Teenage Alienation: Castellucci And Zarcone On Where ‘Shade, The Changing Girl’ Fits In [Interview]
When there are four launch titles as bold, inventive and unique as Young Animal's line-up, it's hard to pick a stand-out, but Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick's Shade, The Changing Girl has established itself as a weird mix of deeply personal and super sci-fi high-concept, with one of the strongest collaborative voices in mainstream comics today
This week, DC and Young Animal release the climax of Shade's first story, as Megan Boyer returns and wants her body back from the weird alien bird that stole it. ComicsAlliance caught up with Castellucci and Zarcone to talk about high school anxiety, Pinterest collaboration, and Shade's future in the larger DC Universe.
ComicsAlliance: With the first arc of Shade, The Changing Girl in the books, have you had time to reflect on the story so far and how it may have grown and changed from the initial pitch?
Cecil Castellucci: It is always interesting how a story morphs from initial spark and idea and potential to the story that actually ends up on the page. When you have a pitch, the whole world is open, but once you start writing and making choices things fall away. It amazes me as well, how much of the heart and the thread stays the same despite all the things that you let go of.
With Shade, that heart is very much still there. For me, the learning curve has been the monthly aspect of it. That has made me grow as a writer. So in a way, Shade has changed me.
CA: What was it about the American high school experience, especially the distinct and unique experience of an American teenage girl, that lent itself to the high-concept trippiness of the “Shade” concept?
CC: I think that when we are teenagers, we are in a state of flux. Our bodies are changing from child to adult. We feel like aliens. Our bodies become a little alien as they sprout. It is also a time of heightened emotions. Teenagers are experiencing many things for the first time. First love. First betrayal. First awakening. Everything is a first, and so it feels huge. It feels like the end of the world. It feels so incredibly important.
That’s what has always appealed to me as a writer of Young Adult books, even though Shade is technically a mature title and not a young adult one, the same things about Shade being a teenager are interesting. All of the rawness that is embedded in the teenage experience lends itself really well to trippiness and to Shade’s strange adventure in a new body.
Marley Zarcone: I can't say that every American high school experience is uniform, but I do know how powerful a bully like Megan can be in that environment. A lot of the initial madness in Shade is drawn from Megan's impact on others, especially her high school victims and minions. The madness coat is basically connecting those experiences and teenage emotional hormonal weirdness to a loudspeaker, which then manifests in unpredictable ways.
CA: One of the most distinctive things about Shade is its striking color-palette. How much of a conversation was there between the two of you and Kelly Fitzpatrick, before work ever began on the book, as to what tone to strike visually?
CC: I started a secret Pinterest group so that we could kind of have a starting conversation and vocabulary. Mostly I am quiet and let Marley and Kelly do the talking about it. I’ll pipe in ever so slightly, mostly when it comes to the Megan Cloud character, just to make sure that is clear. Kelly is really incredible, and has a very cool sense of what’s going on. The most enjoyable conversation I had with her alone was about Planet Meta. We had a long text with each other about the kind of planet and vegetation it had and what that might look like from space.
MZ: The first issue is where Kelly and I ironed out the visuals. We initially traded palettes on characters and what not. Gerard contributed as well, and pushed for more screen tones. After that, Kelly really took off. She has such a strong point of view, and I love her bold decisions!
CA: Aside from the obvious signifiers, such as clothing and coloring, how do you approach presenting two identical people fighting each other and convey what makes them different?
MZ: Personality has an incredible influence on a person's physical appearance, so I depend heavily on facial expressions and body language to differentiate the two. Megan is confident, cruel, and she can be petulant when things aren't working in her favor, whereas Loma Shade is an inquisitive, wide-eyed, outsider, steadily going through a stream of unfamiliar hormonal responses. Even if they had identical hair and clothing, I think the divide would be very apparent.
CA: In terms of big C-Continuity, Shade hasn’t really shown any links to the larger DCU outside of references to Rac Shade himself? Is that something you’d both like to explore, or is Shade better off on the smaller scale?
CC: Right now Shade’s world is small, because she is in a small place. But there is a whole world for her to explore. There is a little nod to the DCU in issue #6. *wink wink*
MZ: Personally, I think the best option is being flexible. If adding Loma Shade to a DCU story line makes for good comics, why not drop her in?
CA: How hands on is Gerard Way’s role with Shade? How often do you touch base and keep him abreast of the direction?
CC: Every couple of months I have coffee with Gerard and just kind of stream of consciousness tell him my crazy ideas. He nods and laughs and sometimes says wow! or whoa! or claps his hands with glee and tells me get in there and to have fun. Mostly he is hands off, and me and Marley do our thing. I like to think of Gerard as the captain of the Young Animal fleet and Shade is one ship in the fleet, so he chimes in every once in a while, but we are steering our own course most of the time.
CA: Shade, The Changing Girl #6 is the big confrontation between Shade and Megan, where does the series go from there?
CC: Ha ha ha ha! A mad woman never tells her secrets! And yes! There is a confrontation, but there are so many other things that have not yet been answered. And remember, Earth is much bigger than Amelia Bloomer High School, in Valley Ville, USA. And Shade has come here to see and feel things, and see and feel things she will!
MZ: Plenty of places. We're dealing with an earth-bound alien in possession of the madness coat, an object of immense power, and Loma Shade hasn't even left town yet! I think the question is where can't we go with this series? Anyway, I'm really psyched to hear the reaction to the end of issue #6. Something crazy is taking root!