Comics

Comic Book Retrospect: DC Comics’s Young Animal

DC's Young Animal had its own little pocket within the existing DC Universe.

Gerard Way used to make comics for DC Comics. Young Animal was his baby.

Gerard Way crossed over his Young Animal comic book imprint with the rest of the DC Universe. (Art by Nick Derington)

One of the most standout features for the DC Comics Rebirth initiative was the creation of its Young Animal imprint led by Gerard Way, the singer and frontman of My Chemical Romance.

The two worlds rarely interacted for the most part. Despite existing within the same DC Universe, Young Animal always had its own little pocket away from everyone. Milk Wars was a crossover event that crossed the DC Universe with the Young Animal universe.

Wonder Woman Photo from Screen Rant (Image by Frank Quitely)

I was excited for the potential interaction among the Trinity of DC: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman with the characters from Young Animal including the Doom Patrol, Shade and Mother Panic.

Their Little Pocket

Like I said earlier the Young Animal (YA) world exists in its own corner of the DC Universe. Let’s put some context as to why YA even exists is that DC’s Vertigo label was on its last legs with stalwarts including Shelly Bond being released from the company around 2016.

Shade The Changing Woman Photo from DC Comics (Art by Becky Cloonan)

The whole YA universe was odd because many of these characters were already within the Vertigo Universe. DC’s habit of resetting the universe every few years caused a conundrum with the New 52 mixing Vertigo characters like Constantine and Swamp Thing into the main universe and causing confusion among readers.

Vertigo was suddenly without its core roster of characters. DC essentially left the brand to dry. In my opinion, Gerard Way essentially made Young Animal to revive Vertigo under a new name. The entire process was already being edited by Jamie Rich of the Vertigo team so there wouldn’t be much changes when it came to creative control.

The Vertigo brand had always been like an Independent Music arm for DC Comics. Creators got to keep their creations and bring them around for the most part. However, Young Animal was Vertigo with a few limitations. Most of the creations under YA were of existing characters already.

Shade The Changing Man became Shade The Changing Girl, The Doom Patrol added a few new members (including popular Casey Brinke), Cave Carson was a long-forgotten character who was revived. Mother Panic was one of the original characters from YA but she’s part of Gotham so is part of the Batman Universe.

Mother Panic Photo from IGN (Art by Tommy Lee Edwards)

In other words, Young Animal was Vertigo with some management by DC.

What did Milk Wars do?

Honestly, not that much. The DC Universe remained the same for the most part. Milk Wars was a way to do a soft reset on the Young Animal Universe with characters like Cliff Steele aka Robotman becoming human again, Shade The Changing Girl becoming Shade The Changing Woman. Cave Carson’s Eye became even Interstellar and not just Cybernetic.

The Milk Wars Crossover brought the Young Animal Universe into the wider audience of DC and I’m glad they did. As a fan of Shade, I hope we get a series, live or animated, to show everyone how relatable the character is.

What made Young Animal Work?

The Young Animal brand was great because it refreshed characters that were long forgotten by most fans.

Personally, I barely knew anything about the Doom Patrol before the Young Animal series. Having Gerard Way definitely helped bring in more fans. I truly believe that if it wasnt for the Gerard Way series then we would not have gotten the Doom Patrol TV series that we have all come to love.

The Gerard Way version of the comic introduced me to classic characters like Rita Farr, Cliff Steele, Larry Trainor and even Crazy Jane. Casey Brinke, the newest addition, was a wonderful character to have as an outsider learning more about the Doom Patrol and its history.

One of the best aspects of Casey as a character is that she’s learning to adapt to change. This is a common theme among the Young Animal comics.

Mother Panic, Cave Carson and the rest of the characters share the same feeling of growing up and trying to balance being a kid at heart and being an adult and having responsibilities, something I personally still struggle with to this day.

All Young Animal characters share those struggles and I can feel for them and the comics are an outlet for me to say “Wow.” I can definitely relate to Shade’s one year journey of travelling the universe to find out where they fit in.

Where does Young Animal go from here?

DC did add another Green Lantern into the group called Far Sector, but I personally do not know much about her. All I know is that the Young Animal imprint is pretty much done at this point since Far Sector is the only comic still running under that imprint of DC.

Beyond Young Animal, I hope that the titles get revived under DC Black Label or Vertigo or whatever they call the imprint these days.

Young Animal will always be a fond footnote in the long history of DC Comics.

Steven Maxwell Tan

Steven is a Content Producer by day and Writer/Podcaster by Night. He loves Linkin Park and is fond of the Moomin Franchise. You can find more of his geeky thoughts on Twitter: @steviesaidyup

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