'The Umbrella Academy': How Gerard Way went from being the frontman of My Chemical Romance to comic book author
2019 is off to a good start for Gerard Way who sees the live-action release of his brainchild 'The Umbrella Academy' next month.
The TV adaptation of 'The Umbrella Academy' is set to hit Netflix on February 19 and creator Gerard Way gives us hope for the future of the comic book series. The seeds of his creative genius were sown quite early on in childhood.
Being born on a pleasant spring day in Summit, New Jersey on April 9, 1977, Gerard Way, the American singer, songwriter, musician and comic book writer began his creative journey at the tender age of 10, where he performed as Peter Pan for a school musical production. He credits his spark of creativity to his maternal grandmother, who played a big role in bringing out his creative potential. She taught him how to sing, perform and draw, the skills essential to making the man we know as Gerard Way today. The song 'Helena' by My Chemical Romance, is dedicated to the passing of his grandmother, along with majorly influencing their second studio album, ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’.
In an interview with Kerrang! in February 2005, he had this to say about the song: "I have had a lot of self-hate. The most recent example was the song ‘Helena’. It’s a really angry open letter to myself. It’s about why I wasn’t around for this woman who was so special to me, why I wasn’t there for the last year of her life. Self-hate is always a big part of the lyrics. I’ve felt like that all my life. I don’t know why but I’ve always hated myself. Hopefully, that self-hate is growing into something else now. Hopefully, it’s grown into caring about myself and wanting to stay alive".
Gerard grew up in a two-family home, with their grandparents living upstairs. While Gerard and his brother, Mikey Way, explored the farthest corners of their mind in the darkness of their family's basement, Gerard's hypnotic brilliance was slowly coming to light and he developed a passion for music and comic books. In fact, few people know that Mikey was responsible for creating the name of the band 'My Chemical Romance' after reading the book Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance by Irvine Welsh.
It's hard to believe that Gerard began writing before the start of his music career, as we see him shuffle a lot between his love of music and comics over the years. Yet, there are still many who only know of Gerard as the singer and frontman of 'My Chemical Romance', not as the creative genius behind "The Umbrella Academy", and as a major collaborator in DC's "Young Animals", the latter of which would've seen relaunched characters touching upon more mature themes in the comic universe. As of now, this project is on hold, but Gerard has subtly hinted at its return.
While we admire the vocal and artistic skill of Gerard, he's not credited as being a good guitarist, saying that he can barely play 'Sweet Home Alabama' on the guitar, and God forbid he has to sing while doing it. Only ardent fans will be aware that Gerard had always pictured himself as a guitarist while growing up, but got kicked out of bands for his lack of skill with the instrument. Mikey, on the other hand, was a skilled bassist and back-up vocalist, who upped his guitar game in less than a week before joining My Chemical Romance.
But all is not lost for him as we know, his other skills outshine his incompetence with the guitar. It was high school which saw him at his roughest and saw him take to the drink. His dependency on the drink and depression saw him go through some real tough times.
Gerard also worked on Cartoon Network as an intern during 2011, and it was at that time that the 9/11 attacks took place. He was deeply disturbed by the events, and as he told Spin magazine, "I literally said to myself, 'F**k art. I've gotta get out of the basement. I've gotta see the world. I've gotta make a difference.'" So much had this unfortunate event influenced him, that he wrote the song 'Skylines and Turnstiles', which is credited as the first My Chemical Romance song, followed immediately by the band's formation in 2001.
After rocking the world for 12 long years with their "violent, dangerous pop", the world was sad to see My Chemical Romance split up on March 22, 2013, and Gerard said that the split was "nobody's fault", and all the members were very upset about the split.
After the split, Way went on to dish out a couple of singles and a solo album in 2014-2016 called 'Hesitant Alien', and begin promptly pursuing his solo career in music, now going by 'Gerard Way and the Hormones'. His musical career speaks for itself, but let's not forget that as the creator of 'The Umbrella Academy', he has proven himself as a writer by winning the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, for his work in 'Apocalypse Suite'.
With 'The Umbrella Academy' receiving critical acclaim and rave reviews the world over, it's no surprise when he announced his debut in the Marvel universe by for Marvel's 'Edge of the Spider-Verse' in 2014. His work was so well received, that he went on to write for DC's Doom Patrol on September 14, 2016, where he created a host of new characters and storylines. He also co-created a comic book called The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, which got its name from the 'MCR' album of the same name.
Following the success of 'The Umbrella Academy', his graphic novel will be brought to life on February 15 through live action, and the series, which airs on Netflix, boasts an all-star cast which includes big names like Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige, Tom Hopper, and Kate Walsh just to name a few, marking the peak of his writing career.
It seems like nothing can stop the ex-frontman from shining in the limelight, be it his open troubles with depression, alcohol or self-loathing, Way has found a way (no pun intended) into our hearts, and we look forward to more of his creations in the years to come.