Gerard Way: Happy to Be Doomed
Rock star Gerard Way proves he’s a multitalented creative with the comic series Doom Patrol.
With his Umbrella Academy live-action series coming to Netflix and his stint helming DC Comics’ Doom Patrol breaking sales records, former My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way may have found the formula for happiness.
When he first considered taking on Doom Patrol, DC Comics’ misfit band of superheroes, Way says he “wasn’t sure if I was willing to tackle it, especially following what Grant [Morrison] had done.”
Morrison’s tenure (which was then followed by trans writer Rachel Pollack’s) remains legendary for introducing a plethora of acid-trip-induced characters like Danny the Street — a cross-dressing, sentient city street whose dialogue emulated what Way describes as “a gay slang code language used when homosexuality was illegal in the British Empire.”
“Danny was something so specific to Grant, and I knew I couldn’t do it the same way,” admits Way, who says he has “a very close relationship,” with Morrison. “So I went to Grant and said, ‘I want Danny to be a whole world, not like an alien world, but kind of like a theme park, like Danny-Land, and put that whole world inside of [an] ambulance.’”
Changing Danny was a significant pivot for the character, who then became central to the new series. “I made him a little more powerful than he used to be, like he used to talk through signs and letters on the fridge. Now he can create avatars and he can actually speak.”
Way stayed true to Morrison’s vision of other Doom characters while pushing the envelope with Flex Mentallo, whose “original story arc was so transcendent, incredible, and meta,” Way raves. “And I’m just using him as this fitness-nut beach guru — and it works. I talked to [artist] Nick Derington and told him I thought Flex should look like he was out of a Tom of Finland drawing.”
Way feels Doom Patrol is ripe for exploration and diversity — especially when it comes to gender and sexuality. After all, it already included Rebis, “a divine intersex” person, and Coagula, one of the first transgender women to grace a mainstream comic.
For a generation of LGBT youth — especially trans kids — Way’s genderfluid performances with My Chemical Romance freed expectations around gender identity and expression. Way often avoided questions about his own gender identity and sexuality until he came out as gender-nonconforming on Reddit in 2015. He still uses male pronouns, but says, “I didn’t feel like I fit into being a masculine man and there were certainly things throughout my childhood and my life that enforced that, and when I started doing more outré things in My Chemical Romance, it led to more exploration.”
A major turning point for Way was when he saw his good friend Laura Jane Grace undergo her gender transition: “That moment really spoke to me. … [It] really resonated because of my past identity issues, and she made me realize that it was something I’d always felt passionate about and was no longer ashamed of addressing.”
Now he says he’s happy to be a role model, and “humbled to hear these kids tell me I gave them the courage to come out of their shells.”
Way wants to stay positive in the face of adversity, saying, “Last year was really rough for most of us. Doom Patrol is my response.” —Savas Abadsidis