“I’ll have the grits,” Chondra Echert Sanchez, Creative Co-Director of Evil Ink, decided after a good 15 minutes of menu scrutinization. “Can I add cheddar cheese to that? And bacon?”
The waiter nodded a sleepy yes.
“How about peppers? No, wait. No peppers. That’s weird and excessive.”
She handed him the menu, thanked him, and turned towards me with an inviting, freckle-faced smile.
“I can never decide what I want,” she said. “My husband’s family has so much culture on both sides of the family; I’m kind of spoiled all the time with delicious food options.”
The husband in question is of course Claudio Sanchez, leader of the band Coheed and Cambria, and creator of the comic book series “The Amory Wars.”
And while being Claudio's wife and mother to their 2 year old boy, Atlas, is certainly a part of who Chondra Sanchez is, it in no way begins to wholly describe her as a person or writer. Nor is it the sole reason you need to learn about this incredibly talented human.
Chondra was toiling away working in advertising copy when Claudio asked her to look over his already successful sci-fi series.
“I had a lot of fun working with it creatively,” she divulged. “It was incredible working with him and watching stories unfold.”
He convinced her to jump ship and join him at Evil Ink, and she eventually began co-writing storylines for "Amory Wars." It led to her collaborating on more projects like the zombie thriller “Key of Z” and the anti-hero six issue series “Translucid.” Her most recent collab is a "dark kid’s book" entitled “Kid Crazy,” which will hit stands sometime in October.
“I used to hate outlining,” Chondra confessed. “But when you know things like a character's favorite color, where they come from, who their parents are ... when you’re getting to really know a character, you get to know them as a person, and it isn’t so difficult to see them and how they interact with the world. It certainly helps when you’re writing with another person.”
Chondra's interest in comics began in her older years with “Archie.” From there, she learned the ins and outs of the comic world as an avid fan. And once she was immersed in that world (and the fucking crazy-intense fandom that follows "The Amory Wars" around) she discovered her “tribe.”
“The independent comic industry feels like a club that is pretty small. We want to support each other and make sure different people are visible," she explained.
And despite being the Creative Co-Director of Evil Ink for seven years with quite a few titles under her belt, when the idea to revamp "Good Apollo" — a beloved installment in Claudio’s original story (!!!) — with Chondra as a full co-writer came about, she hesitated.
“Full disclosure, I said no,” she admitted. “There was no way I could do this. It’s really intimidating for me. The fans have been nothing but open minded and kind to me always — which is a very unique experience in this world — but it’s scary. You know, you walk into this major universe that people have so much invested in.”
As she scraped her plate for the last remaining bites of grits, I turned the conversation towards her family. I sheepishly asked her how she deals with the constant barrage of work-life balance questions, and what she thought about the evolving culture of feminism and comics.
“I don’t know why men aren’t asked the same questions as we are when it comes to parenthood,” she laughed. “I know it changed him just as it did me. I do comics, I have a blog and a social media agency for other brands. We’re creative and busy, and our kid changed our worlds.”
For the record Atlas, while being their highest priority, is learning a huge lesson when it comes to seeing his parents as more than just his caretakers.
“It’s important for me for him to see that his parents do other things," Chondra said. "He’s important, he’s the top of the totem pole, but he has to see his mom isn’t some sort of one dimensional person. I need to be doing things. I need to feel like a person.”
But make no mistake; Chondra isn’t riding on the coattails of her successful husband, and definitely isn’t going to be made to feel bad for her collaborations. With her own blog and social media agency, and bylines on some of the best, most pensive comic book work out there, she really doesn’t need to fit someone’s contrived idea of what motherhood, authorship, or feminism “really is.”
“I felt this pressure to sort of prove myself as a writer and a person, and to be able to pursue things that I really wanted to,” she admitted. “And a lot of that was self imposed; no one ever made me feel that way ... Then at the same time I started to think, ‘Who gives a shit?’ I like writing stories with Claudio and we work well as a team together. We’re strong, and what am I trying to prove? If something comes along and I feel like I need to do this by myself, of course I’ll do it.
"In the end, you have to do what’s best for you,” she concluded.
And that’s exactly what she’ll do.