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EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Lee Edwards Welcomes DC’s Mother Panic to NC Comicon

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comic News Comment
EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Lee Edwards Welcomes DC’s Mother Panic to NC Comicon

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Mother Panic” #1, on sale now.

This time last year, Gerard Way and Tommy Lee Edwards shared a stage at North Carolina Comicon and discussed the possibility of a reimagined “Doom Patrol” project for DC Comics.

Fast forward to this weekend, and Way and Edwards will again share a stage at the NC show, this time joined by Jody Houser, Jon Rivera, Marley Zarcone, Nick Derington, Tamra Bonvillain, Jamie S. Rich and Molly Mahan for a series of panels in support of DC’s brand new Young Animal imprint. curated by Way, which includes the aforementioned “Doom Patrol” by Way, Derington and Bonvillain and “Mother Panic” by Edwards and Houser.

RELATED: DC Reveals Series of Young Animal Variant Covers

As co-owner and senior director of North Carolina Comicon, Edwards and his partners have assembled an all-star lineup of comic book writers, artists and editors for this weekend beyond the Young Animal creative teams, including Cary Nord, Dave Johnson, Cully Hammer, Jason Latour and Klaus Janson.

CBR connected with Edwards to discuss “Mother Panic,” his new series co-created by Way and written by Houser, as well as North Carolina Comicon, which Edwards estimates will host 15,000 visitors over the three-day event.

Edwards shared that Mother Panic’s design was inspired by the antagonists from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Gatchaman,” as well as Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The popular illustrator, equally known for providing style guides for films like “Batman Begins,” “Superman Returns” and “Men in Black II,” also revealed significant details about the titular character, as well as future plans for the series including plot points, guest appearances and creative teams.

CBR: I understand that “Mother Panic” started as a creator-owned project for you and Gerard Way.

NC Comics celebrates Tommy Lee Edwards, Gerard Way and Young Animal

NC Comics celebrates Tommy Lee Edwards, Gerard Way and Young Animal

Tommy Lee Edwards: That’s right. Initially, Gerard and I were talking about a separate project at DC. It actually all started at NC Comicon last year. Gerard and I were hanging out and trying to find something to do, which was something we were trying to do for a while. When he and I started brainstorming, we were talking about doing a Batman project, and then he mentioned wanting to do “Doom Patrol.” One thing led to another and then basically, “Mother Panic” was born. Gerard had a name and had done a sketch of the character. When we started fleshing out the character, we came to realize that it would fit well in this new line of books, which became Young Animal, that was just a vague idea at that time.

We fleshed her [Mother Panic] out and fleshed out her background, her origin, where she’s from and all of that kind of stuff and that’s all we had at the time. From there, I took it and redesigned the costume, and that was it.

Now, “Mother Panic” is coming full circle as it and the other Young Animal titles are getting an official launch party this weekend at NC Comicon, a convention that you are heavily involved in as co-owner and senior director.

It’s awesome, really. I was just talking to Gerard — it was just a year ago when we were on a panel together at NC Comicon and someone in the audience said that it would be really cool if he did “Doom Patrol,” and he said, “Actually, I’ve been wanting to do ‘Doom Patrol for quite some time.” He actually had a whole “Doom Patrol” pitch. After the convention, Gerard decided to put his next album on hold and work on these comics, and here we are a year later, and third issue of “Doom Patrol” is coming out. It went by really fast.

We know she’s an original character but who is Mother Panic?

Her real name is Violet Paige. I even like the sound of her name because it sounds like ‘violent.’ That actually plays into her character; she’s a very violent, blunt object type of person. She is a product of this environment that she actually despises and wants to destroy. She’s a celebrity socialite, or as [writer] Jody [Houser] calls her, she’s a celebutante. The thing is, she wouldn’t exist without being part of this elite group of horrible people, so in a way, she owes everything to this life. At the same time, she wants to destroy it. In a weird way, I see her as someone who even hates herself.

Her look is awesome. I love the all-white costume, which is something we don’t see very often in superhero comics. And to reference a line from “Mother Panic #1, she even has ‘the pointy-ear thing’ going.

mother panic

A look at an early “Mother Panic” cover sketch

It was Gerard’s idea to have an all-white costume. He had this image of this all-white, costumed character. And while it was a different design, it was definitely a mix of an anime character and Rey from “Star Wars.” She had these cones on her head that reminded me of the bad guy from “Gatchaman” or “Battle of the Planets.” I loved the design. What I brought to it was, why does she look like that? That further informed the story.

What’s fun, visually, to play with is that I see her as the White Witch of Gotham. Batman hides in the shadows, and she appears almost as an apparition. She has her own scary vibe the way Batman does. Really, the whole character, in a weird way, is a riff on Batman. She is the product of a particular upbringing. There is some drama with her parents that gets revealed as the story goes. She’s this rich celebrity, almost a mix between Paris Hilton and a Kardashian, that people think is great despite having not really done anything. In reality, she is doing something [as Mother Panic] that is quite incredible. Also, kind of scary.

You mentioned ‘drama with her parents,’ and we certainly see some of this in the first issue but her relationship with her mother, on the page, is something to behold. After reading 15-16 pages of “Mother Panic” #1 that are some of the darkest, most broken versions of Gotham City that I have ever seen, the story opens up into this garden apartment where Violet’s mother lives that is almost magical.

Thanks. I just drew a cool scene for the next issue where she is having a tea party in that apartment. You’re right. It’s such a complete, weird contrast. I really like that scene in “Mother Panic” #1 too partly because Mother Panic is just standing there with this dude draped over her shoulder. We explore a lot of the way Violet’s mom is the way that she is in the story. And the reason why they live in this apartment and everything. It’s all really cool. There is nothing in this story that’s just there because we thought it was cool. Everything has a purpose. Even the language is story-driven. That was one of things that I first came up with. She lives in an old building that used to be owned by her family, which was part of this largely successful conglomerate and now that the recession has hit, it’s in a rundown part of town. It’s this forgotten environment. There are a lot of layers to the building and also to the past. You’ll definitely see more of that building as the story goes on. But Mother Panic has basically crafted this whole fantasy world for her mother to live in, who is mentally ill and has a lot of her own issues that she is dealing with.

While there are elements of the traditional superhero comic, “Mother Panic” feels different. It feels like something bigger.

Stage 2 of Edwards' "Mother Panic" cover

Stage 2 of Edwards’ “Mother Panic” cover

Yeah, I think so. I’m not really a superhero guy. I enjoy a lot of superhero books, but it’s nothing that I’m really super confident in doing myself. I tend to like tackling more ‘real’ situations, and that’s what’s cool about “Mother Panic.” There is a lot of that in the book. There is a lot of Violet showing up at parties and other high society stuff. And she may [pauses] encounter Bruce Wayne in that world. She’s not stalking dark alleyways and getting thugs and working her way up. She’s starting at the top and taking out the corruption where it is.

In “Mother Panic” #1, we actually see Batman, and Batwoman shows up in “Mother Panic” #2 and #3. It’s not about them. The book is not a Batman book. But you can’t ignore the fact that they are part of Gotham. They are there but the stories are always told from Mother Panic’s point of view. That makes a fun dynamic and the city is really fun to draw too. And that’s what makes her suit being all-white cool too. The way I am drawing the city is very industrial, very dirty, very smoky. And she has glider that I designed that she flies around on and hides in the factory smoke plumes.

This weekend at NC Comicon, Gerard, Jody and I are going to really to dig into the Mother Panic designs and the reasons for the designs at our panel. There is actually going to be a panel about each of the Young Animal books, and all of the creators are basically going to walk the audience through the process. Gerard and I will talk about the creation of the character and how the concept became an actual book. And then we’ll talk about how Gerard and Shelly [Bond] found Jody, and Jody wrote some test pages and nailed it and she really figured out Mother Panic’s voice. It’s a really cool collaboration.

Also for the design work, I worked with a really good, old friend of mine named Don Cameron. He’s built a lot of 3D models for me in the animated stuff that I have directed. He actually built models of the helmet and the glider. We designed the living hell out of all of this stuff.

I’m actually doing the first few issues of “Mother Panic” and then Shawn Crystal is coming on for a few issues. And then John Paul Leon comes on for a few issues and then we circle back to me. I’m not fast enough to do monthly books. [Laughs] In order for me to put that much work and love into a project, I just don’t have the time. I am also writing and directing a pilot for Fox and I have another animated thing that I can’t talk about yet. I do comics because I love them but I am very busy. I got Shawn onboard and I got J-P onboard to make sure that the book is consistent. That’s another reason that I had the models of the helmet and the glider built so they can use them as references too. And the story is written in three-issue arcs too so there is a flow. We already have “Mother Panic” for nine issues. And we’ve just started talking about “Mother Panic” #10-12. All of the Young Animal books really have their shit together, and there is lots of variety in them.

You asked about the superhero aspect of these books. Superman is not a character that I necessarily feel a deep connection to and that I would be the right person to draw, but then Max Landis wrote that “American Alien” story about Clark when he was a teenager for me to draw, and it fit perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s got superheroes or not. It just matters how awesome the story is.

Edwards' final "Mother Panic" cover art

Edwards’ final “Mother Panic” cover art

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