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In the 12 years that the band was active, My Chemical Romance released four LPs (two of which were certified platinum) and maintained a constant presence on the Billboard charts. Though the band has been apart since 2013, its frontman Gerard Way remains active. In 2014, he released Hesitant Alien, a solo album that branched away from the typical "emo" classification of My Chemical Romance and embraced a style that blends glam and alternative rock.
Way has also remained busy in his other passion in life: comic books. He has taken the reigns of DC Comics publications like Doom Patrol and Young Animal, where mature storylines and bold content steps into the spotlight. At San Diego Comic-Con 2016, I had a chance to catch up with Way and chat about his love for comics and the difference between writing a concept album and writing a comic.
I've read comics most of my life, but it's always had that stigma of being for kids. Why do you think it's so important to highlight some of the more mature content out there?
I think that young people, especially in their teen years, want the mature stuff as well. I know I did. These days, I can read anything – I can read all ages or mature, but I like mature superhero stories, especially when they don't lean on graphic violence and language and sex. It's not so much that you want to lean on that stuff, but you have it at your disposal if you want to use it. I think it's important for an audience who looks for that kind of thing because they don't have a lot being presented to them.
What made you want to make the jump from making music to making comics?
I had started with comics. I was a DC intern. I went to school for visual arts and I graduated with a cartooning degree, so I actually did comics first. And then the band happened.
So that kind of derailed it for a little bit I guess!
It surely did!
Did you ever think you'd be going after your dream of making comics and then all of a sudden you become a big rock star, which is a dream of so many other people?
[Laughs] Well then I was like, "oh cool, now I can break into comics easier!" That's my takeaway from that situation.
What are the challenges associated with writing and drawing lesser known characters? So many people who get into comics want to read Spider-Man or Batman, but there are all of these fringe characters and franchises outside of those flagship ones.
I think fringe characters in a lot of ways are the most important characters. Those are the ones you can use to challenge ideas, to try new things, to break story convention. I mean, take a look at even Guardians of the Galaxy the movie, obviously, James Gunn is extremely talented and also really smart that he looked at this group of characters that other people were like, "oh... I don't know. Who are they?" and he made it arguably their best film. Not even that arguably! That's what happens when you can use a group of characters that are maybe lesser known – you get a chance to revitalize them. If you come to a really big mainstream character, you're kind of limited sometimes in what you can do. You always will be in some way. And if you're not limited, you'll still get s--- for it in some way. Not that that matters.
That said, are there any major characters you'd love to have a crack at?
I'm doing it right now with Doom Patrol. Honestly, they're pretty major to me. That was always my dream book.
With My Chemical Romance, you've written concept albums. How is the process for writing a concept album different from writing a comic?
It's similar in that you're basically creating worlds, and you're building worlds. And they start with an idea or a sentence or a phrase, and then you develop drawings. I did the same thing with Young Animal and all the teams. I just sort of sat there with these initial thoughts and ideas, and the teams jammed together and started making drawings and started making scripts and all of a sudden we had this world that we had built together. Building a concept album is similar to building a graphic novel.
For more music interviews, check out my interviews with Luke Spiller of The Struts and M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold. You can also read about my top 10 albums of 2016.
Email the author Brian Shea, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.