DC Comics aims to get weird with its Young Animal imprint, curated by musician and comic book writer Gerard Way. The line got a spotlight late Friday spotlight at Comic-Con International in San Diego, in a panel including Way and DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee.
Lee started the panel with a bit of background on his personal relationship with Way -- he met him as a fan of Way's band, My Chemical Romance. Lee pointed out that Way was a DC Comics intern while Way was a student at the School of Visual Arts. Vertigo editors Jamie S. Rich and Molly Mahan also joined the panel.
Way credited former Vertigo Vice President & Executive Editor Shelly Bond as playing an integral role in the founding of Young Animal. "We loved that they were thinking outside the box," Lee said of Young Animal, citing the Andy Warhol-influenced cover to "Doom Patrol" #1 as an example.
"I wanted this 'Doom Patrol' cover to be a tribute," Way said. Like the cover to "The Velvet Underground & Nico" album, the cover of "Doom Patrol" #1 has a peel-off sticker of a gyro, that reveals a surprise image underneath. "Doom Patrol" #1, scheduled for release on Sept. 14, is written by Way and illustrated by Nick Derington and Tamra Bonvillain.
"We have our core of four books," Way said. "But we're trying to experiment with the merch, the printing -- we're talking about doing a blacklight comic." Lee displayed a Flex Mentallo beach towel -- currently limited to 50 as a con giveaway -- as an early example of a unique Young Animal item.
Looking at the original books, Way started with "Doom Patrol." "It features a lot of the character you like from the original Doom Patrol, like Robotman and Negative Man, and also new characters that Gerard has created," Rich said. Way said the series is "the best of the best" of Doom Patrol, such as having the "best" version of characters like Robotman.
"I read about as much of 'Doom Patrol' as I could in the time allotted to me," Way said, adding that he was already familiar with the Silver Age and Vertigo versions. "I like to look at all the continuity. I like to celebrate everybody's art that came before it, and then we get to take it somewhere new. That's how I feel about Doom Patrol -- you do honor the past, and that stuff did happen. Then you take it somewhere fun."
"One of the most important things about Young Animal is that it is a team effort," Way said. "I'm really excited about every single member of the team." With that, Way introduced the "Shade the Changing Girl" team of Cecil Castellucci and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick.
Castellucci talked about the central conceit of the series a bit: "When you have a superpower of madness, it's kind of like, what is that? Madness is very strange. How do you, as a writer, keep a story narrative that makes sense but also try to push off the page in order to get to somewhere new?"
Castellucci also clarified how her version of "Shade" relates to past incarnations. "If you've read the [Steve] Ditko or the [Peter] Milligan 'Shade,' you'll be like, 'Oh, I see what she did there,'" "You want to pay homage to what's come before, but I also want it to be very much its own thing, so a person doesn't have to have read all of 'Shade' -- you can just jump in." Mahan pointed out that it is Rac Shade's madness coat, from the Milligan run.
Way informed the crowd that the Young Animal books exist on the "fringes" of the DC Universe, and that he believes there will be interactions between the Young Animal titles -- though there are currently no plans for a full crossover.
Jon Rivera, who is co-writing "Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye" with Way, joined the panel. "'Cave' is an homage to both classic adventure movies, but it's also a tribute to stuff like Spielberg and Joe Johnston, Joe Dante; mixing a little bit of the Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson madness."
Way said there will be a mystery as to why Cave Carson has his titular cybernetic eye, with a big chunk of that story in issue #2.
The fourth series in the Young Animal lineup is "Mother Panic," written by Jody Houser and with artists including Tommy Lee Edwards, Shawn Crystal and John Paul Leon. Houser wasn't able to make the panel, but Way read a brief note from her.
Lee pointed out that all Young Animal books are for mature readers, making "Mother Panic" the first mature readers series set in Gotham City. Way said the central question of the series is, "What if you became addicted with making yourself more powerful?"
Way announced to the crowd that Tom Scioli will write and draw "Super Powers" back-ups in "Cave Carson." Way described it as "Tom Scioli going completely fucking nuts on the DC Universe." "That's not how it was pitched to us," Lee joked.
Way told the crowd that one of the unconventional ideas they're working on for Young Animal is a "Bane coloring book."
During a short audience Q&A that wrapped the session, a fan asked Way if there had been any disagreements over content with DC. "There hasn't been anything we can't work around," Way said. "They haven't made me feel that there were any real restrictions."