There’s Gerard Way, all eyeliner and hair dye, staring down the barrel of the camera surrounded by candles like the Big Emo King he was. Also a solo artist, comic book writer, visual artist and animator, Gerard was inspired to begin the band after the events of September 11, 2001 jolted him into wishing to “do something with his life”.
Helena, the title of the song, comes from the name of Gerard and Mikey Way’s maternal grandmother, Elena Lee Rush, who was known as Helen. She taught the young Way boys to paint, sing and dance. Her death hit Gerard particularly hard, after he had been distant for the later period of her life due to issues with depression, alcohol and prescription drug abuse. In 2005, Gerard told Kerrang!: “I have had a lot of self hate. The most recent example was the song Helena. It’s a really angry open letter to myself. It’s about why I wasn’t around for this woman who was so special to me, why I wasn’t there for the last year of her life. Self hate is always a big part of the lyrics. I’ve felt like that all my life. I don’t know why but I’ve always hated myself. Hopefully that self hate is growing into something else now, hopefully it’s grown into caring about myself and wanting to stay alive.”
That thing bassist Mikey Way is swinging is called a censer. Three and a half years younger than his brother Gerard, Mikey recently made his DC comics debut with a new series called Collapser. Mikey’s fringe, it has to be pointed out, is not a good fringe. Later on, circa Danger Days, he swept his hair back and looked like a model, but this pushed-forward, gelled-to-the-forehead look didn’t do a huge amount for him.
Oh shit, there’s a dead lady.
Sixteen seconds in, and it’s pretty much all chorus from now on. One of the many elements that led to MCR’s enormousness was the ability to write verses that sounded like choruses, and choruses that sounded even more like choruses, so that somehow the entire song was the catchy part.
Oh snap, choreography! The dancing in this video was choreographed by Michael Rooney, a highly decorated choreographer as well as the son of diminutive Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney. He also did the iconic choreography on Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet, Fat Boy Slim’s Praise You and Weapon Of Choice, and Kylie Minogue’s I Just Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.
Marc Webb is a movie director now, making 500 Days Of Summer, both of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films, Gifted and The Only Living Boy In New York. Before going into films he made dozens of music videos, working with artists including Green Day, Good Charlotte, AFI, Hoobastank and P.O.D., he also did the Duke Lion video for Big Dumb Face, Wes Borland’s incredibly silly, dramatically under-appreciated side-project. This venue, Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Boulevard in LA, was also used as a location in The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as Sister Act 2, Legally Blonde 2 and John Wick.
Gerard Way is no stranger to the world of musical theatre; his first-ever public performance was playing Peter Pan in a school musical.