The young avian at the heart of SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL stole the Madness Vest and left her home planet because she wanted to see Earth…and what’s a trip to Earth without a visit to Gotham City? SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL #8, in stores today, kicks off an all new storyline that finds Shade leaving the community of Valley Ville behind to try her luck in Gotham. In the process, she’ll unleash all new layers of madness on a city that already has seen more than its fair share.
We recently sat down with Shade writer Cecil Castellucci to talk about Loma’s latest adventure, the plight of poor Lepuck, the proper way to draw madness and whether or not Shade can expect a run-in with Batman while she’s visiting his city. (Her answer to that one may just drive a few of YOU mad.)
DC’s Young Animal was first announced a year ago, and the books themselves have been coming out for over six months now. How do you feel about a part of the imprint now that it’s somewhat established?
It feels amazing. I love all the people that are involved with DC’s Young Animal—the creators and all the people behind the scenes. It feels exciting to be a part of something that is trying to push the envelope, especially at a mainstream publisher. That feels really cool, and it feels really amazing to be in the care of a character who is so beloved—Shade, the Changing Man. He’s a cult favorite. To be in the process of rebooting it for a new audience, but also hopefully the old fans, is just wonderful.
Shade, the Changing Girl is your first ongoing comic. Now that you have the first story arc under your belt, how do you feel about the whole process? Are you pretty comfortable with it? Or are you still figuring it out?
I’m definitely still learning it. I think the big learning curve for me when it comes to writing an ongoing is that I’m used to writing novels and graphic novels, where I have to have an ending. I think for me the challenge was to have an ending in mind, but to also leave enough dangling threads that I can still pull on throughout however long I get to do this. That’s been this amazing, newfound creative freedom that I’ve never had before, but it’s also very intimidating because I’ve never had to do it.
One of my editors, Jamie S. Rich, when I got to the end of issue #3 told me, “Whoa, whoa! Cecil, you’ve got to stretch this out.” I’m just so used to trying to get right to the end.
So what can we expect from the next arc? Loma has vanquished Megan—
Or has she?
Maybe not! But she has definitely established a few friendships, but it’s not going to be happy going for her, right?
No, after what happened in issue #7, Loma decides that she needs to hit the road. So rather than staying in one place like we did in the first arc, Shade decides that she’s come to Earth to see things, and see things she will. So now she’s going out on the road. But does that mean that she’s abandoning the people from Valley Ville? Her friends like River and Teacup, are they abandoned? We’ll have to see. Is there any residue from her fight with Megan? I don’t know…we’ll have to see!
What about Lepuck? What are you doing to that poor guy?
Well, first of all, as I’ve said in the past, I have a huge crush on Lepuck. For people who aren’t reading, Lepuck is Loma’s alien boyfriend on Meta, and he’s really being dragged through the ringer right now. While Shade has been dealing with all this stuff on Earth, people on Meta want the coat she stole. They want to harness the madness, and so they’re coming for her. Lepuck is unwittingly roped into having to track down the girl that he really likes. Or the bird that he likes. Because she’s a bird.
It really seems like he’s been damaged.
He’s been very damaged. Loma has not treated him well. I don’t know why he likes her, but he really does.
We’ve seen Batman and Batwoman make appearances in Mother Panic. Cave Carson has had a run-in with Superman. Is Shade going to bump up against other parts of the DC Universe?
Funny you should ask. In issue #8, she goes to Gotham. There are little moments like when she’s asking someone what she should see in Gotham and he tells her to avoid anybody with a cowl. So we acknowledge it—those people exist. I think she’ll definitely bump into other people in the DCU at some point, but it’s a slow burn.
Gerard always says that the Young Animal Universe is along the fringe of the DC Universe. We’re in the same universe, but pretty far from its heart. I like alluding to things, though. In issue #6, one of the girls is sewing a Supergirl cosplay costume.
What about intersecting with one of the other Young Animal books? Which one would you think would be the most interesting for Shade?
I think maybe Doom Patrol. I feel like Doom Patrol also has a certain element of madness to it, so I think that it would lend itself well to it. It feels kind of natural.
I’ve said this before, but I absolutely love Marley Zarcone’s art on this series. Her art in issue #8 is some of the best yet. Please tell me she’s not going anywhere!
She’s not going anywhere! She’s the most amazing teammate/partner/co-nerd/co-madness jouneyperson that a gal could ask for. She’s just so incredibly talented. We’re really in sync. We text each other all the time to talk about details. It’s amazing.
Do you brainstorm story points with her?
No, I like to keep her surprised. Sometimes I’ll hint that something is coming—“This is important for down the line.” But I try to surprise her because I feel like when she reads the scripts fresh, it gives her work some spontaneity. It’s a chance to explore what she thinks and how her artistic mind works. You don’t want to plan for the madness, but see what the madness inspires. If I told her everything all at once, I think she would start planning things and it would become too formed. But allowing her to read it fresh brings a sort of looseness to it.
She may disagree with me, but I think that works really well. I think that when you’re dealing with madness, you really want that looseness.
Since we’ve been talking about madness, so far in Shade, the Changing Girl, the madness has been this sort of surreal, almost beautiful visual. Do you think you’ll ever try to touch on actual mental illness in this series? Or do you prefer keeping it abstract and surreal?
Well, I think there are little hints of it. In issue #6, when she goes to the school nurse, the nurse calls Megan’s mom and tells her that they’re not equipped to handle mental problems like Megan’s. So I’m touching on it and I think there’s room for that. One of the things with Shade is that I’m trying not to go too fast. I really want to make sure that there are layers of care that are taken with everything, especially as the madness blooms more and more.