by Alex Lu & Kyle Pinion
Over the past year, Young Animal has carved out a wonderfully weird niche for itself in the DC Universe. The imprint, led by four unique tentpole series including Doom Patrol, Shade, the Changing Girl, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, and Mother Panic, is defined by its diversity just as much as it is by its unified oddness, introducing new ideas to the DC canon en masse.
Now, the minds behind Young Animal are ready to take Earth-Prime by force as the imprint crosses over with the DC Universe proper in a new event called “Milk Wars.” The story begins with this week’s JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 as an evil interdimensional company known as Retconn begins to alter the fabric of various DC stories, “repacking them for new markets.” In order to stop them, the Doom Patrol will have to take on a dangerous Trinity of antagonists– homogenized and pasteurized versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman!
Recently, the Beat sat down with Gerard Way, co-writer of JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 and curator of the Young Animal imprint, to discuss the genesis of Milk Wars and to find out what the epic event means for this unique line of comics moving forward.
After the interview, check out an exclusive preview of JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1. Also, get your first look at that issue’s backup story, written by Magdalene Visaggio and drawn by Sonny Liew, which introduces their new Young Animal series Eternity Girl.
Comics Beat: Was Milk Wars the plan all along for the Young Animal line? And if not, was there any hesitancy to involve these young titles, that in many ways are atypical of superhero fare, in a crossover event that feels much more in line with what we’d expect from main line superhero titles?
Gerard Way: Milk Wars was something that was brought to me by DC, which I saw as a fun challenge, a way to reach mainstream readers, and hopefully a way to infect them with our weirdness. All of the YA books operate on their own, in their own stories and set of circumstances, but I have always felt like crossing over the YA titles within themselves ever since the beginning, because I love our small collective of creators and I love our Young Animal characters. As a collective, it felt like a good family adventure to go on together. Young Animal is a big experiment, so Milk Wars felt like a part of that experiment. And getting to mess around with the big DCU characters also seemed like a lot of fun. I don’t often hesitate when presented with challenges, as I always see them as opportunities to create something interesting, but I do have a healthy understanding of the potential outcomes when experimenting, both good and bad.
Comics Beat: With you writing Doom Patrol and Steve Orlando writing the current JLA ongoing series, the writing team on your Milk Wars crossovers are uniquely balanced between members of the Young Animal family and DC talent at large. How can we expect to see your unique creative voices come together to introduce the Doom Patrol to classic DC heroes like Batman and Black Canary?
Way: In working with Steve Orlando (who has been amazing) and the YA writers, we began to see the bigger picture of what this crossover meant, and we honed in on that. To me, Milk Wars is about the mainstream and the underground, and the place where they both meet up in the middle, hopefully becoming more powerful by joining forces, or creating something unique. There are things about more underground comics that are great, and things about more mainstream books that are great, so we tried to let each element really shine. On the surface, it may appear to be a big mainstream crossover event, but we wanted to execute that “animal style,” so I feel it is pretty different from usual crossovers.
Comics Beat: Obviously the focal point for this event is the twisted suburban version of the Trinity. What was the creative inspiration for this take on the world’s finest? Is there a cool story behind how you got Frank Quitely to recreate his famous All-Star Superman cover with Milkman Man?
Way: We were extremely lucky to have Frank Quietly on three of the covers, focusing on a homogenized trinity. I have known Frank for years, having met him through Grant, and we had many awesome times hanging out with Frank and his family at some of the concerts we played. I am fortunate to be able to consider him a friend, and asked him to create the covers, and he graciously accepted even though he is under some pretty serious deadlines. We knew he would be the perfect artist, one of the most iconic, to draw these characters, and he was into the idea of riffing on some of his past work, such as the famous image of All-Star Superman drifting down from the clouds with the sun at his back. An iconic image.
The inspiration started with milk, and how too much wholesomeness could have a dark side.
Comics Beat: The four main titles in the Young Animal lineup are relatively tonally distinct. How much can we expect to see these crossover specials adhere to the identity of their respective series while still pushing the plot of the event forward? For example, will Shade, the Changing Girl/Wonder Woman have to put aside a little bit of its winding, explorative nature for the plot of the event?
Way: One of my favorite parts of Milk Wars is that all of the YA books retain their distinct feeling, and all of their interactions with the Trinity retain their strong tones. Each chapter that focuses on a YA/Trinity character feel very much attached to their respective YA titles. It really made for something new—a new way to see these DCU characters, and explore the themes of those books.
Comics Beat: What can you tell us about how Eternity Girl will spin out of Milk Wars? After the event, can we expect to see more original titles like this one that aren’t based on a previous DC property at Young Animal or will new additions, like the original YA lineup, focus on re-innovating current DC properties?
Way: Eternity Girl feels to me like it is a book about identity– losing identity, gaining identity, transforming identity. I am extremely excited for this book, and we are really lucky to have the team creating it. I don’t receive many pitches, as most of the YA books are developed in-house, or through a conversation with a creator, but I was floored by Mags’s pitch. It felt like exactly the kind of book I wanted us to be making. The book itself feels like it further hones and shapes the imprint, shaping its’ identity. In terms of how it spins off the crossover, there are a series of shorts that run as a thread through the event, and those are handled by the Eternity Girl team.
Comics Beat: And finally, speaking of the original lineup, what kind of changes can we expect the original four Young Animal titles after this event? Will there be a concerted effort to tie the four of them together more or to tie them all more overtly to the DCU at large?
Way: It still remains to be seen how these books are going to be tied to the DCU. I think one of our biggest strengths as an imprint is that the books do exist on their own in some ways and do not have to be firmly planted in the DCU continuity. There is something that threads us to the DCU, the history and point of origin for some of these characters, but I’m not entirely certain it ever needs to be clearly defined, at least as far as YA is concerned. I know continuity can be important to some readers, but I sometimes feel it can hold things back or drag things down. When people ask me if something “counts”, I always say everything counts if it means something to someone, or none of it counts in the same way, and you don’t know the life these stories will take on over the years. Books from DC’s past that were almost Elseworlds stories have become cannon. I think the best stuff stands out and demands to be taken seriously. I think continuity is going to mean less and less as mainstream comics move forward, and it is going to become about the individual experience a book provides you with.
In terms of the core-4 YA titles, they will see a lot of change. I think one of the things that will keep YA surviving is constant change—always moving, always trying new things—reinventing itself over and over again, and just trying to make something special for the moment you are in, not what has come before, or what’s to come.