Gerard Way’s Young Animal pop-up imprint is now in full swing through DC Comics, with Doom Patrol and Shade, The Changing Girl already on shelves, and Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye and Mother Panic following shortly. Just a month into the line, Way is already looking to the future with plans to bring in unexpected creators and re-envision the darker corners of the DC Universe through his unique lens.
Newsarama spoke with Way and Doom Patrol artist Nick Derington at New York Comic Con, delving into the My Chemical Romance frontman's secret origins as a subversive superhero fan, the intersection of comic books and music, whether vaporwave or Black Sabbath is the perfect soundtrack to Doom Patrol, and how creating comic books is like building the Ultimate Nullifier.
Newsarama: Gerard, as you’ve got to be keenly aware, comic books and music have a lot in common in the way people discover them. Everyone has a band that they heard, or a comic book they read that hooked them. What was the comic book you read that not only got you into comic books, but also made you feel like they were something you could create?
Gerard Way: There was this issue of X-Men by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri, where Wolverine is on a cross, nailed to an X [editor’s note: Uncanny X-Men #251], and I thought, “I’m all about this.” Because I was raised Catholic, so I thought, “This’ll piss my parents off.” I was all in after that.
But you know, I had a lot of comics that were like, that record that changed your life. There were a bunch of those. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. Sandman. Watchmen had a massive impact on me. The Dark Knight Returns. So at the same time I picking up Misfits 7-inches, I was picking up those comics.
Nrama: Building and curating an imprint like Young Animal, you must have looked at a lot of people to find exactly the right creator for each project. Gerard, how did you and Nick get together for Doom Patrol?
Way: Nick wasn’t on my radar at all, until Shelley Bond reached out to him.
Nick Derington: I was on no one’s radar. I was out of comics. I had done comics a little bit a few years ago, but then I went off to do animation and production design, that kind of stuff. Then a random Twitter drawing got in front of Shelley Bond, and she was like “Who is this guy? Why am I following this dude?”
Way: She knew you knew Mike Allred. She said, “Mike’s friends with this guy, and I had him do this drawing,” and she hands me a drawing of Robotman.
Derington: I actually did that on my own! It’s like a trick - you do just a little piece of free work, then you get stuck in someone’s brain and they can’t get rid of that idea.
Way: So he was so excited at the prospect that he just drew Robotman sitting there, and I was like, “This is it. This is the Doom Patrol I see in my head.”
Derington: Yeah, that was exactly it. It was one of those things that, from the first talk, I saw exactly what you wanted to do. You said you wanted a “Cameron Stewart meets Jaime Hernandez” feel, and I was like, “That’s my jam. “ I guess you got the right dude!
Nrama: Do you still keep a comic book collection at this point?
Way: I don’t have a huge collection, no. I never really did. I just used to collect the comics that were super special to me. So I have The Crow #1, and I have some early Deadpool and X-Men, but then it was really graphic novels and collections, which I still have a lot of. But I don’t have a lot of single issues.
Nrama: Nick, I’ve seen on your Instagram that you’re also a maker. You build props – I was really into the Ultimate Nullifier you made.
Derington: That was my last prop before Doom Patrol hit hard. I thought I needed to do an ultimate prop before I had to go all in on those pages.
Nrama: How is building something like that, where you have to carefully plan for every component, how is that like crafting a comic book page?
Derington: Oh, it’s a huge crossover. When you’re making a comic, you’re the designer, the costumer, the actor, the director, the lighting guy… So it’s all about just figuring stuff out from every angle. So you’re constantly designing objects and stuff. When you make something with a saw and a dremel and whatnot you get to take it to the next level instead of just planning it out. Like, "OK, here’s the real thing." It’s fun.
Nrama: Young Animal has a lot of revamped ideas and returning concepts, and you’ve also got a new character in Mother Panic. Could you envision Young Animal as a place where you would launch one of your original ideas at some point?
Way: I don’t think so. 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.” 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. She’s kind of a riff on Batman anyway.
But I really do like exploring the characters they have. Through Doom Patrol you’ll meet new ones that I really hope will become part of the Doom Patrol mythos. There are already some new ones. But I think those are just going to be characters that depend on being part of the DC Universe.
Nrama: Like we talked about before, music and comic books are very intertwined, and you’ve done a lot with that. You had a Killjoys comic book that coincided with My Chemical Romance’s “Danger Days” album, the villain of Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite was literally a musical instrument. What music do you hear as the soundtrack for Young Animal and for Doom Patrol?
Way: Probably “no wave” stuff like Wire. I really like Wire, they’re pretty important. Also stoner rock and doom rock. Literally doom rock like Black Sabbath and things like that. I listen to a lot more ambient stuff now when I’m working, like Brian Eno, a lot of tape loops. But to get into the headspace, I’ll listen to Sabbath or Wire or something like that.
Derington: Yeah, similar things for me. Actually, when I’m drawing the comic, I like to find stuff with no words, stuff that’s ambient.
Way: Yeah, he turned me onto vaporwave.
Derington: [laughs] Which is like, the most benign, unobtrusive music you can imagine.
Nrama: Just a series of complementary tones, really.
Derington: [laughs] Yeah, just mall rock weirdness. I’m always trying to find weird stuff with very little words. Something to build an atmosphere for myself. And so you can think your own thoughts in your head while you’re working.
Nrama: Gerard, you’ve assembled a pretty impressive array of creators on Young Animal. Nick, Becky Cloonan, Jody Houser --
Derington: And then a bunch of weirdos you’ve never heard of!
Nrama: For many, yes. You’ve also brought in people from outside comics to contribute to some of the books. Is there anyone you’d really like to work with on Young Animal, either someone already in comics or someone not working in them yet?
Way: I think someone from the sci-fi/fantasy book world would be really cool. I’d like to see that.
Derington: Neil Stephenson, come on over!
Way: I’m always trying to think of who else we could bring into comics. Here’s an example. I’m planning a new comic right now, for the future, and I reached out to MGMT, cause I would love to see what those guys thought a comic was.
Derington: That’s definitely come up a lot in our conversations. Who is not in comics that could bring something cool to them? We were looking for cover artists and we started going really weird with it.
Way: Yeah, we just brought in a group of outside artists. Brian Chippendale did that one variant cover, and that got a lot of traction cause that guy is not a comic artist. He’s a fine artist - and a great musician. So I’m always looking for those people. Like someone in a different field that could bring something new to the medium.