Interview with Becky Cloonan and Shaun Simon
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
is a six issue comic book series that came out from Dark Horse Comics, beginning in 2013. The series was written by Gerard Way (The Umbrella Academy
) and Shaun Simon and illustrated by Becky Cloonan (The Mire
). The series follows the 2010 album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
by Way’s band My Chemical Romance, which showcased some of the storylines and characters. Many of the concepts were explored further in videos for the album
, some of which featured comic book writer Grant Morrison.
The trade paperback of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
was released by Dark Horse in May 2014 and featured the six issues as well as the Free Comic Book Day story “Dead Satellites.” During New York Comic Con, I met up with Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan to talk about the origin of …Killjoys
, other projects, and Van Halen.
Jim Bush: So …Killjoys
is kind of interesting and unique because it’s a sequel to an album in a way.
Becky Cloonan: Kind of.
JB: [to Shaun Simon] You were involved because you were touring [with Gerard Way]. Is that how you got involved?
SS: No, Gerard and I came up with the idea together. That’s how it started.
BC: And that was, like, what? What year was that?
SS: That was a while. That was like 5 years ago now, maybe? If not more.
BC: And you guys got in touch with me like right after.
SS: Yeah, pretty soon after that.
BC: Like, 2009, maybe?
SS: Yeah, probably. ‘09
BC: And that idea sort of germinated for a while. And that turned into the album. I remember Gerard called me and was like, “So I’m going to make it into an album,” and I was like whatever, do whatever you want. It’s cool. I’ll be here. I’m ready when you are. And that turned into music videos, and that kind of turned back into the comic. But I feel Killjoys
– a lot of people think of it as a sequel to…
SS: The record.
SS: Which it never really was. It always came before.
BC: It’s the thing that informed all of it from the beginning is only now being realized. It’s a weird progression.
JB: So was the original idea as a comic? Or just as a story?
SS: No, it was a comic. It was 100% a comic idea first and then after working on it for a while, Gerard was making a new record, and this idea started to spill over and it influenced his record. It just came from there.
JB: How did you guys end up figure out to contact Becky?
SS: Becky had met Gerard back when he was doing the first Umbrella series [The Umbrella Academy
BC: Yeah, so I was friends with Fabio [Moon] and Gabriel [Ba], and they were all friends. And I think we met in New York first or maybe San Diego. I can’t remember. It was a thing where we met and since then we’ve gotten along. It’s kind of like you know when you meet friends and meet other people and everyone just gets along and you keep in touch? We went to the same school. We didn’t know each other in school, but we had a lot of mutual friends.
JB: So there are a lot of different characters and storylines in the book. How did you guys try to make sure that it was something that if someone wasn’t familiar with anything before the comic, they could follow it while still keeping the complex stories and all the characters involved?
SS: I think it was just a matter of nailing the characters down to their basic levels, honestly. Like, what’s driving this person? What’s driving that person? And then just going from there. You know? And the idea was to start off and you didn’t need to know what happened in the record or in the videos, and you could just pick this up and read it straight through. So hopefully that’s what we did.
JB: Yeah. [to BC] On a visual sense, where there things that you tried to do so that someone could really tell all of the characters apart?
BC: Well, you just have to design good characters. Some of them – the music videos, there was a visual style. We talked about it, and we did designs. Like, Blue and Red were based on these old versions of the characters from way back. And Val was kind of based on Mike Milligram but wasn’t Mike Milligram the original. So all of these characters that we had designed in, like, 2009 or something, and they kind of got reinvented for this, totally different, as happens with stories.
But the girl was a character in the videos and in the comic. So was Grant Morrison in the videos and in the comic. But I don’t do likelinesses, really. So instead of trying to draw them as they are in the videos, I try to take the idea of that character and portray that character visually instead of trying to draw what that person looks like. So the girl changed a little bit. She was the hardest one to get down, actually. I kept drawing her and drawing her and drawing her and was like, “I can’t get it right. I can’t get it right.” And the very first incarnation of Killjoys
was about a guy trying to get his Ramones records back. Do you remember that?
SS: Yeah, that was awesome.
BC: That was the first pitch. Some guy was just like, “I just want my Ramones records back.” And it was very Doom Patrol
-y and it went further than that. But that was the initial… there was a movie poster with Mike Milligram: “I just want my Ramones records back.”
SS: That was it, yeah.
BC: And for the girl, all of the sudden, I started looking at pictures of Joey Ramone. And I was like, that’s the girl. She’s got the hair, and the way she stands and just that cool but also awkward and self-conscious, but she’s very… I don’t know, like hiding behind the hair and that presence, you know?
JB: Yeah. That makes sense when you say it. I didn’t get that while reading.
BC: Exactly because it’s not supposed to be. She’s not supposed to be Joey Ramone, but that’s definitely informing her design. Yeah.
JB: So one of the other things I really like about Killjoys
is how there is this through-line of the radio station, the radio broadcasts, is kind of like this thing that is informing the story and giving the characters, maybe hope in a way. Our times are not exactly what’s going on in the Killjoys
, but do you think there are things that can work for us in that same way that these radio broadcasts were working in the story?
SS: I don’t know what you mean, really, honestly.
JB: Well, like that they’re a touchstone, and everyone knows it and listens to it. And whether they agree or disagree with it, they have an opinion on it. And it’s something important to them.
SS: Right, right, right. Yeah, I don’t know.
BC: I really like all of the narration stuff. It felt very lyrical and felt very musical. It had a rhythm to it, and a different kind of cadence, so it brought a different kind of flavor to the book.
I don’t know if I even listen to the radio at all. I did when I was driving around. I got my mom’s car for the summer. And I was driving around listening to the radio and it was like all Van Halen all the time. Have you noticed that? Like, in the summer, you turn on the radio, and it’s like, “Panama!”
Van Halen – that’s the answer to your question.
JB: Van Halen will give us all hope! [Laughs]
SS: There you go.
JB: So is the story now complete? Do you feel like there would be any more Killjoys
SS: You know, we had talked about that, and there definitely is a lot of ideas. Yeah, there are a lot of stories in that world. You know, I don’t think we want to go there right now. I mean, who knows, maybe down the road we will. But just not right now. I think everyone is off doing their own things and working on other stuff. But who knows if down the road we all want to come back and do something.
BC: I always say keep the door open.
BC: Never say never.
JB: Yeah, and you guys built such an interesting and large universe that it seems like there’s different stories you can tell in there.
JB: So what others things do you guys want to promote that you’re working on now?
SS: I’m doing a new book for Dark Horse called Neverboy
with Tyler Jenkins, coming out in March.
BC: I’m a writer now.
JB: Yeah, Gotham Academy
BC: Welcome to the club. Thank you. Yeah, I’m writing Gotham Academy
for DC, which is fun. I’m doing an Image book, too, called Southern Cross
. I’m writing that one, too. Andy Belanger is drawing it. That comes out in February.
Doing a lot things, you know? It’s just what I do…. Sorry, I’m punchy right now. I’ve been punchy all day. I’m always punchy at these things. That’s weird.
JB: So I think our time is up but thank you.
SS: All right, man. Thank you.
BC: Yeah, thank you.