Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone's recent take from Young Animal on Steve Ditko's Shade came to a splendid and rewarding ending. Readers who have been along for the ride since the first issue of Shade, the Changing Girl can now read the sixth and final issue of the Shade, the Changing Woman. Issue #6 is very much an ending, but it does leave a bit of hope for what may come next.
Starting with the Milk Wars crossover event, which had Shade interacting with a lactating Wonder Woman, fans have seen their protagonist Loma grow from a girl to a woman, one who literally ripped her heart out and confronted her role model, Rac Shade. And as with anything under DC's Young Animal imprint, things got a little trippy.
Shade, the Changing Woman #6 is a poetic, punch-driven ending, written by Castellucci, who's been joined by an art team of Zarcone, colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, inker Ande Parks, letterer Saida Temofonte, and cover artist Becky Cloonan.
SYFY WIRE caught up with Castellucci and Zarcone right before the final issue came out on August 1 to reflect on the past six months, which seemed to breeze by for the pair ahead of the series landing its glorious finale.
How has the ride been these past two years, working together for the first time and eventually becoming inseparable?
Cecil Castellucci: The one lovely and rare thing is that when you have a collaboration like what me and Marley had, I think you can really lay your heart down on the line and lay your guest truths. [I] have total trust that she's going to understand what I'm going for and that I'm going to understand what she's doing. It's an enhancement all around. Wne know that at some point we want to bring the band back together and do something. We've talked about some ideas we wanted to pursue.
Marley Zarcone: We've been saying that when we met, it felt like I just met my old best friend. We synced up immediately. It's some witchery, but [former Young Animal editor] Shelly [Bond] knew when she hired us that we would be great friends.
It helps, definitely because people have an idea that one writer writes the same way no matter the artist. That's not true. Even Alan Moore talks about how it changed from David Gibbons and evolved depending on who he was working with. I feel like we have a very unique writer-artist relationship.
Zarcone: I think it's going to be fun, in non-specific ways! [Laughs]
Castellucci: I think it's going to be really interesting and people will see that we knew where we were going the whole time... A lot of things are going to click right into place.
Which character did you have the most fun pushing into the spotlight in this last arc?
Zarcone: Gan! Megan as a boy, I loved drawing him. I don't know why I like to draw bad people, but I really liked drawing him as being manipulative, evil, popping up in places and turning into a weird beaky beast, and ruining lives. I loved drawing Gan.
Castellucci: I'm kind of sad that because we didn't get to do 12 issues, I didn't get to explore the things I wanted to explore with Sina, Grace, and Sophia. I had some bigger scenes that didn't get to happen, but their endgame was still the same.
Gan was really fun to write, too, because Megan was so awful. Gan was always my intention from Issue #1 of Shade, the Changing Girl. That was always the endgame. I wanted us to always question, "Who is 'the changing girl'?"
For me, the character that really blossomed and [went on] a journey in this last arc was Wes. He was this dumb, Moone boy. He got to come into his own. River is delightful as always and confused sometimes, like why he's in the DCHE. Teacup becoming stronger with her sense of self. Lepuck went on his journey. But I really feel that Wes had the most character growth.
Zarcone: What I think is really cool is the destructive relationship between Gan and Wes was accomplished within a few pages. It got a lot done within that frame. You got the feeling of who the two characters were.
Castellucci: It also ties back to Wes in Shade, The Changing Girl, that was his journey the whole time where he goes to Mars.
How has working on Shade changed both of you?
Zarcone: If you've been on a book long enough, it's a learning experience. I've been on monthlies before, but I was given so much flexibility to explore in layouts and do what I wanted to do with that. You get good in some things and rusty at other things.
You learn how to handle stress, too; monthly work is arduous. By the time you reach the end of a six-issue arc, this is my max! At the time you wonder if you can [do it], but I did it, on time, for 18 months! I have lots of aromatherapy and massages waiting for me.
Castellucci: I've done graphic novels before, but I've never done a monthly before, and for me that was pure pleasure — the quick clip of it, the pressure of it and long-term narrative storytelling. There was the changing nature that you have an intention and things change month to month. I felt like I grew as a writer through it, and I think you can only do that if you have a great collaborative team, with Marley and me being tier one, but our editors were really instrumental in that.
The monthly [grind] is also a ride, and I feel like I want to go again, I want to do another monthly, but it's more labor-intensive for an artist.
After it all wraps up, do you feel like you've done all you can with Shade, or do you feel like you left something on the table?
Zarcone: I'd be down for round two when they decided to bring it back. What about you, Cecil?
Castellucci: You'll see. [Laughs]
If you've read Shade, the Changing Woman #6, then you know what Cecil was alluding to. If you have not, then what are you waiting for? Go out and close out one of the best series of the year.