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

There’s a lot going on in issue one, but Murder Magician feels almost like the central character. And despite the nefarious name, he’s pretty sympathetic! Why focus on the villain from the first UA short? What sort of story does he allow you to tell?

Way: I really wanted to put the focus on seemingly unimportant characters, and dive deep into them. And show that there is a larger world in motion in UA, instead of simply the kids and the heroes. It allows me to share a new perspective and show the ramifications of both the villains' actions and Hargeeves’ actions. Murder Magician was the perfect character to explore further, given that the story he starred in originally was the first real UA story, (there was a 2 page short starring Number 5 and Seance, but that wasn’t really much of a story) and it seems like he is just some run of the mill villain. It allows me to play with the expectations and preconceived notions about that kind of character. He is sympathetic because he shows growth, and growth is important. Parenthood also changes people, time changes people, confinement changes people, and I wanted to explore that.

Catching up with the rest of the Family, it looks like you’re drawing in a number of comic book-y themes – there’s the Deadpool-style action with Number 5, a quest for answers with Diego and Spaceboy, and the story of loss and redemption/recovery with Allison and Vanya. You’ve also got a pretty clear Watchmen reference in there. To what degree is Umbrella Academy a “comic about comics?”

Way: UA being a comic about comics is a fair-sized part of it, though I try not to ever get meta with it. When I first conceived the series, I wanted to create a book that just skipped all the boring origin story things about comics, because we had seen those things a million times before. And as a comic reader, you know these archetypes already, so we can explore deeper, try things that they can’t try in let's say X-men. It plays with the notion of comics, and I love that about UA. Astro City was another big influence on my work, to me, that was the first book I read that felt like it was a comic about comics and all of the things we grew up with while telling its own unique story.

Next year sees the debut of Umbrella Academy on Netflix. So far all we’ve seen is a teaser image, but is there anything else you can share now about the adaptation or your role in it?

Way: I think people are going to like the show. The thing I like the most about it is that they kept a lot of the really weird ideas, and didn’t shy away from them. They go for it in a lot of ways. Gabriel and I are happy with the result while at the same time acknowledging that it is its own thing. It’s not completely our vision, and I think that is what makes it unique. Gabriel and I are both Co-Executive Producers and what that involves from us is reviewing things and then giving notes. Then it is up to the showrunner, Steve Blackman, who makes the final call about what goes into the show. But he has been very respectful to the source material and the vision that Gabriel and I have presented with the book.

Bá: It's been an amazing experience following the whole process of this series and it's jaw-dropping to me the amount of amazing and talented people that are working on this adaptation of a comic that's done by 5 people – writer, artist, colorist, letterer, editor. How something so small can become something so big. We've worked closely with all sorts of professionals, from writers to set designers and costumes, but they are amazing people who are bringing incredible and fresh ideas to our universe. For me, it's just another proof of how amazing comics are, all the possibilities it holds, and I'm sure this show will introduce these characters for a lot of new viewers, and hopefully, lots of new readers as well.

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