It's finally time for the Killjoys to make some noise.
After five years of planning, plotting and creating, former My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way is releasing his futuristic Dark Horse Comics series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. It's a tale of freedom-fighting punks and evil corporate empires that tied into his band's last album and was partly inspired by the birth of his daughter.
"It will give closure to a part of my life, and I'm sure it will do the same for Gerard, his former band and hopefully their fans," says Shaun Simon, a co-writer on the series with Way.
Fans will get their first look at Killjoys with a Free Comic Book Day special issue available on Saturday at comic shops nationwide. The first issue of the six-part miniseries, featuring artist Becky Cloonan, debuts June 12.
The writer of two Umbrella Academy comic series, Way introduced the original Killjoys — with names like Party Poison, Jet Star, Fun Ghoul and Kobra Kid — in a pair of post-apocalyptic music videos for songs from the 2010 My Chemical Romance album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. He then used the mini films as storyboards to create the comic-book series.
The videos and comic show a range of influences from Mad Max, Repo Man and Buckaroo Banzai to Nintendo video-game ray guns and late-1970s sci-fi shows Battlestar Galactica and Jason of Star Command.
"Somebody who was on set the first day had commented that it almost looked like a 'punk-sploitation' film. It felt like I was doing this newer thing," says Way, whose band broke up in March.
The Killjoys comic picks up the plot from a scrapped Chemical video: Years after the heroes died trying to protect a youngster, the Girl, she's grown into a teenager. But she still finds herself in Battery City caught between a new rebellion inspired by the Killjoys and Better Life Industries (BLI), a conglomerate that tries to keep the populace in check.
The antagonists from BLI include masked henchman Draculoids; Scarecrows who are akin to Interpol agents; and the Darth Vader-esque Korse (played by comics luminary Grant Morrison in the videos). They came from Way's experience in a mainstream rock band — so much so that he felt the need to explain to his record label that BLI wasn't actually them when pitching Danger Days as a concept album.
"At one point in our life, we're either a Killjoy or we're BLI," Way says. "The villains appear to be very obvious in the story, but I think you might be left wondering at the end, 'Well, who really was the bad guys? Who's doing the right thing?'
"To me, BLI just represents more of a homogenization of life, society and music, and the Killjoys represent almost the extreme opposite of that, which is so filthy and so dirty that it's hard to understand them,'' he adds. "It's almost like they're too punk for their own good."
Way's cast is varied, including a colorful group called the Ultra-V's; the DJs Agent Cherry Cola and Dr. Death-Defying; and a pair of android prostitutes named Red and Blue. For her designs for these characters and the Killjoys landscape, Cloonan was inspired by the people and good times she experienced in the late-1990s New York City punk scene.
"I ended up doing a lot of flyers, T-shirts and album art for bands I became friends with, eventually getting a mohawk and a few tattoos, which might have disappointed my family," she says. "But I met a lot of truly amazing and talented people."
The theme of Danger Days has found its way into the book, Way says: "If everybody expects you, wants you or is trying to get you to do one thing, and you don't want to do it, how do you handle that?"
The main character of the Girl ties very much into that as a sort of chosen one who's manipulated and is seen as an important figure by some and a complete waste by others.
She's also a character who is, in a strange way, designed to be Way's daughter Bandit, who turns 4 later this May.
The singer recalls getting emotional during the filming of the Na Na Na music video, which occurred soon after Bandit was born and featured a scene with the actress playing the Girl leaning out the window of a Trans Am and yelling with sheer excitement.
"That was kind of heavy for me," Way says. "Especially in the comic, I wanted the Girl to truly identify largely with the female fan base of the band. It felt like that character was Bandit or all of them at once.
"That's why it's so much more important to do a third part that focused on the Girl because that was the message I wanted to convey: This is basically any young woman's story."