COMICS for dangerous humans. That’s the tagline for DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint, which celebrated its first anniversary this month.
Presented and curated by Gerard Way (yes, the guy who used to front rock band My Chemical Romance), the imprint is DC Comics’ way of giving its stranger and more obscure characters a chance to shine. Way also writes for three of the imprint’s ongoing series, including the flagship Doom Patrol.
Besides being a former rock star, Way is also an accomplished comics creator, having written the Eisner Award-winning The Umbrella Academy (which was recently picked up by Netflix to be made into a TV show) and The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys.
According to an editorial in Doom Patrol #1, which launched the imprint last September, the idea for Young Animal was to focus on smaller DC characters, as fellow imprint Vertigo did for Animal Man, Sandman and, yes, Doom Patrol in the past.
“We could bring DC heroes back from the fringe,” Way writes in the editorial.
“Vertigo had become a fantastic imprint for creator-owned projects, but there was nowhere for some of the stranger DC characters to go.”
One year on, Young Animal has proven quite capable in doing so The imprint currently has five titles: Shade The Changing Girl, Mother Panic, Doom Patrol, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, and Bug: The Adventures Of Forager. All five series have received positive reviews, which bodes well for the imprint.
Here’s a brief look at what these series have done so far.
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Nick Derington
THE first Doom Patrol team was called the “World’s Strangest Heroes”, and consisted of super-powered misfits such as The Chief (Niles Caulder), Robotman (Cliff Steele), Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr), and Negative Man (Larry Trainor).
Making its debut in 1963’s My Greatest Adventure #80, it was created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, Premiani and Murray Boltinoff.
Though the original series was cancelled in 1968, there have been four other Doom Patrol series since then, with some of comics’ best creators taking on the team of misfits, including Grant Morrison and John Byrne. All these teams have been largely different, with only one constant – Robotman.
If you liked Morrison’s run on the title (which began in 1989), you’ll probably like this one. It’s weird, funny, and some of the concepts are just so strange that they could probably exist only in a comic book. Acting as both an update of an old favourite and a launchpad for Young Animal’s line of weird stories, this Doom Patrol is truly worthy of being the imprint’s flagship title.
Way’s version of the team continues Morrison’s tradition, though his main character is Casey Brinke, a young EMT on the graveyard shift, whose memories of her past consists of her doing some wildly impossible things.
Then, during a hit-and-run call, she meets a familiar face (to us readers, at least): Cliff Steele, aka Robotman, and is later thrown into a world called Dannyland, which is actually obscure DC character Danny The Street, who is also known throughout the series as Danny The Brick, Danny The Ambulance, and Danny The World.
See, I told you it was weird.
Shade, The Changing Girl
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Marley Zarcone
CREATED by Steve Ditko in 1977, Rac Shade the Changing Man has a M-vest (or Miraco-Vest) that protects him with a force field and distorts his appearance based on the perceptions of whoever is looking at him.
Shade is perhaps better known through his Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo Vertigo series, which was one of that imprint’s first titles. He was even included in the Justice League Dark during the New 52 relaunch.
This new series, however, is not about Rac Shade. It’s about Loma, an alien who steals the “madness cloak” that Rac used to wear, and gets stuck in the body of an Earth girl named Megan who had been in a coma after nearly drowning in a lake
Megan was a bully whom everyone hated, and now Loma has to survive secondary school with the ever-growing and uncontrollable madness at her side.
Do you like psychedelic, colourful stories with a whole lot of weird stuff happening? Was Delirum your favourite member of the Endless? Then this series will be right up your alley.
Writers: Gerard Way & Jody Houser
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
VIOLET Paige has a bad attitude, lots of money, a propensity for violence, and a burning desire for revenge against her fellow members of Gotham’s higher echelon.
So, she decides to dress up in a costume and exact her own brand of violent justice.
Rich Gotham socialite dresses up in a costume and becomes a vigilante. Sound familiar to you?
The link to Batman in Mother Panic is more than that. In an interview with Newsarama, Way says that the character was a bit of a riff on the Dark Knight.
“Mother Panic was a rare case in that I had this character sitting around that I wanted to do as a creator-owned book, and then I was like, ‘This character would be so much more fun in Gotham’,” he says.
“So I created it with Tommy Lee Edwards and Jody Houser, and I was like ‘Let’s just give this character to DC’.
“Are we gonna be bummed out years from now if she’s in a movie and we’re not like, billionaires? She wouldn’t be in movie with Batman if we didn’t give her to DC.”
Ten issues in, and Mother Panic is certainly one of the more interesting books in Young Animal. The occasional appearance by members of the Bat-family keeps it interesting for fans of the regular DC universe, but the main draw of this book is how it subverts Batman’s mythology.
Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye
Writers: Jon Rivera & Gerard Way
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
A revival of DC’s underground explorer and spelunker Calvin “Cave” Carson. Created by France Herron and Bruno Premiani, the character first appeared in 1960’s Brave And The Bold #31.
Set 12 years after he retired from his adventures below the Earth’s surface, Cave now has a cybernetic eye and is trying to piece his life together when he is pulled back into his old life.
Created during a wave of popularity for science fiction characters inspired by Jack Kirby’s Challengers Of The Unknown, Cave Carson has appeared and been mentioned in several DC comics stories before, including minor cameos in Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis. He never had his own title until now, though.
An entertaining series with some really weird stuff going on, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye even has a cameo by the one and only Superman in issue #7!
Bug! The Adventures of Forager
Writer: Lee Allred
Artists: Michael Allred & Laura Allred
BASED on the 1970s Jack Kirby-created character Forager, who is a “bug”, or one of the lower class of citizens on New Genesis, home of the New Gods such as Orion, Atlas, Highfather, and Metron.
Forager’s biggest claim to fame was saving Batman’s life in the 1988 mini-series Cosmic Odyssey and preventing the destruction of Earth from the embodiment of the Anti-Life Equation in the process.
This series continues from that pivotal moment in Forager’s life (or rather, death), as he emerges from a mysterious cocoon to find himself in a mysterious house in an unknown realm. There he meets a ghostly girl, a talking teddy bear, and is attacked by some weird humanoids.
No one does weird and quirky like Mike Allred, and everything about this six-issue mini-series bears the hallmark of the writer/artist whose equally wacky Madman is a huge cult favourite.
He co-writes Bug! with his brother Lee, and his artwork is coloured by his wife Laura.
With cameos from the other New Gods and even Silver Age DC characters like Sandman, Blue Beetle, and the Losers, this is one heck of a wacky ride.