An Alien Inhabits A 16-Year-old Bully In This New Comic From Gerard Way's DC Imprint

Listen up, fans of My Chemical Romance and/or great storytelling: Gerard Way is reinventing the way that DC does comics. Young Animal is a new imprint from DC Comics, and it's making all of your weird, angsty, teenage dreams come true. If you only know Gerard Way from his massively successful singing career, you're missing out. He's also an Eisner Award-winning comic book writer, and with Young Animal he's curating four brand new series. Each book brings us a new spin on the wildest of DC characters, with stunning visuals and dark twists for mature readers.

Doom Patrol, written by Way himself, hit the shelves in September, featuring the world's strangest heroes taking on equally outlandish villains. Next up is the wonderfully odd Shade the Changing Girl, coming our way on October 5th. In Shade, an alien being with the power of madness takes over the body of a 16-year-old bully, much to everyone's confusion. Young Animal will also bring us the mind-bending series Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye later this October, and Mother Panic, set in the brutal underworld of Gotham's high society, this November.

Shade the Changing Girl writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Marley Zarcone talked to Bustle about bringing madness to life on the page.

DC super-fans will remember the bizarre and otherworldly series, Shade the Changing Man, from the '70s and '90s. The madness is back, this time in the guise of a teenage girl. But you don't have to know the history of Shade to appreciate the eye-popping insanity that is Shade the Changing Girl. With psychedelic colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick, gorgeous art by Marley Zarcone, arresting covers by Becky Cloonan, and brilliant writing by Cecil Castellucci, Shade is brought to us by an all-star cast of female comic book creators.

“We’re on a mature imprint, but it’s got young protagonists in it, so I think what makes it really different and exciting for me as a YA author is to not have that YA boundary,” Castellucci tells Bustle about the process of writing Shade. “I think it really is flexible in its storytelling. It’s sort of like the training wheels are off!"

This is a very different version of the Shade character, after all. "I think the biggest challenge is that, the other Shades, they’re adult men," says Castellucci. "They can drive cars, go to a bar, you know, do whatever they want. Vote! And I think the challenge of having a 16-year-old girl, is that she’s automatically confined to a space because of her age. And I think that’s challenging, but it’s a good challenge to have."

"I’ll say artistically, the challenge with bringing my own thing into it, is that I grew up reading a lot of the old comics," says Marley Zarcone. "I was a fan of the original, of the Vertigo series. I grew up on Chris Bachalo comics, he’s a major influence for me and my artwork. It’s hard when these are the people you grew up idolizing! You don’t want to rip them off, you want to honor what they did, and kind of do your own thing too. But I want that energy, especially from the later issues that Chris Bachalo did, they’re so incredible. I wanted to bring some of that energy in. It’s really great stuff!"

"I think one challenge, too, is when your super power is madness," Castellucci says. "What is that? It’s crazy! So I think one thing that Marley and I are trying to do in our sort of back and forth and collaboration, is sort of try to push ourselves off the page. To get that idea, that free form. And I think that Marley does it in such an exquisite way."

Zarcone's panels do indeed seem to leap off the page, which was no easy feat. "When you’re doing ‘madness’ that deals with emotions, obsessions, how do you illustrate it?" asks Zarcone. "And the fact that Loma is an alien, and she’s in a human body, you know, there’s the weird sensation of being in a human body with a different tongue, or different eyes. It’s a weird human skin-suit. So that probably manifests in some way. Translating that artistically—it’s a challenge! But it’s fun, that’s the best part about it."

Loma is the alien from the world of Meta, who travels to Earth to inhabit the body of 16-year-old Megan. Castellucci and Zarcone hint that future issues will deal with her trying to fit in on Earth, as well as what happens to the other strange aliens she's left behind, like Lepuck, her "space-panda" boyfriend.

"He’s a handsome space-panda,” says Zarcone.

Castellucci agrees: "Yeah, I have to say, I have a crush on him. I know I’ve said it before, and I’m just going to say it: I have a crush on Lepuck."

Zarcone and Castellucci agree on more than handsome space-pandas. They clicked from the moment they started working on Shade. “We’re in nerd-sync,” says Zarcone. "That’s why I love doing comics: being a part of the team, and finding someone like Cecil to work with. She writes things that I want to draw!”

“I think that’s one of the best things about writing comics: you’ve got a swim buddy that you’re in the narrative pool with," says Castellucci, "And you both care about those characters and those stories together. For me, I want to impress Marley! When I write my scripts, she’s my audience, she’s who I’m writing for. Her artwork is so exquisite, it makes me want to kick my game up a notch.”

The team also wanted to give a shout out to colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick and editors Shelly Bond and Molly Mahan. “We also have great editors we’re working with,” says Castellucci. “And Gerard, as well. Gerard is amazing. Every note that they give just elevates it.”

"Yeah, the editors are fantastic,” says Zarcone in agreement. “And Gerard—his sixth sense is really good. He has really good taste.”

With such an incredible creative team, and a wildly intriguing first issue, we'll just have to wait and see what happens to Loma and Megan in chapter 2. “If I said anything, I would spoil!" says Castellucci. "But for now all I want to say is… just you wait!”

Images: DC Entertainment