clock menu more-arrow no yes

Gerard Way on why making comics is harder — and more rewarding — than making music

The former My Chemical Romance frontman and his band of renegades are making DC Comics weird again.

Activision Reveals The All-New Guitar Hero Live Game In New York City Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Activision

Not all art is equal, and neither is the effort required to create it.

That was the resounding message I received from Gerard Way, the former frontman for the disbanded rock group My Chemical Romance, an Eisner Awardwinning comic book writer and the creative lead for DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint.

For Way, music comes a lot easier than the rhythm of writing and creating a comic book. Comics are a balancing act between writers, artists, editors, letterers, colorists, and the looming deadlines that face them all. And since Way is overseeing the Young Animal imprint, he has to be a critic and editor, too, giving feedback to the various teams.

The effort is paying off.

The Young Animal line, which consists of four books (Doom Patrol; Shade, The Changing Girl; Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye; and Mother Panic), is easily one of the most impressive and daring choices DC has made in recent years. The stories are effortlessly fresh and wondrously weird. Shade, a favorite of mine, is about a body-snatching alien who begins to inhabit the life of the meanest bully in school. And Way’s Doom Patrol with artist Nick Derington is outright zaniness, with a backbone of strange humor.

A variant cover of Way’s Doom Patrol.
DC Comics/Young Animal

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Way to ask him about the comics he’s creating and the vision of his line — what he had in mind, whether he feels he’s achieved it now that the comics are finally here, and where he sees Young Animal going in the future.

Portions of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.

Alex Abad-Santos

Young Animal — what's been the biggest challenge for you from concept to getting it up and running?

Gerard Way

Comics are really fucking hard. To put it in perspective: When I get to make music, that's like a vacation compared to comics. Maybe that's the nature of who I am. Music seems to come pretty naturally. I make myself nuts, and I push myself super hard, and I went crazy a couple times making albums, but it's not even close to how hard comics are.

Alex Abad-Santos

What is it specifically? Art? Writing for the art?

Gerard Way

It's a grind, man. You have to get yourself in the right headspace, then you have to keep it, and there's times that you're sitting there and you're like, "I don't know what fucking happens." You have to just figure it out. You're also on a crazy schedule. He’s [artist Nick Derington] drawing his ass off [on Doom Patrol], so I’ve got to make sure he has pages when he's done so we stay on time. It's just chaos. It's fucking chaos.

Doom Patrol.
DC Comics/Young Animal

Alex Abad-Santos

And you’re not just creating one comic. You’re overseeing a whole line.

Gerard Way

I'm having to switch gears a lot because I have the mind space for Doom Patrol, but then I have to have one for Shade, when I'm reviewing Shade, and Mother Panic. I'm also co-writing on Cave Carson, so it's constantly switching gears. That's a drag. I'm getting better at it, though.

Alex Abad-Santos

Here’s an easier question: What’s been the biggest reward for you in creating the Young Animal line?

Gerard Way

It is just so rewarding to make a comic. I cannot think of anything that's even close to that. To put it in perspective, in my band I was never even nominated for a Grammy. I was nominated as an art director. But not as a musician. When I was nominated for an Eisner [the Oscars of comic books], that was the biggest fucking deal in the world to me.

Alex Abad-Santos

You started Young Animal with the legendary editor Shelly Bond. Was there any stage fright there considering her tenure at Vertigo?

Gerard Way

You know, I had spoken to Shelly for so many years, I had developed a very natural relationship with her. I was a fan of her books growing up.

She's a really tough critic. I wrote Umbrella Academy [the book that won Way an Eisner], and after she read that, she was like, "I know you can write now. I've read your thing."

We talked for years about me doing something at Vertigo. We already had a really awesome relationship. She was very supportive of all the work I did outside of DC. It was amazing. I watched her build this team. I got to learn so much from doing it. It was really sad to lose her. [Bond left DC comics in April.] This was my partner.

Alex Abad-Santos

If there's one throughline with all the Young Animal titles, what do you think that would be?

Gerard Way

I think it's the relationship between parents and children. I think that seems to be the theme in all the books.

Alex Abad-Santos

Even with Shade, the Changing Girl?

Gerard Way

That’s just a different relationship.

Alex Abad-Santos

Yeah, I mean, her [the main protagonist in Shade] parents kind of hate her.

Gerard Way

They just have a different relationship, parent and child. They're all these stories about these childhoods that affected them, or the creation.

Alex Abad-Santos

What do you want Young Animal to be known for?

Gerard Way

The best thing I can hope for is that it impacts young creators to make their own stuff, and realize that they don't have to do super commercial stuff.

I was watching a documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune. The best part, I thought, in that documentary is when he talks about how he found everybody. He's talking about them like, "I need warriors." Those are the only kind of people I wanted to work with. I didn't care if they were the best artists in the world. If they weren't a warrior, I didn't want them. I've been that way even in my band. I don't think anybody in my band were trained musicians.

Mother Panic.
DC Comics/Young Animal

Alex Abad-Santos

Renegades.

Gerard Way

We are. I only wanted people that wanted to make really fucked-up comics.

Alex Abad-Santos

“Young Animal: I wanted people to make fucked-up comics.” That’s a tagline.

Gerard Way

Pretty much.