archaia). Immediately he wanted to publish me, but only if I did it in color. This was a scary prospect since I had planned it as a black and white book and I was the only one working on it. It took me till about October/November to come back and agree to do the book in the color format. I was signed in Dec 2007, with the first issue ready to come out in July 2008.
Sadly that didn't happen. Archaia restructured that year and all titles were pushed back till the company found new ownership. This was good for me at the time since I started to have acute pain in my hands and wrists that could only be described as carpal tunnel. For an entire year, I was in agony and went to the doctors only to find out that they couldn't figure out what was causing my condition. As soon as Archaia was back on it's feet in late 2009, I went back into production of The God Machine, but it wasn't easy managing the pain and because of this I've had constant set backs. The first chapter of The God Machine came out in October as I worked long and hard on the graphic novel. But I'm happy to report as of three days ago, I finished the graphic novel and it's slated for an October release this year. It's been a long and very rough road to get to this point, but it was worth it. -and this is just the beginning!
The characters in The God Machine have a connection to the goth subculture. What was your own introduction to the subculture? How did it impact your work?
A boy I was in love with introduced me to the subculture back in high school. This opened up a Pandora's box in terms of music and style. Over time that style would seep into my clothing designs, character designs, and even music related to the content within. I would hope that you don't have to be into the subculture to get most of what I'm writing about, but it is hugely inspired by it.
Will you be bringing the “Crazy Crayon Commissions” to Comic-Con? What's the craziest request you have received?
Well I'm limited to my time at my publisher's table, so I probably won't. But, if you want one, just say “Liz sent me,” and I'll make an exception! I always have crayons on hand.
As for the craziest one- Captain Planet! I put hearts all around him.
You've done some really interesting pieces based on characters from The Venture Bros. Does working on fan art help you with your own character designs? How so?
Funny that. I always look at my Venture Brothers pieces as my chance to experiment with another variation on my style. Some kind of hybrid Venture-Chan style. Which has been fun to play around with.
Even funnier, my initial attraction to The Venture Brothers was the fact it reminded me of my own style.
Chandra Free appears on Archaia's panel on Friday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. in Room 9. She will be on hand at Archaia's booth (#2635) at the following times: Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Friday 2 – 4 p.m.; Saturday 3 – 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1:30 – 3:30 and 4 – 5 p.m.