Gerard Way is one of the most introspective comic creators I’ve had the chance to speak to in recent memory… And he’s had time to think: following the dissolution of My Chemical Romance this past spring, Way has become philosophical about what’s next, after being front-man for one of the biggest bands of the last decade. Part of what’s next? ’The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’: a dystopian comic which is part sci-fi adventure story, part exploration of the burden of fame and expectations.
’Killjoys,’ whose first issue is out this week from Dark Horse Comics is Way’s attempt to bring together his music and his second gig as a comic writer, something he deliberately avoided with 2007’s ’The Umbrella Academy’ in the hopes of letting readers see Gerard Way the comic writer… And not Gerard Way the rock star comic writer. I spoke with Way recently about ’Killjoys’ (whose name serves as the subtitle to MCR’s 2010 album “Danger Days”) and bringing together the two parts of his art, along with being a new dad, getting darker in his storytelling, and “Scorsese violence” in his latest work.
Plus, see an exclusive music video teaser for ’The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys featuring My Chemical Romance music – and a six-page preview from the debut issue:
MTV Geek: In one of your recent interviews about “The Killjoys,” you talked about deliberately creating this barrier between your work on “Umbrella Academy” and My Chemical Romance. What allowed you to bring that barrier down for “The Fabulous Killjoys” and “Danger Days?”
Gerard Way: It happened very organically. It was something I was extremely conscious of, especially with Dark Horse on my side. The had done a really good job of giving the work that Gabriel [Bá] and I had done a really fair shot.
We did not exploit the band–I think the band name shows up literally on the cover of “Previews,” possibly, and maybe one other print ad. It’s all I agreed to and Dark Horse also agreed with me. Let’s just put this out there so retailers know, at least, and then let the book get discovered on its own merits.
I said that–I always kind of separated them–and I started to work on the album that would become “Danger Days,” the second attempt at this album. And it was like, “This is all I want to be thinking about,” being in this world.
So I called my co-creator and co-writer and I pitched him the idea, and we both thought about it for like two or three weeks, and he was like, “Well let me think about it,” and I said “Yeah, I to think about it, too.” And then we had another conversation and he said, “No, I think you’re cool, I think it’ll be great, and I think we can make it work.” And so we did. [Laughs]
Would I do it again? I don’t know. I just think that maybe there’s a better way for me to join the two type of things, and maybe it’s not such a big deal. I think just from now on, I’m going to make what I make–if it just happens to overlap, it just does–and I think I’ll just put less emphasis on what it’s doing and just do it.
Geek: And with the “Killjoys,” it looks like you’re really exploring some themes–it feels a lot darker than even “The Umbrella Academy.” You touch on oppression and suppression of thought, and free speech–at least based on the Free Comic Book Day preview. What were you and Shaun thinking going into this and how was that set to overlap with “Danger Days?”
Way: It’s kind of funny, because Shaun and I–I think we’d gotten to about issue two–I’m so glad Shaun had said this, because I was feeling the same way. He said, “God, this book is dark!” He said “I’m actually really excited to finish this so we can move on to something that’s a little lighter.” And I was like, “Yeah, I completely agree.”
And it was one of those things where we’re enjoying it, truth be told, but it is very dark. I think my worldview and his worldview–I think I got him a little hipper to my worldview about my worldview with the record. I mean my worldview is pretty dark.
You know, “Danger Days” is a response to the success of “Black Parade.” And that’s just a really basic statement, but there’s so much more that goes with that, it’s not just the success of an album, it’s the chaos something like that can create in your life, and the relationships that are forged and destroyed, and the alienation and all of this stuff. And then, since “Black Parade” was successful, there’s peoples’ desire to just have that again. And not really fans–and I’m not just bagging on the record labels, it’s anybody that’s dependent on you making something happen again–it’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It’s like, I did this automatically, I didn’t think about how big it was going to be.
So “Danger Days” was a reaction to that and a reaction to how the band saw the world, and the comic is a reaction as well, and how Shaun and I saw the world. But it is dark.
And the violence is, it’s almost like “Scorsese violence.” When Scorsese shoots a violent scene, it’s very uncomfortable–it’s not like watching “Rambo.” It’s funny, because we’re dealing with laser guns, but it feels so much more violent and final when somebody gets shot in this book, instead of getting shot in a movie with a handgun or something.
Geek: The FCBD issue felt pretty restrained in that regard, than the book you’re describing right now–anything bad kind of happened off-panel.
Way: Free Comic Book Days and sneak previews are tricky because here’s what happens (and they’re positive): you’ve already written your story, and then a really cool editor will call you and give you this amazing opportunity and say “With this Free Comic Book Day thing, can you back up a little and maybe start the story two weeks before it starts?” And that’s usually the case and you’re like, “Oh, that’s weird.”
And then they’re hard. I mean, “Umbrella Academy” was very difficult because I’d already written the comic and you don’t want to false advertise or misrepresent your book. So Shaun and I had this really great idea to just tell a pretty unrelated story that deals with relatively deals with the themes but doesn’t deal with any of the main characters. And it was restrained intentionally because there’s a scene in the first issue with the man and the woman that I feel like it’s pretty f*****d up and uncomfortable.
Even if it’s not over-the-top violence, for me it’s about what’s under the surface of these violent acts that makes them more violent. Which is why I dig Scorsese films: it’s not just about someone getting shot, it’s what under it.
Geek: Looking at some of those underlying ideas, I’ve read that part of your vision from the book came from an image of a young girl that Becky Cloonan drew a few years back. To what extent does being the father of a young child factor into making the protagonist a young girl kind of wandering through this harsh world?
Way: It was a huge factor on three levels: the first level being advocated by lots of people–and I’m not one of those people–that’s like “Well, I don’t want to bring a kid into this world, blah blah blah.” And it’s like, whatever–the kid will figure it out, they’ll survive with the right guidance. The world won’t deceive them if you help them become strong enough.
So there’s that element, and there’s the element which is very closely related to Shaun and I in a weird way, which is that this is your child. Your child had no choice who their parents were. Other people have opinions about who the child’s parents were and then it becomes the burden of the child to deal with that. Especially if your parents happen to be artists or semi-relevant or semi-famous, whatever it happens to be. So there’s this weird thing that happens with the character of the girl in that she’s given this burden of responsibility for people she doesn’t even remember and also this secret mission that she doesn’t care about.
And on a third level, it really reminded me–pick any 15-year-old girl out in that audience from the last ten years, the ones that are now 25: I felt that this character represented them as well. I felt these are the challenges a woman faces, be it becoming an artist, becoming a banker, or becoming anything, you know–what the world expects out of you as a woman.
And I see a lot of that, being out on the road and having a large female fanbase. It’s about how they’re made to feel like they’re supposed to be skinny, how they’re made to feel what the acceptable level of “pretty” is. And I put a lot of that into the character and Shaun did too.
Geek: So with the band finished, with “Killjoys” out of the way it sounds like you’re at a new phase in your life–you’re a new dad. What do you feel like your mission is right now?
Way: That’s an awesome question. I feel like my mission is to be honest with myself. My mission is to share my truth–share, not give. I think that’s what an artist is supposed to do: I think they share. It’s not to say you’re greedy with it, but you can’t give it. The only thing you can give somebody is your take, your perspective. You’re really sharing your art. To be really giving and sharing your art means not thinking about what it’s going to be, not thinking about the money it’s going to make for somebody else–or yourself.
My mission is just to be really honest and make the best thing that I can, constantly.
And be an amazing dad. That, actually, is my mission. The way to do that is by spending more time with her, but really even with the time that I’m spending with her, really being there with her in my head, being present. That makes the work better, that makes me wake up and makes it purer–that I’ve gotten something out of that day, that I’ve gotten to wake up, and I’m proud of being a dad. I think a lot of people go through their whole lives waiting for that validation. You don’t wait for that validation, you just do it.
So yeah, I think my mission is to be honest–for better or worse what comes out of that.
Geek: Well, Gerard, I want to thank you for sharing your truth with us and I’m really looking forward to the book.
Way: Thank you too. It’s been a long journey. I just saw the last covers last night and it’s weird. I was like, “Why am I so emotional looking at this?” And Shaun sent me this email and he listed 20 things and it was like that’s why you’re emotional.
“The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” #1 is available now from Dark Horse Comics. And “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” is out now from Reprise Records.