To understand where the future of comics is headed, look to where it seems most avant-garde, like the new run of Doom Patrol, a superhero comic with a gyro on the cover; or Shade, the Changing Girl, a comic about an alien who takes over the body of a "mean girl." Gerard Way, former frontman and co-founder of My Chemical Romance, and creator of the acclaimed comic series The Umbrella Academy, is now the curator of a new imprint for DC Comics. Called Young Animal, the line is dedicated to serving up strange, the experimental in superhero stories. Way also serves as series writer of Doom Patrol, and his unique vision looks back to the psych-out comics of the late 80s and 90s to bring forth a new take on the medium. Forget tangled superhero crossovers and comics that seem written just to be adapted into big budget movies—DC's Young Animal, and Gerard Way's work on Doom Patrol in particular, paves the way for the future of comics.
Once again, it's all in the origin story: long before his My Chemical Romance days, Way got his start with DC comics as a college intern, primarily working in the FedEx room. "So that was really my first experience with DC and I loved it," Way explains to The Creators Project, "and then I took a different path, I got into music, and years later I re-entered comics with The Umbrella Academy."
Fast-forward nearly a decade, and Way got to talking with Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, co-publishers of DC comics. "They knew I wanted to write Doom Patrol," he says, "so the way the imprint was really born was, I wanted to write Doom Patrol but it didn't really fit in with what they were doing with the mainstream books with DC. I didn't know where it was going to live, and it felt like it needed company, so that's why the imprint was created." Way says being the curator of Young Animal "entails a lot of different stuff. Sometimes that means a little bit of editing or conceptualizing the books, I always develop them with the creators."
In all the comics in the imprint there's a feeling of electric newness. Way attributes this to his guiding principle as a creator: "One of the things I always try to do," he explains, "even back with music and everything, I kind of look to make the thing that I wish existed. And it's not just a business strategy, it's because I genuinely want to see this stuff."
And the imprint constantly pushes the envelope, creatively speaking. "With Young Animal I wanted to try experimental stuff," Way explains, "even stuff with printing, subject matter, and that's what we're going to see a lot of this year, with some experimental stuff in printing and presentation. I see it as this boutique imprint that wants to try experimental things. And the way to start that was simply with the content, and then we could move on from there. The content, the comics themselves, were all about presenting an alternative, and books that were a little bit weirder than mainstream books."
Way sees this push for weirdness as being the future of comics. "I see the industry heading more in the direction of stuff like Young Animal. I definitely see there becoming more alternatives to the 'meat and potatoes' superhero stories. I see books moving into alternative places, different places. I think even the mainstream books will eventually get there. I don't think we're interested in telling stuff that you can get somewhere else. What we have is this arsenal of really obscure characters that haven't seen the light of day in a really long time. Even if it's a really obscure character like Cave Carson, you have that going for you, you're not starting from zero."
Part of the reason traditional comics keep getting rebooted, Way believes, is because they keep doing the same thing over and over. His plan, at least for Doom Patrol, is to constantly reinvent the comic. "If you change a lot, as a human being, I think your audience will grow and change with you. And that's something I've tried to apply to every project I've ever worked on, music and comics."
Keep an eye out for monthly release from all the Young Animal books, including: Doom Patrol, Bug: The Adventures of Forager, Mother Panic, Shade, the Changing Girl, and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. And the first collected trade paperback for Gerard Way's Doom Patrol—with art by Nick Derrington and Tamra Bonvillain—hits shelves today, June 6, 2017.