With three Umbrella Academy story arcs under his belt, writer Gerard Way is branching out with the series’ very first spinoff, You Look Like Death. The story centers around Klaus/The Séance, perhaps the most troubled member of the Hargreeves brood, who suffers from a horrible drug habit and a supernatural ability to commune with the dead.
“Of all of the siblings, Klaus was always the first one I wanted to explore, because I had a lot of ideas about what happened to him in the ten years before ‘Apocalypse Suite,’” Way, who is also known as the frontman of My Chemical Romance, shared. “It felt like a big story in itself. Since then, I’ve filled in the gaps on what the other siblings were up to in that ten-year span and I’d like to explore those stories as well. Klaus was always the first, though.”
After he’s kicked out of the UA mansion by his father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (aka “The Monocle”), an 18-year-old Klaus heads to Hollywood, where he contends with magical narcotics and a vampiric drug lord. For Way, the glamorous and sun-soaked Tinseltown setting was the perfect place in which to test the troubled young hero.
“Los Angeles is a place where you can very easily lose sight of who you are, and that is what is happening to Klaus in this series,” he explained. “We see him develop stronger habits and explore more extreme things than he had before. Los Angeles is also a place with a strong dark side, as well as this undercurrent of the occult. It is also a place where somewhat nefarious people transplanted here can more easily thrive and spread out roots, so there’s a good chance Klaus runs the risk of getting chewed up and spit out.”
For this project, Way re-teamed with his Fabulous Killjoys co-writer, Shaun Simon. In terms of artwork, he recruited I.N.J. Culbard (Everything, The New Deadwardians) for the interiors. Way’s Umbrella Academy co-creator, Gabriel Bá, is drawing the covers for each issue, while Nate Piekos (The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion, Fight Club 3), oversees lettering.
You Look Like Death: Tales From The Umbrella Academy #1 (I.N.J. Culbard Variant Cover)
“I absolutely love I.N.J.’s art. I had seen some of his older work, as well as his horror work that made us feel like he would really capture the moodiness, darkness, and emotions of a story like this,” Way said. “He also captures the fading glamour of the setting and characters. I was inspired by Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, Less Than Zero, and the film version of it as well, and I think Ian is great at capturing that seedy raw energy. And he draws a great Klaus — as well as the other characters we see — and the rest of the siblings.”
Staying true to past UA releases, the spinoff adopts an pseudo-anachronistic aesthetic that’s meant to keep the reader unsure of the time period. It’s a stylistic choice that fits nicely into the Los Angeles backdrop, which, as the nexus of the American entertainment industry, can’t help but evoke romantic (and seedy) thoughts of bygone eras.
“You definitely get to see more of the world, specifically Hollywood, in the Umbrella Academy universe,” Way continued. “Like all things Umbrella Academy, you can’t exactly tell what year it is, but things tend to look classic, or like they did during the heyday or golden age of something, where our first understanding of the place or activity came from. This Hollywood feels like the Hollywood we have seen in old classic films, but has that slight alternate reality, and sometimes more modern feeling, that Umbrella Academy things do.”
You Look Like Death: Tales From The Umbrella Academy #1 (Leo Romero Variant Cover)
As Way alluded to earlier, You Look Like Death is just one piece of a larger puzzle that fills in the gaps of what happened in the 10 years before the Hargreeves children were brought back together in the wake of Sir Reginald’s death. However, it might be some time before we see all of those other stories told.
“There are other ideas for sure as far as Umbrella Academy siblings getting their own series, all of them very different from each other — and there are other writers and creators I want to work with on those — but I wanted to bring the focus back to the main Umbrella Academy story arc,” Way admitted.
On that note, the writer/musician revealed that Vol. 4 of the mainstream series will be entitled “Sparrow Academy.” Dark Horse has yet to reveal any rollout plans for it, but Way promised that the plot would answer a major question fans have been asking since the very beginning.
“[It] deals with a very big reveal in the Umbrella Academy universe, something that had been secret for a long time, and our siblings learn a lot about what was happening behind the scenes, as well as discovering the true nature of some characters that have been with them since the beginning,” Way teased. “The series finally starts to answer the question: ‘What about the other babies born on that day, in that moment?’ The Umbrella Academy siblings are not alone in the world anymore.”
You Look Like Death: Tales From The Umbrella Academy #1 goes on sale Wednesday, September 16.
Reprinted from Forbes