The floor was bumping as I headed up the stairs to the second floor of the DC booth to meet with Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone to chat about DC’s Young Animal series, Shade, the Changing Girl. I was greeted with smiles, laughter and Cecil saying, “Thank you so much, you guys have been so lovely to our book.” I expressed how we are looking forward to continuing the series and Marley added “I am excited for you to pick up in the next arc because I think we have done some really cool stuff.”

For those of you not familiar with Shade: On a faraway planet, Loma longs to feel things. She throws away her old life steal the madness coat and heads to Earth where she expects everything to be a dream. Then reality strikes.

AiPT! started off by uncovering the backdrop for Shade and asked, how did you come up with madness as a vehicle? Cecil explained “that’s actually part of the original Shade; the Ditko Shade was sort of an area that kept Meta shrouded from Earth and stuff. In the Milligan it was sort of an area and people traveled through it so I just sort of thought it was a conduit. Sort of like a madness stream that you could kind of surf.” Marley added “Even Rac Shade kind of surfed that and found his own body when he came to Earth in the Vertigo series and we are just kind of replicating the experience.”

We’re all mad here–well, at the very least, Loma is. Madness is prevalent throughout the comic series and is portrayed with melted circles and vivid colors. One could say it’s a bit psychedelic. So how exactly did Marley come up with the color scheme and shapes that represent madness? “In the initial phases with Kelly we were kind of going back and forth on palette but you know she really nailed it in the first issue. We figured out kind of how to go in there and add extra texture. Where I get the influences from–a lot of the influences are from some of the other creators on Shade from before so Brendan McCarthy is a good influence, Jamie Hewlett, Chris Bachalo they are all kind of big people that I get a lot from. That and I love David Lynch. I like freaky things. If it’s metaphysical I might be into it.”

“I like freaky things. If it’s metaphysical I might be into it.”

Shade, the Changing Girl has a diverse cast of characters. Loma, the main female protagonist, is an avian alien. She has left her boyfriend Lepuck behind on Meta and as he sits pining for her return we are left to ponder, exactly what species is Lepuck? In unison “He’s a space panda!” Cecil affirmed and Marley echoed, “He’s a sexy panda.” They went on to say Lepuck was kind of like an octopus as well. Marley explained “I imagine if you touched him he would kind of feel not like fuzzy but more like a dolphin.” Cecil added “moist but leathery.” They both agreed he is a “panda in the heart and the eyes.”

Continuing to dig in on the characters of Shade, we spent some time talking about Megan and the “awful person” that she is. Cecil spoke of Megan’s coldness and lack of empathy, saying, “For me she is a mesh of people. I have known, sadly, sociopaths and so I sort of drew on that horrible experience in my life to sort of talk about that.” “The girl stuff is sort of like an amalgam of all the mean girls I have ever encountered in my life.” Marley interjects, “I went to private school, we had a lot of that. We knew everybody’s last name.” [giggle] “It’s problematic.” Cecil further explained that the problem with mean girls is that they never understand that they are a mean girl. Marley reinforced that thought with “everyone thinks they’re the hero in their own story.” Megan thinks “when I get my body back I am going to fix everything.” It was important to Cecil to make Megan more than a mean girl to make her very “vicious and someone that nobody wants around.”

“It makes it much more compelling to make Megan so terrible because then you have this character who doesn’t understand, she’s obsessed with “Life with Honey” which is not really a real view of Earth or humans or whatever, totally idealized, from fifty years ago and then she is plunked into a body of someone who is horrible. And so it’s like she doesn’t even stand a chance. So that’s very compelling when you are writing someone because how do you have a coming of age story in a way, or an evolving story of a being when [you’re] literally–and I am going to use a bird analogy–hav[ing] your wings clipped by the body that you’re in?” “She is also older and I think that is a really important point. She has run away from Meta because she doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of her own life and she wants to start fresh but she’s landed in a body that has its own consequences as well and it’s kind of like wherever you go there you are.”

Can you imagine being Megan’s parents? These poor folks have had it rough. Cecil really enjoyed the part where her parents were digging in the basement for the record player because Megan seems to like old music. The parents are rolling with it because they would “rather have this one than the old one.” Cecil sees this as an idea of hope and resilience and the idea that maybe people can actually change and grow.”

Marley reminds us that both Loma and Megan “are imperfect. It’s not like Loma is a peach anyway–she’s running away from gambling debts and she’s leaving poor Lepuck behind so she’s kind of callous in her own way too. She thought she was jumping into an idealized perfect world where she could be, you know, brand new and everything ends up biting her.” Cecil followed up with, “Something that I like about her is that she’s so into coming to Earth for feeling that she is ready to feel it and then ready to like move on.”

Thank you to Cecil, Marley and DC for the fantastic opportunity, and please check out Shade, the Changing Girl!