Don't freak out: Talking DC's Mother Panic with writer Jody Houser

Gotham isn’t a safe place for anyone, but it’s about to become an even more dangerous place to be a celebrity. When Mother Panic #1 drops this Wednesday, it will introduce Violet Paige, aka Mother Panic, a new vigilante to the Gotham scene, one who targets the stars of DC's darkest city.

Mother Panic will be the final debut of the launch of Gerard Way’s Young Animal line at DC, having been preceded by Doom Patrol, Shade the Changing Girl and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to talk to Way about Young Animal and Mother Panic back in April, and now I’m bringing you a new interview with series writer Jody Houser (Faith). We talked about her influences on the book, working with series artist Tommy Lee Edwards, Mother Panic’s place in Gotham, and much more.

Read on to learn more about this exciting new character, drool over the first three issues’ covers by Tommy Lee Edwards, and be sure to pick up Mother Panic #1, in stores tomorrow.

 

What did you find exciting about Young Animal that made you want to be part of it?

Just that it was a way to bring back something that I think fans had been missing a little bit since Vertigo went with a more creator-owned focus. So just getting in on the ground floor of anything like that is pretty exciting.

This is the only book in the line that isn’t riffing on an older property or rebooting a franchise. Did that change the way you approached the book at all? And are there any past series you might have been influenced by while writing this book?

I guess I just really pulled influence from Gotham itself, all the stories people have told with the various Bat-family members, and just tried to push things in a little bit of a different direction than we’ve seen. We’re exploring a side of Gotham that, you know, Batman and his family might not necessarily engage in because they’re not in mature readers books.

Since you mention the Bat-family, Violet’s suit is both different and evocative of the typical Bat-suit. Is there a visual statement she’s trying to make with it?

That I’m not sure. That design came from Tommy Lee Edwards and he actually worked inside a 3-D rendering program to make a helmet that worked from pretty much every angle. So whichever side you’re seeing her from, she’ll still look really cool. So I think the emphasis with her was a little bit more to create a hero that definitely has a more high-tech look than you see. I mean, Batman has a lot of his gadgets, buts his uniform is still sort of a very classic callback over the decades. So I think it was sort of more about giving Mother Panic a very new, clean look, but something that was still very cool and still felt like it fit in Gotham.

In regards to her name — and the title — is her goal as Mother Panic to incite panic? Or is there another meaning behind it?

That name actually is a reference back to her childhood that we’ll see a little bit more of — I don’t want to spoil it too much — but it ties into Gatherhouse, the school she went to.

 

In the Who’s Who entries from the Young Animal books, I read that her brother is the one that sent her to that school. Is he someone that we’ll be seeing a lot of in the series?

So far we’ve mostly just seen him in flashback, I think he will come up in the present day, but Violet really has a long list of people that she feels owe her a debt, and I think family is someone she’d push a little farther down the line.

Let’s talk a bit about the enemies she’s facing. What is it about these kinds of celebutantes that she thinks is deserving of punishment?

Right now it’s really just a straight-up revenge gig for her. She isn’t trying to be a hero, she doesn’t necessarily want to be a hero, but I think as she goes along in her journey, A) there’s only so far she can go without getting kicked out of Gotham by Batman and friends, and B) I think she’s going to learn that she isn’t as coldhearted as she think she is. And that maybe just a pure revenge identity isn’t really who she is or who she wants to be. Well, I think it’s who she wants to be, but not necessarily something she can stomach.

Will she be sticking mostly to this celebrity corner of Gotham, or will she be interacting with some of its more colorful elements and villains?

There’s definitely colorful elements but so far it’s pretty much all new villains that she’s coming up against. I’m working with Gerard, he had some really cool concepts for villains, and we’re trying to make characters that are new, but that again, sort of feel like they really fit in Gotham and belong in Gotham and are the kind of crazy that you wouldn’t be surprised to pass by on the street in Gotham. [Laughs] Which is pretty easy, Gotham’s a pretty messed-up place.

When I talked to Gerard about the character earlier this year he said that Courtney Love was a big inspiration for her. Were there any celebrities whose voices you are looking at when you write Violet?

I’m not looking at particular celebrities so much as I am celebrity culture, and the way that social media plays such a big role these days… idolization, TMZ… sort of every move is watched, and for someone like Violet, just playing dumb like Bruce Wayne does isn’t going to work. You know she’s going to be in the spotlight, so for her, just sort of being as outrageous as possible, some of that is so people won’t look deeper, and some of that is just because she’s a really angry person, and that’s who she is. And, y’know, she maybe has poor impulse control. [Laughs] So, some of it’s a cover, but less of it than with someone like Bruce.

 

What is your favorite part of writing Violet?

Violet’s relationship with her mom is actually one of my favorite things. I think that’s just a relationship we see in comics that much in general and especially with so many superheroes being orphans and a lot of times their father-figures are sort of cited as their inspiration more than their mothers. And, y’know, her mom is still alive, her mom is someone who needs her help, who she’s caring for, and isn’t necessarily in the same reality on a day-to-day basis. So it’s a really difficult relationship, but it’s the most important one in Violet’s life. It’s just as—if not more—important to her than her whole revenge journey.

Tell me a little bit about working with Tommy Lee Edwards on this book. What does he bring to this book, and how do you write the book differently for him than if the book had a different artist?

Well Tommy was actually on the book before I was, he was working on the character before I was, so I’m definitely leaning into him a lot for visuals and how we want the book to look, and the tone. And when I script I tend to do full script but I leave as much room as possible for the artist to do layouts and play with how things look without putting too much of the workload on them. And Tommy is just amazing, so I know whatever I give him he’s just going to make it a million times better than I ever could have imagined. He’s really good. [Laughs] Basically I’m writing a comic and then just being incredibly happy when art comes in.

What do you think will surprise people about Mother Panic and what surprised you about it as a writer?

I think the family aspect I was mentioning will definitely surprise people, because again, that’s not something we necessarily see as the focus in superhero comics. Parents are just “parents.” And I think just seeing someone at the beginning of their journey. She’s a person who thinks she knows what she wants, but maybe she isn’t as clear on it as she thinks she is, so it’s just a fun journey to go along on, and to sort of see who exactly she’s going to be. The first arc is actually called “A Work in Progress,” and that’s pretty much—very much—who she is at that point.

Freaking out about this or any of the other Young Animal comics? Panic in the comments below.

 

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