Full Unedited Interview With Gerard Way Talking About Comics and Other Cool Stuff

The best storytellers carry their ideas in the brain like a burden. It’s not a manner of wanting to tell a story, it’s a need. Like most of us, Gerard has a day-job that usually keeps him fairly busy but his desire to tell stories never goes away and he sticks with them even years later.

We talked for a good 45 minutes and I had to cut it down a bunch so here’s basically the full interview. Thanks for reading! – Dave Scheidt

After some time and two volumes of his first comic series The Umbrella Academy along with artist Gabriel Ba, Way is back with a new series, The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys along with co-writer Shaun Simon and Illustrator Becky Cloonan. It’s been a long journey but the adventure hasn’t even begun.

In 2010, My Chemical Romance released the album “The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys which was a high concept, rip-roaring story full of deserts, laser guns and fighting for the greater good. Two videos were made from songs off that album that were the first introduction to the world of The Killjoys but as Gerard states below it works for both people familiar and not familiar with the album or their music.

I got a chance to talk to him while he locked himself away writing in a hotel room in Portland and suffice to say his love and enthusiasm for comics and art was infectious.

Dave: Who am I speaking with?

Gerard: This is Gerard Way. I’m the writer of The Umbrella Academy and The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys with Shaun Simon.

Dave: Both of those published by Dark Horse Comics, right?

Gerard: Yeah, Dark Horse Comics.

Dave: So for people who don’t already know what’s the story of The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys?

Gerard: The most basic way to describe it, having nothing do with the the album, videos or anything, to me it’s a coming to age story about a young girl. Somebody who a lot of people have died to protect and she doesn’t really know why. She’s being treated like she’s part of a prophecy and very important  but she doesn’t really know or care very much why. The story is about people trying to get you to do something, everybody has an agenda for you and trying to get you to do what they want you to do. There’s multiple different characters trying to get her to do what they want. This character kind of chooses her own path. It follows this girl around where she is in a situation where in a place called Battery City which is extremely clean and well kept and suppresses emotion. Then you have the desert that’s the flipside of that, where all these outsiders live. They both in the scheme of like Spy vs Spy, keep trying to kill each other. She’s stuck in the middle of this conflict and hopefully she has something to do with the resolution with the conflict between the two groups that’s been going on for years.

Dave: How long are you planning it to be? It’s a mini series right? 

Gerard: Yeah it’s a mini series. It’s just 6 issues.

Dave: So getting right into it, what’s it been like working with a co-writer (Shaun Simon) and obviously Becky Cloonan because her art rules. 

Gerard: Right.

Dave: What’s it like collaborating with another writer? Have you done that before? Because with The Umbrella Academy it was just you, right?

Gerard: Yeah, No I had done it before with um Scott (Allie) the editor of The Umbrella Academy. He’s a great editor that I can, I actually take direction really well. So I guess that was the closest even though I turned in the scripts alone for that. I’d definitely walk around a lot with Scott and bounce ideas off of him, Which you know I think he has that kind of relationship with other creators as well. At first I mean, we had years to work it out because I was still working on the album .At first for me there were definitely some growing pains because (writing) was always this solitary activity but then it becomes a group effort. Lots of phone conversations which I already was used to anyways with working on The Umbrella Academy but it was different but you know, then I got used to it. Shaun is so amazing like the trust developed over a year and now the way it works is really great. It was tricky at first, though.

Dave: Well yeah I can imagine when you are used to writing by yourself and isolated.

Gerard: Yeah, like the whole thing about comics is the reason I think you shoot to be a comics author is because it’s a very solitary activity and that you sit down and you’re arguing with yourself that’s kinda the plan. A lot of the other things in my life like making music, you know that’s a very collaborative thing so I work on comics because it’s not something that’s a solo activity. Having said that, working with Shaun is really fun and amazing and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him and the ideas wouldn’t have been what they are without him. We spent lots of time on the phone working on what this thing is and it changed two or three things times, too. He was really patient with me constantly changing things and he just kinda hung in there and turned into a really amazing writer.


Dave: Well yeah I can imagine when you are used to writing by yourself and isolated.

GerardYeah, like the whole thing about comics is the reason I think you shoot to be a comics author is because it’s a very solitary activity and that you sit down and you’re arguing with yourself that’s kinda the plan. A lot of the other things in my life like making music, you know that’s a very collaborative thing so I work on comics because it’s not something that’s a solo activity. Having said that, working with Shaun is really fun and amazing and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him and the ideas wouldn’t have been what they are without him. We spent lots of time on the phone working on what this thing is and it changed two or three things times, too. He was really patient with me constantly changing things and he just kinda hung in there and turned into a really amazing writer. 

Dave: That’s awesome because I know that one of the benefits of comics is kinda of you know with movies and TV and novels you always have a lot of editorial interference and producers and you’re story gets diluted because it runs through so many different channels and people. Comics are kind of one of the last pure forms of storytelling. 

Gerard: Yeah and I think that why Shaun and I’s relationship works so well is because we were so very much on the same page, we created it together. I think that was the big thing usually somebody will have an idea then five writers hop on board to make a film then all these opinions come in and eventually becomes this thing like “Whose is it anymore?’ This book is clearly Shaun and I. What’s great about Becky (Cloonan, artist of the book) is that she was involved from a very early stage not even getting paid just doing sketches for us. Way back before the comic became the album title she was doing tons of sketches and making really great art and she’s always been part of the project. She definitely had a hand in it’s creation as well. 

Dave: Obviously too, you are working with the unsung hero of comics. Dave Stewart. He’s an amazing colorist. That guy doesn’t get enough credit. 

Gerard: Yeah. Working with Dave he really wanted to do Umbrella Academy really bad cause Scott Allie (Editor) had told him about it and he wanted to try and do something he had never gotten to try before, I guess people generally in mainstream comics wouldn’t let him try and do things with like off-registered colors and experimental textures. I think why Umbrella ended up looking so special was because we kind of let him try all this stuff that kinda hadn’t been done in comics before. His color on Killjoys is different than Umbrella, It’s super vibrant almost like hyper technicolor while Umbrella was a bit more muted. 

Dave: That’s great to see him do such a full range of stuff because seeing the stuff he’s done with guys like Mignola (Hellboy) and all that great BPRD guy’s like Guy Davis and James Harren and Ba and Moon. The colors for Daytripper he did were amazing. That’s great to have him on another one of your books, because that’s one of the first things you notice when you open The Umbrella Academy. It doesn’t look like other books. I guess that’s the point?

Gerard: Yeah, that’s one of the things that makes him great is his ability to kind of reinvent every time and theres a lot of people out there who can’t do that and stuck with the one thing they do. I’d have him on anything I do.

Dave: The first we’re gonna see of it is on Free Comic Day May 4th 2013 where you are releasing like a preview issue right?

Gerard: Yeah for Free Comic Day we got to do this really cool kind of unrelated story but kind of part of the world of Killjoys. It’s a bit different than the free comic we did with The Umbrella Academy. It doesn’t really deal with any of the characters from the series but with some interesting side characters from the world. 

Dave: That’s perfect that you guys are introducing the book with Free Comic Day and smart because one of the hardest parts about getting people into comics I think is actually getting them in front of people. Free Comic Day is great because people don’t really know that comics are inviting and easily accessible. We want more readers, we don’t want to exclude people.

Gerard: Right. Free Comic Day is one of the things that helps us but comics have come a long way. Occasionally sometimes they take a step back but you know comics have come a long way to make them not feel exclusive that anyone can jump in and read them. Comics have done a really good job with that. 

Dave: So do you think Killjoys would be something easy to pick up even if they aren’t familiar with anyone of your music or the storyline?

Gerard: You mean like something for people who don’t normally read comics?

Dave: Yeah.

Gerard: Yeah actually Killjoys is less challenging than Umbrella Academy in that it doesn’t fit with any of the trapping of what you expect of a superhero comic, there’s none of that. The graphic design elements and the way the characters look and art are very far removed from superheroes. I think that’ll make it easier for someone who doesn’t read comics to pick up and read. 

Dave: Well that’s good because people kind of have this preconceived notion of what a comic is and if and when they actually try out a comic and it turns out to be a shitty superhero book that will only kind of strengthen their notion of what comics are. 

Gerard: Yeah, yeah. If you go to a really great shop that stocks really great stuff and it doesn’t makes it feel like a super secret club theres tons of stuff to find all way time.

Dave: How does it feel that you are a part of that, the way you do things differently in comics?

Gerard: It’s like a dream come true to be a part of that. Since I started as a comic person then became a musician to me it was interesting because I have this really great, interesting fanbase that’s really smart and energetic and uh how could I steer them towards a medium that shaped who I was? You know, steer them toward comics. That was really the goal, to bring a lot of readers cuz they were reading a lot of comics but most of them hadn’t been reading American comics, they’d be reading manga sitting on the floor of a Barnes and Noble. After I put out The Umbrella Academy I swear at least 60% of them told me that my book was the first American comic they’ve ever read. So that was definitely part of what I wanted to do was bring in new readers and keep comics vital by using in a (positive way) a fanbase cultivated from making music. 

Dave: Yeah, well one of the first things I noticed when reading The Umbrella Academy was in the liner notes about you and Gabriel Ba, there is just one tiny mention of you being “the singer of a band.” and I think that was really, really cool because I think any company other than Dark Horse would have thrown a huge My Chemical Romance sticker on the front of it and have that being the selling point. These kids know who you are, there’s no need for that. 

Gerard: The best part of working with Dark Horse was they were really cooperative and they completely understood why I didn’t want to exploit being in a rock band (My Chemical Romance). They were great about it and I think it only appeared once on an issue of Previews or something. That’s like it. We believed in the book so much that we thought it deserved a fair shot instead of it being a vanity project. Most times with vanity projects, publishers don’t believe in the work they just believe in the name. I wanted an even playing field because I knew I believed in the work and I wanted people to read it with an open mind. That was more important to me than selling more copies and that was more important to Dark Horse, too. They were great about it.


Dave: So that was always a conscious thing to you set from the start?

Gerard: It was so conscious that we had to be like extremely careful and strategic and there were a huge set of interviews that we didn’t do. People would try to get us to play Comic Con and we’d never do stuff like that.

Dave: I definitely really respect that because like i said any other company would have tried and made that the focus and like a marketing thing. That happens a lot in comics where companies slap names of like movie directors and other creators and give the actual writing and art to anyone just to sell the book. 

Gerard: The problem is that you still kind of see that stuff today and you’ll always see it. 

As long as somebody is guaranteed a certain number of sales you know you’re gonna keep seeing these vanity projects. I mean they have a place, they serve a function they can bring people into comics. i think it was really important that we didn’t make The Umbrella Academy a vanity project. Killjoys, it was tricky because it was connected to an album which was solely a creative decision. A decision that was like “You know what? I’m doing this cuz I have to. Not because I want to, or because I think it’s gonna sell more copies.” It was really like “This is what i’m trying to say right now and this is what i’m about.”  and the comic had to say something different and they HAVE  to be connected. I wanted something where I could explore comics and music at the same time. 

Dave: Especially if you have fans who aren’t into comics this is a cool way of extending the story in an interesting way instead of just another album. Doing things with comics that’s normally not done is always cool. 

Gerard: Thanks. One of the biggest points of the new comic is that like the band doesn’t appear in it. There are some flashbacks and stuff but we don’t focus on it, they’re not the main characters. They’re not even really characters in it. There’s references to the videos but you don’t even need to see them or listen to the album. You really are getting a complete story without having to go “Well what does the song mean with the album?” It just like four guys who died trying to do a suicide mission, basically. That’s really it. You see how that affects the girl in the book, those four people could have been anybody.

Dave: So the third video everyone was waiting for to complete the story, the comic kind of finishes the story up?

Gerard: Yeah, that’s one of the real interesting things about it. It evolved into that because the image Becky Cloonan created for the third single “The Only Hope For Me Is You” which was supposed to be the last video and basically we wanted to make this video and the third part but we ran out of money. The first two videos were so expensive and there wasn’t enough money left. We set aside a certain amount of promotion money for that and you know videos are really expensive and they really don’t play them on TV, It was a problem. Becky created the image for the single art and when I saw it it was the girl at 16 and when I saw it, I called up Shaun immediately and said “I think this is the comic. We’re not gonna make this last video and I’d like to see this part told and tell it in a way that it was totally within itself.” You get everything you need out of this part without having to see those first two videos. 

Dave: So you’re not excluding anyone but extending the storyline out for people who have.

Gerard: Right, right. You don’t need the other two but if you were dying to know what happened you get to find out which is pretty cool.


Dave: What’s going on with The Umbrella Academy film? I know it was optioned few years back.

Gerard: Well what’s going on with that is we have a really cool, really great script. It’s like a totally different draft from the first. It’s a really good script so hopefully there will be some movement on that. For as much as superhero movies work theses days they are still a giant risk because of the cost of making them. It really comes down to the studio that owns it, if they wanna take a risk with it. Whether or not we see an Umbrella Academy movie depends on whoever’s at the top that wants to take a risk. Right now we have a very good script.

Dave: Is it original or adapted from the first 2 volumes?

Gerard:It’s based off of the first series Apocalypse Suite. It’s got some stuff that make it i guess more understandable to people but it’s great.

Dave: You said you are currently writing the third volume of The Umbrella Academy, Hotel Oblivion?

Gerard: Mhmm.

Dave: How far along are you with that?

Gerard: Early stages. I had some really great moments on inspiration where I basically wrote out and plotted out page for page the first issue and started the second and third. One of the things I really want to do with the third series is have a really tight outline for each issue all the way to the end. When we were doing Volume 2: Dallas it had a very loose outline. We knew how it was going to end but we wanted to figure out how we’re going to get there. We really wanted to even surprise ourselves with how we got to the ending it was just extremely difficult to write. Like you’d paint yourself into these little corners in a weird way. i want to avoid that this time basically I’m trying to get the outline of the last 3 issues. 

Dave: Any idea for a release date?

Gerard: The real trick, not to put any pressure on Gabriel Ba (artist of The Umbrella Academy) obviously I had some years where I had to step away from comics and he went on to do more amazing work, he’s still kind of locked up in a lot of work. I’m writing it not based off if he’s free or not which I think is also a big mistake or writer or artist can make to try to work based upon someone else’s schedule, you just gotta do it when you are inspired and when they can do it, they’ll do it.

Dave: All the stuff those guys have done, him and his brother Fabio Moon have been amazing.

Gerard: Yeah they’re phenomenal. They keep really busy and they are still really busy. I know they are doing some BPRD stuff and hopefully by the time I finish writing issues #3 and #4 he can start drawing them. 

Dave: Well I bet everyone is excited for it, I know I am super pumped for it because the first 2 volumes were awesome.

Gerard: Oh right on, Thanks.

Dave: So what else are you working on besides Killjoys?

Gerard: Umm just right now finishing up Killjoys, writing Umbrella Academy. Trying to get some other stuff started. We’re on a small break right now making the new album so I’m kinda focusing on other things so I just want to write and making some other kind of music that are un-band related. Just kind of exploring other things, working with The Aquabats for their new season which ended up being the season finale of the half season they were doing. I co-wrote and got to direct a little bit. Mikey, my brother got to act on it. We’re just kinda trying different stuff just because we have the chance to. 

Dave: When do you sleep?

Gerard: When do I sleep? Not very much, I have a daughter and you know it’s kind of funny that you should say that because I feel a lot less prolific than I used to feel but I also feel very good right now. It’s gonna be the finishing and execution of these things whether they happen or not that’s really gonna prove if I can do all this. I’m trying to do a bunch of different things but you know they do have to come out. i don’t wanna be that kind of guy that just sits there and announces things. I’m not used to saying I’m gonna do something and i don’t do it. I ended up having a rough couple years, having to re-record an album then having to tour for that album. The trick right now is to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore. If I announce something i’m making sure I’m doing it.

– Here’s the original link:

A Conversation With Gerard Way About His New Series Killjoys, Comics and Integrity


Posted on 12/27/2012, in Gerard Way, Interview, True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Umbrella Academy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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