Rocking The Fringe Of The DCU – Young Animal At WonderCon With Gerard Way, Jody Houser, Cecil Castellucci, Jon Rivera
A fresh 60 minutes after the opening of WonderCon in Anaheim, California, on Friday, March 21st, the Young Animal panel kicked off the show, bringing together editor Jamie S. Rich, curator, writer, artist and rock star Gerard Way, writer Jody Houser (Mother Panic), writer Cecil Castellucci (Shade: The Changing Girl), and writer Jon Rivera (Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye).
Starting off with a discussion of Doom Patrol, and noting that the Director’s Cut was released this week, they also said issue number 6 is coming up in April. Way said he feels “super lucky” to be working on the title, and brought up the new scheduling on Doom Patrol. More complicated to put together than expected, the series is going to arrive after a hiatus between 6 and 7, drawn by Mike Allred. Way said keeping the quality of the book was the biggest issue, and they want to be able to guarantee dates rather than being behind. Cancelling the three issues for orders was so that they could re-solicit after the restructuring of the schedule.
Since Way is involved in all of the Young Animal comics, he clarified that he is involved in running the imprint, doing business stuff constantly, so that can get in the way of writing scripts fast enough, he said. He looks at everything that comes in from Young Animal, which takes time. Asked about the evolution of Larry Trainor, Way said he was a character who needed to be figured out over time since the character changed a lot in the past since his inception. He’s constantly evolving as a character, too. He’s never had a say about what’s happening to his body, so Way wanted to give him a chance to talk about that. He’s “different” now since he’s encountered the Negative Spirit.
Way said he enjoys writing Cliff since he kind of talks like an old man, and some aspects of his character are “kinda sad”, as is Larry, but he still loves writing him.
Way uses Casey to be an entry point into the concepts of the Doom Patrol, and the changes Way has made to the powers of the characters, like Danny.
Issue #6 was the easiest to write, and it’s the first time he’s written a 6 issue arc where #6 is so different from the previous issues. After the second arc, which is probably going to be 6 issues, Way intends to do “shorter bursts” and two-issue arcs. This is something that Grant Morrison recommended to him, doing 2 or 3 issue arcs.
Talking about doing variant covers for Doom Patrol by non-comics artists, such as the Doom Patrol #6 cover by Samplerman, Way describes it as “bringing fine artists into Young Animal”.
Running the “Bane’s Coloring Corner” in the back of the comics, Way said he loved the artist’s “super depressing” work. Bane is just inherently funny, Way commented, to laughter. You’ll see more of Bane in Cave Carson, he said.
Rich explained to the audience that there’s a lot of extra content in Young Animal books, including plenty of text.
Cave Carson has been “running” hard without a pause, Rich said, and Rivera said it’s a “journey and adventure”. Establishing the recurring locations in the book was hard because it keeps moving, basically, every couple issues. Michael Avon Oeming’s artwork keeps adapting quickly, they said, and Rivera feels he has to work harder to challenge him. Things are “pretty bleak” right now in the series, Rivera said, aside from the Night Pudding. Things get rough for Cave at the end of issue #5, Rivera said. Cave loses his eye, as it leaps out of his head, “Even his eye is sick of him”, Rivera laughed. There are a lot of butts in the comic, Rivera agreed, based on a question sent by his editor Molly Mahan. Rivera said that everyone’s butts have been “covered/uncovered” and they are on a second round of that.
In issue #7, Cave will be encountering Superman. Rivera said “zero pressure” in working with Superman. Rivera never dared to dream he’d do so, but it was fun working him into the story. He feels like he “carried the one ring” for a while, and “when I die I get to sail off into the west”, Rivera geek-talked, to laughter.
This will be the story of how Superman and Cave met, “slightly remixed” and inspired by a 1980’s comic. In the original comic, Cave was a “complete jerk” to Superman and maybe he regrets that now, Rivera said. It’s hard to incorporate Superman into a story like Cave, since if he did arrive, then everything would be “over”, he added. He watched Superman 2 to “prep” to write the series, he admitted. He wished he could’ve included Louis Lane more, since she’s such a fun character.
The new backup feature in the comic will be “The Wonderful World of Rocks” by James Russell, drawn by Benjamin Dewey. In this, you’ll start getting information about new characters and their relationship to Cave, Way said.
Mother Panic features three artists doing three issues each, and rotating. Houser said you want consistency in these books, but you also want to include various skills and talents from these artists. They are playing with villains, now, and choosing that change helps, while keeping Violet Paige as the consistency. Working now with Shawn Crystal, whose art is “fantastical”, Houser particularly loves Crystal’s flashback scenes for Paige. We’ve seen stark realism from Tommy Lee Edwards, but now we get a more impressionistic view, too, from Crystal. The semi-villain Pretty was altered in Gather House to become beautiful, but they went too far, and now he’s uncanny to look at, whereas Paige was enhanced cybernetically.
Houser said getting to play in the Batman world is interesting, and having a character who doesn’t like Batman in that world is interesting. Her points, like the fact that Batman beats up mentally ill people, are challenging to Houser, who personally likes Batman. An old Batman villain, the Ratcatcher, is in the comic, too. Houser knows the character from a Batman/Catwoman comic in the 90’s. Ratcatcher was one of Gerard Way’s ideas to bring the story further into the DCU. Way figured there “was nothing going on with a character named Ratcatcher and there wasn’t”, he laughed. In Mother Panic, the character has served time, is free, has been evicted from his apartment, and is squatting in the basement of the hotel that’s the basis of Violet’s operations.
There will be one more issue with Shawn Crystal, and then in May, John Paul Leon will be joining issue #7. His style is “different but really cool”, Way said, and he’s a big fan. Some of his interior pages in ink, shown in the panel, were really crisp and iconic looking. Space and architecture was handled in a really classic and stark way. There will be a character who’s like a “dude wearing a body bag”, which will be very creepy, Houser said, and in that arc Violet will have to decide whether she’s really on the path of revenge or not.
Talking about Shade the Changing Girl, Rich reminded that issue #7 comes out next Wednesday, drawn by Marguerite Sauvage. Cecil Castellucci said that working with Sauvage this time, she decided to focus on the character Loma this time. She wanted to veer away from the character Megan this time, and talk about the ways in which Loma is not really cool in her behavior and thinking either, compared even to Megan. She “channeled some madness” working on the series, she said. Focusing on Loma’s perspective helped keep the crazy premises of the book on track, and making it “Loma’s story” helped Castellucci navigate bringing Megan in, too.
“Life with Honey”, is Loma’s favorite Earth TV show, and is drawn by Dan Parent, and is “I Love Lucy” inspired but features the wife of a scientist working on nuclear bombs in Los Alamos. Castellucci liked the idea of an alien being obsessed with a TV show like this. Colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick created a TV grey tone for those features.
Shade the Changing Girl will be hitting the road in issue #8 in May, and will turn up in Gotham, actually. It’s tying things in to the other Young Animal books and universe, Castellucci said. The madness is “growing in scope”, Rich said, and asked how that happens. Castellucci said that the thing about madness is that it can’t really be tamed. It’s taking hold of Loma, and as she is trying to navigate it, it’s growing inside her, too.
Asked what Young Animal books relate most to our current day and age, Rich said Shade is the most grounded in the real world, and Castellucci agreed. Rivera reminded that Cave Carson includes bloodthirsty corporations, which is relevant. Houser said that Mother Panic is about the extremely wealthy and how they oppress others, which she sees as apropos.
Way isn’t sure they thought about this, starting out, though he agrees that “the best comics are a product of their time”. They didn’t necessarily realize that, but have been putting everything around “us into these books”, he said.
Some of the creators have been surprised that things have become even more relevant lately in their comics, and Houser agreed that current times have helped her write an “angry” character when she’s not usually an angry person.
Coming up we have Bug! The Adventures of Forager #1, and Way said seeing the art from Mike Allred and Laura Allred is full of excitement. They chose a character who “spoke” to them, and taking an obscure character and working on them is what Young Animal is doing well. Bug is a “big giant tribute to Jack Kirby”, Rich said. You’ll see the original Blue Beetle, a Yeti, and a chase through dimensions for “reality shards”. It’s something that has been talked about in Cave Carson, slightly changed. It’s going to lead up to a Fall/Winter “event” when the books will tie together in a certain way, Way said. The shards have something to do with that.
This summer, the trade paperbacks containing the first 6 issues of each series are coming up, including lots of extras and back up material, Rich said. Design is happening right now, with Way approving things that very morning.
Record Store Day is also coming up, including “DC Young Animal Mixtape” with intros to the comics and a new story by Mike Allred. The cover is by Nick Derrington. Way wanted to work music into this world because it encouraged him to try something different than he’d ever done before, like creating a “sad 70’s song from a documentary” sound for Cave Carson.
Way said he wants the songs to be from the worlds of the comics or reflect them. They are talking about recording a song that’s by a band that Shade loves with Gerard Way and Cecil Castellucci involved.
Asked about using the Gyro as a symbol in Doom Patrol, Way said he wanted to do a tribute to Andy Warhol. It started as a hotdog, but morphed into different incarnations. The hotdog felt too “phallic”, he said, and they wanted something “nurturing”. He’s always been interested in “worlds within things”.
Asked how these books fit into DCU continuity, Way said it’s something they are developing, and it will define over time. It’s on the “fringe” of the DCU, happening a little on the outside of the Rebirth elements. They’ve had to get permission for the Bat characters, and Mother Panic is set in Gotham, but at a distance.
Asked if they want to live in the worlds of their comics, Jody Houser said Gotham had too much danger, need for health insurance, etc. Cecil Castellucci said she wouldn’t mind visiting Meta. Rivera would like to go back to the underground Muldroog once things have calmed down. Gerard Way wants to visit Dannyland.