Gerard Way has enjoyed such success with his Dark Horse series “The Umbrella Academy” that it’s almost no longer necessary to mention that he also happens to be a rock star. Together with artist Gabriel Ba, the My Chemical Romance frontman won an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series in 2008 for their first miniseries, subtitled “Apocalypse Suite,” and the follow up “Dallas” has been enthusiastically received by fans and critics. Dark Horse announced Friday at Comic-Con International that Way and Ba are now working on a third series, titled “Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion,” and Way will announce another project at Saturday’s panel. CBR News caught up with Way to discuss both projects. Our discussion of “Umbrella Academy” series 3 is right here, and be sure to check back tomorrow for part two of the interview.
“Like series 2, series 3 of ‘Umbrella Academy’ is going to pick up a bit after we left off,” Way said. “But it’s going to start off with a flashback and we’re going to get to see one of the old characters from the Free Comic Book Day story, Murder Magician. Basically, we’re going to see what Hargreeves did with all these villains over the years.
“I really like this series, I’ve had this one in my head for a long time,” the writer continued. Though Way noted that his stories often shift in the telling, he does have a strong sense of how the events in “Hotel Oblivion” play out. “This time, I’m thinking it is going to deal with other characters than the Umbrella Academy, at least for half of it. You’re going to see the other side of things,” Way told CBR. The core cast, however, will continue on with their lives. “Obviously, Spaceboy’s left again, we’ll deal with that, and everybody’s in kind of a whole different state of disrepair. Although I’d like to see the family get a little bit functional at this point. You’re going to see Rumor take a very different attitude toward Vanya now, for a lot of reasons, number one being her own guilt. That story is now going to develop.”
In noting that there is a whole hidden history of what has become of the world’s bad guys, Way hints at a notable aspect of “Umbrella Academy,” the device of frequent allusions to events that have not been shown to readers. When “Umbrella Academy” debuted as a Free Comic Book Day offering, the team was made up of teenage heroes; by the time series one, “Apocalypse Suite,” launched, they were adults, with physical and mental scars suggesting that the intervening years haven’t been easy. Way said that the Umbrella Academy’s past will continue to thread out through flashbacks, with no plans at present to devote a series to their younger, more innocent days. “In terms of what really happened in the Jennifer Incident and that sort of thing, I think it would be nice to dedicate an entire story to that one. But I think that’s a ways off,” Way told CBR. “We’ve still never explained why Kraken doesn’t have an eye, we don’t know what happened to Rumor’s arm, there’s all these weird little questions still in the air. As we go along, when those situations become relevant, I tell them. This story in particular, I am really excited about because it deals with what Hargreeves did with all these villains, where he put them, and what’s going to happen in the current day.”
“Umbrella Academy” has been recognized for its inventive storytelling and often surreal plot elements, but Way’s stories display a strong internal logic holding even the strangest bits together. “I think there’s definitely a logic to how it operates,” the writer said. “It’s gotten to where I can call Scott [Allie, series editor] and run him down with how I think the issues are going to break out, or run him down how I think a series is going to go. And a lot of times I notice when we’re in a pickle, so to speak, with how to solve a problem, there is a very ‘Umbrella Academy’ solution. So there’s things I think we can get away with in comics that you can’t get away with in heavily-guarded treasured continuity books. Which is really what I like about ‘Umbrella Academy,’ which is one of the reasons I created it. Time travel, you could sit there for months and try to make sense of it. Ultimately, it’s just never going to make sense the way you want it to. The good thing about ‘Umbrella Academy’ is that it doesn’t attract the kind of readership that’s going to sit there and look for the big gaping holes in the time continuum. Because time travel is not the point. The point is that the characters got somewhere, the fact that they are there and what they’re doing. When all’s said and done, I think this will all fit pretty nicely. But I don’t know how much of the timeline, if you timed out all these flashbacks, if there’d be holes in that, but I don’t think that matters as much as what’s happening, when you’re seeing it. I think we’re going to re-cast the dog, for example. Because we now want a very specific dog. I want to use Gabriel’s dog, that he has in Brazil. When we came up with the dog, we didn’t think of using Gabriel’s dog. When you’re dealing with the ‘Umbrella Academy,’ you can just re-cast something. ‘Oh, I don’t like this dog, let’s redo it.’ Make no mention of the fact that it was a completely different looking dog.”
“I’m really excited about about both of the books. I’m going into ‘Hotel Oblivion’ with the fact that I’ve got past series two. Series one was, you know, can this person write comics, and series two was, can this person keep writing comics? Hopefully series three will just be, what’s going to happen in this comic? That’s really exciting to me. Series two of ‘Umbrella Academy’ was starting to really hone what the book is. Series one was a very linear story, even though it was told with some weird flashbacks. But series two has more breathing room. There’s more inventiveness, there’s more developmental stuff going on with the characters, sometimes you simply see a character sitting down, these kind of introspective moments. If anything, I think you’re going to see more of that. This book’s really going to get a little bit more introspective, a little bit more postmodern, a little more inventive, exciting in that way. A little bit more experimental is what you’re going to see from ‘Umbrella Academy’ series three.”
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