Shade, the Changing Girl is changing locales – at least for the immediate future – as the Young Animal series is taking its protagonist from the suburban setting of Valley Ville to Gotham City for a new story arc that started in this week’s issue.
With Shade, the Changing Girl #8 available now, CBR connected with writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Marley Zarcone to discuss the changes coming to the series, as well as what effect the move will have on the interstellar star and her supporting cast, namely Teacup and River, the closest things she has to friends on Earth.
Castellucci and Zarcone also teased possible connections to other Young Animal titles, like Doom Patrol and Mother Panic, though Loma Shade won’t be coming face-to-face with either Batman or Violet Paige while the titular alien is visiting his hometown – even though the encounter would make for some laughs, if nothing else.
CBR: If the madness vest somehow comes into your possession, would you try it on?
Cecil Castellucci: Fuck yeah. [Laughs]
Marley Zarcone: [Laughs] I would have to consider my surroundings before hand. There are particular locations where putting that on would not be a good idea.
Castellucci: You’re right. But I think in my mind, I would be like, ‘This is probably a bad idea’ but I wouldn’t have enough will power. I would have to try it on.
Zarcone: I like your actions, Cecil. I just wouldn’t follow them. [Laughs] But I would watch them from afar.
Castellucci: Great. While I melt into a pile of madness on the floor.
Shade is not a lovable alien like Mork or E.T., lost on Earth. In fact, she can be quite awful, even to her family and friends. And yet, I can’t help but root for her. Why do you think that is?
Zarcone: I think she’s endearing. There are times when she will definitely ditch a situation and will move on quickly if she finds herself in a bind. She’s also full of curiosity and exuberance. I think you do fall in love with her.
Castellucci: Even though a character may not be lovable like E.T. or Mork in all of their cuteness, I think there is something really recognizable in her stumbling and fumbling as she tries to figure out the world around her. And also, I think the fact that she is a bird trying to be a human — you have to give her credit for the fact that she is an alien. We have to give her a little bit of room to flap around because she doesn’t know all of the rules here on Earth. As people ourselves, we’ve all been in situations where we really mess up and I think that it’s comforting to see somebody who is fumbling but also is trying. And I think that’s why we might feel for Shade.
Zarcone: And she has lovable bird mannerisms.
Castellucci: Inherently, I think we want to root for people. Literature is rife with unlikeable characters. What we like about them is that they have vulnerabilities that we can see.
I think it’s on my mind right now because my oldest child is heading to high school in the fall. It’s a big time for change, and while he’s quite comfortable in his own skin, the transition from elementary school to high school is a chance for some kids to reinvent themselves. Shade is not only coming to a new planet, but the young girl’s life that she has assumed is also a bit of a fixer-upper. Is Shade the personification of these kinds of feelings adolescents might be feeling at this time of transition?
Castellucci: I think we’re constantly reinventing ourselves, I don’t think it’s just a part of adolescence. I think in adolescence, it’s the most acutely obvious [Laughs] and it’s also the first time that they’re having all of these first really big, big feelings: first betrayals, first loves, first everything. It’s extremely obvious at that time but I think as humans, we’re in a constant state of flux – hopefully I mean I hope that people evolve and grow.
Marcone: I don’t think anybody stays the same. Some people think that’s actually a good quality that somebody stubbornly sticks to their personality types and they never evolve or they never adapt to ideas but to me, that makes for a bad person. [Laughs]
Castellucci: Here’s the thing; Bird Loma as Shade is kind of a shitty person. But I have high hopes that she is going to figure out how to be better – how to be a better friend and how to be a better as both an avian and a human.
Marcone: She’s also a young avian, so she’s made her mistakes. If she’s in her early twenties and we’re thinking about her in human terms, I don’t even consider that to be fully cooked.
Marcone: She’s still in her early human testing stages. She’s not 100 percent there, yet.
Castellucci: I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged by me at 25.
Marley, were you familiar with the character of Shade – the Steve Ditko version and/or the Peter Milligan-Chris Bachalo reinterpretation – when you landed this assignment?
Zarcone: I have always loved Shade. It was the first fan art that I did for Shelly [Bond] when I started working for Vertigo. When I did Madame Xanadu, I was throwing Shade fan art at her. All of my favorite creators have worked on that series. I was more intimidated by the concept of taking it on because I have massive respect for everybody who has worked on the title before. I’m finding my place with in the group that worked on it before me. I’m not trying to trump or be better than anybody else. I just want my own little piece of it. At least, that’s how it is now. At first I was freaking out. [Laughs] Now that I’m almost 10 issues in, it’s okay.
As an artist, Shade’s world – well, really her whole universe – must be a pretty fun place to explore.
Zarcone: Oh, yeah. It’s great. And this arc, I get to take on Gotham as a setting. That’s a lot of fun because we got to get in contact with the Batman crew to get all of the reference materials to make sure that everything is on point. And it was lots of fun to change to a city environment from the suburbs and school setting.
Castellucci: I’d like to give a little shout for Kelly [Fitzpatrick]. When she’s coloring Meta and Earth, she’s really trying to show the differences, as well.
Another Young Animal series, Mother Panic, is set in Gotham City as well. With Shade, The Changing Girl shifting to Gotham, might this be the start off a crossover between the Young Animal titles?
Castellucci: I feel like we’re still in a bubble, but this is definitely the beginnings of peeking through.
Marcone: We’re definitely creeping in around the edges. [Laughs] It’s interconnecting in different ways. It’s more like, maybe you’ll see a poster or a flyer or a magazine cover or something like that. It’s starting.
Castellucci: There’s definitely room for things like that to grow, but I think anything like that would be too jarring right now if it was a full-on crossover. You have to understand that Loma Shade’s worldview of Earth is just beginning to open so you have to peel it back slowly.
Marcone: I don’t think we’re ready to deal with Violet [the titular main character of Mother Panic] yet. [Laughs]
What about Batman?
Marcone: That would be a funny interaction, but we’d have to figure it out first.
Castellucci: But we do get little peeks. In #7, which was our stand-alone issue that was illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage, there is a Doom Patrol poster in Loma’s bedroom. There are little, tiny nods. You don’t want to say that universe doesn’t exist at all, but like Marley said, we’re creeping in on the edges.
When the story moved to Gotham, I was worried that we’d left River and Teacup behind, but as Shade, the Changing Girl #8 shows, their story may not be done just yet.
Castellucci: I do not want to spoil anything, but I will definitely say that Teacup and River are important characters in the book.
Zarcone: They’re out teenaged Scully and Mulder. [Laughs] They’re not going anywhere. I love them both.
Castellucci” They’re too important — and lovely.
As promised when we discussed the book for its launch, Cecil, we have in fact seen Rac Shade in this series. Will we see more of our redheaded poet? I’m asking for a redheaded friend.
Castellucci: Loma Shade is obsessed with him, so, yeah. He’s always going to be present in some form or another. As we revealed in #7, Rac Shade has disappeared but anything can happen with madness.
Shade, The Changing Girl #8 is available now.