MCR's Gerard Way Reflects On Creating 'The Umbrella Academy'

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Gerard Way admitted this past weekend that his band My Chemical Romance pulled his focus from his true passion, comic books.

“This band that I had started, really started to take off. Then all of us quit our jobs and we get in the van and we just start touring. We don’t really have anywhere to live – we’re just going city to city, sleeping on floors, going show to show to kinda stay alive,” Way recalled during a virtual Comic-Con panel discussion.

“Then the band gets bigger and more successful, but the whole time I miss this other part of my life that I had to kinda walk away from. I really missed comics, and I had always loved them.”

During the band’s run from 2001 to 2013, Way created The Umbrella Academy, a comic book series about dysfunctional adopted siblings with different superpowers.

“A lot of people at the time, right before Umbrella came out, knew me as a singer in a band,” Way said. "But I had this long history with comics, and kind of making my own and getting published at 15 and using my grandmother’s typewriter.”

Way graduated in 1999 from New York City’s School of Visual Arts, where he majored in cartooning. “I had all these comic book classes, and in my senior year I interned at DC – I interned there for like a year,” he recalled.

On tour with MCR, Way was inspired by DC’s Doom Patrol series. “I started reading those. I had read some of them when I was a kid working at a comic shop at 15 years old, but this was kind of like a new way to read them,” he said. “It refreshed my memory, and I got to read the whole thing as they would come out. And I said to myself, ‘I have to do a comic.’”

The Umbrella Academy, with art by Gabriel Bá, debuted in 2007. The comic books were adapted into a made-in-Toronto TV series, which is about to begin its second season.

“I like to materialize things that I think should exist. That’s kinda my method,” Way, 43, explained. “I did that with the band, I do that with other things.

“And so, there was nothing like Umbrella Academy, because the mainstream companies were so concerned with continuity and things like that, and I just wanted to throw people right into the story.”

Way’s other creative outlet, MCR, reunited last year and was scheduled to kick off its first North American tour in nearly a decade this September – until COVID-19 forced the band to push it to 2021 (including a Sept. 9, 2021 stop in Toronto).

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