DC Comics made a big splash in the comics world this weekend at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con when they announced that former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way would be creatively spearheading a brand-new imprint called “Young Animal.”
Curated by Way, whose most notable comics work is the Eisner Award-winning Umbrella Academy from Dark Horse Comics, the line will be influenced by '90s Vertigo, in addition to introducing new concepts and dusting off underused ones. The imprint will launch in September with a new incarnation of Doom Patrol written by Way, with art by Nick Derington (The Phantom) in the spirit of Grant Morrison’s run, followed by Shade, the Changing Girl by Cecil Castellucci (Star Wars: Moving Target) and Marley Zarcone (Effigy) and Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye by Way, Jon Rivera and Michael Avon Oeming (Powers) in October, and Mother Panic by Way, Jody Houser (Faith) and Tommy Lee Edwards (Superman: American Alien) in November.
I sat down with Gerard Way in Seattle to chat about the tone and creators of the line, the mysterious — possibly automotive — lineup of Doom Patrol, and rediscovering subterranean super-explorer Cave Carson. Read on to learn more about the most intriguing new lineup of comics at DC and check out other exclusive ECCC coverage in our cosplay gallery, Howard Chaykin interview and news on Image Comics entire new roster for 2016.
Where did the name of the line, “Young Animal,” come from?
It was a phrase that got caught in my head, and that’s happened to me for a long time, I just get song titles or phrases stuck in my head, and it sounded like it was a really good title for my second solo album. And then when I decided I wasn’t going to make a second solo album — yet — I said, well, it will just be the name of my new project. I started to get in the habit of, when I come up with a good idea, use it. Don’t hold on to it too long. So, “Young Animal” was going to be the name of something, so it might as well be this.
How much were you involved with the search for creators, and how much of that was DC?
I was involved in every step. Some of them were my suggestions, some of them were suggestions from Shelly Bond and Molly Mahan, some of them were suggestions from Dan [Didio] and Jim [Lee]. So, it was really a collaborative thing. But I knew what I wanted to go for, for each of the books.
What were you looking for in creators?
It depended on each book, but as a general rule, I was looking for people who were going to be very excited about taking risks and experimenting and doing these things, and were not afraid to touch mature subjects. And also really loved the characters. I wanted to find people that had a love.If somebody wasn’t familiar with the book, they went and they read the '90s stuff, and they got up to speed. So, that’s what I was really looking for.
You mentioned mature subjects, are all the books considered mature readers titles?
They are. It’s one of those things where...like...what’s mature about them? It’s hard to say, yet. But I knew right off the bat we needed that there. Because we needed to have that playground of being mature books.
Do you have a list of characters you want to bring into the line?
When I was a kid I used to sit with the “DC Who’s Who’s” and I used to make up my own little pitches — I never sent them in, but it was for myself, y’know? And then, obviously, years go by and I lost a lot of those comics, but I bought them all on eBay way back in January when this was starting and I just went through with a notebook and I was like “who the f*** is this? Who’s this? Oh, this sounds amazing, look at this character.” And then that’s how I found Cave Carson. I was like, “who is this guy?” and I fell in love right away. And the title of the book came to me right away: “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye.” Because that’s all you can find out about him, anyway.
That’s funny, because when I looked at the wikis, that was one of the only things on there.
Right?! They don’t explain it! It’s amazing! I was like, “let’s do it!” Maybe I’ll never explain it either! Maybe that keeps in spirit with the character.
Is there any chance of the other explorer characters of the era, like the Sea Devils, showing up?
For sure! I was just going to say the Sea Devils! Dan and I were just talking about the Sea Devils and I love them, and I was like, it’d be great to get them in there. There’s the Forgotten Heroes as well, that Cave was a part of and that Animal Man was in, so there’s potential for that, too. I think Cave is a great opportunity to tell a story about a father and daughter having very human interactions. Some personal things happen. It’s very emotional as well as being an adventure book. But I also see it as this book to take all these characters that haven’t been used in a long time and have kind of have them grouped together.
Is his daughter a new character?
Yeah, his daughter is a character named Chloe Carson, and she is in college.
With Mother Panic, at first glance she sounds a bit Batman-ish. How are you going to differentiate her from all the other Gotham vigilantes that are out there?
I feel that, with this character there’s an opportunity. The way I look at Mother Panic is that I see her at first as kind of the terror of high society. She’s not really starting off as a good person. But at the same time, there are people who inspire me, like Courtney Love. Especially young Courtney Love. Like in the '90s, when she did Hole and things like that. It was like, what if Courtney Love was an heiress and put on a costume and beat the shit out of people? What would that be like? And that was kind of my take on the character. So, I think, right off the bat, she’s different for those reasons. She’s not a normal socialite. She’s kind of the anti-socialite in a lot of ways. She has her own views on the world and she’s a very violent character. I believe she’s very different and we’re still working obviously, and it develops as we go, but she doesn’t feel like a good guy and she doesn’t feel like a bad guy.
You mentioned Animal Man. Do you have a desire to bring back Animal Man or Swamp Thing or any of the other classic Vertigo characters?
Of course! But when I first brought the idea to Dan and Jim, Dan had brought up a really good point. He was like, “You’ve got two of those '90s characters” — even though Doom Patrol was written well before the '90s — but he said, “let’s do two different ones.” And I thought that was a great idea. Because if we went with all those Vertigo characters like Animal Man and Swamp Thing, it would just seem like we’re rebooting the '90s. It would just seem like a retro thing. And it’s not, it goes to a new place. So, that’s when I was like, OK, cool, here’s Cave, and here’s a new character. But I would love to work those in when the time’s right.
So you’re trying to keep a balance between the new creations and the older reimagined ones?
Yeah, and I kinda see it like...hey, maybe we will do an Animal Man, maybe we won’t. But I’d love for Animal Man to be in Doom Patrol for an issue — or maybe five. Maybe he’s part of the team for a little bit. I see all the books as an opportunity to use all the '90s characters. I see it as this little pocket of a universe.
Moving to Doom Patrol, it looks like most of the lineup is new characters, aside from Robot Man and Flex Mentallo.
There are some old characters, too! We didn’t put every character in the promo image, we intentionally held back certain characters.
But the cat and the girl on top are new?
Yep, they are.
Will Flex Mentallo’s character be following the events of the character’s Morrison series, or is this kind of reimagining of him?
It’s not reimagining him. I feel like some time has passed for all these characters. That’s kind of my approach. My approach is that these characters have aged and grown. So, it’s not simply, “I’m 20 again!” You know what I mean? It’s not like that. Years have passed, stuff has happened, continuity has happened to them and things have happened. I think that answers the question.
I was talking to my friend about the Doom Patrol image and he wanted me to ask you if the ambulance is a sentient ambulance, akin to Danny the Street from Grant Morrison’s run? Danny the Ambulance perhaps?
Hmm. [Pauses] Hmm. Your friend said this? Hmm. I can’t comment on that, but your friend is really smart.