Trash Mutant Interviews (TMI): Gerard Way
- by Jacurutu99, 29 March 2017
With most of the gang in place now (perhaps a few more to come?), it's time to sit down with Gerard Way and take a look at issues 1-5!
TRASH MUTANT: Larry Trainor AKA Negative Man has been explored in the series in a way I don't think any other writer has done previously. We've seen his companion, Negative Entity, in a completely new way, as well as the entire Negative Space. And Larry himself seems to literally feed off of Negative Energy. What influenced your take on this particular character?
GERARD WAY: I love Larry so much, so let me give you a long answer with some insight on our approach.
I feel like Larry Trainor is in a constant state of change and restructuring, and what I sought to do was make him mostly Larry, but with fragments of his past, almost as if he was a collection of phantom-limbs. He’s also someone that has been torn apart and put back together before, but never had a say in that matter, so I wanted to explore Larry’s feelings about that, and his feelings about being The Negative Man in general.
The character was challenging to figure out at first. There have been many incarnations of the character over the years, with many different configurations, but I wanted to do something new while acknowledging the past. One of the most beloved incarnations of the character is obviously Rebis, and they are special to me as well, but I felt like that version of the character, and their way of speaking, was connected so deeply to Grant’s brain that attempting to write Rebis would have been a pale imitation, and again I wanted to be able to explore different themes with the character. Though moving forward, no part of the character’s history is off the table, and like I said, Larry is in a constant state of change. And in the story, I made sure The Negative Entity mentioned all of the people that had been a part of him, and that they have been renewed, out there somewhere in the universe, because I wanted those characters to be alive and functional again in some way so we could potentially write them, or anyone writing for DC for that matter.
I also understand that even though Rebis was grounded in mythology as opposed to reality, the character represented something to people, and I didn’t seek to rob people of that, I just wanted to explore different things at the moment. And Doom Patrol is a book that is ripe for representation, so I felt we could explore certain subjects with other characters and story elements, though we are still really early in the series and trying to bring everyone together. I always think about it though, and I hope to bring back an old character that explores the themes of gender and sexuality in some way, and with new characters as well. But I can assure you’ll I’ll be doing as much homework as possible on any subject I want to bring into the story, and in the case of the older character I mentioned, I am going right to the creator of the character for information on how to best present them. But I also don’t want to dangle that like a carrot in front of people, there are stories we need to get through and relationships to set up, so I’m not sure when this will happen, though I remain excited about the possibilities. At the end of the day though, Nick and I can’t seem to stop creating new characters to throw into the mix, and we imagine the book will be getting quiet crowded in the future - I have written up a post-it-note that dangles off of my computer monitor with all of the current characters, and I’ve run out of room.
I became interested in Larry as someone that is mostly but not fully themselves, carrying fragments as I had mentioned earlier. Then we have the new additional layer of Larry’s innermost parallel lifetime running in his head when he unleashes the spirit, and we’ve already seen him go through it (or at the end of it) in a basic fashion where he isn’t a super hero and never went on that fated test-flight, instead having a wife and a daughter and a grandchild, but I plan on seeing Larry experiment with these lifetimes. They are very real to him, and he leads a full life each time the spirit is unleashed. He learns something each time, and these experiences have an effect on him. He may also feel things in this parallel life that he doesn’t feel when he is in the “real” world and sharing a body with Keeg the Negative Spirit.
I was inspired by the Negative Spirit and a potential home for the entities, which I ended up calling the Negative Space.
There is a sadness and an inherent confusion to Larry that drew me to wanting to write him specifically as Larry Trainor, fractured ex-pilot, and he’s been one of my favorite characters to explore. He’s also great with Cliff by his side. There is a natural chemistry between them, like an unspoken understanding.
We see a lot of ties to the last incarnation of Doom Patrol from Keith Giffen's run which ended in 2011. Larry tells a story—referencing Oolong Island as the last thing he remembers, which was the location of the Doom Patrol’s base during Giffen's stay. Many writers attempt to clean the slate as much as possible when it comes to a a long running series and many versions of a group, but it seems you would like to acknowledge the entire history of Doom Patrol, while at the same time, it's not necessary for a reader to have read the previous runs to follow along. Talk a bit about what led to this decision.
GERARD: Getting everything together to write this series was an intense process. There were times where I thought it would just be easier to wipe the slate clean, but I’m a fan of continuations rather than re-boots. I now own every single issue of Doom Patrol (at least I’m pretty sure). I haven’t read all of them, and I’m most familiar with the original series by Drake and Premiani, Grant and Richard’s run, Rachel, Ted, Richard and other’s run, and then a dash of Giffen’s run. So those were the stories I drew inspiration from, while at the same time trying to give new readers access to these characters and stories.
But there were many a night I spent hitting brick walls and wracking my brain trying to make sense of everything. Eventually, I broke through, and you have the current incarnation of Doom Patrol. I saw it as a worthwhile challenge to draw in as much of the past as I could. I think Giffen’s run ended up being the most challenging, and eventually rewarding to work in. I had to figure out how to get Danny from a street, to a world, to a brick, to a cabana, to a brick, and then an ambulance, but amazing characters were born out of all of that, like Ricardo the cabana boy, so I’m grateful for all of those crazy ideas. I also plan on exploring other runs I am less familiar with, as I feel that all incarnations of this team are valid in some way, and could provide really interesting challenges and story opportunities. I also want to reward long-time readers of the book, as well as excite new ones with older concepts presented in a new way.
You originally pitched a new Doom Patrol series to DC a couple of years with some concept art by Becky Cloonan. What has changed from that initial pitch and the version we see now with Young Animal? What elements remain?
GERARD: The first 6 pages I wrote and the first pitch comes from an intense burst of inspiration I experienced in South America on tour with my band, having just read the then newly released reprint of the final graphic novel from Grant and Richard’s (and others) run. And there were starts and stops with that version, we got pretty close at one time, but life got in the way of that, and I wasn’t fully ready to write the book. The original is a little bit cynical, and the characters of Casey and Sam were different people, but they were always EMT’s.
A funny thing that happened was that I sent these pages to Grant, or had at least told him what the idea was, and then he mentioned a Doom Patrol film script he had written where they drive around in an ambulance with “Doom Patrol” spray-painted on the side. It hadn’t occurred to me to make their ambulance their Batmobile, but the EMT’s were always there, so I thought that was a pretty incredible coincidence, at least how I remember it, and then his idea of having them drive around in the ambulance planted the seed in my head that gave birth to the idea of Danny becoming the ambulance, and it kept going from there. Grant has been extremely supportive and encouraging, giving me insights to all of these characters, taking a look at what I’ve done and giving me input. That’s been another rewarding part of the experience, connecting with some of the creators of Doom Patrol’s past and gaining insight from them. Grant, Richard Case, and Rachel Pollack have been incredibly supportive and encouraging.
Any chance of other Young Animal characters appearing in Doom Patrol? Cave Carson? Mother Panic? Doom Patrol members of the past?
GERARD: I’d absolutely love for characters from the Young Animal line to appear in the book, or members of Doom appearing in their books. I think the character I’m most excited or inspired to explore alongside Doom Patrol is Shade The Changing Girl. She’s enough of an oddball that it feels very natural to work her in. Crossing over is something the creators of the other books and I talk about all the time, and we think we have something in the pipeline that will satisfy that urge. We want to continue to build the Young Animal universe, and see how that further connects to the DCU.
Any "solo" issues in mind to spotlight the St. Michael’s Children’s Hospital Jamboree Fighter Squadron?
GERARD: I’d definitely love to explore single characters for issues, and get some more background on them. There is a whole world to Danny’s creations and Casey’s past that would lend themselves to complete stories, and I want readers to learn more about Fugg and where he comes from. I’d personally love a St. Michael’s Children’s Hospital Jamboree Fighter Squadron adventure, I think we’d have a lot of fun with that.
Any other creations within Danny Comics we might meet?
GERARD: I think so, even though in the story his ability to give birth is now shaky, there are other ways these ideas can get out there.
You did an article with Paste magazine talking about how music ties into your writing process overall. Issue by Issue are there certain albums or tracks that to you, sum up an entire issue? Tracks for Individual scenes? Tracks for a character?
GERARD: It has changed over time, in the beginning there was a lot of Doom Rock and Stoner Metal, but over time my listening selections have evolved into sound recording artists, like Jana Winderen. No lyrics now in anything I listen to, just sound textures. I never had a problem listening to music with lyrics before, but I’ve just grown out of them in some ways, and grown out of melody when I write for that matter. Though, every time I listen to the Pixies it makes me think of Doom Patrol, or Black Sabbath. Oh, Judas Priest was also a big part of the soundtrack in my head, and the first issue was almost called “Living After Midnight”. In fact, if they ever make a movie of our specific storyline, they should definitely have that song playing over the opening ambulance tear.
Who are the favorite metal bands for Lucius, Samuel's son, to study metaphysics and chant along to within Doom Patrol?
GERARD: Ha! Nick and I talked a lot about the kinds of metal Lucius listens to. I feel like Lucius listens to both older classic/pioneering metal that some would consider “pure metal", some 80’s thrash, and some newer sub-genres like Black Metal (newer in regards to the classic stuff, though we obviously had bands like Venom and Celtic Frost back in the day). The main band I hear in my head when I think of Lucius listening to metal is Mercyful Fate. Just anything that has an element of supposed devil-worship or the supernatural, anything that scared the PMRC back in the 80’s. In fact, the main patch on the back of his vest is a nod to a Mercyful Fate album cover. There are lots of exciting things in store for Lucius in arc 2, and music plays a big part in it.
You have had a mentor in former Doom Patrol writer Grant Morrison. While you have made it clear your goal with Doom Patrol is not to imitate what Grant did, did Grant give you any guidance/themes you took and ran with for the new series? Did Grant ever share with you differently he may have approached Doom Patrol in 2016?
GERARD: I talked a little about Grant before, but he did give me guidance, and an ambulance. We never did talk about how he would approach it in 2016, but something he said to me a while ago back when I was first exploring the series was that I had to find the new fringe, the new weird. The stuff he was writing about back then was weird, and in some ways still is, but some of what you saw back then has come into the mainstream. It was important that I looked into some things that are considered unknown, or “strange" at the moment. If I ever dive into Dada, I’m really going to have to think about what a Brotherhood of Dada looks like these days, and the fringe elements they would draw from, though I love the fact that Mr. Nobody loves pop music. At one point, I had the first notebook I started this incarnation with, which was really all over the place, but I had broken down an early version of the first issue, and Grant made me walk him through it in his apartment, which was super intimidating, but it was fun, he really responded to it, and especially loved the element of the Fly.
There have been some tremendous variant covers to the series, including issue one having a take on an album for Brian Chippendale's "Black Pus" project. Talk about the process of how that variant covers have come together. How much or how little direction do you give to the guest cover artists?
GERARD: The rest of the team, Nick Derington, Tamra Bonvillain, and Todd Klein were brought to my attention by Shelly Bond. One of Shelly’s greatest gifts as an editor (and she has many of them) is putting teams together. They all put together the purest vision of the book in my head, while at the same time making it much better. Nick, to me, represents the artist I always wished I could be. We share a lot of the same influences, and we are almost the exact same age. Nick is incredible, and he’s an amazing collaborator with great ideas I often use and incorporate into the story. He also asks great questions. Tamra just blows me away. She really gets the book, gives it what is called for, and at the same time takes it somewhere unexpected, and she really takes to the kind of art Nick makes. Todd obviously is a legend and brilliant, and it’s been super amazing to have him on board. I feel like this is one of the coolest team in comics, and we are really proud of what we do. You can feel how much everyone cares about the book when you’re reading it, in my opinion.
What about the other creative teams on the Young Animal titles?
GERARD: All the teams on all of the books were picked by the Young Animal Team and myself, and I couldn’t be happier with them. I went in with bare-bones concepts early on for Shade and Mother Panic, and the teams really ran with them, found their groove, and continue making great work. In the case of Cave Carson, I developed that more closely with Jon Rivera, my writing partner, wrote the story and the first few issues with him, and now I just work on the story with him while he’s taken over full control of the scripting and I’m really loving what he is doing. He got to write Superman before I did! The teams all really believe in the books. Mike Oeming, who handles the line art on Cave Carson, had said to me that he works on the book like it was a creator owned project — that much care goes into it. I feel that way about all of the creators on the Young Animal projects.
Forthcoming from Young Animal will be the BUG!: THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER miniseries focusing on one of Jack Kirby's more minor but wonderfully weird NEW GODS characters joining the line-up with DOOM PATROL, MOTHER PANIC, SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL and CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE. Did you approach the Allreds to put this project together? Did they bring the idea to you?
GERARD: The Allreds brought the idea to Dan DiDio and myself, and then we took it from there— but it was a very strong, fully formed idea when it was presented— the Allreds knew exactly what they wanted. Before Bug! the core concepts usually started with me, and then the teams were selected and then they did their thing, but now I see more pitches, not a lot, as we keep the development pretty close to the operation, but there are a couple more books in the pipeline that were brought in as pitches that I’m really excited about. In some ways, I feel like the Allreds are having the most fun out of any of us, and it really shows in the end result— I love the book.
Anything you would like to talk about that is within the Director's Cut of issue #1 out today 3/29?
GERARD: I’m really honored that DC felt Doom Patrol Issue 1 was enough of a success to warrant a director’s cut. There are a couple amazing things in there. Firstly, you really get a closer look at Nick’s art, and see how the book is really made on the art and storytelling level. I’m also a huge fan of the way blue pencil looks with inks, and I personally almost exclusively draw with blue pencils when I do my own work, a habit I picked up in art school. It’s a real treat to look at his work in the way it is presented in the Director’s Cut. The other great thing in the Director’s Cut is that you get to see an early version of the Issue 1 script, but with Shelly Bond’s notes. And I think in there you really get an idea of how this stuff comes together and how it constantly changes, so I was excited to share that with readers, my mistakes and all.
Massive thanks to Gerard Way for taking the time to really go into these questions and shed a whole new light on "Doom Patrol" and Young Animal! If you're not already picking the book up, do so today, get the Director's Cut of #1 and let us know what you thought!