The Gerard Way
An Interview with....oh, you get it...
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I say that it just seems bizarre that one man can capture
the hearts of teen-age girls everywhere, and then start sucking
in the guys in their 30s and 40s? But Gerard Way has accomplished
just that as a musician and creator/writer of the Dark Horse
comics series The Umbrella Academy. You know what really stinks
about it? He's an incredibly nice and humble guy, too.
he working on a Neil Gaiman imitation?
So when a new contributor
to Fanboy Planet, Deborah Jill Draisin contacted me because
she thought she might be able to get some time with Gerard,
I had to jump at it. Thank you, Deborah, for offering, thank
you Dark Horse for agreeing, and thank you Gerard for answering
even the weird questions I made Deborah ask. You know what
else? This guy knows his stuff.
Deborah Jill Draisin: Good Afternoon, Gerard,
this is Deb on behalf of Fanboy Planet. How are you?
Way: Ah cool! I’m great, Deb, how are
Jill Draisin: It’s a pleasure to meet
you. Series One has just been completed and been made into
a great book with special features; that’s exciting!
Way: Yeah it is. I got an advance copy of it.
Jill Draisin: Did you?
Way: Yeah it’s currently my favorite thing.
It’s beautiful, and it’s cool because of the
format that we picked for it – we spent a lot of time
discussing the format. And it’s cool as a writer because
it just makes me wanna create more so that way there’s
just like a whole mess of them because it’s a very
Jill Draisin: Suite #2’s cover features
the following quote by Grant Morrison: “An ultraviolet
psychedelic sherbet bomb of wit and ideas. The superheroes
of the 21st Century are here at last.” How does it
feel, having your hero compliment your work in that way?
Way: Um, that was, you know, reading that quote from
Grant, and then obviously like he did the forward - which
is also very sweet for the trade – it was a huge deal
to me because... The best part about hearing Grant say that
is I had read…basically it was almost like a Manifesto
or something that he had written and found this bit of press
(I believe it was from an interview) and he’d talked
about this new wave of low-fi weirdness. He had wrote this
way back in…it might have even been in the days of
New X-Men or The Invisibles. It might’ve
even back that long ago.
paperback, coming soon...
Jill Draisin: Really?
Way: Yeah and I read this and I - you know to myself
- I had really wanted to be a part of that wave and I didn’t
feel like anybody really was epic to it, and I thought Grant
was totally in this class of his own.
Jill Draisin: Absolutely!
Way: And he still is. And I think most writers at the
time and even today are plugged into something completely
different. I think these guys are…you know they’re
just kind of writing whatever superhero drama currently
needs to be written and that’s kinda what they’re
doing, but there’s nobody that’s like really…I
mean now obviously you have Matt Fraction and people like
that – which you know Matt Fraction’s amazing
- but you didn’t have this post-modern thing at the
time so for Grant to really write that…it just made
me feel so amazing.
Jill Draisin: Here’s a question for you:
most artists are withdrawn – myself included. Was
there a particular sort of life-defining incident I guess
when you were young – you know, not just standard
peer pressure - that contributed to that outlook?
Way: That's a great question. Nobody's ever asked me
that. I think it was simply…I don’t know if
it’s your environment that makes you withdrawn or
the fact that you have the ability to live in your head
and you would prefer it that way? I think that’s more
of what it is. I realized that I had as a child an affinity
to create things and make things up that weren’t lies,
either; it wasn’t about lies, they were fiction -
they were stories and characters and places - I was basically
just dreaming. When I realized that I kind of dreamed out
loud like that, that’s what made me withdrawn - because
I preferred living in my own head.
Jill Draisin: I relate to that; yes I do.
Way: Yeah, that’s really it was
Jill Draisin: In the lettercol - the AKA Lettercol
- in Suite #4 (which actually the letters dated back to
Suite #2; they were a little behind) Scott Allie had warned
a hopeful fan not to expect an ongoing series, yet you’ve
now said that you expect to do eight or more. This turned
into a bit of a runaway train, didn’t it?
Way: It did, and well, the thing is: I think the reason
that he said an “ongoing” is because we’d
never intended this to be a monthly book. The thing about
it - and it’s cool that I get to talk about it in
an interview - is it’s a little limiting not doing
an ongoing book as much as it’s liberating, because
you only write a story when you have one. There’s
lots of things that you can’t do; there’s lots
of let’s say quiet moments - you’ve only got
six issues in a clip; you can’t do a lot of those.
are issues where I’d simply want The Umbrella Academy
like going to get breakfast somewhere, and it’s hard
to do that stuff because you‘ve got six issues; you
gotta make ‘em count. With an ongoing book you can
do that; you can riff on that stuff. I started to slowly
realize; Umbrella Academy is the book where you
kinda can’t do that, because it’s not
a monthly. I definitely always intended there to be all
these little… in a way they’re just vignettes
of these characters’ lives there’s about eight
or nine of them total.
Jill Draisin: That’s good that you mention
that, because this one’s been bugging me: are we ever
going to find out what happened to The Horror?
Way: Yeah, you are, and I don’t necessarily know
that that’s something that’s going to happen
sooner rather than later. I wish I could tell you why -
there’s something that had to do with the Jennifer
Incident that is a major point to The Umbrella Academy.
A lot of people really like that character, even though
they’ve only seen him briefly as an adult and very
briefly as a child…there’s not even really any
flashbacks of him.
Jill Draisin: No, there aren’t!
Way: There aren’t, yeah, and I don’t see
there being one for quite a while either.
Jill Draisin: Okay, we’re gonna have
to keep waiting then. The Umbrella Academy has been nominated
for some very prestigious awards this year: you’re
up for an Eisner as Best Limited Series, an Eagle for both
Favorite New Comic and Favorite Cover (for Suite #1.) That’s
quite an honor for a fledgling author such as yourself!
How do you feel?
Way: I mean…that feels amazing! To put it in perspective:
like, My Chemical Romance has never been nominated for a
Grammy, but this year I was nominated as an Art Director
for a Grammy (for the layout for "The Black Parade,"
and all my involvement with that). You know, getting nominated
for an Eisner, to me, is the one that feels better.
Jill Draisin: Of course!
Way: To me, that’s the one that counts. Like,
a Grammy is cool, and I would love for the band to eventually
have one of those - for the band - but getting nominated
for an Eisner: that was the big one to me. As a kid trying
to write comics, you always want…I mean, you have
a dream of being nominated for an Eisner and to get it on
the first series…!
Jill Draisin: It’s incredible!
Way: It’s so huge!
Jill Draisin: Sure, of course it’s huge! It’s
the most incredible feeling…I guess for me as a writer
myself it’d probably be like a Nobel Prize.
where's the canary?
Way: Right! Yeah, so it’s cooler than a Grammy.
Jill Draisin: Your artistic style, as far as
your drawing and your painting – your artistic style
in that direction - has become kind of refined over the
years. You started favoring angular features; there’s
a certain type of red that you always like to intertwine
with your black and whites. Can you explain a little bit
about the reason you view your world in this way?
Way: Wow, that’s a really good question. I don’t
really know; I think…well there’s a part of
me that always really wanted to be Alex Toth, you know (and
he’s kind of an impossible dream for a lot of comic
creators to chase). I think the guy I’ve seen get
closest to it is obviously Steve Rude, and that’s
because he’s a complete master.
could draw like Toth, I think…yeah it would be a dream
come true (but I mean, I try all the time!) I think it got
refined into that because I really started to look at his
simplicity and kind of what he left out and things like
that. I don’t know where the angles started to come
from; it’s mainly been from Pat O’Neill and
reading Marshall Law, that ended up being a big
influence on the style. I’ve just always been a fan
of a very rich kind of red and black and white - like those
three colors to me always kind of screamed comic books.
trying to think though: I don’t know why I view…
I think I would probably rather be drawing different than
Jill Draisin: How so?
Way: I mean, I’m kind of working with what I’ve
got right now.
Jill Draisin: Well, what would you like to
be doing differently?
Way: I wish I was a little bit more fluid, like somebody
like Toth or an animator, even guys like Don Bluth. I love
that kind of style, but that really comes from a tremendous
amount of life study, and that’s how guys like that
are able to bend it so well. I think the angles, if I had
to pick, I think they come from being a real big fan of
Greek statues and Greek Art, and I’m a huge fan of
“The Myth” too, and I think that’s where
it stems from.
Jill Draisin: Oh I see it, now that you mention
it! Oh, that’s interesting. You’ve frequently
referred to the cover of the Uncanny X-Men “Fever
Dream” with Wolverine being crucified on a rudimentary
wooden X as being both a favorite of yours as well as an
attempt to irritate your Catholic parents a little bit (Gerard
chuckles.) There’s a book “My Name Is Asher
Lev” by Chaim Potok which tells the story of a Hasidic
Jewish painter whose first showing features a painting of
his mother on a cross, and he actually gets excommunicated
for the atrocity. That story to me kind of furthers the
strength of that image. What other images strike you as
unforgettably daunting in that manner?
Way: “The Lovers” by Magritte has been the
one painting that I saw while I was at Art School that really
stood out to me, and like again with where I get my angular
things from: I love “Guernica;” I think that
painting is one of the most unbelievable things to me ever.
I mean there’s not a whole lot really as far as the
ones that really kind of stood out to me, like album covers
more than anything. I’m trying to think of the ones
that really…I mean probably most of the Pink Floyd
Jill Draisin: I was just going to say “The
Way: Yeah,” The Wall” and the biggest one
I think is like “Animals.” The album cover for
“Animals” is just like unreal; it’s probably
one of my favorite images ever. So their album artwork’s
really stuck out for me over the years.
Jill Draisin: Yeah it’s very disturbing
– it definitely makes the point. You were recently
interviewed by “Emily the Strange.” I’m
gonna have to say you know you’ve arrived as a comic
book author when you get to conduct an interview within
a comic book as a character! Was that a blast to do?
Way: That was actually very fun, and I tried to make
it as natural as possible when I was typing out my answers
so it could appear that I was speaking to this character.
That was a real blast, and to see the artwork come back…I’d
never really read an Emily and I thought what was
cool about it was the way that the page layouts were and
everything’s just kind of intertwined; it was just
really clever. It was like reading something out of a Mad
Magazine, and I just loved how all the questions and
answers and visuals flowed into each other, so I was really
happy with that.
Jill Draisin: Yeah that was a fun read! Um,
I promised Derek McCaw, he’s the Editor-In-Chief over
there at fanboyplanet.com that I would ask you these; I’m
assuming they’re going to make more sense to you than
they do to me. He wants to know, since you worked as an
intern at DC Comics, do you fear that you will be written
out of the continuity in the Final Crisis?
Crisis #2...in which Gerard Way gets wiped
from DC continuity...
Way: Oh my God, you know what’s funny about this
question? I don’t know anything about Final Crisis
at all! I have no idea…I don’t even know what
the Original Crisis is! I have no idea, but hopefully Grant
will find a way to work me out of the Final Crisis somehow.
Jill Draisin: Yeah, he’s gonna have to
give you a hook-up there. You’re a pretty big gamer,
right, Gerard? What’s the darkest secret that you
can tell (Fanboy Planet) about your time as an elf?
Way: Oh well, you know the thing is…it’s
totally not a dark secret; I just recently even started
collecting modules. There’s something about old Dungeons
and Dragons that it’s just like…it’s not
even just nostalgic, it’s so enchanting to me! The
fact that you can get together with a group of your friends
at like ten years old and do that kind of thing and really
make up these worlds and stories; I still reminisce about
playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I still crack open these
old books and look at all the mechanic imagery that got
it in trouble back in the eighties.
Jill Draisin: (laughing) It gets all complex,
Way: Yeah it’s so great; like I mean I played
well into my twenties.
Jill Draisin: (laughing) You heard it here
Way: Yeah (chuckling a little) yeah.
Jill Draisin: I just have to ask, because um
Number Five is by far my personal favorite character…
Way: Thank you!
Jill Draisin: You’re welcome! What happened
in that diner? How did he do that? Are you gonna tell us?
Way: Cool! Yeah, I’m glad you asked. Series Two
is going to deal with Number Five – it’s definitely
Number Five’s kind of moment to shine. He kinda just
came back into the fold, but it’s heavily centered
around Number Five and the problem that his decision has
caused, so there’s like an effect happening to things
that he’s done. He is…actually he’s become
quickly my favorite character.
Jill Draisin: Really?
Way: Yeah, and I think that’s why I decided to
center the series around him – he’s just the
best. I mean, like he’s just so like nihilistic and
cynical, and he’s a really old man who’s been
through so much stuff, and you never really even truly know
how much he’s been through and what he’s done
(and he’s done some awful things.) Basically, I found
that my very, very cynical and fatalistic views…The
Boy (we call him The Boy but Number Five) really ended up
being my mouthpiece. I think a lot of people thought it
Jill Draisin: I think they did too, or possibly
Way: Yeah, I think a lot of people kind of assume because
Séance is kinda gothic that he’s my mouthpiece,
but it’s definitely started to turn more into Number
Five. He’s just very much a character that I can talk
through, a lot more so than any other character.
Jill Draisin: Yeah, and you know Number Five
is kind of a weird deal, too, you know, because his best
friend is Pogo, right, but he keeps hooking up with different
Way: Right, right, right, yeah, totally.
Jill Draisin: So what’s gonna happen,
there’s a couple of love interests going on, is that
gonna get developed?
Way: Um well in Series Two you’ll kinda see that
it’s relatively impossible right now for either of
those love interests to go anywhere, and that’s mainly
because of like a physicality issue. You’ll see in
Series Two that it’s not even because of the action
going on around them, it’s more because of the physical
state of the characters right now, and so that kind of stuff
will really be on hold. The thing with Rumour and Space
is I intended for it to pan out like a very much like a
realistic relationship with all this very realistic disappointment
and hang-ups, so I never really intended that extreme focus.
a DHP story that’s going up on MySpace where you get
a glimpse of Kraken and Vanya at 17, and that definitely
explains a little bit of their relationship, so that makes
more sense for sure now.
Jill Draisin: Oh that’ll be interesting,
because he’s definitely got problems that stem from
that time period I’m sure.
Way: Yeah, they both do, and you kind of see why, and
you see where the grudge that kind of pokes its head out
in Issue Three, where that comes from. It makes a lot of
sense to the readers.
Jill Draisin: Well, we’re expecting Series
Two at the end of the year, correct?
Way: Yeah, in November.
Jill Draisin: Oh we’ll be looking forward
to that. Gerard, thank you for your time, that was really
Way: Thank you!
Jill Draisin: We’re definitely going
to be looking forward to seeing the collector’s editions;
I’m sure they’re going to be a fun read, and
there’s some extras in there aren’t there?
Way: Yeah, in the trade there’s a sketchbook section,
and in the collector’s edition there’s an expanded
sketchbook section and I’m gonna end up writing a
bit for that. We’re talking about doing some more
Umbrellicas because we actually, literally, ran out of time
during the first series because it was such a seat-of-our-pants
Jill Draisin: Sure!
Way: We’d run out of time; there was supposed
to be an Umbrellica every two, but it just didn’t
work out that way, so we’re thinking of filling up
the extra Umbrellicas in that.
Jill Draisin: That would tie up some loose ends!
Way: Sure, and that’s the cool thing about this
story is you know there’s all kinds of different ways
you can fill people in on backstory. What I love about Umbrella
Academy is you’re in the middle of things, you’re
never in the past, as far as you’re never seeing the
story from the beginning so there’s all kinds of fun
ways with which to say “Oh I’m gonna tell them
about the time this happened when…”
Jill Draisin: It keeps it interesting!
Way: Yeah, it does.
Jill Draisin: Well, I personally can’t
imagine anything funnier than the Eiffel Tower going berserk,
so I gotta see what you come up with next,
he were a zombie robot monkey...
Way: Right, right, right.
Jill Draisin: That was a good one. This is
just a personal thing with me, but are you a fan of Spawn?
Way: Of Spawn?
Jill Draisin: Yeah.
Way: Um, you know not really, like I read it when…I
was a fan of Todd’s art like from Spiderman and so
I was reading the Spiderman before he got his own Spiderman
then he got his and I read his Spiderman. I got the first
few issues of Spawn but it didn’t really
go anywhere for me personally - you know it was just a personal
taste thing - I really do like his art though, he was like
one of my guys growing up; I loved him and I loved Jim Lee.
Jill Draisin: Oh of course – um I actually
just kind of asked that because I thought that the series
had a bit of a darker outlook then the ones that were out
at the time; you know Spidey got darker later, Batman got
darker later, Spawn started out that way, he was bitter,
people took his family from him…I just saw a correlation,
you know these kids have no family and they’re bitter
and they have issues going on among trying to save the world…it’s
just something that struck me.
Way: Right, um, there’s really no connection with
Jill Draisin: Oh no, I don’t think there’s
a connection, I just think it was an interesting approach
that you have and I was just drawing a correlation for me.
Way: Right, I know what you’re saying, yeah, you
know I really wanted to show the characters after the adventures.
I didn’t think the most exciting part was at their
adventures and when they’re at their prime, I thought
it was more interesting to show these characters after their
Jill Draisin: I actually agree with you, because
it forces the reader to try to figure out how they got that
Way: Exactly, and there’s all different kinds
of ways with which I can show them that are way more interesting
than just kind of like “Alright the story starts when
they’re born” and let’s now follow them;
like that would be so boring, and I didn’t really
even want to do an orphan story at first.
Jill Draisin: Yeah especially for Vanya, because
she’s pretty much stuck in that house for twenty years,
Way: Yeah, yeah, and actually, the cool thing about
the DHP coming out; you get to see where she went for some
Jill Draisin: She went off to school; yeah I’d
like to see what happened in that school.
Way: Yeah you see how she ends up going there.
Jill Draisin: Gerard,
thank you so much for your time, it’s really appreciated.
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