Writer Jody Houser is on fire, churning out comics at a prolific pace. In addition to writing titles such as Star Wars, Supergirl, Doctor Who, Attack on Titan, Orphan Black and Faith, she is one of the pillars of the successful Young Animal imprint — the Gerard Way-curated oddity line for DC Comics — writing Mother Panic for mature audiences.
Mother Panic tells the story of Violet Paige, a young socialite by day and budding vigilante by night. Her past is extremely complex, full of pain and suffering; her father is dead because of a tragic hunting accident, while her mother is slowly losing her mind. Forced to live in the Gather House boarding school, headmistress Mother Patrick experimented on Paige, implanting her with cybernetic enhancements for strength and reflexes. In her escape, Violet burned down the school, killing the teachers and her fellow students. But she doesn't stop there.
After the Young Animal "Milk Wars" event, Mother Panic returns to year two with numerous changes, including the title, Mother Panic: Gotham A.D., making a stronger push to root the series in the city where Batman keeps watch. Except Violet has returned to a different reality from which she came — she was supposed to have died in the Gather House fire, Batman is absent, and her mother (along with most of her support group) is missing, making Mother Panic even more of a must-read than it was already.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Houser about all of the changes, rooting Mother Panic further in Gotham City, and what else year two has in store for readers.
Jody, you used the Milk Wars event to propel your second year of the book into a new setting, new reality, and a new Gotham. Talk about the numerous changes to the status quo in Mother Panic: Gotham A.D.
Jody Houser: After helping save reality, Violet ended up stranded in the wrong one. In this reality, the organization that made her who she is is now in charge of the city, and her brother seems to be one of the main players. And yes, Batman is no longer around.
Mother Panic is still digging into just how much this Gotham differs from the one she knows.
In Issue #2 (out this week), there's an interesting twist as more characters are aware of the "Gotham that was." Why is that?
Mother Panic/Violet was always a product of Gotham City, albeit a side of Gotham that is featured less in the lives of the Bat-family. Having her operate somewhere else for more than just the short term wouldn't feel right. Gotham might be a nightmare of a city, but those who call it home are strangely loyal to it.
Violet has interacted with the Joker and more secret characters in Issue 2. Have you been given the green light to have Violet interact with all of the Gotham staples?
Since we're in a separate reality and not affecting other books, we have far more free reign to play with all of the action figures in the Gotham toy box. And possibly to break a few. The Joker is definitely one of the most fun characters I've gotten to write, but I'm really enjoying all of the familiar faces that we'll see.
Could you briefly talk about Vi's use of the F-word and, in general, the harsh tone you designed into the book?
The funny thing is that hardly anyone uses profanity aside from Violet in the book, but it really does set the tone for the series. It's something that came about while we were developing the character, and at this point, her speech patterns feel very second nature to write. Violet is the type of person who doesn't care who she offends.
Ibrahim Moustafa is the new regular artist. What kind of elements does he bring to Mother Panic: Gotham A.D.?
Ibrahim is a natural fit with the art that shaped the book, and he's someone who was very familiar with Mother Panic before he came to work on it. Seeing him build a new version of Gotham in his own style, making it futuristic yet grounded, has been a real joy. I especially love his Fennec Fox.
Volume 1, Issue #9 dropped key plot points like Violet setting the Gather House ablaze. Is that something you're planning on exploring in this second volume?
It's something that's touched upon, particularly in how it haunts Violet. There are some scars she has that will never heal. But the fact that she's the one who started the fire was always one of the core reveals of her past. There's certainly more to dig into there, but for Violet at least, that's one of the biggest moments.
It also seemed there could be some hope for Violet's mother Rebecca at the end of Volume 1. How important will it be to explore what her mother can or can't do, and whether or not living with mental illness is still a part of her story?
Rebecca's arc was one of the things I was seeding from the very start of the book. The fact that she had a gift that was abused, and that her current state isn't natural, is one of the core tragedies of this series. There are hints in the first issue that the Rebecca of this world has the same power, so we'll have to see what role she plays...
You've also been having some fun with Gala at the expense of modern art. What were you thinking in developing her from year one to year two?
The concept of the evil artist came from Gerard [Way] for the first arc of Mother Panic. I really loved Gala and the way she views people as raw materials for her creations. We ended up making her central to the organization that built Gather House, so it would make sense that she holds a lot of power in this world.
Finally, you're also writing the backup stories now, and they're tied into the issue. How tough is it to nail a story down in 2-3 pages?
I got my start writing short stories for anthologies, so writing these backups is really like coming home. It's a great way to explore this new reality a bit more, while also playing with the medium in ways we might not be able to do in the main story.
Check out the first five pages of Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #2 below. Find it at your local comic shop and on digital platforms on April 25.