Category Archives: Umbrella Academy

Interview: Rocker weighs balance of comics, music and fatherhood


The bad news for music fans: The rock band My Chemical Romance split up in March. The good news for comic-book fans: Singer Gerard Way potentially has a lot more time to write titles like his award-winning Umbrella Academy.

Comics or records? It’s a question the New Jersey native thinks about every day. 

“I’m trying to figure out what the universe wants me to do right now,” Way says, “and then when I figure that out, I’m just going to do it as hard as I can.”

His current project actually crosses over into both mediums: The post-apocalyptic Dark Horse Comics series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, set in a future California town called Battery City, has its first preview in a special Dark Horse issue on Free Comic Book Day on Saturday.

Killjoys No. 1 arrives in comic shops on June 12, but the actual story began with the 2010 MCR album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys and music videos for the singles Na Na Na and Sing.

Punk-rock freedom fighters and corporate villainy came alive via guitars and film, and he was already laying out the plans for a comic back then with Killjoys series artist Becky Cloonan, who designed the logo and cover for the Danger Days album.

The Killjoys is a weird case of the comic informing the music, which was the basis for the videos, which has gone back to fill in the gaps in the comic,” she says. “I definitely use the album and the videos as a style guide, but it’s such an expansive world that I never feel restricted.

She based the characters of the Girl, Korse and Dr. Death-Defying on the people who played them in the video — so Korse looks a lot like comics icon Grant Morrison. Yet, Cloonan adds, “it’s important to put my own twist on them, too. I mean, a bunch of years have passed so it makes sense to age them a few years.”

For the true origins of Killjoys, though, one has to go all the way back to New Jersey in the early 2000s, when Way, his brother Mikey and the rest of My Chemical Romance were in their early days and were just trying to find a practice space. They bought into a place shared with MCR guitarist Frank Iero’s first band, Pencey Prep, and Way befriended the group’s keyboard player Shaun Simon, who would later be Way’sKilljoys co-writer.

 “He and I connected in a very special and unique way,” says Way, 36, who convinced Simon to hop in the van on MCR’s first tour to sell merch, hang out and see the country. “We forged our views on what the world was, like the little details — the truck stops, the open desert, commentary on society. We really were deeply thinking about that stuff in the van together.

 “In a weird way, I feel like back then we were almost writing the book, whether we knew it or not.”

 Music was actually his fallback plan — he went to the New York City School of Visual Arts to be a comic artist, and the late Carmine Infantino was Way’s portfolio instructor his senior year in 1999.

 “I remember him saying, ‘I want you guys to make sure you also have another skill for when you get out. I’m not saying you guys can’t make it — it’s going to be hard for a while.’ And he wasn’t wrong,” Way recalls.

 “That era of comics was after the ’90s boom, which completely disassociated modern normal non-nerd society from comics. Everybody felt burned because they all bought The Death of Superman and they thought they were going to be rich. Granted, people were getting into comics for the wrong reason, but people were feeding them bad stuff. There were a lot of publishers not really doing things at the time to keep the new readers around — they were just slapping a hologram on a cover or something.”

 When he graduated, there was zero work in the industry.

 “I started a rock band because that felt more secure, let’s put it that way,” says Way, who interned at Cartoon Network before he founded My Chemical Romance soon after the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan.

 “It did work out for me,” he adds with a laugh. “It was harder to break into comics than it was to become a singer in a rock band.”

 In the 2000s, My Chemical Romance gradually grew to become one of the biggest bands in the punk and alt-rock scenes, but here and there Way found ways to scratch his comics itch.

 He created artwork for the 2006 album/rock opera The Black Parade, but did double the work creating costumes, bumper stickers and other details for the Danger Days videos.

 Way brings that strong sense of visuals to his writing, too, according to Simon.

 “Gerard is a great artist but being a great artist doesn’t necessarily mean you’re great at making comics,” says the Killjoys co-writer. “He can visualize the layout of a page and just by changing a few angles or depth of panels make the whole page work that much better.”

 For two Umbrella Academy miniseries with artist Gabriel Ba, Way wrote on the road, but when the band began touring for Danger Days, it felt very different, he says — as the group became bigger on a worldwide scale, more people wanted their attention and the press and activities were tremendous, so comics took a back seat.

 “There were a lot more distractions, but I felt like a lot of it came from the noise in my own head,” Way says. “Maybe that had a lot to do with the battle that Danger Days was to get the message across. It felt like something I was actively working on every day.”

 In 2012 and early this year, My Chemical Romance released a series of songs under the Conventional Weapons banner that were written prior to Danger Days, but took its fan base by surprise when Way posted a 2,200-word essay on March 25 saying the band was no more.

 “My Chemical Romance is done. But it can never die,” he wrote. “It is alive in me, in the guys, and it is alive inside all of you.”

When the announcement went out, Way felt a mix of emotion, sadness, anguish, pain and nostalgia, all at once.

“I was very upset,” he explains. “I said to myself, ‘Yeah, you’re supposed to be upset because doing the right thing is really hard.’ Anything easy usually isn’t the right thing — like to not communicate, to allow the band to become less than vital, to dislike each other, to let all that stuff happen without it being in your control, and the band either breaks up in an argument or they just wear out their welcome or then they start phoning it in and then no one really cares anymore.

“It was always really important to me that My Chemical Romance had a legacy,” the singer adds. “The message, while it’s still vital, is extremely important so to get that get tarnished or misinterpreted — even from within — and to see that in jeopardy made me know that this is the right time to do this.”

Way’s glad he has a little more time on his hands. He says he wants to go to more conventions, especially those for games since he’s really into Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games.

 “That’s really what I connect with so I want to get out there more,” says Way, who has kicked around the idea of penning a fantasy series. “The only way a comic like that would be really awesome and amazing is if it was something that came out literally every month and forever, like Cerebus or something.”

 He’s also catching up with comics reading — he’s currently fixated on the Fantagraphics series Prison Pit, and enjoying the works of Brian K. Vaughan, Matt Fraction and his pal Morrison.

 “He’s a constant source of inspiration in my life, even on a personal level,” Way says. “I never thought that this would happen with somebody who was a hero of my mind but we got to become really close friends. He and his wife and I are really important in each other’s lives.”

Way also wants to reteam with Ba at some point to do a third Umbrella Academy, yet he still hasn’t lost his love for music either.

The universal question lives on. Comics or records?

There happens to be a third answer: being a father.

“I literally wish that at times I could divide myself in half, and one guy could stay home and write comics and a dad and the other guy could go do music,” says Way, whose daughter Bandit — his first child with wife Lindsey, bass player for the band Mindless Self Indulgence — turns 4 on May 27.

Reconnecting with his little girl is a huge focus for him these days.

“Not making up for lost time because you can never do that but you can make the time you have now good,” Way says. “It’s like a gift — I think I’m finally proud of the dad I am, and that’s a hard thing. I think some fathers go their whole lives and then eventually ask their child for confirmation.

 “That feels really great to wake up and know you’re a good dad.”


Indie Edge April 2013: Gerard Way


This month’s featured creator is…

Gerard Way

Gerard Way is the writer/creator of the Dark Horse award-winning The Umbrella Academy(SEP108136), with artist Gabriel Bá, and co-writer of the upcoming Dark Horse mini-series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #1 with Shaun Simon and artist Becky Cloonan 

— both solicited in this issue, so check out the Dark Horse section of the PREVIEWS catalog.

Way is perhaps best known for his work in the band My Chemical Romance, but his desire to work in comics came long before the band’s formation in 2001.

He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City along with great artists like Farel Dalrymple, and interned for DC Comics under the tutela

ge of Joey Cavalieri.

While Way’s work in comics is primarily focused on writing, he still finds time to draw, alongside his wife, Lindsey, and their daughter Bandit.

Gerard Way, what are your favorite projects you’ve contributed to over the past decade?

Ah! Well, I have only had the honor of writing two graphic novels and a six-issue limited series that I am collaborating on. So I would have to say all of them — The Umbrella Academy (with Gabriel Ba) and The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (with Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan).

They are both very different so I get to stretch in different ways. I’m also looking forward to writing more books this year!

Gerard Way, what are you currently working on?

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys and The Umbrella Academy Series 3 (in it’s very early stages).

Gerard Way, what fun Indie comics are you reading?

I love Bulletproof Coffin , Prison Pit and the Yohihiro Tatsumi collections offered by Drawn and Quarterly:

  • Abandon the Old in Tokyo TP 
  • Good Bye TP 
  • Push Man and Other Stories TP 
  • Fallen Words GN 
  • Black Blizzard GN
  • A Drifting Life TP 
Via: Previews World

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


MORRISONCON EXCLUSIVE: Gerard Way Shaves, talks magic & "Umbrella Academy"

Before he was cleanly-shaven, Gerard Way discussed MorrisonCon, “Umbrella Academy” and magic with CBR News
In a nearly lightless unisex bathroom in the Body English club at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Gerard Way, “My Chemical Romance” vocalist, creator of the Dark Horse Comics-published science fiction/superhero series “The Umbrella Academy” and MorrisonCon special guest, unpacked a shaving kit and stated what he loved most about the convention was the chance to have in-depth conversations with fans.
“I never get to do that. Usually, they truck everybody through,” Way said, calling the convention an “amazing” change of pace. The comics creator/musician, who spoke on panels earlier that day with Morrison and fellow musicians Jimmy Urine and DJ Akira The Don, had really thrown himself into the convention spirit, extending his afternoon signing session from one to four hours and stretching his busy schedule to the limit in order to talk with fans.
Now on his way to a video filming, Way invited me to join him as he got ready. Minutes later, we stood in front of the bathroom mirror, chatting about Way’s musical accompaniment to Morrison’s 45-minute spoken word performance on Friday night as the rock star lathered up.
“I can’t remember when the thing came about, but it was like, ‘They’re going to do a convention about Grant.’ I was like, ‘Whoa! That’s really awesome,’ because I can’t remember the last convention they did based off an individual and their way of thinking,” Way said.
In 2010, Morrison appeared in “My Chemical Romance’s” music video “Art Is The Weapon,” starring as the video’s villain. For MorrisonCon, Way was more than happy to collaborate musically once again with the comics writer.

“So [Morrison] said, ‘I want to a piece, do you want to do it? I want to do a summoning ritual.’ I said, ‘Yeah!’ I mean, he’s my hero. I said, ‘Oh my God, yeah, I’ll do this summoning ritual with you!’ It’s funny, because exactly what happened when he mentioned it is exactly what I thought it was going to be, so no surprises to me, really.”

He was ready for a 45-minute spoken word/music performance that doubled as a magical summoning ritual?

“Yeah! Really ready for it!” Way answered as he enthusiastically began to shave. “It sounded and felt exactly like I thought it was going to feel, and I loved it!”

Despite Way’s own large fanbase, the musician/writer laughed when asked if he’d want to create a similar convention — a WayCon — for his fans.

“Grant is really the only one who could pull that off because he is so all encompassing with music and magic,” Way responded, shaking his head.

“I’d say if there’s anything’s underrepresented at the convention so far, it’s magic,” Way continued. “But that was the first thing everybody saw, so I really believe that thing was a magical interface with the fans, and I’ve never seen that at a convention. The fact that it’s underrepresented — it started with magic, and now it’s about other things.”

Shifting gears to his own work, Way explained that while there was talk last year of turning “The Umbrella Academy” into a film, there is little in the way of an update, though there have been some recent developments in regard to the script.

“We have a new script, which is a really important thing; I don’t know if there was going to be that much movement on the last script,” Way said. “The new script is really great and it’s really up to the powers that be if they want to make this movie.”

With an easy smile, Way admitted that his series, following the destructive and dysfunctional lives of seven grown ex-child superheroes trying to stave off the apocalypse, does not easily fall into the Hollywood formula.

It’s not an easy sell, it’s not an easy movie. There’s a talking chimp, there’s a guy in a blue Martian gorilla body — that’s a hard movie to make! And for the money, it’s really hard,” Way said.

Nodding in agreement to a comparison of “Umbrella Academy” to an “X-Men” where Professor X really hates his students, Way said that the real challenge in adapting his work to the big screen is keeping the spirit in which it was conceived and written.

“It’s hard to get people’s brains wrapped around what that movie is supposed to be, because that movie is supposed to be cool. That’s the idea — it’s hard to make a cool movie. The cool movies, like ‘500 Days of Summer,’ that only cost what, 30 million? Trying to do that with a superhero movie and retain all creative control is very hard.”

Unfortunately for “Umbrella Academy” comics fans, Way said there is currently no concrete release date for “Hotel Oblivion,” the next chapter of the series, though he is hard at work on it.

“I started writing it, and [artist] Gabrielle [Ba] is very busy. The thing is, if it’s written, somebody will draw it. He’ll draw it when he gets the chance to draw it. I’m just writing it and I’m pretending that he’ll be able to draw it when I’m done,” Way said. “I was excited to start writing it again. I miss those characters, I miss that world.”

The first two arcs of Way’s series not only introduced fans to the world but also served as mini-character studies. The first, “The Apocalypse Suite,” revolved around non-powered Umbrella Academy member Vanya who learned she actually possessed the musical ability to end the world. The second, “Dallas,” followed time-traveling Number Five as he stumbled upon the apocalypse and got stuck in the body of a ten-year-old boy. The third chapter, Way told CBR, will likewise take a deeper look at one of the other seven main characters.

“We tried to make one character-centric; that way the trades all look really cool, you get a bit of that in each. I think you should focus on each character for at least one of them — everybody should get their spotlight for their trade,” Way said.

“This is a long shaving experience,” Way added, frowning at his chin in the mirror. 

I had to admit I had never shaved before, so I have no idea what the experience was usually like.

“Razors are rough going,” Way sighed, reapplying the Bic to his chin.

Jumping back to his protagonists, Way said that he deliberately wanted all his characters to be unsympathetic when readers first met them.

“The reason I did that is because I think everybody is hard to like. I think we’re all hard to like as people. You got to get to know us, all of us, and I had never seen that represented in comics where it was, ‘It’s hard to like these characters!'” he said, laughing.

Finally packing up his on-the-road shaving kit, Way explained how “Umbrella Academy” and MorrisonCon shared a special sort of kismet, as Morrison was the one who inspired him to write in the first place.

“I read an interview — and this is the thing that made me want to do ‘Umbrella’ — I read an interview, and it was really almost like a manifesto. [Grant] was talking about how there’s this new wave of lo-fi weirdness about to hit us, it’s about to come, and I said to myself, ‘I want to be part of that. I’m going to make a book that’s a part of that.’

“If you look at comics today, right now, it’s all blowing up,” Way continued as we headed back downstairs to the waiting film crew. “That’s what’s happening; you read Matt Fraction, it’s happening from Marvel to DC, all over the board. He was right. But I read that and I took that as, ‘Oh, I better get off my ass and do something!’ Be part of this. That’s what it is.”

As for observations that Way’s unique, musically-influenced writing style held similarities to Morrison’s, Way countered, “It’s inspired by Grant, with this spirit of difference and creativity and energy. I actually think if you read our work, it’s very different. But the spirit is there of experimentation, creativity and all that stuff.

“I’m just another soldier, that’s how I feel. But a very different soldier, like I’m attacking the Northern front!” Way declared with a final laugh, pausing in the Body English green room to model his newly-shaven face for the camera and the applauding crew.

“You’re so shaven!” one of the camera operators laughed.

“I know!” Way said, grinning right back.


Hailed as the best Grant Morrison book not written by Grant Morrison (By me. Just there), Umbrella Academy is the brian child of My Chemical Romance frontman Gerad Way. With art by Gabriel Ba, it casts the traditional super team as a dysfunctional family. Brought together by a man who shouldn’t be allowed care for a plant let alone a group of children with enough power to end the world, these super powered kids grow up to be maladjusted adults brought back together by the death of their ‘father’.

The first two mini series were critically acclaimed, and featured a very rich and detailed world filled with talking monkeys, time traveling assassins, murderous orchestras, and Viet Cong mummies. The third mini series, Hotel Oblivion, was originally announced for release sometime in 2010. But sadly that wasn’t the case.

My Chemical Romance’s Best Costumes Ever – Voodoo 2011

Gerard Way’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ follow-up confirmed by Dark Horse’s Mike Richardson – video

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Dark Horse Comics president Mike Richardson has teased the future of Umbrella Academy. 

Richardson confirmed that a third series of Gerard Way’s Eisner and Harvey Award-winning title is in the works, during an interview with Comic Book Resources.

 He could not give a date for its release, citing the My Chemical Romance frontman’s busy touring schedule.

Richardson praised Way’s fresh perspective on comic book writing. “[Way] comes in with amazing ideas and brings a little different twist on what we know as superheroes,” he said.

Way is also working on some more projects for Dark Horse, that Richardson said he could only tease.

“Gerard has some other amazing ideas that we’re also working on,” he said.

 Richardson said that the Umbrella Academy movie is still in development. “We want to get the right tone for it,” he said. “We’re very excited.”