Having kicked off last month, Gerard Way’s new imprint at DC Comics, titled “Young Animal,” looks to be a groovy treat for fans. With reinventions of characters and teams like Cave Carson (who has a cybernetic eye) and Doom Patrol, the imprint sets out to reimagine some older, forgotten concepts from DC lore for modern audiences. At New York Comic Con, Gerard Way and a handful of other creators appeared for a Young Animal-centric panel to discuss the titles released thus far — such as “Doom Patrol” #1 and “Shade, the Changing Girl” #1 — offering a taste of what’s in store.
Brought onto the stage were “Doom Patrol’s” Way and Nick Derington, “Mother Panic’s” Jody Houser and “Shade, the Changing Girl’s” Marley Zarcone.
The moderator then introduced a video promoting the line…
Asked about his intention to start the line, Way said, “It started with me wanting to do Doom Patrol. There was a Batman pitch after Umbrella Academy…it dealt with mental illness, and DC was trying to keep it alive.”
“I stayed in touch with [Vertigo editor] Shelly [Bond] over the years, and after a successful solo run [in music]…I wanted to write for awhile.”
Way said he pitched the line to [DC Comics co-publishers] Jim Lee and Dan Didio at a convention in South America, where they decided to build the imprint around Doom Patrol. “I find DC’s characters to be cerebrally interesting…you really get into the psychology of a DC character.”
“I got something from ‘Dark Knight Returns’ I never got from ‘X-Men,'” he said.
Way said he wanted readers to have the feeling of reading comics that he had reading Vertigo’s titles in the ‘80s.
“I wanted to recreate that era of comics because it was an awakening for me. It made me a better person..it made me realize there was a much larger world out there — something I didn’t get from mainstream superheroes.”
A video was then shown specifically touting “Doom Patrol.”
Addressing his and Way’s collaboration, Derington said, “It’s lots of texting back and forth all day.”
Way said, “I’ll start with a notebook and write dialogue, story beats, stuff for the future, stuff I want to call back to, and mixed with that is angry letters I’ll write to myself…and then I’ll put it into a real script, and that goes to [the editor] and that goes to Nick. And then there are lots of questions…and the book starts to look a lot better.”
“We’re really trying to hit a specific vision with this thing and make it particular,” Derington said.
On Casey Brinke, the lead character of “Doom Patrol,” Way said, “I really think she’s the answer to cynical comics — I think there’s a really good story reason for that — that’s not simply who she is. As we get into the story we’ll find out why she’s so chipper and optimistic.”
A cover was then shown, featuring the original Doom Patrol team, for the second issue of the series, by Mike and Laura Allred.
Way revealed, “Mike is doing a fill-in issue for ‘Doom Patrol’…his issue is going to kick-off the second arc.”
Moving on to “Shade,” a short promo video was shown.
Zarcone was then asked about her inspiration for the book. “I’m definitely obsessed with the artists that worked on the title previously…Chris Bachalo, I grew up on him,” she said. “It’s a lot of instinct and trying to channel the madness on the page.”
“The madness kind of amplifies whatever is around her, so if anybody is having strong emotions…it becomes kind of crazy, and you take it to the next step and it starts manifesting on the page — in real life.”
On writing a new character, Houser said, “Figure out what you love about them and write about that…as long as there’s that core there that people can connect to.”
Way said, “It becomes about how your characters react to that weirdness — in each of the Young Animal books they react in different ways.”
Another fan asked what comes first when visualizing the character — image or storyline. Zarcone said, “For me it’s storyline. You have the characters [from the script] and you build from there.”
Way praised Cecil Castellucci’s writing, citing her pitch and its remarkable “weirdness” that he found appealing — something consistent with the line. “I didn’t want [Shade] to be a human alien, I wanted her to be strange,” he said. “And Cecil goes, ‘oh, she’s a bird.'”
On Castellucci, Way said, “This is the person that would read this book,” before an image was shown from a back-up story in the first issue.
Asked about why he chose to do back-up features for most books in the line, Way said, “Shelly’s big idea was…she wanted an all woman team to be doing Shade. I said, absolutely, let’s do that. And she said, I think the back-up stories should be this revolving door of woman talent — old talent and younger creators.”
A second issue variant for “Shade” was revealed to the crowd by Chynna Clugston Flores, boasting an incredibly trippy design with Shade and her alien form front-and-center.
Moving on to “Cave Carson,” Way noted that his co-writer, Jon Rivera, was someone he met through a comedy writing course, in which they were “the only two people that made each other laugh.” He described the book as “psychedelic” — noting that’s a theme for all the books in the line — saying, “I feel like that’s in the public consciousness. We’ve had a lot of brutality so I feel like it’s time to get weird and explore our brains.”
Way said, “We knew [all the books] had to be very different. We knew we wanted to create a different genre for this book…so we called it the ‘sad dad genre.'” He also noted that the book is similar in tone to “Umbrella Academy.”
Asked what it’s like to see something he wrote get reimagined in art, Way said, “It’s far superior to what I had in my head. And the worst scenario is it’s exactly what I had in my head…I’m in awe of comic artists, I’ve never head the discipline to do it.”
Speaking of psychedelics, some incredibly groovy pages were then shown, by Michael Avon Oeming, from “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” #1, in addition to first issue variants by Bill Sienkiewicz, and Matt and Brennan Wagner. A cover for issue #2 was shown by Matt Taylor, along with the cover for issue #3 by Oeming.
Lastly, a promo video was shown for the final book in the line (so far), “Mother Panic.” Houser teased the book as a revenge quest, starring a character “with dark, messed up stuff in her past,” who has a list of people to go after, to inevitably “make them pay.”
Way revealed that the title came from the name of one of his fuzz pedals, saying, “Oh, that was a cool name.” He referred to the book as “an extreme version of Bruce Wayne…someone who takes it so far that you don’t even know if [the secret identity] is their cover.”
“The whole thing with Batman, he’s got dead parents, and that’s his thing, but Violet has a dead parent too and the circumstances are much different,” Way said. “Jody’s turning it on its head.”
A first issue variant for “Mother Panic” by Bengal was shown, in addition to a Batman-centric variant by Tommy Lee Edwards, along with his cover for issue two. Houser confirmed that Batwoman will feature in the first arc.
Another teaser, featuring new music from Way, was then shown. The moderator announced that attendees of the panel would get a cassette tape featuring a new song from Way. He noted that the song is called “Into the Cave We Wander” — a track from a fake ’70s documentary about Cave Carson’s life.
Way teased, “I won’t promising anything, but I’d expect more Young Animal songs…next year.”
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