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The Truth About The Creator Of The Umbrella Academy

In February 2019, Netflix subscribers were treated to a burst of excitement in the form of the comic book adaptation The Umbrella Academy. Feeling like a punk-ish, near-dystopian take on the X-Men tale of powerful misfits forced together in a very selective school, the series quickly gained a large and loyal fanbase, and was a strong left-field hit for the streaming service – with viewing numbers making it one of Netflix's most-viewed shows of the year, and pushing the company to order a second season.

The Umbrella Academy cast includes instantly recognizable performers like Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige, and Game of Thrones's Tom Hopper, but also propelled actors into the American spotlight, including Robert Sheehan, Justin H. Min, Aidan Gallagher, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and David Castañeda. Behind the scenes, the person who co-created the Umbrella Academy comic series upon which the show is based found himself in the limelight as well, held up as a role model by people who felt misunderstood by society at large. His name? Gerard Way. 

Gerard Way fronted a little band called My Chemical Romance

If that name sounds familiar to you, you may have spent your teen years in the early '00s feeling capital-E emotions, listening to angsty music, and wearing all-black everything to match your bleak heart. That's because Gerard Way was the frontman of My Chemical Romance (MCR) — the band so emo even other emo bands thought they may have taken things into the realm of parody. In 2004, My Chemical Romance's second album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge — which included the memorable anthem 'I'm Not OK (I Promise)" — propelled them from obscure hardcore band to champions of the misfits. (A lot of misfits, in fact – the album sold over a million copies and gained platinum certification through the Recording Industry Association of America.) It also forced the mainstream media to take notice, sneaking My Chemical Romance onto MTV in a year that was dominated by the likes of OutKast's "Hey Ya!", Usher's "Yeah!", and Beyoncé's "Naughty Girl" — songs decidedly very different than anything MCR ever cooked up.

My Chemical Romance — which consisted of Way on lead vocals, Ray Toro on lead guitar and backing vocals, Mikey Way (Gerard's younger brother) on bass, and Frank Iero on rhythm guitar and backing vocals as well — followed up Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge two years later with The Black Parade, a concept album about someone who has died from cancer revisiting moments in their life. It took the themes of MCR's first two albums (I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and Three Cheers) and turned them up to 11, setting everything against the image of the band in black vintage-military-style uniforms. The Black Parade went triple platinum in the U.S., double platinum in the U.K., and received rave reviews upon release.

Comics were Gerard Way's first creative outlet

Gerard Way was a comic fan before he was rock star – becoming a musician was actually his plan B. He told Rolling Stone in February 2019 that the first comic he ever bought was X-Men, a fitting choice in retrospect considering how similar the Umbrella Academy kids feel to Marvel's mutants. Way created his first comic when he was just 16 years old, later studied fine art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and even had an internship at Cartoon Network. But then Way witnessed the September 11 terrorist attacks firsthand from the streets of New York, and turned to songwriting as a way to deal with the emotional impact as well as mental health and addiction issues he'd been going through.

It was another challenging period of life that inspired Way to create The Umbrella Academy comics in collaboration with illustrator Gabriel Bá. During the making of The Black Parade, My Chemical Romance was gaining widespread attention, but Way and his bandmates were struggling internally with the demands that came with being an internationally famous band. At the time, Gerard and Mikey were also dealing with death of their grandmother. 

Way told Rolling Stone that the dysfunctional family dynamic at the core of The Umbrella Academy – as well as some parts of the characters' personalities — were inspired by the relationships between the band members and their support team. Ultimately, the success of The Black Parade proved to be a catalyst for the band's demise, and although they put out a fourth album (2010's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys), My Chemical Romance split in 2013.

Gerard Way isn't done yet

We already know that The Umbrella Academy is getting a second season (thankfully, given that cliffhanger that came at the end of season 1), and Way, who's a co-executive producer of the Netflix series alongside Bá, has reassured fans that there's plenty of material yet to cover. The pair have finished the third series of Umbrella Acaedmy comics, which follow after the Apocalypse Suite and Dallas runs, and Way says that the plan is to take a short break and then start on the fourth, with the aim being to stay ahead of the show so the plot line stays consistent throughout. 

There's also good news for My Chemical Romance fans. After years of hoping for a reunion and following months of speculation that they had gotten back together, My Chemical Romance announced in October 2019 that they had reformed and would be going on a short reunion tour. Tickets for the tour sold out almost instantly, and a week later, The Black Parade re-entered the Billboard 200. Over 10 years since they first spread the angst, there are plenty of misfits ready to revive My Chemical Romance — and just as many Umbrella Academy fans anxiously awaiting the new season of the series. Looks like Way has loyal supporters all across the globe — not a bad life to have, huh?