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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Examining DC's Young Animal ashcan

I don't think any new material that DC comics has released in the last three years has excited me as much as this Young Animal ashcan I picked up at my local comic book shop last month. This eight-page sampler gives us a glimpse of the new DC 'for mature readers' imprint that Gerard Way will be ringleading.

I'd first like to point out the wrap-around cover of this beaut — which is a fantastic throw-back to the Who's Who wrap-around covers I fondly remember from my eighties comic book collecting childhood:

Wrap-around cover of DC's Young Animal ashcan (2016). Cover by Paul Rentier.

A few of the Who's Who wrap-around covers for quick comparison:

Cover of Who's Who v1 #12 (1986) by Paris Cullins and cover of Who's Who v1 #24 (1987) by Eduardo Barreto

Moving past my love for DC's Who Who series, the cover art has a very nice 'early 90s pre-Vertigo' feel to it. Bonus that it's in black & white. Bonus that there's random fonts in different typefaces floating around — like someone really messed up at the printing press and decided 'nah, let's distribute it anyways'. The bizarre array of characters on the cover remind me of the excitement of reading early Vertigo comics. "New characters! Who are they? How do they relate to current or legacy DC characters? Tell me more!", or even the feeling of counter-culture rebelliousness I felt I projected as I thumbed through my copy of Dark Horse's Tank Girl.

I'm feeling that the Robotman illustration is an exact swipe of a previous Who's Who entry...

Hey, I was right! Doom Patrol illustrated by John Byrne

Moving beyond the cover, which seems to speak more than a thousand words, the interior cover page treats us to a message from Gerard Way with an accompanying photo, followed by a few full-page Who's Who entries and a few pages from the flagship titles that will be launching this imprint. The whole package concludes with a page of head shots of the creative teams working on this imprint, and an interior back page cover with teasers of what the covers of the 1st issues will look like.

Let's start with Gerard Way. I've never read the Umbrella Academy (apparently it won an Eisner Award), nor did I listen to My Chemical Romance very much ["It's not okay (I Promise)" received a lot of airplay on our local rock station back in 2004] and I don't know anything about his personal likes or dislikes in comic books. His 'Letter from Gerard' mentions that 'the past is just as important to Young Animal as the future' (in a comic book context), so this gives me high hopes. He also throws around the word 'collaborative' a bunch of times — I'm interpreting this as him telling us he's not going to go all "1980's Jim Shooter" on us.  [Not that that was necessarily a bad thing.]

Shade, the Changing Man #51 (1994). cover by Sean Phillips

The Who's Who entries introduce us to a few new characters (and re-introduces us to one revamped oldie). 'Shade, The Changing Girl' is making me want to dig out my Peter Milligan Shade, the Changing Man Vertigo issues from 1990. 'Space Case', a new Doom Patrol member, looks suspiciously like she was illustrated by Mike Allred. 'Mother Panic' is an interesting character, if only for the Bat insignia floating in the background of her bio pic and the implication that she's a bisexual. Cave Carson seems to be the legacy hero they plucked out of obscurity to be revamped for a new audience (while still respecting his roots) via a new cybernetic eye. So far, all four of these titles have my interest — with Shade, The Changing Girl and the Doom Patrol leading the pack.

Brave and the Bold #41 (1962). A Cave Carson adventure.

There are a few black and white preview pages from each of the four new books, but there's no dialogue — so that doesn't really tell me much. The art is clean and uncluttered, except for the Mother Panic excerpt, which appears to be a 2 page ink-wash drawing. This all looks very good so far.

I'm reviewing the last page's Young Animal Creative Team roster, and there's not one name I recognize. Oh wait,... there's Todd Klein, He's lettering Doom Patrol.

This ashcan makes a strong first impression. If this webzine were ever to be published as a print 'zine, this is how I'd want it to look. Publishing a new imprint with a cast of relative unknowns could be viewed as a risky proposition, but IF they can tap into the creative energy that fueled the late 80s/early 90s pre-Vertigo rush that led to the publication of so many great comics that we STILL talk about today, then we may have a winner here.

This is definitely an imprint I recommend keeping a (non-cyberentic) eye on.


1 comment:

  1. Nice read! Not sure how I JUST happened across this, but I'm glad I did.
    Like you, I never listened to MCR, but I have read Umbrella Academy and strongly recommend it, especially for folks looking forward to Way's work on Doom Patrol. It's Morrison-influenced, but in a good way, and it makes for a nice sampling of the type of tale Way might bring in this direction. It stops short of being a Doom Patrol tryout book and performs nicely of its own accord.
    As for Space Case, that's Casey Brinke, who is, as I see her, the anchor for the new Doom Patrol. Yes, Robotman's going to be there, but Casey keeps popping up. The art for her in the ashcan is by Nick Derington. Check him out here:

    Thanks for the solid read. I'm looking forward to more!