On Saturday at Comic-Con International San Diego, hundreds of music and comic fans packed into a panel hosted by Dark Horse’s Scott Allie spotlighting Gerard Way, writer of The Umbrella Academy and front man for rock band My Chemical Romance. Alongside Gerard Way was his bassist, band-mate, brother, and best friend, Mikey Way. The room the panel was held in was wall-to-wall with screaming teenage girls and comic hungry fanboys who were able to participate in a Q&A session with the popular creator.
The panel opened up with reiterations of the Dark Horse panel held earlier in the day; announcing Way’s two newest projects, The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion and The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Way and Allie spoke with anticipation regarding Hotel Oblivion with Way describing the project as, “where things get really weird.”
Delving further into the new project, Way compared Hotel Oblivion to Arkham Asylum, “It’s the place where the rogue’s gallery of the Academy are kept,” adding, “these are all their villains that have never been seen before.” The story will also include exploration into the character Hargreeves, with Way commenting, “He was a real badass in his heyday.”
Allie and Way segued away from Hotel Oblivion, turning their attentions to The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, featuring artwork from Becky Cloonan. Way described working on the project while on tour, stating, “It’s a very personal project—it’s like the weirdest semi-autobiographical project I’ve worked on.” He joked, “It’s about this guy who just wants his Ramones records back.”
The discussion turned back to working on the various The Umbrella Academy projects over the past several years; Allie expressed regret for not being able to squeeze everything they wanted to into The Umbrella Academy: Dallas. Way noted again that he was very intent on making the readers of aware of the power and sadistic nature of Hargreeves.
When asked about his favorite character, Way remarked, “I like them all for a number of different reasons. If I had to pick one—I’d say Séance because he’s very German.” Way also noted that the character would play a pivotal role in Hotel Oblivion, “Very soon, you’ll see more of Séance as things start making less and less sense.”
An audience member asked Way, “Why would you turn a girl into a violin?” to which Way responded, “It’s kind of messed up and deep—she’s symbolic as an instrument.” He pointed out several of the costumed convention-goers, including a young girl dressed as The Violin.
Another audience member asked Way about his personal accomplishments with comic book creating, “What other aspects of comics would you like to attempt?” Way responded, “I’d like to full illustrate an OGN all by myself,” adding, “I would really like to write, pencil, ink…you know, really do the whole thing by myself.” Allie described the process of making comics as “tough” and explained how some of the process was so time consuming.
When asked about his personal inspiration with comics, Way was quick with several titles, “Watchmen—it’s the greatest thing ever. There’s this issue of the Uncanny X-Men with Wolverine crucified to this big ‘X’ on the cover that I remember from my childhood also.” He also mentioned that his work has been heavily influenced by Garth Ennis’ work on Preacher and that Allie himself had turned him onto Bob Dylan which had begun influencing his work on The Umbrella Academy.
When asked about advice for aspiring young creators, Way was frank, “When I first started out in comics initially—at a young age—was wrong. I was trying to ‘pay the bills’; I was emulating the wrong stuff. My work wasn’t me being me. My advice: don’t be full of shit and keep your work as pure as you can. Make something yours.”
Way was asked about the origin of the name of Space Boy and its relevance to the Smashing Pumpkins song of the same name. Way spoke, “I wanted this adult character to have an ironic kid’s superhero name. It gave him this sort of baggage—like a grown up child star even though he’s disfigured.”
When asked if he had a choice who he would cast in a big screen adaptation of The Umbrella Academy, Way blurted out, “Gary Oldman as Hargreeves,” half-joking, “I fucking love Gary Oldman.” Way then told the audience an anecdote about this one time he had had his own sort of fanboy moment while waiting in line to use a bathroom with Gary Oldman. The audience was engrossed and laughter filled the room as the story culminated with Gary Oldman bowing to Way and holding the bathroom door open for him, saying, “After you.”
Way was asked about cartoon projects for The Umbrella Academy. Way and Allie both joked about the potential for a Saturday morning cartoon starring his dysfunctional superheroes. Way speculated about the cartoon and having to change the tone of the project to be more upbeat; he laughed, “Maybe someday. When we completely sell it out and down the river; we’ll have action figures and everything.”
An audience member shyly asked, “What’s it like to have two jobs?” garnering a huge laugh from the audience, continuing, “And if you had to choose between the two, which one would you pick?” Way responded, “It’s hard having two jobs—but you can find a way to do both.” He described how he budgets his time while on tour with My Chemical Romance and the fact that there are gaps in time that prove to be productive, “I couldn’t choose—I want to really do all of it. I want to direct films someday too. I think without either of the jobs I have now, I’d feel like I was missing a limb.”
Way discussed his passions and how writing comics and being a musician aided him personally, “My experiences have helped me learn to communicate better. I’m much more direct when I’m writing lyrics now. I’ve really stopped trying to assault people with how clever I can be.”
Way told a story to the audience about his trip the Eisner awards on Friday night and how he had hoped to meet Sergio Aragones. Allie joked with the creator about silently staring at fellow creator Jeff Smith, who Way had never spoken with but desired to meet, “Yeah, I was sitting there just staring at him—and then, he turned to look at me and we locked eyes and all I could do was mouth the words, ‘Jeff Smith’ silently to myself and that was it.”
After fielding several short, personal questions, Way and Allie closed the panel by talking about the development of The Umbrella Academy motion picture; Allie was brief, “We’re confident, things are going very well. When asked about casting choices, Way smirked, “Well, I don’t really like to say who I’d want to play certain roles—because I know nothing about young Hollywood and who’s who right now,” he added, “It would be really unfair of me to say, ‘I want this person to play this role’ because if someone else was cast and they found out who my choice was—they’d have me kicked off the set or worse.