Hyped as the “un-event of the year,” which is saying something since it’s still January, the DC Universe crashes head-first into DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint starting this week with the release of JLA /Doom Patrol Special #1 — the first part of the “Milk Wars” crossover storyline.
Steve Orlando, the writer of Justice League of America, co-wrote the special with Gerard Way, curator of the Young Animal imprint, with at by ACO. “Milk Wars” runs weekly over the next five weeks in five interconnected one-shots culminating with Doom Patrol/Justice League of America #1 on Feb. 28, which will again be written by Orlando and Way.
CBR talked with Orlando, who admittedly loves every minute of his involvement in “Milk Wars.” The GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer shared details about the un-event, as well as his passion for classic runs with DC Universe and Vertigo characters like Justice League International by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire from the 1980s, and Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison and various artists including Richard Case, from the 1980s and 1990s.
CBR: When Casey Brinke first encounters Milkman Man, who I believe is the prime antagonist of “Milk Wars,” she delivers an awesome line: “Some of the best people are weirdos. Sorry, but you got to cool it with this milk stuff.” Why is it important to celebrate weirdos?
Steve Orlando: First of all, in some way, we are all weirdos. From the beginning of Doom Patrol and honestly, [my] Justice League of America, as well, has been about showing that everyday people are OK. More than that, everyday people can be fantastic, as well. The Justice League of America was formed to say that when you see superheroes, you may feel disconnected from them but this time the Justice League of America represents everyone. We are a team and we are all on it. And that’s something that was very important to them and me.
And when it comes to the Doom Patrol, they push it even further. These are all characters that have insane, inhuman, alien and bizarre backstories and yet they come together to let each other know that they are alright and OK. To me, that’s the heart of what both of these teams are fighting for. And now, more than ever, as there seems to be only one approved opinion that you are allowed to have, it’s important to let people know that it is OK to be strange.
I’m glad you said, strange, because Caitlin Snow from the Justice League echoes Casey’s words and states, “Maybe strange deserves a shot.” And it doesn’t get any stranger than the story that you are telling with Gerard [Way] and ACO. I love the high concept of “Milk Wars,” and specifically unleashing Milkman Man on the DC Universe. Superman is sometimes known as the Big Blue Boy Scout — a name I don’t love — but you are really pushing that to the limit with the Milkman Man analog. What can you share about RetConn’s branded Superman?
The idea is that this is the true, dark side of Superman. We are asking, when does wholesomeness become oppressive? Obviously, the ideals that are embodied by Milkman Man used to just show how good people were in the 1950s and 1960s. But we know now that there were a lot of people suffering in that time, especially if you were a woman, especially, if you weren’t anybody who was normative. Milkman Man is raised purposely by RetConn with these extremely regressive values that used to be considered the ideal from the Pleasantville era. And it’s a nightmare version of what Superman could be. Superman is both inspiring and frightening in his power. And the only reason that he’s not really frightening is because of who he is. But happens when you change that?
In JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1, instead of a doomed planet, we have a dissolute corporation, and instead of a kindly couple, we have manipulative CEOs and corporate heads. And he hasn’t been raised on truth, justice, and the American way. He’s a branded Superman and we’re looking at, what if all of his power wasn’t used for good? Let’s put it this way. What if it was used for what used to be good a long time ago? And hopefully with that, we can cast some light on what used to be proper and cordial and show how that has really evolved into something different today. And that contrast in values is really where Milkman Man came from.
I have loved Doom Patrol since Grant Morrison’s run, and one character that I adore is Flex Mentallo. You have Frank Quitely as your cover artist, which is amazing, but can you talk about the importance and influence of Grant Morrison on this run? Like him, you have some characters breaking the fourth wall here and some others that are literally comic book characters within the storyline?
Grant is obviously an influence. But this storyline comes from a couple of different places. Part of the beat comes from Casey Brinke’s own origin. As we saw in Doom Patrol, she is quite literally a comic book character brought to life by Danny the Ambulance. Beyond that, when you talk about Flex, he was created as an absurdist superhero in the mind of Wally in an effort to save him. The weirdness and sereneness of superhero comics came to him from his own teenage angst. There is a tradition, especially in Doom Patrol, of referencing the fact that these are comic book characters. As much as it’s breaking the fourth wall, it’s also a great allusion to DC lore. Back in the day, the adventures of The Flash of Earth Two were read by The Flash of Earth One, and that’s carried on right on through to Multiversity. There are literal comic book characters throughout the DC Multiverse and we wanted to pay tribute to both the tradition of those Doom Patrol characters but even more so, the tradition of the DC Comics dating back to the Silver Age.
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