The Politics and Weirdness of Shade the Changing Girl

Cecil Castellucci tells us about what informs the strangeness of Young Animal's Shade the Changing Girl.

Following in the hallowed footsteps of creator Steve Ditko and author Peter Milligan, Cecil Castellucci has taken the reins of DC’s Shade, the Changing Man. But the author added a twist and transformed this latest version of Ditko’s creation into Shade, the Changing Girl for DC’s strangest imprint, Young Animal.

Shade, the Changing Girl is the story of an alien from the planet Meta who possesses the body of a young human girl that also happens to be the worst bully in her school. Now, in the body of this reviled young woman, Shade must navigate humanity, high school, and the madness inherent in being an alien Changing Girl. It was our pleasure to sit down with Castellucci at New York Comic Con and pick her brain about Shade, how current politics informs her writing, and what DC character she would like to bring her special brand of creative madness to next.

Den of Geek: So what’s next for Shade, the Changing Girl?

Castellucci: I can’t really talk about that yet. We just did issue #12 which left our girl Shade in a precarious position. She now has ownership of her body. She’s learned a lot about the nature of feelings and humanity. Now she’s going to explore what life can be.

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You started writing Shade about two years ago?

It was actually around April, 2016.

So we lived in a different country then (laughs). Has anything in today’s politics changed your take eon the characters? The book is about body ownership…

Yes, absolutely. It’s not only about body ownership, it’s about… right now we have a situation in our country where they want to regulate women’s bodies, and we have this character who is trying to take ownership on of her own body. That’s a tricky thing. When you’re writing a book that’s about madness, you can’t not be influenced by the world around you. No matter if it was before 2017 or after 2017, there’s always madness in the world. For Shade, we want to make sure we’re paying attention and talking about what’s happening in the real world. But at the same time, we’re doing our own thing.

Has anything changed in the book because of the election?

Yeah, it has. I mean I can’t say how it has, you can’t be an artist and not be influenced. There’s not a specific line or thing, but what happened at the end of the book was the same as it was always supposed to be.

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So how did you land the gig on Shade?

Shelly Bond, who did the Minx imprint, she gave me a call. She was running Vertigo. She was like, “Hey, so we’re doing this character who’s an alien who possesses the body of a sixteen year old girl.” Gerard Way came up with that. Shelly was like, “I think this is for you,” because it had my favorite things, teenage girls and aliens.

Is Gerard Way still involved with the book?

Gerard came up with the log line, but then he gave me the keys to the castle. I was the one who decided the alien should be a bird alien so it would be more awkward to be in a girl’s body. Gerard and I go out for coffee and I tell him my crazy ideas. He reads all the scripts and weighs in on the pencils. He’s pretty much hands off. I like to think of Young Animal as an armada, and he’s sort of the lead ship.

Did the Ditko run and Milligan run on Shade inform your work?

Absolutely, I had to make sure I was paying tribute to Ditko and Milligan’s run. I made sure to include many nods and echoes to those runs.

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What do you think is in the DNA of the character that makes DC turn to it again and again when Shade has never really been an A-list type character?

I think there’s something so incredibly strange about an alien whose super power is madness. Because madness is such a part of our lives. We all are experiencing big emotions and dark fears. Having a character that amplifies those feelings is interesting. But it’s also scary. I think that’s why every twenty years or so, we revisit Shade.

What DC character would you love to give the Young Animal treatment to?

There’s these characters, the Royal Flush Gang, they’re a pack of playing cards…

That would be awesome. There’s a Justice League episode with the Royal Flush Gang that made me cry harder than any cartoon had a right to make me cry. How about a more mainstream character?

Actually Mera would be awesome. I love her as a character.

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Back to Shade, where did the idea of using a faux 50s sitcom in Shade come from?

“Life with Honey.” It was a riff on I Love Lucy. I read somewhere that when Lucy was broadcast, the waves actually bounced off planet Earth and into outer space, so the first images alien would have seen of us would have been I Love Lucy. So, I loved the idea of this alien character becoming obsessed with an Earth that didn’t exist. All the “Life With Honey” backups feed into the emotional core of the main story.

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