The relaunch of DC’s Young Animal approaches, and things are going to get weird. So, it’s certainly time to check in with the team at the helm of DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS.
After reviewing DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #1, I had a lot of questions for this team. Artist James Harvey and writers Gerard Way and Jeremy Lambert were kind enough to take some time to chat with ComicsVerse about the latest incarnation of “The World’s Strangest Heroes.”
[Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]
Writing DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS
ComicsVerse (CV): For Gerard, how does it feel to be back to working on DOOM PATROL? Did you ever really leave it? And Jeremy, what’s it like to join this insane series?
Gerard Way (GW): For me, I never really stopped writing DOOM PATROL. It didn’t feel like I had a break or anything. As soon as we were done with the Reynolds issue, it was like, “Alright, let’s get started on the next DOOM PATROL arc.” It took us a minute to figure out what direction we were gonna take the art. I had a lot of discussions with Nick Derington about who we would get to follow him art-wise.
Jeremy Lambert (JL): For me, I’ve sort of been on the sidelines throughout issue nine and ten, and have sort of been in the world. And I was reading it as it was coming out — just as a fan, really — devouring everything. But I mean, I couldn’t have had a more wonderful welcome to the weird. Everyone brought me on board in the best way possible and there was a lot of support. And for me, just getting to explore one of these characters, let alone working with the team
I can’t imagine anything more fun. It’s awesome to be able to work with Gerard, and we work pretty closely together. We write out of the same studio, and we’re just working on a living document there together and are able to voice things back and forth as they come up. So it’s a really organic process, which is a lot of fun.
CV: I wanted to discuss two themes that are really prevalent in DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #1 — mental health and body positivity. Mental health has always been present in DOOM PATROL, but it was central here. Can you discuss these themes?
GW: To me, mental health has always been really important. I’m somebody that is in treatment and I work on it and I have a therapist. So it’s always been really important. It was actually the thing that first connected me to DOOM PATROL back when Grant (Morrison) was writing it. I remember this scene where they had a group therapy session, and that was my first exposure to group therapy. So I’ve always held DOOM PATROL and mental health in the same category, or in the same sentence, basically. So it was important for us to, yet again, touch on that, for us to see Jane in therapy, to show that in a positive light where talking to somebody isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You can work stuff out. And then dealing with some of Cliff’s really serious emotions. So mental health was really important to tackle in that first issue.
JL: Yeah, and it’s always been core to the book that Gerard started with and brought me in on. I pretty much fell in line with that. Because it’s extremely important to me, as well. Even with this particular issue, with the body dysmorphia aspect to it, I dealt with some of that myself. And being able to explore that in that environment and with those characters was a really cathartic process. But it also allowed us to focus on all the points that we said would be the cornerstones of the arc — one of them being positivity in many forms.
CV: On a bit of a lighter note, there are some narration bubbles in this issue that remind us who these characters are and what their stories are — serving a basic function. But they’re also kind of hysterical. For example, “Danny is literally an ambulance,” or “Fugg is Fugg” — they had me laughing out loud. So, how did you guys land on that tone, and decide they should serve more than one purpose?
GW: Yeah, they’re serving more than one purpose for sure. For me, it was really important to get people up to speed, but also have a lot of fun with it and not spend too long on it. It’s like a trick I learned writing UMBRELLA ACADEMY — the first seven pages of the first volume is just filling you in on all this stuff that you didn’t get to read in the last volumes that don’t exist and they just kind of throw you into this world. I wanted to do an even more compressed version of that. We’re not gonna show pages, we’re just gonna use captions to accomplish what I tried to once accomplish in seven pages.
JL: And I think there was even a moment, regarding the Fugg one, where it just said, “Fugg is,” in the document. And we just kind of looked at each other and wrote, “…Fugg.” You know, it just made sense.
CV: What are the pros and cons of working with a rotating art team?
GW: I was a little afraid to do it at first. I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve always worked with a consistent team or consistent artist. So, I guess I wasn’t really afraid. But I was like, “Oh, we’re gonna have to change gears every single time. And write for somebody totally different, and learn their art style and learn their art form.” And that actually ended up being a lot of fun and refreshing. I think it’s one of those things that makes all of the issues feel so different from each other. It’s the rotating art team as well as the rotating subject each issue.
JL: Yeah, I mean it was something that I was a little bit hesitant of because I wanted to make sure that we had something that… You know it ended up working out in a wonderful way because it helped the discussion of what we wanted the art to be. It just sort of brought a new, fresh perspective with each book and helped us to explore characters in new ways. And it went hand-in-hand with the approach to the structure, and once all those elements fell into place it just made total sense. It’s extremely exciting to be able to work with so many talented people throughout the art.
CV: Last time around, there were small issues with timing — issues coming out late, etc. Was that something you wanted to change for DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS?
GW: It’s definitely something we wanted to change. It was why it took so long for these next six to come out. We wanted a lot of scripts done, we didn’t want gaps, we didn’t want any lateness. We wanted it to consistently come out. Because when DOOM PATROL is out, it supports the rest of Young Animal, you know? So the scripts were done way in advance.
CV: What’s an old-school DOOM PATROL character you haven’t gotten around to using yet?
JL: I couldn’t speak to anything’s potential for the future, but Dorothy Spinner is my absolute favorite. I adore that character. So, who knows? But I would love to do anything with Dorothy.
GW: Yeah, I know that character is really important to Jeremy. So, it would be amazing to do something with her. I’m trying to think, because we do use a couple more this time. I wanted to at some point try to use some of the John Byrne characters. Because, I didn’t read much of it, but people seem to try and block that out, almost like it was erased from happening. And I find that really interesting. I thought there could be almost a cool, kinda meta way to bring back one of those characters and bring them back to the DC Universe in a way. And I know only what I’ve read about the reaction to that arc, so I’m sure there’s people that feel a different way. But it felt really interesting to me to try some of those characters from the Byrne run.
The Look of the Weird
CV: The look of DOOM PATROL is so unique. How do you put your own spin on it, while also staying true to the tone of the past issues and series?
James Harvey (JH): Nick Derington did such a wonderful job on the issues leading up to this one. So I wanted my art in this issue to feel familiar to people who were use to Nick’s art — just to pay respect to both him and the people who’ve been along for the ride so far. I’m not sure I was able to match him in terms of sheer ability, because he’s an incredible comics drawin’ machine. But I hope that the clean lines, bold graphic shapes and appealing compositions we expect from his art are all present and correct for the most part.
(JH): At the same time, I used certain pages and sequences as an opportunity to stretch out and experiment. I think Gerard’s audience are smart and will pretty much follow him on any wild ride he chooses to bring them on, and I wanted to take advantage of that freedom. I think if I did any more issues I would have continued to push things further and truly make the series my own, but I’m pleased with the two I’ve done.
CV: The use of color in DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #1 is so effective. The dissonance between Cliff’s scenes and the rest of the issue is pretty significant. Can you talk about that approach?
JH: I can’t talk about the color without talking about Sajan Rai, the other colorist, and Abigail Lupine, the flatting assistant. Generally our workflow went like this — Abby laid down the initial flat colors, then Sajan changed them into his own vision, adding texture, shadow, and other painterly elements, and I did the final pass.
Sometimes I changed a lot, others not so much — the pages with Cliff and Rita are about 90% Sajan, and the pages on Planet Orbius are pretty close in spirit to what Sajan gave me. I think this tag team method is a cool approach, since the end result is generally the work of no one person. Each colorist puts the next person in a crazy position they have to try and navigate and work around. It’s like playing Art Twister. This is the only issue we did like that because I think it would have driven us all insane in the long run, but it was a lot of fun.
Gerard wrote the final two pages with Cliff as a homage to the opening of Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. So I ran all the way with that and made the coloring on all of Cliff’s scenes a homage to Lynn Varley’s incredible coloring on that book. There’s a synergy between Frank’s ink and Lynn’s paint that I find extremely compelling. I wanted to see what it was like step into those shoes and paint like Lynn for a couple of pages. Again, this is what I like about doing Doom Patrol with Gerard. It gives us the freedom to try on a lot of different hats.
CV: What character did you enjoy playing with the most, and why?
JH: I’m always really excited to draw rubbery limbs and distorted human bodies. So of course Rita was massively appealing to me. I also asked Gerard to put more Lotion into the next issue and holy cow. He did not disappoint — I don’t get nearly enough opportunities to draw a furry cat dude.
CV: Can you walk me through the design for the residents of the planet Orbius? That was a highlight of the issue for me.
JH: Gerard asked for them to be in 80’s athletic gear, so that was a pretty easy choice. The mullets, headbands and mustaches pretty much drew themselves after that. As for Corban The Orb God, I got a divine message from another plane of existence telling me how to draw that character and I’m fairly sure that message was from Corban The Orb God himself.
CV: Another highlight was brain cross-section page, where Jane is in a therapy session. Where did that concept originate, and how did you go about executing it?
JH: I noticed the page had four panels, so I thought — what if each panel represented a different quadrant of the brain, as proposed in Ned Hermann’s “Whole Brain Model”? And maybe the dialogue in each panel could represent a different quadrant. So I talked to Gerard about it and he loved the idea. But I can’t remember if he got around to changing the dialogue to fit the whole quadrant thing, so… I leave it up to the reader to decide how well it works on that front. It’s still pretty cool, though!
I like this page because it was made by five different people and you can tell. There are ideas on this page that are pure Sajan, like the white panel borders creeping into the sofa and the sofa becoming a brain itself. There’s a large cell shaded overlay of the brain’s shadow that is all Abby. The idea for the subway map in the background of panel three is Jeremy, I think. And only Gerard would write a comic where superheroes go to the gym, get therapy, buy an emotional support animal, visit their parents, and generally work on themselves, and then still say “yes” to every crazy idea I throw at him.
It was a lot of work pulling the whole thing together and making the disparate elements gel into a holistic thing and for the longest time I had no idea if it was going to work or not. So I’m really pleased that it seems to be so many people’s favorite page.
DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #1 comes out this Wednesday, July 3rd. Check it out at your local comics shop!