X-Maschina Writers Interview – A Killer Christmas Story

Gabrielle interviews comic writers Steve Urena and Misty Graves about their upcoming project, X-Maschina!

Gabrielle: What is your favorite sandwich?

Misty: I’ve got a pretty bad gluten allergy that prevents me from enjoying sandwiches to their full extent these days, but I have fond memories of BLTs, peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwiches, and Croque Madames from Room 39 in Kansas City. 

Steve: I have always sworn by my Taylor Ham Egg and Cheese. It’s just the perfect sandwich. It’s got everything you need. I also just discovered prosciutto, arugula, and balsamic as a sandwich, and it is extraordinary! 

Art by Lane Lloyd

Gabrielle: There are so many angles to this story; it’s science fiction, horror, comedy, and a Christmas story. How was it combining all these into a single story?

Steve: It was a pleasure working with Misty on this. We were able to meld so many ideas into one, and it’s definitely a fun sleigh ride. We both had great solo ideas (Evil Elves from me and a search engine that granted your holiday wish in the worst way possible from Misty), but combining them into this unique holiday package was the right move and way more fun. I’m so proud to share this with the world. 

Misty: It’s just like real life! We live in a world that is a big mess of ideas. I thought of it like we were building a world, and these concepts are a backdrop for our characters as well as acting agents in the story. 

Art by Lane Lloyd

Gabrielle: Christmas is such a prominent holiday that it has a different meaning for everyone, exemplified by its presence in pop-culture media. How did you both integrate this theme into the story from your viewpoint of the holiday?

Misty: I just love the mythology of Christmas, and I kind of think of it as all in one canon. There are certain facts that we have all grown to accept about Christmas, and we used those to build our characters and the dynamics of our story. Facts like 1. Santa is some kind of magical being. 2: Elves make toys in the workshop. One advantage that we had writing this story is that half our characters are archetypes whom people are already familiar with through pop culture. There was no need to create a long backstory for Santa, explaining who he is and what he does. We all already know! The fun part for us was trying to find ways to subvert these familiar characters in modern, entertaining, and interesting ways.   

Steve: We definitely utilized Christmas in pop culture throughout this comic. X-Maschina takes place in the year 2045, and the Rio Corporation is taking Santa’s magic to develop an app that measures naughty or niceness. Santa is so gone at this point due to his wife leaving him for the abominable snowman that he gives up his likeness and Christmas magic to get away from it all. Of course, the app becomes sentient due to the sour magic, and the robot uprising begins. Santa has to get back to what he used to be in order to fight through the commercialism and coldness to bring warmth back to Christmas while saving the world. 

Art by Lane Lloyd

Gabrielle: Misty, this is your first time publishing a comic. What was it about this story that made you want to write it with Steve?

Misty: It was actually Steve’s comic, Slow Pokes, that first caught my eye! Around Christmastime last year, I invited him on a podcast I was co-hosting called The Longbox of Darkness to pick his brain about it. The podcast was a blast – it was pretty much that night that we decided to collab on something. We combined some of our ideas, and the concept of X-Maschina was born! 

Gabrielle: Steve, how do you feel this differentiates from your two previous works (Slowpokes and Zombie Date Night)?

Steve: Every time I put pen to paper, I want to have as much fun as possible. This is my first time working with a partner on comics, and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. It was incredibly collaborative, and we did what’s best for the comic. I thought Slow Pokes and Zombie Date was crazy, but Santa fighting robots is a whole new brand of crazy. I’d say this story has more heart and really fun over-the-top violence. Lane Lloyd really brought this story to life and its magic. I know holiday comics have a bad rap, but we want to change that perception.

Art by Lane Lloyd

Gabrielle: If you were to kill Santa, how would you do it?

Steve: Either strangled with a stocking, or I’d waterboard him with hot cocoa. After writing that, we may have to do that in the next one if we get our funding. 

Misty: I’d turn him into Tim Allen.

Gabrielle: If you spared Santa at the price of any gift you could ask for, what would you get?

Misty: World peace, if possible. If not, the vintage suede Anne Klein jacket I stuffed behind a ticket table at a concert venue when I was 17 years old and forgot to grab at the end of the night. I still think about it sometimes. It probably wouldn’t even fit me now, but I want it back.  

Steve: I am very grateful, so I’d use this for other people. I would spare Santa if people who are truly good get exactly what they want for the holidays. Or if he gave out X-Maschina to everyone in the world. 

Official X-MASCHINA Poster Art by @Vertebrae33

Gabrielle: The two previous works from Steve featured killer sloths and enamored zombies, giving them a lot of personality from the concept itself. Now you’re both working on Christmas-killer robots, so how did you give them a personality and make them unique?

Steve: Our mad robot villain, Sleigh, is made up of all the sourness of Santa. We had fun giving Sleigh a personality by taking all the worst qualities of the holiday season. The pushiness, the meanness, and the entitlement some naughty people display on Christmas. We drew from our own experiences and my own naughtiness to create a frightening yet entertaining villain.

Misty: I’m not sure where I heard this, but someone once told me that there is no such thing as bad people. There are just people who do bad things? Like, no one person is 100% bad. I interpret this to mean that we all have it within us to be villains. Who among us wouldn’t betray themselves for power, status, desire? In our Santa’s case, climate change has decimated his North Pole location, and all of his happiest memories are of a time when it was still snowing. He wants it to snow again. And he is willing to do anything to make that happen. Our villain, Sleigh, is born from Santa’s self-betrayal. He represents the villain within all of us. What we’re all capable of becoming if we are put in a desperate enough situation. 

Art by Lane Lloyd

Gabrielle: What was the best part about working with each other?

Misty: Steve is so upbeat and fun to work with, and we have a lot of fun riffing off of each other. When we were writing X-Maschina, it really just felt like I was joking around with a friend. He is really creative but also has a super professional, practical sensibility when it comes to the business side of comics. He’s really a one-of-a-kind talent. It’s hard to pick just one thing. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to work with him as my introduction to the world of comics. It couldn’t have been better!

Steve: All of it. We were complete strangers before we teamed up. Misty asked me to be on her podcast for Slow Pokes, and we just hit it off. Her ideas are so fun, and she is definitely someone people need to watch out for in comics. This could have been a nightmare (mostly because of me), but communication and partnership really made this a lot of fun. We used google docs and just shared ideas without any ego. We vowed to do what’s best for the comic no matter where the idea came from. 

X MASCHINA LOGO by Brian Dinonno

Gabrielle: Do you have any future plans for another collaboration?

Steve: I would love to work with Misty or anyone who shares her passion and imagination. X-Maschina 2 would be awesome if we get our funding, but I think with the right idea, I’d be happy to work with Misty again.

Misty: Working with Steve again would be awesome. I think if X Maschina 1 gets funded, there is a good chance there will be an X-Maschina 2!   

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