Machina Corpse is a company that aims to publish all means of spooky, weird, horror, and dark humor things, that just don’t fit within mainstream comics.
As a special NYCC 2019 feature, we got to chat with comics artist and writer, Chandra Free, creator of ‘The God Machine’ graphic novel.
Chandra talked a bit about the journey of both creating and breaking into comics, and shared with The Workprint, details about ‘Machina Corpse’, a Kickstarter campaigned publishing company Chandra’s co-creating with fellow creator, Stephen Emond.
It was a privilege and a delight to talk with Chandra, especially as, due to both of our very busy comic con schedules, we had to reschedule this interview until just after the actual con.
Thankfully, we were able to talk and it was a blast learning about Chandra’s history, including our shared love of Serena Valentino, and learning about some of the amazing goals of the ‘Machina Corpse Unearthed’ Kickstarter. You can read our full chat below.
Can you talk a bit about yourself and your longstanding history in comics? How you broke into the industry and what the journey has been like?
I’m Chandra Free, and I’ve been in the comics industry since the mid-2000s. I’ve been on numerous titles, but I’m most known for my own original graphic novel, The God Machine. My most recent comic I was an artist on was one of the stories in John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night VOL 5.
I first broke into the industry by doing fan art for my favorite writer, Serena Valentino, and she asked me to be her artist on one of her books. It never went anywhere but she posted my sample art online and that got the attention of Drew Rausch who brought me on to do the coloring for his book, Sullengrey. That was my first gig in the industry, and while I was doing that I pitched my book The God Machine at New York Comic-con 2007, and I immediately had interest! I would end up signing a contract with Archaia that very same year!
The journey from there has been a long one. It’s had its ups and downs, but probably my most favorite over the decade and a half is meeting so many colleagues who have become dear friends, and dare I say, family? When you work in an industry where it’s typically just you alone in your house, it’s really something to have these connections. Not only that but the fans have reminded me why I do all this. They have told me their stories about how my work has touched them and I’m forever grateful. Even some of my fans have become my family too, and that is worth its own weight in gold.
As someone who worked in mental health for years, I really dig that you put efforts to incorporate personal character psychology into your art. Can you talk a bit about the process you use for your pieces?
Since I was a little girl I have always been fascinated with human behavior, including my own. I never understood why I would cry for no reason or why I would fret over death of myself and others. It wouldn’t be until I was in my teens that I became diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This would inform my perspective into my art, tapping into the sadness I knew, and what I saw in others. My first work, God Machine, dealt with a young man grieving and experiencing situational depression. All those feelings and characters that surround him have been people I’ve seen in my own life, what I’ve been through, and what I know of psychology through studying while I was in college. I am so deeply engrossed in the world of mental health, and now more than ever, the sexuality and identity of everyone, including myself.
I like how you’re taking initiative and creating your own publishing company. Can you talk a bit about the Machina Corpse Kickstarter and its mission goal?
Machina Corpse is a company that aims to publish all means of spooky, weird, horror, dark humor, and things that just don’t fit within mainstream comics. Our first Kickstarter is all about kicking off the company and making our first comic book, FIRST OFFERINGS, a title that has 12 pages of comics by me and 12 pages of comics by my business partner, Stephen Emond, plus 12 pages of behind the scenes material and comics!
Our mission is to eventually open up and publish others who are diverse in their voices, and can tell dark twisted tales that come from the heart, even if that heart is black as the night! Though one of my big things that we’re looking for is that it has to be artful and different. An example is I don’t want to see realism or a typical comic book style. There are companies already doing that, and I want us to bring to the table something that is rarely seen in comics.
You mention creator-driven spooky comics in the Kickstarter. Is there a difference between spooky and just outright horror in terms of target audience?
We aim to do it all in the “spooky” genres- which includes horror and even slice-of-life supernatural books! Really it all comes down to the spirit of all things Halloween. It can be goofy, it can be ethereal, it can be downright serious and full of dread. I think people of all ages can relate to that darkness that makes the blood boil, or even just fascinates us. Teens and older readers are certainly gonna dig what we have to offer. We haven’t considered children’s spooky books just yet, but I wouldn’t rule that out either for a future something down the pipeline.
Can you pitch to any comic creators out there, why Machina Corpse is worth pledging towards and why it would be a good fit for their endeavors?
We’re looking to really entice the weirder, darker, more out-there ideas that traditional publishing may pass on and really want to tap into those intimate passion projects every creator has, that they want to publish with minimal interference, auteur-level works. What is it you always wanted to make but thought, ‘no, I couldn’t..”? That’s what we want to look at.
‘Lonely, BK’ seems like a very cool slice-of-life comic depicting a bit about what it’s like to live in NYC. Especially as a queer person. Can you talk about this project attached to this Kickstarter? What it’s about and what should the audience expect when reading it?
One of the things I set out to do with Lonely, BK is that I wanted to tell an authentic story that was close to myself as an adult, what I see around me, and amp it up with monsters to take it to that next level. From bad dates that end in gory messes, to non-binary drag queens that cast magical spells on stage, and queer ghosts haunting the L train! (I mean, if you’re from Brooklyn or New York, you’ve probably haunted the L train yourself many times! Haha.)
The big thing is that I wanted queer characters in this story and people of color. Why? Because we’re all family and representation matters. Sure, you might not be a ghost or a vampire, but these characters are going through real situations and emotions, it doesn’t take away their humanity or their identity, they just happen to be spooky creatures of the night! The great thing about comics is that we can cast ourselves as the sexy vampire, or the demon mistress with a white snake as a pet or maybe we feel like a ghost that goes unseen largely by everybody.
Also the comic is steeped in feminism, and self-growth in a world that dictates that we need others to validate ourselves. In FIRST OFFERINGS we get a glimpse of that larger story as we follow Seline and her typical night in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She’s a vampire that just doesn’t understand why she’s alone, she just happens to murder her all her dates, but whatever.
I chose Bushwick in particular because it’s such a weird place in Brooklyn. Full of street art, weirdos, culture, and odd building scapes. It’s a place I’ve spent a lot of time in, lived there for a hot minute as the kids say, and I am oddly attracted to it, and I bring all of that to Seline’s character, her love of Brooklyn and the city through my eyes.
I hear ‘God Machine’ is moving to Machina Corpse. Can you talk a bit about that and the journey you’ve had with your first creator-owned comic over the years?
Oh my gosh! What a long trip this has been since God Machine was first published in late 2010 by Archaia. After I was with Archaia I brought it to Titan Comics. Good people there, but we just never got it off the ground to print again. However, about 2 months ago, I got the rights back from Titan and The God Machine is now mine to do whatever I want. Why not bring it to Stephen and I’s company? It fits the mold perfectly with its spooky aesthetic, its gothy nature, and dark humor.
The plan is that after Machina Corpse puts out Lonely, BK and Stephen Emond’s Have Heart graphic novels, that we will re-release volume 1 of God Machine, then comic books from volume 2 to follow. I’m really excited because it’s been a decade and people have been waiting all this time! The world of God Machine has been in my head for so long that I couldn’t see myself not continuing it. I was made to do more.
Where Can People Find your work?
Can you leave a message of inspiration for those seeking to create their own comics? Something you’d wish you could tell your younger self in preparation for their journey ahead?
You can do anything, in any style you want, just let it come from the heart, and don’t try to be anything but your authentic self in your comics. -Oh, and learn perspective.
Is there anything else you’d like to plug or promote?
Just the Machina Corpse: Unearthed Kickstarter over at machinacorpse.com!