Gerard Way and Jon Rivera Talk DC's Young Animal: "What Can We Do To Help Change Comics?"

Rock star comic book writer (in every applicable sense) Gerward Way is just months away from [...]

doom patrol

Rock star comic book writer (in every applicable sense) Gerward Way is just months away from launching Young Animal, a new imprint at DC Comics where he will either write or oversee titles like Doom Patrol and Shade, the Changing Girl in a kind of reinvention of the classic Vertigo spirit.

Rather than creator-owned titles, the series will allow writers broad creative freedom to radically reinvent lower-tier DC characters, inspired by the Animal Man, Sandman, Doom Patrol, and other reboots of the '80s.

Way, known for his band My Chemical Romance and his Eisner-winning comic Umbrella Academy, will co-write Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye along with his longtime friend Jon Rivera.

Way and Jon Rivera joined at Comic Con International: San Diego last week to talk about Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye and the rest of DC's Young Animal line, teased in a black-and-white ashcan edition, distributed at Comic Con and laid out to resemble an old DC Who's Who. First of all, I really love the Who's Who-style guide. Whose idea was that?

Gerard Way: I was a big fan of Who's Who growing up. They're very important to Young Animal because whenever I'm sitting down with Jon, we go through those books to find these characters. With Young Animal, you're very hands on with this imprint. What's your process like when you guys are working together?

Jon Rivera:This is our first real project that's coming out comic-wise, but we've been writing together. We were friends for a long time. We've been writing together the better part of ten years, so our process is already down. We work well together. We challenge each other, I think.

When we critique, we don't really critique each other. We just come up with new suggestions and ride those. We kind of find waves and ride those creatively.

Gerard Way: Yeah, that's the process. It's very casual. We just kind of hang out together.

Jon Rivera: In terms of like Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, we'll usually discuss the story. Then we'll zoom in, and then we'll discuss the issue then put out a first draft. Then Gerard will do a pass. Then I'll do a pass. Then we kind of go back and forth like that.

Luckily, since we've been friends and working together so long, we have trust in each other too. If Gerard makes a change, I'm totally cool with it. It's really interesting to me because we got very little information with the original announcement. We're seeing obviously a lot more now, but Cave Carson, just the title alone was the kind of thing I feel like so many people were just like, "I want to see what the hell that book is."

Jon Rivera: I was one of the first people who were sold on the book from the title. Gerard told me the book, and he was like, "Do you want to work on it?" I was like, "Hell yeah, that title is amazing." With the Young Animal imprint as a whole, they said that this is essentially coming and going with you, but it's very kind of inspired by that early Vertigo spirit of things like Animal Man and Doom Patrol.

When you were talking to DC about kind of putting it together, was there ever a thought that it should be more focused on creator/created stuff, or was it always like "No, we want to take DC properties and sprinkle some new stuff in"?

Gerard Way: It was about DC properties, which is why when I brought the idea in to Dan [DiDio] originally, I said I thought it should be separate from Vertigo because Vertigo is doing really great creator-owned stuff, and it had been a long time since they were allowed any DC characters.

Instead of doing like a do-over with DC characters in Vertigo, I said, "Let's just start something new." That's the focus. Even a character like Mother Panic, though, it was created by me and Tommy Lee Edwards. We don't own that character, and I knew that going into it but it was the trade-off to make the art for me. It's not really a creator-owned place. It's funny because just the name Mother Panic, when it was announced I had to go scouring the internet to make sure that it wasn't a Jack Kirby creation. It just sounds like one of his names.

Gerard Way: Yeah, I know what you're saying. Now what, besides that early Vertigo stuff, are your big inspirations in crafting these stories? Obviously a lot of it is just trying to take things in a new and cool different direction, but I'd imagine that you had to look back at some old stuff and be like, "Oh, that's something I can take away."

Gerard Way: Oh, for sure. We looked at all of it. Anything we could go back on, like for Shade we looked at Ditko and Milligan. For Doom Patrol, we look at the sixties and Grant and Rachel and Arcudi and Byrne, and Giffen. Everybody.

Jon Rivera: Even Cave, looking at what we can. That character, not a lot of his stuff is in print. It's definitely been a hunt to find stuff for him, but a lot of the relationships in the book now, especially between him and some of the members of his older team -- because Cave takes place about ten or twelve years after Cave is retired, so there's a little bit of the old crew -- a lot of those relationships are pulled right from what we were reading.

They were right there on the page. His relationship with Johnny, who is kind of like the second in command on the team, that all came from the original. It's great when you can respect the original stuff and then make something completely new. That's the best. I feel like that's the mission statement for what DC is doing for Rebirth too. Have you guys talked philosophically about the approach of these things?

Gerard Way: Oh yeah, a lot of it is philosophical. A lot of it is like what kind of new energy can we bring into this stuff? What can we do to help change comics, not react to the change in comics?

Jon Rivera: Yeah, I had kind of fallen out of comics for a few years, so one of the big things for me was like what's a comic that would come out that would bring me back? I like the fact that all the books have a great hook to them.

With Cave, I did love all that stuff like Challengers of the Unknown, old adventure comics. It kind of fell out of fashion. Even adventure movies, they don't make a lot of them anymore. I wanted to bring it back but make it modern and new and cool and make it about something deeper than just mobsters. One quick thing I did want to ask --and I know we're running out of time-- is with Jody Houser, she's brought all these new faces into comic shops with Faith. Now she's working with you, and obviously you bring a built in fan base. Is part of this introducing people who necessarily wouldn't come to comics and being like, "No really, this is cool?"

Gerard Way: For sure, and I think that's one of the benefits of having a second job or career and having been lucky to have that career. It's one of the benefits of having that and using it what I feel is for good.

When I did Umbrella Academy, I was hoping that all these kids would read comics. It's about introducing your fan base to new things.

Jon Rivera: And teaching them that comics are not a genre; they're an art form just like movies, just like music. There really is a comic for everybody out there. It's not just people punching each other in the face. There is some really amazing stuff. One thing my editor asked me I've got to ask you because he's a huge fan, and he couldn't be here to do this. Otherwise, he would have knocked me out of my place. Can you shed any light on the video that went up on the My Chemical Romance Facebook page?

Jon Rivera: The video, I don't really like to talk about just because we're not that involved in it, and to be honest we didn't realize that there wasn't additional information coming out with that, which is why we asked the label to clarify.