In DC's Justice League / Young Animal crossover event "Milk Wars," the interdimensional corporation causing havoc in Doom Patrol, RetConn, has pulled its latest caper: stealing stories and repackaging them for its evil ways.
This time, RetConn intercepted Kal-El when he landed on Earth and raised him to become Milkman Man instead of the Kents. His task: serving up "milk" to keep everyone drinking the corporate kool-aid of wholesome and homogenized justice. The entire DC trinity has been changed, altering the Justice League of America, who have ceased helping people. That's when the Doom Patrol arrives on the scene to rid Earth Prime of RetConn's "milk" and make things correct in this odd Pleasantville-like world.
Milkman Man, Wonder Wife, and Father Bruce are branded nightmares that only can be combated by the DCU's strangest collection of superheroes. It's a story that will set the stage for the second year of Young Animal imprint. Titles like Shade, The Changing Woman (formerly Girl), Mother Panic, Doom Patrol, and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye will resume regular publishing after "Milk Wars," while a new Eternity Girl six-issue mini-series will also kick off.
Steve Orlando (Justice League of America) and Young Animal curator Gerard Way (Doom Patrol) are co-writing the bookend chapters of the weekly event. The just-released JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 features art by A.C.O. Doom Patrol/JLA Special #1, which closes the event on February 28, features work by artist Dale Eaglesham. In between are three more one-shots: Mother Panic / Batman Special #1 by Jody Houser and Ty Templeton, Shade, The Changing Girl / Wonder Woman Special #1 by Cecil Castellucci and Mirka Andolfo, and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye / Swamp Thing Special #1 by Jon Rivera and Langdon Foss.
SYFY WIRE interviewed Orlando about "Milk Wars," how this bizarre crossover works, and the strange nature of milk.
Steve, you get to join in on a tight-knit group of creators with the "Milk Wars" crossover. How did you get involved?
It came from meeting Gerard in Emerald City Comic Con 2016, almost when Young Animal was announced. So I’ve been talking with him about it since I was working on Midnighter. As I’m sure people have read up, Gerard was an intern at DC back in the day and has always been a fan of the DC minutiae that I’ve become well known for, for better or worse. We were trading nerd credit and I brought up one of my pet characters, Prince Ra-Man, and he had never heard of him before, so I proved myself to him at least. Since then we’ve been trying to find something to do together.
When the time came, I was on Justice League of America, he was on Doom Patrol. I’ve always loved when these special moments when universes touch. So I pitched it to him, and he was immediately on board. Gerard never thought that this type of crossover could happen, but here we are. It’s happening with comics that were such a big part of the comics we both liked when we were younger, and it all sort of fits together. At the time, we weren’t sure what it would be yet, but the idea of it goes back almost a full year.
Which Doom Patrol character were you drawn to writing the most?
Flex Mentallo is one of my favorite books, comic or otherwise, ever. Being able to work with Flex is almost unreal. The fact that I see him on the page, from a book that was so formative for me, I’ve been insanely happy. Now the same first time that Gerard and I first met, part of the conversation was how jealous I was that he got to work with Flex. So getting to work with him, getting him to play off characters like Batman, who is so used to having logical explanations for everything. Here you have Flex, who is based on the illogical and absurdity that make comics wonderful, is pretty f*cking amazing.
Talk about how artist A.C.O. sets the stage for the event with some dynamite art, setting the stage for some crazy, spastic visuals.
A.C.O. is an artist without parallel, and I’ve known that since Midnighter. I showed Gerard pages from Midnight and Nick Fury that he was doing and it was like, we have to find a way to work with this guy again. It’s a lot about trust, not just him, but all the artists that I work with these days. We knew that A.C.O. is going to innovate with panel layout and everything like that, so part of it was working it into the plot script format; we left panel descriptions open to him, we gave him just a summary of each page, so he can have as free rein as possible to create these images.
Many things that happened in Midnighter were all him adding panels and pushing it further, as you saw in "Milk Wars," gave him the full palette on layout and pacing to tell the story in a way that is most interesting story to him, because that will, as you saw, will make it the most interesting for you guys. It’s about trust, a little risk, and giving up a little bit of control, which can sometimes be hard. But to me, that’s what good collaboration is, and you get a product as beautiful as this, by trusting your collaborator like we do. It comes through in the page; I think it’s the best work he’s done.
Each of the Young Animal books are so different from one another, but are equally odd. To think they could co-exist under the same umbrella is one thing, but to fold JLA in too is a wild leap.
We’re trying. It’s part of the challenge, combining the different tones. The nice thing is that the Justice League themselves are a set of diverse characters already, and the world we’ve created allows them to be even more malleable. When you get into the series, the actual work of blending the superhero worlds of these headlining characters, with Young Animal’s headliners, mainly fell to the individual creators. Gerard and I oversaw the whole event, but this is still a Young Animal event.
We were very conscious of getting out of the way once the basic needs of each issue were laid out, and letting people do their own strange thing. The theme of the milk, the manipulation of RetConn and the normalization that we’re trying to fight, plays out in wildly different ways in all the issues at the whim of the creative team. I think that’s what makes this definitively a Young Animal event compared to everything else going on right now.
Monoculture is an interesting adversary our heroes are dealing with. You also have this not-so-subtle theme of milk, this alternate Superman, Milkman Man, as a villain–
Well, is he, though? At least in the case of Milkman Man. The decision for RetConn to use the milk comes from the core purpose of both of the teams, which are two sides of the same coin. If you are building out a story like this, you want to make sure you have the threat, even if it’s bizarre, to feature personal or traumatic stakes.
In the case of the Justice League, which is one of the more eclectic rosters the team has ever had, and has been about building off the trauma off the characters’ past lives, and the Doom Patrol, which is not passively but actively about building off trauma. They’ve been the strangest superheroes in the DC Universe. All of their origins have been horrific instead of stupendous, so these are all characters that have been benchmarked for their individuality and also fight for that. Putting that together and you look at this entity, and how you can make something as safe and clean and generic as possible but is also partly appealing. That’s something these people are fighting against. When you put it together, it is that threat of normalization.
And all of the milk?
That’s one of the great things working with Gerard, he has this very simple, core idea, which was Milkman Man, then build everything around that, like the different iconography that worked with Wonder Woman and Batman, the different, weird sort of psychosexual element that happens when it comes to milk itself. Look, milk is a very strange thing. It’s an organic compound that they blend together, that they whip up, they filter and commercialize and materialize, so it is this homogenous thing. Honestly, I think that’s where the idea came from; Gerard was unsettled by that concept and we played it out in this grand superhero scale.
Justice League rosters have always been different, but this is quite an eclectic roster, with Killer Frost, Black Canary, the Ray, Atom and Lobo. Share with us how unique it is that this specific roster of all JL rosters meets the Doom Patrol and the Young Animal superheroes.
It has been a nice moment of synchronicity that this is the latest meeting between these characters. It’s all about the opportunity, you know. You see that play out in Issue #1. You’ll see, especially in the interactions between Flex Mentallo and Danny and the Ray, or the one with Jane and Killer Frost, these are characters whose individual journeys are in different places, but they can help each other because of that. Jane is someone who’s actually found a way to regulate her multiple personalities and is much further down the road than Frost, who is dealing with her own key sickness, a superhero version of chronic illness.
Once we’ve dealt with the initial threat of Milkman Man, by the end of the crossover, those are the most exciting things to me. When I started writing Justice League of America, you had a team that looked like America. It has the variety of backgrounds, that is inherent to the country. It is a team that is uniquely suited to play off the Doom Patrol, which has always been a preventative book, who themselves have been tackling challenging themes. Instead of having a classic Silver Age lineup, now we have a diverse lineup that can ping-pong off these equally diverse characters in the Doom Patrol and learn from each other and more to offer each other than other rosters would.
You’re also building on the end of the latest Doom Patrol story, the “Nada” arc where RetConn is wreaking havoc, there’s this connection between Terry and Casey Brinke, a sudden pregnancy,
Hopefully, we give you everything you need in this event, but whatever is going on in Doom Patrol is always going to make things more well-rounded. This more of a Young Animal event that the Justice League has broken in on, a lot of the seeds are in Doom Patrol, especially if you’ve seen the latest issue (#10) with RetConn, and the event matters. It is vitally important, as it is going to set up the new status quo for the second seasons of most of the Young Animal books. Not just the returning books like Shade, Mother Panic, and Cave Carson. Books that are starting out too, like the Eternity Girl mini-series, but there are massive ramifications for characters in Doom Patrol. One character specifically is going to be majorly, majorly changed by the event.
That was key to Gerard and I, because this is sort of our strange, artful Crisis on Infinite Earths. You look at that moment of Flash in Crisis on Infinite Earths, informed Barry Allen’s character for 20 years. There was true cost. In our own esoteric way, we’re going to take everything Gerard is building in Doom Patrol and this ongoing threat of RetConn in the background, and blow it all out to 11 as much as possible. Things will get bigger and stranger than anything you expect as a Doom Patrol reader. Hopefully, if you’ve just come on for this, we’ve given you everything you need by the end of Issue #1. You’ll know this happens, and how did we get here. If you’ve been reading Doom Patrol, the journey will be even more fulfilling, and more vast once you’ve made it to the end.
Check out our four-page preview of the JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 after the video so you can see A.C.O.'s splendid artwork as things get hot when the RetConned JLA arrive onto the scene.