Gerard Way was very giddy. He told me he was okay.
The My Chemical Romance frontman was incredibly happy to sit down with me and talk about his love for the comic book industry. I could understand why. The rockstar, who is currently celebrating a killer collaboration with Steve Aoki, also happens to be a very well-respected player in the universe where Batman reigns supreme.
Way gushed when I asked him why he enjoyed comic books so much. “One of my favorite parts about comics in general is the community of writers, artists, colorists and creators. All of those people and more. It’s an amazing community,” he told me. He continued, “When you go to a convention and you meet those people and you see the excitement that a fan has for what everybody is doing—it energizes you. You take that energy home with you. Then you feed that into your work. You recharge your batteries when you go to conventions.” Way smiled, “It really is super exciting as an artist.” Fans were flocking around the star begging for a picture. He was clearly a king in every area he decided to lay his hat in.
Where did this fascination begin for Way? The jack of all trades took me back to the very beginning. “I was very young. I had to get my tonsils taken out which I don’t think they do anymore,” he explained. Way followed up by saying, “But anyway, when I was in the third grade...I was in the hospital. My grandmother bought me one of these Poly Grip bags of three comics that would come together that you would get in the supermarket. She got me one of those. It was a Captain America book and a couple of other ones. I read it and I instantly fell in love. I would walk to the corner shop and buy them. Then I got into X-Men. I would just buy them constantly. X-Factor—all of the X-books. And then I knew it was something that I wanted to do, you know? I started writing at a young age on my grandmother’s typewriter. I wrote my first script that way. Nothing happened with that. I wrote my second comic strip and it got published by Boneyard Press. So I was 15 and published. Then I went to art school. I wanted to be able to have the skills to do both—to write and to draw. Then I interned at DC Comics for a year and a half.” By getting his feet wet with DC Comics, Way was able to live out his childhood dream.
When asked about his experience interning with the top comic company, Way shared many fond memories of his early beginnings. “It was super great. I helped in editorial and I helped out in the FedEx room. One of my biggest jobs was taking the artwork and scanning it. I wasn’t even scanning it. It was more like photocopying it. Shrinking them and binding them together so the editors could read them. I was a huge Preacher fan at the time so I got to read them as they came into the office. I was ahead of everybody by three months. I was ahead of the game,” Way laughed. I followed up by asking if he was able to check out the hit series on AMC. Way shook his head, “I haven’t yet. I have a very difficult time watching television in general. I can’t focus. I make it about 20 minutes into a show and then I wind up doing something else.” Even though Way was enjoying the perks of getting a sneak-peak at his favorite comics, it wasn’t an easy road for the superstar to make a name for himself in a very competitve industry.
“So then I was trying to break in as a comic artist and it was tough because it was after the 90’s boom,” Way sighed. He continued, “The 90’s boom saw millions of comics being sold so there were a ton of artists. Then the industry really dropped. Even longtime artists were having a hard time getting work. So a new artist was not going to get work. Anyway, I landed a job as a toy designer which was great. But then I started this band that took off.” Of course the band he was referring to is My Chemical Romance. With millions of records sold, the band was high in demand. “We decided to tour. So I had to quit my awesome toy designing job. But I always missed comics. I always thought making comics was going to be the first job I was going to have. So I went to art school. My major in art school was cartooning illustration. School of Visual Arts represent,” Way grinned. The artist never forgot his first true love. Way explained, “I made a name for myself in the band but I wanted to come back to comics. I was like, ‘Alright. I think I have a good in now, you know? Finally. My way to break in.’ Then I started doing Umbrella Academy. I worked my ass off. I made a real pitch, I did all the illustrations, I sent it to the publisher, I picked out the publisher. They felt I was doing a book that was very Dark Horse and they accepted it. They gave me a great editor. They gave me an amazing team. The rest is history.” Way’s history is still being written. Comic book fans have accepted Way into their world and are anticipating many more great years of his artistic vision under the DC banner.
“There was a lot of skepticism which I totally understand because I was a musician. There are a lot of vanity projects but I think people knew I started in comics and once they read my work and realized that they liked it—it got rid of that mindset. You can’t fake any of that. You go to school for something specific and you can’t take that away from someone,” Way proudly stated. Then he told me, “My work had to be good. There was no other option. Luckily, we made a book that was really good. People went, ‘I don’t care that he’s in a rock band.’ So we got a lot of fans for that book who weren’t fans of my music which was really great. The cool thing is that I got to bring in all the music fans into comics. I meet countless people—who to this day tell me Umbrella Academy was the first American comic they ever read. They only used to read manga before that. I brought in a lot of readers to Doom Patrol as well.” Way’s smile could not be hidden. His passion spoke volumes. “I think having this platform allows me to do really weird stuff. I’m able to take a lot of risks and DC Comics really trust me. They are hands off with Doom Patrol and I get to make it as weird as I want it to be.” Way’s fans have embraced the strange and eagerly await the next trick he has up his sleeve.
“I’m really focused on the four core titles of the Young Animal series. That’s my main thing. Building those readerships and making those books great,” Way said. He then winked, “I’m also making music on the side still.”