They’ve both worked for DC Comics. They ate haggis together in Scotland. And on Saturday at Comic-Con International: San Diego, Grant Morrison and Gerard Way came together for a panel where they discussed “lo-fi weirdness” and took questions from the audience.
Way told the standing room only audience that Morrison had asked to do a panel together in the past. “I was so honored; he was my hero,” Way said. But the My Chemical Romance singer and former DC intern thought he should publish a comic first.
And has he ever. Morrison congratulated Way on the success of The Umbrella Academy, which took home an Eisner Award Friday night.
Way said that the Eisner award “absolutely” meant more to him than a Grammy Award, which has eluded the singer and his band. “I don’t really know what a Grammy means anymore, but I know what an Eisner means,” Way said.
“I’m gonna try for a Grammy next,” Morrison joked. “I can sing.”
Getting back to the idea for the panel, Way said Morrison coined the term lo-fi weirdness in an interview about six or seven years ago. Way said that inspired him to create The Umbrella Academy.
So what did Morrison mean by the term lo-fi weirdness? The Final Crisis writer said that as the new century began, he thought the internet was opening up new possibilities for creativity.
“The whole internet thing was allowing music to be made by anyone and comics to be made by anyone,” he said. At the same time, however, Hollywood was becoming very interested in comic books. “Movies were starting to fixate on comics and steal all our stuff.”
So Morrison thought comics should fight back. “So I figured the best way to fight back was to make comics even more bizarre, because the one thing comics can do is weirdness and strangeness and surrealism, and they do that better than movies.”
He added, “I think we just need more weird shit, to be honest, on this planet.”
Way said he read the interview like it was a call to arms. He was already a big fan of Morrison’s previous work, particularly the Doom Patrol, which he said was “50 years ahead of its time, and there’s still nothing like it today.” So he took Morrison’s words to heart as he created his own work.
One of the themes that both men touched on throughout the panel was the idea of creating comics because you want to create comics, rather than creating something that can be adapted into a film down the line “You don’t write it for the film,” Way said. “You dictate it, not them,” meaning Hollywood.
Morrison added that many comics nowadays were “cheesy pitch documents for movies that were never going to get made. We really want comics to be comics.”
Morrison also said he thought the world was starting to change in regards to the types of stories people want to read.
“People are getting a little fed up with the last few years of the war on terror,” he said. “Soldiers as heroes and soldiers as superheroes … Y’know, we all love soldiers, God bless them, those guys have a hard job to do, but I’ve had enough of the soldier as a hero, the fetishized soldier.”
He said those types of stories grew out of the Sept. 11 attacks, and it’s time to start telling new stories that give some hope for the future. “Right now there’s not a lot of hope for the future, or so it seems, but that’s only because we’re telling ourselves really shitty stories about soldiers killing each other,” Morrison said.
When they opened the floor to questions, a fan said he never read The Umbrella Academy and wanted to know what it was about. After joking that it was about gay cowboys with umbrellas, Way said it was a post-modern superhero story. “Nothing about it looks like superheroes.”
Morrison called it “the X-Men for cool people.” Scott Allie, the book’s editor, told another Dark Horse employee to “write that down.”
Another audience member asked if any Umbrella Academy art or animation would be incorporated into My Chemical Romance’s stage show. Way said he wanted to keep the band and his comics separate. Allie added that while they used the band name in some of the early advertising, they would be getting away from that in the future.
However, he added, “I’m also proud of being in that band. So it was cool to give interviews for My Chemical Romance and get asked those questions, and it was cool to give comic interviews and get asked My Chemical Romance questions.” He said it all comes from the same source.
Way also said that there were elements from My Chemical Romance’s concept album “The Black Parade” in his original pitch for The Umbrella Academy, but he took those out when he decided to use them in his music.
Another fan asked Morrison if he’d ever consider an Invisibles movie.
“Of course,” he said, but he’d want to write it himself rather than letting some “Hollywood nutjob” do it. “If you have ideas, you want to get them to as many people as possible,” he said.
Way said everyone in the room probably had some sort of dream or aspiration, and as long as it was pure and came from the heart, it would be special. He encouraged any potential creators to not think about the video game or the movie.
“You gotta remember in the entire history of the universe … you’re the only ‘you’ that has ever existed and ever will exist,” Morrison said. “… there’s nobody in existence who is you, and no one can ever see the world the way you see it and can tell the rest of us how it looks. And it might be so different and so beautiful that it changes everything.”
Another fan complimented Way on the fact that The Umbrella Academy read like it had a rich back story, even though not all of it was revealed in the comic. Way said he tried to create the illusion that a back story existed, but said a lot of it isn’t planned out yet.
“The comic is a bit arrogant,” he said. “It assumes you’ve read previous issues” that don’t exist. He said he didn’t start with the origin story because “there’s no real origin.” He later added that he thinks super hero movies that start with the origin are boring, that people understand what a superhero is and don’t need to see it.
Morrison then said he’d been watching the movie Zorro recently, and that Zorro didn’t have an origin story – “he just pops up and starts fighting.” Allie added that you don’t really need to know the origin to know a character.
Both Morrison and Way talked about how they related to their characters. Morrison, for instance, shaved his head and plunged himself “into the world of the occult” when working on Invisibles. Way said when he first saw Morrison while interning at DC, it was like seeing King Mob walking through the halls.
Way, meanwhile, said he dresses like he lives in The Umbrella Academy universe when working on the book.
When asked where his inspiration for his work came from, Way noted Wes Anderson films, City of Lost Children and David Lynch. He also sighted Morrison’s work, as well as “getting clean.” He said he’s been off drugs for more than four years. “I discovered I was way crazier sober than I ever was on drugs,” he joked.
In terms of writing an established character, Way said it was appealing to him. While he said he’s been talking to people about it, he couldn’t say anything yet. He added that Umbrella Academy and Dark Horse would always be his “home base,” though. “I’ll never take Umbrella Academy for granted,” he said.
When asked if Way and Morrison had thought about collaborating on something, Way said they almost made a My Chemical Romance video together, for the song “Momma” off of “The Black Parade.” Morrison was going to play the devil. Some of their ideas for the video had the band being chased by wolves at one point, Liza Minnelli playing the Virgin Mary and Morrison as the devil yelling in Way’s face.
Unfortunately, the video was never made.