Last weekend’s Comic-Con International contained a duo of announcements regarding My Chemical Romance frontman and comic book creator Gerard Way’s future plans with Dark Horse Comics. Way unveiled the title of his latest “The Umbrella Academy” story-arc as “Hotel Oblivion,” in addition to announcing “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” an all-new series that he’ll write alongside Shaun Simon with art from Becky Cloonan. Way discussed the projects and took fan questions at his very own panel. CBR News was there to get the details.
Dark Horse editor Scott Allie introduced rock star siblings Gerard and Mikey Way to the panel audience. “I was terrified that nobody was going to be at this,” the “Umbrella Academy” writer proclaimed to laughs. He then jokingly explained the reason for the panel, “Me and Mikey here are actually working on a ‘Twilight’ and [‘My Chemical Romance’] slash fiction.”
Way went on to discuss “Hotel Oblivion,” the new installment of the “Umbrella Academy” books. “‘Hotel Oblivion’ I’m especially excited for,” he said. “I think we’re at a point where we can have a lot of fun with ‘Umbrella Academy.’ It’s going to get really weird.”
Allie described the premise of the titular hotel as akin to Arkham Asylum in the Batman universe: when the enigmatic Reginald Hargreeves bested the bad guys, Hotel Oblivion became their new, unpleasant residence. “You get to see just how extra sadistic Hargreeves was,” Way explained. “Not just to the kids, but even to the villains.”
The writer pointed out that “The Umbrella Academy” is nearing its midway point. Once the fourth graphic novel is released, the series will be halfway over, which Way described as slightly sad.
He then discussed “Killjoys,” his newest series from Dark Horse. “‘Killjoys’ is something that’s really personal and, in the weirdest possible way, semi-autobiographical – but nothing in it happened to me,” he explained. “There are all these really crazy notions bottled up in this comic about a guy who just wants his Ramones records back.” Way described the series as a mature readers title, even though “nobody cares about that anymore.”
With those introductions out of the way, the remainder of the panel opened to fan questions. Before those began, Way thanked his brother Mikey for showing up to the panel. They joked that Mikey would himself write a comic book called “Fucking Iron Man.”
Way was asked which character in “The Umbrella Academy” was his favorite. “I like them all for different reasons, obviously, but I have a soft spot for Seance,” he said. Allie told the audience that Way’s answer to that question is always different.
When asked what inspired him to create the White Violin, Way laughed, “That’s a very deep question, turning a woman into an instrument, that’s kind of messed up.” He added that given her status as an instrument in destroying the world, she had to “really represent that” in a concrete, visual manner.
Way said that he eventually hopes to fully write and illustrate a graphic novel some day. “That would be a life goal if I could just make one graphic novel that I write, draw and ink, to do the whole process,” he said. “I don’t know when I could see that happening, but it’d be great.”
After receiving compliments on his My Chemical Romance concerts, Way was asked what his comic book inspirations are. In addition to “Watchmen” and “X-Men” comics, Way pointed out Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s “Preacher” as a major influence on his work. “Garth Ennis is a genius,” he said. “He’s one of the biggest influences on me. I don’t talk about him enough.”
Way offered some advice to aspiring musicians, writers and artists. “Once you start being yourself, you find that people respond to you just being you,” he said. “Do it for the right reasons, because you have to live it and you have to always be inspired and draw inspiration from the good people you meet.”
Asked if Spaceboy’s name came from the Smashing Pumpkins, Way admitted that it did. “I wanted the character to be an adult but still have the name Spaceboy,” he said. “A big part of the reason for the name was so he could carry this baggage with him of king of being like a child star in a weird way.”
With the film version of “The Umbrella Academy” ramping up, Way was questioned on who he’d like to see play Hargreeves. His pick was Gary Oldman, and he proceeded to recount a story about how he ran into the actor while waiting in line for a restroom. Way said that even while using the bathroom, Oldman proved himself incredibly charming.
A young fan asked if there would be an animated version of “The Umbrella Academy,” which Way said he was hopeful for. “Gabriel [BÃ¡’s] art is so amazing that [fans] can’t imagine real people playing those characters,” he said. “Obviously I’m very excited for the live-action, but maybe one day.”
If faced with the choice, which would Way choose: his music career or his comic book career? Allie reminded the musician-artist that he was at Comic-Con, but Way said that you can always do both. He told the audience that he writes “Umbrella Academy” while on the road, with several issues written in several different countries. If forced to pick between the two, he’d be hard pressed to select a career. “Without either, it’d be like missing a limb,” he said.
The writer was congratulated on his newborn baby by a resounding applause from the audience, quickly followed by a question about Way’s own fanboy moments. He described an instance at the Eisner Awards where he was caught staring at “Bone” creator Jeff Smith for several minutes. Mikey got giddy over meeting Stan Lee the night before.
Mikey Way said he looks up to his older brother. “Everything I do is inspired by him,” he said, describing himself as the Tonto to Gerard’s Lone Ranger. The “Umbrella Academy” writer laughed about their childhood, saying that he used to dress up as Robin while Mikey was Batman, resulting in a mismatched role reversal for the brothers. Gerard said of Mikey: “He’s my best friend and he inspires me every single day.”
The next questioner was a man dressed as Rorschach. In the signature gravely voice, he asked Way to describe the portions of “Watchmen” that informed his own comic book work. “Without realizing it at the time, it was the brilliant, genius way the story unfolded. You’d never seen anything like that,” Way said. He added that while he related to Rorschach as a youngster, he feels more like Nite Owl presently.
Way said that he’d be interested in putting out an art book, but he has “a ways to go” before anything would be ready. He said that he’d love to release a design book of “The Umbrella Academy” eventually.
Asked if his song lyrics and comics dialogue ever intermingle, Way said that he’s starting to enjoy the titles of “Umbrella Academy” issues more than his song titles. “I want to steal some of those for song or album titles,” he said.
One fan told Way that he was far superior to Robert Pattinson of “Twilight” fame, which was later reinforced by another audience member. Way tried to defend Pattinson’s sex symbol status, but those attempts were met with loving disapproval from Way’s fan base.
Shifting from comic books, Way said that he and Mikey are working on a new My Chemical Romance album. “It’s pure, stare-at-the-sun rock and roll,” he described. “It’s going to be an awesome record.”
Way said that while he loves the zombie genre, he doesn’t think he’ll ever pursue it, certainly not in comic book form. “After ‘Walking Dead,’ I don’t know if you can touch zombies,” he said to applause.
Finally, Way was asked if he’d ever consider organizing an “Umbrella Academy” theme concert with My Chemical Romance. “We’ve tried very hard to keep the two things separate and I think we’ve done a very good job,” he said. “We’d definitely never do that.” While a concert is off the table, Way said that he’d most likely score the “Umbrella Academy” movie himself.
“The film, for everyone who’s curious, is going great,” he added, saying a script was in the finalization process. “I want all the fans to know that [the movie] is in really good hands.”