Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy: 7 Things We Learned
Today marks a momentous day for Gerard Way: a breath-taking adaptation of his and illustrator Gabriel Bá’s beloved comic-book series, The Umbrella Academy, has just arrived on Netflix. If you’re not already reading this while lying on the sofa in your pants, stuffing popcorn in your gob and binging all 10 episodes then, quite simply, you’re doing February 15 wrong. (And yes, before you ask, we called in sick today and have done just that.) We learned a ton from Gerard’s latest creative venture – and while we certainly wouldn’t dare spoil anything for you, we are going to prepare you for the apocalyptic whirlwind that is The Umbrella Academy. Brace yourselves…
1. It’s Got One Hell Of A Premise
If you haven’t checked out The Umbrella Academy in comic-book form before, allow us to get you up to speed for a second: it’s 1989, and, for some unknown reason, 43 women across the globe suddenly give birth. The real head-scratcher is that none of them were even pregnant before that day. Huh. Then a mysterious billionaire named Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven of these randomly-born children (though he’d actually like the whole lot of ’em). These super-kids all have amazing powers, and they form a family of vigilantes called – you guessed it – The Umbrella Academy. It’s all going fine until they’re hit by tragedy and part ways. But then, 17 years later, Reginald dies and the disenchanted group become reunited once more. A show about coffee-drinking New Yorkers or meth-making chemistry teachers, this is not.
2. The Cast Is Absolutely Wicked
“Every step of the way with the cast, everything was perfect,” Gerard Way tells Kerrang!. “I couldn’t think of anyone better to play these characters than those who ended up playing them.” He’s not wrong. From Juno’s brilliant Ellen Page (who plays Number 7/Vanya) to Misfits’ BAFTA-winning Robert Sheehan (Number 4/Klaus) and even legendary New York singer, songwriter, rapper and actress extraordinaire Mary J. Blige (whose character is a merciless killer called Cha-Cha), The Umbrella Academy’s cast sum up the show’s ‘dysfunctional family’ strapline both effortlessly and in an enormously entertaining way; they’re definitely a gang you’d want to be a part of. Well… if you had superpowers and didn’t just fancy an easy, stress-free life.
3. And They All Got Along Outside Of Filming, Too
Which is a pretty unusual fun fact, actually. “It was super-reassuring,” smiles Gerard. “It was wonderful. They all got along so well, and they spent time together off set, and that’s just crazy. They’re spending a lot of time together on set, but then they liked each other’s company so much that they went out and spent more time together. They did really embrace the story, and they all brought something new to these characters.” Awwwww.
4. It’s Not Your Average Comic-Book Adaptation
We’re suckers for a superhero story – and especially those featured in today’s movies and TV shows. From Marvel’s incredible Avengers and Defenders respectively, to DC’s Justice League (some of those recent instalments have been alright, okay…), the transitions from comic book to our screens are done better than ever these days. And you can count The Umbrella Academy in that bracket now, too. The action scenes are classy AF, and the heroes themselves look like total badasses (oh yeah, and there’s a truly excellent talking chimpanzee, too). More importantly, though, there’s substance in there. “Umbrella Academy brings things to light,” Gerard nods. “Like, we know what a domineering, super-rich, successful leader that puts everybody through really hard things, and is kind of rough on them, we know what that type of character is, and what the intelligent leader is. So we can raise questions, like, ‘Hey, isn’t this really screwed up that this person does this?’ Which is something you don’t get with mainstream books.”
5. There’s A Badass Soundtrack Throughout
It would have been a bit of a bummer if The Umbrella Academy didn’t recruit its own creator for a few musical numbers here and there. After all, he is responsible for some of rock’s greatest ever records. And though the focus is undeniably (and understandably) on the show itself, our Gee does indeed find his way into viewers’ eardrums in episode five. You’ve already heard the song – a dazzling cover of the Turtles’ Happy Together – but Gerard and Ray Toro’s rendition is even more impactful when cleverly played over a blockbuster shoot-out. But the rest of the soundtrack is ace, too: it features Queen, Radiohead and even a very special rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade Of Winter. (Okay, that final one is by Gerard and Ray as well, but we can’t stop listening to it, so whatever.)
6. There Could Be Another Series Of The Umbrella Academy
No-one knows if there’s going to be a follow-up to The Umbrella Academy’s first season. But, given that Gerard has a total of eight graphic novels planned to tell the entire story (only three volumes have been released thus far), it’s safe to say that Netflix would have more than enough material to work with should they want to carry on. Not that Gerard even has a completion date for it yet. “We definitely feel it’ll take as long as it takes,” he says, not putting a timestamp on when the remaining five books will be ready. “Gabriel put so much into the art, and he doesn’t ever rush. He builds up the momentum and sometimes will get a rhythm going to move quickly, but he doesn’t rush anything – he’ll never try to get something in last minute, y’know? It takes as long as it takes – and that’s our approach to Umbrella Academy.”
7. Ultimately, Gerard Way Is Just A Bloody Genius, Isn’t He?
Everyone already knew this anyway, but it’s always worth reiterating. So he’s not shooting at bad guys in the desert, being bullied at a fake high school or dramatically delivering The Black Parade’s Patient towards death on a massive float with My Chemical Romance anymore, but he has brought an entirely new world to the masses – and that is a truly stunning feat. Gerard’s wife Lindsey summed it up best on Twitter after the show’s black carpet premiere earlier in the week: “Hard to put into words how proud I am of Gerard Way,” she wrote. “He’s really good at writing about superheroes, because he is one.”
The Umbrella Academy is out now on Netflix.
Words: Emily Carter
Gerard Way discusses coping in the pandemic, switching off from social media and more during Unwound & Unplugged, a mental health benefit concert and panel.
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