As an awkward New Jersey youth, Gerard Way tried to fit in, to no avail. When his peers were collecting baseball cards, he collected them, too.
"But I hated it, I wasn’t into it, and I didn’t really care," he reflects, sighing with relief. "I didn’t really watch sports, so I had no idea what I was talking about. But I knew a lot about the X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman."
The long-suffering comics geek seems to have exacted the ultimate revenge. With his bassist younger brother Mikey and guitarist Ray Toro, he formed a sleek Goth-punk combo called My Chemical Romance in 2001. Gradually, he pushed the band’s visual/lyrical aesthetic into the graphic-novel-like heights of "The Black Parade," its third release on Reprise.
Reminiscent of Alice Cooper’s "Welcome to My Nightmare," the concept album revolves around Way’s moribund protagonist "The Patient," who crawls inexorably to his end through anthems like "Cancer," "Dead!" and a "Famous Last Words" coda.
Way also conceived the cover art — a marching-band skeleton dubbed Pepe — and hired legendary illustrator James Jean to paint it. He then trimmed his long black hair to a business cut, bleached it blond and recast his group in matching Pepe suits.
But Way, 29, wasn’t finished. In September, Dark Horse will publish his self-scripted comic book, "The Umbrella Academy," featuring a gaggle of reluctant crime fighters that recalls one of his favorite titles as a teen, Grant Morrison’s twisted "Doom Patrol."
As Way’s monstrous MySpace following can attest, the man has a vision. "I’m actually a big fan of characters that don’t have a tremendous amount of powers," says the singer, who shook liquor, drugs and self-confidence issues during his transformation.
"So one of my characters was the first boy in space, an excellent pilot, but he got in an accident on the way back from Mars and they had to switch his body with that of a Martian simian. So his head got attached to the body of a giant blue space ape, and he’s been dealing with this his whole life. Another character is the Rumor, who can tell really small lies and they actually come true. I tried to really think about the powers and make them useful, but not so useful that you’re dealing with a Superman."
It’s a dream come true for the frontman, who was also offered a young-adult horror series for Scholastic. (No time, he’s sad to report).
While Way is equally inspired by extreme Asian cinema like "Audition," "Oldboy" and "Battle Royale," he promises an unusually straightforward concert when MCR hits Oakland this week.
"It’s moody, it has the vibe of old theater, but you’re never going see more people than the band onstage — it’s a rock show."
For MCR, it’s all about staring into the fabled abyss. He says, "And I think you’re just playing around if you’re not doing that. That doesn’t mean that you have to be gloomy or depressed. But if you’ve never been to the edge and looked into it, you’re never going to become a better human being. And I think staring into the abyss is something my band does really well."
Where: Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com