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INTERVIEW: Way and Bá Reunite for Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion

Gabriel, you’re dealing with a number of fantastic settings here – even the sort of “gritty, street level” scene in Tokyo has futuristic elements. What sort of thought goes into establishing a sense of place, such as the Hotel Oblivion (first seen from a perspective near the chandeliers on page 3) or Doctor Zoo’s workshop? What are you hoping to tell the reader with your designs?

Bá: I always tried to see this comic as an opportunity to mix influences and different styles, because the story is so open that it allows all these specific motifs to work together. We have an amazing and diverse cast of characters, and the settings for the story should be as varied to show readers that there's not one way to draw things, one single world where everyone looks the same, where every place is the same. I think that given Gerard's sensibility, and the fact that he has traveled the world so much touring with the band – I did my share of traveling as well – and that I come from a different country and different culture, helped us bring more plurality to this comic. That is seen in the story, on the characters and on the places we show in the comic.

Since we last saw Umbrella Academy, you’ve done Daytripper and Two Brothers with your twin, Fábio Moon. Daytripper was an original story, while Two Brothers was an adaptation of a novel, but both were fairly grounded, very personal stories. Do you find yourself wanting to do different sorts of stories when it’s just you and Fábio than when you’re working with another writer like Gerard Way, or with Matt Fraction on Casanova?

Bá: I like to inhabit both worlds, or any other worlds I can, because that's the beauty of comics. You can do everything and every genre has its virtues and its charms. It was the personal grounded stories I tell with my brother that helped me bring the personal depth the character on Umbrella Academy ask for, and it was the crazy multi-dimensional action of Casanova that showed Gerard and Scott [Allie, the original series' editor] years ago I could be a good fit for this comic. I like to challenge myself, both story wise and artistically, and Umbrella is definitely one of the biggest challenges I've always had to bring to life visually.

Both Umbrella Academy and Casanova are very dense, complex stories. What are the challenges of portraying all these layers of story visually?

Bá: I think that both these comics share this structure of telling a complex multi-layered story, but disguised by mixing lots of references on top of a very well known genre, but with a deep and powerful core underneath everything. And both Gerard and Matt have a strong visual sense of what they want, they always give visual notes on the scripts, and both stories allow me to expand my repertoire and break the mold in terms of storytelling and page composition. Both these comics made me a better artist by all the challenges they've forced on me.

Umbrella Academy is, at least on the surface, a superhero book – the other series you’ve worked on that’s closest to this would be BPRD, which is usually thought more of in the horror vein. What do you enjoy about drawing these sort of unconventional adventure stories? Is there something about UA, BPRD, etc. that you feel especially suits your style?

Bá: Although I prefer telling more personal and grounded stories myself, I have grown reading super-hero comics in the '80s and '90s, during my teenage years and early 20s. That's a crucial age to form a connection with the reader, and to inspire future artists as well. So even though I have discovered my voice as an author somewhere else, I bring inside of me tones of influences and images from all the super-hero comics I've read, and it's great to use this knowledge occasionally on Umbrella Academy. We are talking about the characters' felling and their struggles as well, but every once in a while they have to fly away and fight villains, smash into walls and run to the camera while there's a huge explosion on the background. It's fun to visit these formulas and play with the genre in the middle of the crazy ride we're putting on.

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