Interview: Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens of Once Upon A Time Machine

Written By: Kellie - Oct• 10•12

once upon a time machine

Today is Once Upon a Time Machine’s book birthday. I’ve posted a fair bit about this fantastic comic collection that retells some of our favorite fairy tale stories with a sci-fi twist, as I really cannot get enough of it. I will definitely be picking up a copy as soon as I make a significant dent in my TBR pile. You can read my review, here.

In celebration of the release, I have a very special interview with part of the team that made this collection a reality, Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens.

ReaWrite: First off, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in creating Once Upon A Time Machine?

Andrew: I’m the book’s Editor, which for something like this has been a pretty wide-ranging job. I also wrote one of the stories in there (“John Henry”). But I’d say the one thing I ended up doing most was learn. Once Upon a Time Machine actually constituted my first work in comics, so each step of the way (and there were a lot of them!) forced me to teach myself and learn from others as I went. My primary objective, though, was to work with all the various creators to make sure their respective voices came through as well as possible, while also doing my part to shape the book into a complete, coherent, and eventually published piece of work.

Chris: My title on this project is Producer. It’s not a title you see a lot in comics, but it seemed to fit here. I put together most of the creative teams and brought artists like Farel Dalrymple and Brandon Graham into the mix. I also wrote a story in the book (“The Boy Who Drew Cats”), and worked closely with Andrew and our creative adviser Josh O’Neill to round everything into shape.

ReaWrite: In your own words, what is Once Upon a Time Machine?

Andrew: A time machine hopping through alternate futures, looking for all the new ways that our favorite old tales might be kept alive and relevant for far-off generations.

Chris: A dream engine.

ReaWrite: How many people are involved in making a project like this a reality?

Andrew: If you were to tally up all the names in the creative credits, you’d get about 90 – writers, illustrators, colorists, and letterers – spread across 25 stories and another 25 stand-alone illustrations in the book.

ReaWrite: What kind of reader would Once Upon A Time Machine appeal to?

Chris: Hopefully the book appeals to anyone who has an imagination, and has thought of their own new worlds after having read or watched or been passed down these ageless tales. And if you like good art, this book should have something for you.

Andrew: Chris nailed it. Young, old, boy girl, comics fan or not, if you like the idea of travelling to fantastic new words while being reminded of what makes our classic stories so timeless in the first place, you should find something to like here. And if you want a glance at the incredible range of ways that you can tell stories with comics, this is a pretty good place to start.

ReaWrite: Where did the idea come from and at what stage did you get involved?

Andrew: Chris came up with the idea! He invited me early on to be a writer, I branched out to help edit a few stories, and eventually I ended up editing the whole thing. Chris and I became pretty equal partners at that point, making most of the big decisions together, but often focusing our unique talents and energy on what each of us was best at. Where we had strong disagreements, we talked problems out and always ended up with better solutions than either of us would have thought of on our own.

Chris: Andrew said it already.

ReaWrite: How does editing graphic novels differ from 100% written fiction?

Andrew: Well in comics, a careful editor will have a much wider range of potential concerns to take into account on the visual end of things. You need to make sure the art, color, lettering style & placement, page layout & panel progression – all that kind of stuff – needs to be readable and effective. It’s one thing for a script (where a comic is closest to being like prose) to read well on its own, but when the art and letters get underway, there’s more room for miscommunication both among creators and between creators and readers. As an editor, sometimes all you have to do is stand back and let this stuff flow, but you always have to look out for how well a creator’s ideas end up being represented.

I think certain aspects of editing comics can be easier, though – for example, it’s probably easier to flip through comic pages and get an easy sense for the pacing and overall structure of a story at a glance, which is not something you can really do with prose.

Chris: I’m not really an editor, but I’d think the goal is the same no matter what the medium might be, to cut out anything that gets in-between the creator’s intention and the reader’s ability to best receive that intention. The level of editing will, of course, vary depending on the skill of the creators involved.

ReaWrite: Do you have a favorite story in the collection?

Chris: Brandon Graham & Marian Churchland’s Little Mermaid.

Andrew: I love them all, and my personal favorites have changed with time and my mood. But there’s one little tale that holds a special place in my heart for being just so charmingly different in almost every way. I won’t say which story I’m talking about, though – I’ll just let readers guess for themselves.

ReaWrite: What is your next project?

Chris: In January we’ve got Rob Woods’ Depressed Punx collection coming out from Locust Moon Press, and we’re following that up with a Little Nemo book, with Farel Dalrymple, Bill Sienkiewicz, Sam Hiti, Brandon Graham, and a load of other fantastic creators.

Andrew: Also in the pipeline is Dream Compass, a collection of stories written by Chris and illustrated by another crazy collection of world-class artists like Art Adams, Jae Lee, Nate Powell, and James Jean.

But back to the present – I’ve got to thank you, Kellie, for finding our little book and giving us this opportunity talk comics!

ReaWrite: Thank you both for taking the time to answer these questions. It has been really interesting.


For any of you who want more details on the book, you can visit Once Upon A Time Machine on Facebook, here or check out more reviews on Goodreads.

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