Gerard Way is probably best known as the singer-songwriter of the emo-pop-punk rock band My Chemical Romance, who, in the 2000s, garnered legions of fans with fringes so long that they could only have hindered their vision, which, fortunately enough for them, helped to shield them from the morbid and depressing horrors of teenagehood.
But perhaps all those young emos – who are now, what, 30? – may not know that Way is also an acclaimed comic book writer. Way had his first series published at just 15, but as My Chemical Romance got closer to stardom, he put his initial ambitions of finding fame in the comic industry on hold. However, those youthful ambitions have been in full flow again for some time now.
Way wrote The Umbrella Academy – illustrated by Gabriel Ba – which was adapted into a TV show in 2019 and is currently streaming on Netflix. The comic and the TV show revolve around a dysfunctional family of superheroes, and both have been critically acclaimed. Way once revealed his favourite comic books of all time in an interview with Louder Sound.
One of Way’s absolute favourites is the iconic Watchmen by the even more iconic Alan Moore. The comic depicts an alternate history in which superheroes came to prominence in the 1940s and 1960s, which helped America to win the Vietnam War. In 1985, however, masked vigilantes were outlawed.
“This has to be on the list; it’s so full of breakthroughs,” Way revealed. “It’s another comic that, on the surface, looked like it was going to be a superhero comic, but, in the way it’s told, it’s nothing like a superhero comic. There are so many things happening psychologically on each page that it’s the kind of book you read over and over again.”
“It was both an honour and terrifying for My Chemical Romance be asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack of the film they made of it,” he added. “The comic has a strong underground fanbase who didn’t want the film made, so I knew there was a good chance they weren’t going to give much support to a band like us being involved.”
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo also holds a special place in Way’s heart. A cyberpunk post-apocalyptic manga series that was the source material for the 1988 anime film of the same name. Set in ‘Neo-Tokyo’ two decades after a nuclear explosion in the city gave some of its inhabitants’ destructive telekinetic abilities.
“This is the closest thing to an epic masterpiece that comics have ever had,” claimed Way. “There are six volumes, and they’re all the size of phonebooks. Loosely, it’s about the atomic bomb being dropped on Japan, the fallout from it and its rebuilding. The art is gorgeous – not a single page is phoned in. The architecture he creates in the city alone is mind-boggling. It’s incredible that anyone could draw all that. To me, it is the masterpiece of comics.”
Way heaps bundles of praise on Mike Mignola, who wrote Hellboy, which focuses on a good-natured half-Demon who was sent from Hell to Earth as a baby by Nazi occultists. Hellboy works for an international agency committed to defending the world from Nazis and witches.
“Mike Mignola is an absolute genius,” said Way. “Nobody draws like him, nobody tells a story like him, everything he does just has magic about it. In Hellboy, he plays around with folklore and the Cthulu Mythos but at the heart of it is a character who is just a normal guy stuck in the weird position that he just happens to be a demon.”
Sandman by Neil Gaiman is another comic that Way couldn’t live without. Published by DC Comics, the original series ran from 1989 to 1996. Sandman follows Dream (aka Morpheus), who is part of a dysfunctional family of super beings called The Endless. The Endless are depicted as being amongst the most powerful beings in the DC Universe.
“This absolutely has to be on the list,” Way admitted. “There has never been a comic like it. He was the first guy to look at a comic almost like prose. It’s so cerebral but it’s also gorgeous and fantastical. With Sandman, he basically turned comic books into real literature, which was a big turning point.”
Here’s the complete list of Gerard Way’s top 10 favourite comic books of all time:
- Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison
- The Invisibles by Grant Morrison
- Watchmen by Alan Moore
- Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
- Marshall Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill
- Love and Rockets by Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez
- Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
- Hellboy by Mike Mignola
- Sandman by Neil Gaiman
- The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie