Sometimes, comics and music go together like peanut butter and jelly. That is the case for DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint and the music of the Smiths. The imprint, curated by Gerard Way, sets out to reinvigorate old concepts and introduce new ones through a bold, strange lens. In fact, it comes with a weirdness that can be appreciated by the Smiths fan. The Young Animal comics are all unified by an underlying sadness — something consistent with all Smiths music — while laced with a fun beat that can be enjoyed by the masses.
As much as they ponder painful existence, there is a real joy to these comics that embrace the medium in a new exciting form, while bringing a real melancholy to them. They’re the kinds of comics you can’t plow through in two minutes — they take time to digest, re-read, even re-listen to, in a way. Each title can even be associated with a specific Smiths song from the group’s titular album, if you will. Below, we draw attention to these alignments, outlining why exactly they tick, and what makes them the perfect comics for the Smiths fan.
Doom Patrol: Still Ill
“I decreed today that life is simply taking and not giving…Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? I don’t know…”
When pondering the latest run on “Doom Patrol” by Gerard Way and Nick Derington, I can’t help but think of the harrowing track “Still Ill.” It’s perhaps the most upbeat and catchy tune on the Smiths’ first album, and yet has the most haunting lyrics, kind of like “Doom Patrol” itself. Just as the song contemplates the nature of being mentally ill, and its often mysterious and indistinguishable connection to the body and the mind, “Doom Patrol” offers a similar contemplation of being ill — but relates that to being a super-powered freak.
Each character in the new series is strange in an obvious way, struggling to grasp their place in an inter-dimensional reality. While the concepts are huge and weird, there’s a basic melancholy and out-of-place sense we get from these characters. If you’re listening to “Still Ill” while reading a “Doom Patrol” comic, the lyrics “We cannot cling to the old dreams anymore” should really echo.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye: What Difference Does It Make?
“All men have secrets and here is mine, so let it be known. For we have been through hell and high tide, I think I can rely on you…”
The track “What Difference Does It Make?” accurately captures the sadness found in of “Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye,” and the broken family connections at the core of the series. While the song goes on about an unrequited love, “Cave Carson” shares a similar theme, albeit unromantic, as our protagonist struggles to reconnect with his daughter in the wake of his wife’s death.
The rockin’ guitar riff reflects Cave’s unending desire for exploration, even as he deals with being a widower. But there’s also a haunting backdrop to the song, as we’re reminded throughout: “What difference does it make?” in a very bitter way. While there’s a resilience, there’s a sense of anger and longing — much like “Cave Carson.”
Shade, The Changing Girl: You’ve Got Everything Now
“Back at the old grey school, I would win and you would lose…”
There’s a real ego-centrism to Smiths tracks that a lot of fans kind of hate to admit. As much as they’re laced with self-pity, they’re narcissistic in a way with their obsession with the self. This can perhaps be exemplified best on their first album by the track “You’ve Got Everything Now,” which explores the sadness that lingers even after you’ve been given everything you could ever want.
That really rings true for “Shade, the Changing Girl” — a tale about a truly bratty teenage girl who falls into a coma after an accident, only to awake with the mystical powers (and possibly the mind) of Rac Shade. But another connection that binds the song and the comic is they way they demonstrate how different you can see the world from everyone else. Where Morrissey yearns for solace from day-to-day life in the track, “Shade, the Changing Girl” explores a new lens on everyday life with its psychedelic imagery — illustrating that there’s something magical to life that some people just can’t see.
Mother Panic: I Don’t Owe You Anything
“Bought on stolen wine, and was the first step, you knew very well, what was coming next…”
Like “I Don’t Owe You Anything,” “Mother Panic” is a story about someone being very, very selfish. Part-time vigilante Violet Paige is, at her core, a booze-guzzling, cigarette-smoking, ignorant asshole — she wants nothing to do with everyday life, and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. To a certain extent, Morrissey echoes that sentiment in his track, as he explains over and over that someone he “walked all this way” for simply “does not want to go out tonight.”
Reading “Mother Panic,” I can’t help but hear the monotonous elevator music-sounding bass riff and think of the monotony that Violet must feel engaging with other human beings. In the track you really get a sense of the frustration and boredom that comes with trying to woo someone uninterested — and there’s certainly no one less interested in you, or what you have to say, than Violet Paige.
Does the Young Animal imprint evoke another kind of music for you personally? Are there other Smiths songs that you feel better associate with the Young Animal titles? Sound off with your thoughts and more in CBR’s DC Comics forum — and be sure to leave a note in the comments!
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