At Emerald City Comicon 2016, DC Comics announced a new line called Young Animal, with “The Umbrella Academy” writer and My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way as its public face and curator. Reminiscent of early Vertigo, the line is a mature readers, promising surreal and experimental takes on existing DC Comics properties such as “Doom Patrol” — and in the case of “Mother Panic,” a new character but set in the familiar setting of Gotham City.
A year later, the line now has four monthly ongoing series — “Doom Patrol,” “Mother Panic,” “Cave Carson Has as Cybernetic Eye” and “Shade, the Changing Girl” — plus a new miniseries slated to debut in May, “Bug!: The Adventures of Forager,” from the familial creative team of Lee Allred, Mike Allred, and Laura Allred. Though “Doom Patrol” — written by Way and illustrated primarily by Nick Derington — has seen shipping delays, the line has received a largely positive response, with its more unconventional take providing a contrast to the more back-to-basics superheroics of DC’s current “Rebirth” initiative.
CBR spoke with Way late last month at WonderCon in Anaheim about the first year of Young Animal, what he wants to see in the next year, the freedom he’s received from DC Comics, the latest on the “Doom Patrol” schedule and the possibility of him having a creative impact at DC outside of the imprint.
CBR: Gerard, it’s been just about exactly a year since the announcement of Young Animal. What has the experience been like? It’s been a new endeavor for you, and a new one for DC. How has it lined up with whatever expectations you may have had?
Gerard Way: It’s been a lot of really rewarding work. A lot of super-hard work, but very rewarding. We knew they were all very different from mainstream comics when they came out, so they’re finding their audience. Now that the first trades are about to come out, what I expect to see is an expansion of the readership. People getting into the second arcs, reading the first in trades, things like that. But I’ve been extremely happy with everything. Collaborating with all the creators has been the best part.
It’s a new role for you in comics — you’ve written before, but this is you as the curator of a line.H How has your role evolved over the last year? How hands on have you been?
Basically, [DC Comics editors] Molly [Mahan] and Jamie [S. Rich] really do run that imprint. They make sure the books get out. They make sure the art gets in. They proofread, they do all that stuff, they help with story. But then everything still comes through me, and that’s another reason “Doom Patrol” gets a little late — because I have this whole other workload. Sometimes I’ll sit down on a Monday to write, and it’ll be Thursday before I’m scripting, because I’ll be dealing with all this other stuff.
What I’ve now found myself to be doing, aside from Young Animal, is trying to find other things to bring into DC. If it’s a special project, or if it’s somebody that does special editions of something. I have a lot of connections in other areas. My contract with DC is as a consultant, so I try to consult. I try to bring ideas to them.
So we may see stuff from you at DC outside of Young Animal?
We might, yeah.
We’ve seen comics from you in the past that are your own creations, but now you’re working with established characters more than before. It’s a unique take, deliberately, but it’s still within franchise-type properties — what have that been like for you, as a creator?
I enjoy franchise things. I think they’re really exciting. Basically, the challenge in starting something like that is building a world, and then your job is to keep the world alive and keep adding to it. That’s really fun, as opposed to, “Here’s a comic about this,” about one-off subjects. I’m interested in building worlds and keeping them alive.
Is it a different creative muscle for you as a writer?
Yeah, it is. Especially team books. I’ve never really written a solo character — I guess I did for my Spider-Man thing [2014’s “Edge of Spider-Verse” #5]. But it’s almost always been team books. I just prefer them, I don’t know why. I like juggling a lot of characters.
A huge company like DC, who are caretakers of these characters, you don’t necessarily expect them take on something like Young Animal, which is by its mission statement, experimental. How has the relationship been with DC?
The relationship has been amazing. [DC Entertainment Co-Publisher] Jim [Lee] focuses on the bigger picture art type of things. That’s where his vision comes in. [DC Entertainment Co-Publisher] Dan [DiDio], he’s the nuts and bolts guy. The amount he wanted to take risks was really refreshing and s surprising. I’ve gotten to take a lot of risks, and they’ve been more than supportive. So it’s been great.
Let’s talk “Doom Patrol.” You clarified a bit on Instagram earlier, but there appears to be come misconception on the statue of the series — you’re taking a little bit of a break after #6?
After #6, yeah. Basically, the orders for #7, #8 and #9 got canceled, but that’s only because we’re going to resolicit very soon. We just want to catch up. We want to get ahead. We were getting frustrated with always being a little bit late. A little more late. A little more late. It escalates.
At the same time, you’re trying to make the best book you can. We just didn’t want to rush. We realized, as a team, we needed more time. So we’re just taking that time.
Is Mike Allred still drawing issue #7?
Yeah, absolutely. 100 percent. In fact, the issue I’m writing for him is literally tailor-made for him. It’s a very different issue than the first [six].
And the Allred family are also doing “Bug.” We’ve seen some pages from the series — what’s got you excited about what they’re doing there?
The enthusiasm of the Allred family for this character has been incredible. That’s been a real amazing thing to watch. It’s been the most inspiring thing about the book, it’s what sold me on the book. Obviously, I love obscure characters, but I knew very little about Bug. They convinced me there was something — it’s an amazing old Kirby character, so there’s amazing stuff there. They helped get it out of the character.
And “Flintstones” writer Mark Russell is writing “The Wonderful World of Rocks” back-up in “Cave Carson,” drawn by Benjamin Dewey. What does it mean to have Russell contribute to the line?
He’s a great writer. What we hope to accomplish with his writing at Young Animal is help us expand Cave Carson’s universe, and fill in some of the background.
It’s been one year since the announcement — what are you hoping to see from Young Animal in the next year?
I want to keep the books extremely healthy. I would rather have four really healthy monthlies than more monthlies. But what I would like to see is experimenting with miniseries this year. I think we’re going to start to see that. “Bug” is a mini, there are a couple of other in the pipeline we’re developing right now that I can’t talk about, but they’re miniseries. I’d like to see us expand with some things like that.