Next up in the return of DC’s Young Animal group of titlescomes the unusual story of a man who’s been gifted with a black hole, as Mikey Way and Shaun Simon debut the new six-issue series Collapser.
The two started talking about co-writing when Way was part of the band My Chemical Romance. Way’s fellow band member and brother, Gerard Way, is the curator of the Young Animal imprint for DC.
The new series, which features art by Ilias Kyriazis, follows a wannabe DJ who struggles with anxiety, but gets a package in the mail containing a black hole that imbues him with amazing powers.
Newsarama talked to Way and Simon to find out more about the genesis of the idea behind Collapser, how their time on the road with My Chemical Romance helped form their love of comic books, and whether there’s room for more story after this volume of the new series.
Newsarama: Mikey and Shaun, you’re both known for your friendship while Mikey was touring with My Chemical Romance. How did you get involved in writing comic books?
Mikey Way: We’ve known each other for so many years. How many years? Sixteen? Fifteen?
Shaun Simon: Pushing 20 years, maybe. Even before My Chem even started, we were hanging around.
Way: Yeah, I just remembered that you used to skateboard where I pushed shopping carts when I was a kid.
Simon: That’s right. Yeah.
Way: Yeah, it is 20 years. That’s so crazy, man.
But yeah, we toured together in My Chemical Romance. Shaun helped us out on the road in the beginning.
At the time, we realized that we both liked comics. And you know, when you pass around graphic novels. And back then, you didn’t have a tablet, so you had to bring f&^king … an 80-pound package of graphic novels on the road.
We’d pass them around the band. We’d talk about them. But we would always share ideas in the van.
Later on, when Shaun got into comics, and I was trying also to get into comics, we would pitch each other ideas and give each other our opinions.
I was always like, one day, wouldn’t it be rad if we could write something together?
I had this sliver of an idea in my head, and I brought it to DC. And they were like, who do you want to co-write this with you?
And I immediately was like, Shaun Simon. It wasn’t even a flinch. I was like, Shaun Simon. And I think I texted you like five minutes later.
Simon: I think you did.
Way: I was like, you want in? And you were like, yeah.
Nrama: So what’s your working process like? It sounds like you know each other well enough to bounce ideas off each other.
Simon: It was just, honestly, fun. We just had a good time doing this.
Way: A lot of the idea sharing was on texts. We’d talk on the phone once in awhile. But it was like we were writing a chain letter to each other, and it kind of grew and grew and grew. And here’s the product.
Nrama: When we talked to Gerard a couple weeks ago about this book, he said the character emerged from a story that wasn’t originally about him. Did he just demand more attention? And that his story be told?
Way: Yeah, we initially started writing the series about a different character. It was basically, the guy who wields the black hole was the villain. And the hero was the person with star powers.
Eventually, as time went on, we liked the villain better. We thought it was more interesting. It was cooler.
So yeah, it started as a different story altogether.
Nrama: Can you describe what it was about this character that made him particularly interesting?
Way: We thought the powers were more interesting. We thought the black hole lent itself more to parallels of mental health.
We took inspiration from that.
Nrama: The character suffers from anxiety. How do his powers tie into that experience? And why did you want to address that issue in this story?
Simon: Mikey and I both have varying degrees of anxiety, and a slew of mental health issues ranging from this to that.
So when you have stuff like that, it’s almost like you have a black hole in you, in a way, where it kind of sucks up all the fun in your life.
Like the beginning of this issue, you get a knock at the door, and running through your head is every possible scenario, and usually not good ones. You never think, oh, it’s a guy here to give me a present. It’s some guy here to kill me.
You know what I mean? So it kind of sucks the fun out of stuff.
I feel like that’s where that came from, taking those mental health problems to a different level.
Way: I think self-doubt also fuels you to be greater at times. You’re your own worst enemy, and it makes you strives to be better sometimes when it doesn’t get the best of you.
Nrama: What else can you tell us about Liam?
Way: I guess he’s in his mid-20’s, right Shaun?
Way: He’s kind of drifting through life. He wants to be a world-famous DJ, but he’s got to balance his dreams and responsibilities. He’s a nurse.
He’s trying to do the right thing and maybe work toward his dreams. But that’s hard. It’s hard for a lot of people to balance both, and sometimes you can’t go with your dreams and you have to stick with your responsibility.
And it’s kind of like, he’s got these two things on his plate, but then he’s thrust with this thing that he didn’t even expect. He woke up one day and his life changed.
Nrama: Let’s talk about this black hole. First of all, it sounds impossible.
Way: Yep!! Very much impossible! [Laughs.]
Nrama: But that’s what makes it so interesting. Can you describe how this black hole causes him to have powers? What kind of powers does he gain from it?
Way: Anything goes, yeah. Anything goes with his powers. He can do absolutely anything you can imagine. In fact, he can do so much, he doesn’t even know what he can do.
Much like a black hole — reality just melts around you.
If he can think it — in fact, he can’t even process what it can do, because he’s just a human.
Simon: Sometimes he’s just along for the ride for this thing inside him where he doesn’t know where he’s going to end up, and he just shows up in strange places and strange times, and he’s just like, oh, sh*t. You know?
Way: Yeah, things just kind of happen around him. Sometimes he’s in control and sometimes he’s not.
It’s greater than him, you know? It’s greater than his mind can process.
Nrama: But this immediately brings him into a much bigger, more cosmic story. Would you describe this as a cosmic story? Or is it more grounded?
Simon: It’s both. The story is very much grounded in this guy’s life. That was an important aspect for us. We want to make it relatable.
He gets this black hole, and yes, we explore the effect on him personally, but we also look at what it means to relationships around him.
Way: In the beginning, we were very conscious about how we needed to make this relatable to people.
The broad ideas we had were kind of crazy. But we wanted to make the readers care about the characters.
Nrama: How does the art pull these different worlds together?
Way: We were trying to go ‘90s Vertigo.
Simon: We definitely wanted to have that type of feel, and Chris Peterson has done a phenomenal job with the coloring. One of the reasons we wanted to go with Ilias is she could handle all of these things very well. She could handle the cosmic and the very grounded and the humor and the darkness and the weirdness. He could handle all that.
Way: I was reading some Shade: The Changing Man from the ‘90s, and I was thinking, wow, this would feel at home in that neck of the woods, the way it’s colored.
Nrama: Does the series have a definite ending? Or is this something you think will continue on?
Way: Right now, it’s slated for six.
Simon: If people enjoy it, we may be a number two [volume].