The dark subculture of Gotham City has an edgy new hero in Violet Page - or at least, a new vigilante who blurs the line between hero and villain - in DC's new Young Animal title, Mother Panic.
Only three issues into the book, readers have learned the secrets behind Violet – a character that DC describes as a "vigilante celebutante." A rich Gothamite who's portrayed as a trainwreck in the tabloids, Violet has a dark and troubled past that has driven her to take on a vengeful vigilante identity in Mother Panic.
The Young Animal line was created in collaboration with Gerard Way, with the Mother Panic book being launched by artist Tommy Lee Edwards and writer Jody Houser late last year. Houser had previously been best known for her work on titles like Orphan Black, Faith and Adrift.
With Mother Panic #4, out this week with art by new regular artist Shawn Crystal, readers will be introduced to a new villain of sorts for Violet - called, interestingly, "Pretty" - as well the return of the Batman villain Ratcatcher, who'll become part of the cast.
Newsarama talked to Houser and Crystal to find out more about the themes explored in Mother Panic, how she fits into Gotham City, and what readers can expect next from the title.
Newsarama: Jody and Shawn, with this story being set in Gotham City yet being a mature-content book as part of the Young Animal line, how do you think of it within the greater DCU?
Jody Houser: To me, it sort of feels like it's half a DCU book and half a Young Animal book. And I kind of like working on a story that's a little bit of a bridge between the two.
Hopefully, it attracts people who are both interested in the Young Animal line and also love Batman and all the stories set in Gotham. I hope it brings Bat-fans into Young Animal, and I hope it has Young Animal fans checking out more Batman stories.
Shawn Crystal: Yeah, what I like about it is that we're building this world from scratch, so there's a lot more freedom than, say, when I was drawing Batman. There's so much design work that needs to be done.
I started on Mother Panic #4, so there's only really three issues before me that dictate how things work in this world, so I get to play with that.
Nrama: Jody, what were some of the themes that you're exploring in this title, and does this type of title give you more freedom to do that than it would if it was a more traditional superhero story?
Houser: Definitely. The biggest theme that I've really enjoyed playing with is the mother-daughter relationship, and how Violet deals with having this mission for revenge that she's on, but at the same time, she's trying to take care of her mother who's ill and who needs her protection and is vulnerable.
So there's really a conflict there that I don't think you get to see with a lot of other heroes - mostly because so many heroes are orphans.
But also, the attention divide there is unique, and her attempts to try and find a balance, although she's someone who isn't usually concerned about balance, because everything Violet does, she does to extremes.
But it's a lot of fun seeing her interact with her mother, because it's such a different side of her than in the rest of the book. And that's going to be a key part of her story going forward.
Nrama: Let's talk about this week's issue. You've got a new nemesis for Violet. What can you tell us about Pretty?
Houser: This new story arc is introducing a new character who's maybe a villain, but maybe not a villain, who goes by the name Pretty. He's someone whose features are so perfect, he's actually kind of horrifying to look at. And he does have connections to Violet's mission for revenge on her past - although how that comes to play, we'll have to see.
We're also introducing a new supporting character who some people who are long-time Batman fans may recognize as being probably a C-lister in Batman's rogues gallery.
Nrama: Can you say who he is? He shows up at the end of this week's issue, right?
Houser: Yeah, it's Ratcatcher. He's going to be a new interesting wild card in Violet's life.
Nrama: That's one of the fun things about working in Gotham, I assume, because there are so many characters and concepts - too many for the Bat-books to utilize all the time themselves.
Houser: Yeah, Gotham's a really big, really weird place.
Nrama: Shawn, you mentioned that you're picking up with the fourth issue, so there are only three issues before you, but there's a rich history of what Gotham City itself is - what it should look like. Keeping all those things in mind, how did you approach this artistically?
Crystal: I had wanted to work in that universe, in Gotham, for many, many years. I got my toes wet with Arkham Manor, but coming into Mother Panic, I didn't know much - I just knew it was a new character. Tommy showed me the designs, which were phenomenal. I remember we were at C2E2 last year, and he had done the first promo image. And I saw the Bat-signal in the sky, and I remember just freaking out at the table, like, this is in Gotham?
So that just got me really excited and jazzed.
One of the things I've really enjoyed recently, with just Gotham city proper, is getting a lot of reference from London. I remember that I was talking to an Irish friend of mine about Gotham, and it's typical to go New York or Chicago and tall. But we were talking about London and how a lot of it is low and old. So getting to play with that has been a lot of fun.
Also, anything Gotham, you get to bathe the page in black, and you get to play with mood a lot. It just all fits. It's what I really enjoy doing in comics.
Coming off of a lot of Marvel work where it was a lot of big, colorful stories, it just - I feel like I'm really tailor made to do stuff. I can really play with dark, black shadows and big, black pages and creepy stuff in the shadows. All that stuff – I just really love playing with that stuff.
Houser: Shawn's take on the Gather House flashbacks are really cool.
Crystal: The story allows me to play with story design a bunch. So the Gather House scenes are all flashbacks. In the normal, present-day part of the book, all the panels are very structured and it follows a very steady rhythm, but the Gather House scenes, I got rid of panel borders entirely and just tried to create these surreal, horrific montage sequences that might not be as clear as moment-to-moment storytelling, but they're more visceral. And I hope they leave the audience with more of an emotional impact to the imagery they see, and get a feel for the horror that Gather House was for Violet.
Nrama: Jody, is there anything else you want to tease about what's coming up?
Houser: Just that, as this new arc goes forward - and even in future arcs - we'll keep getting bits and piece of Gather House and exactly what the school did the shape Violet into the person she is. That's a key element of her backstory that we're letting out trickle by trickle.