A Headstart on the Inevitable Comic Comparisons

So, as you may or may not know, Wednesday is New Comics Day. And today, that means the release of issue #1 of Fall Out Toy Works, the comic created by Fall Out Boy bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz.

Now, I’m definitely picking up a copy on my way home and am hoping to have a review of issue #1 up sometime today for you folks, but I wanted to address something first. See, I’m sure there, no matter what, FOTW will end up getting compared to another project: The Umbrella Academy, written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance.

Which I find kind of silly, really. I mean, the only thing My Chem and Fall Out Boy have in common is an often intersecting fanbase and the fact that they toured together on Warped in 2004 and 2005. Pete does maintain a friendship with Mikey Way, the band’s bassist and Gerard’s brother, but really that where most of the big similarities end. Pete and Gerard are very different individuals, and their bands produce very different music. Yes, they are both musicians with comics, but Courntey Love and Avril Lavigne have both had their own comics in the past and I doubt anyone is jumping to compare either FOTW or TUA to either of their projects.

But: for arguments sake, let’s look at the big picture. Gerard is a comics affeciando, a long time fan of titles like Doom Patrol, Watchmen and Sandman. He went to art school with dreams of making it big in comics and sort of accidentally became a rock star instead. By contrast, in a recent USA Today interview Pete confessed he’s never been much of a comics person, but he partially worked on this project for his son, Bronx Mowgli. “I think after you have a kid, all of a sudden you want to do things that your kid can see.”

Thematically, the comics also diverge. Umbrella is sort of an anti-superhero superhero comic, with a team of adopted brothers and sisters trying to save the world despite the fact that they really kind of don’t like each other for the most part…except for the brother and sister who are apparently in love. Toy Works will have a decidedly different focus: according to Wentz it asks the question of “can we invent artificial love.” “It explores the dimensions of what love really is. Can it be designed in you? Can a robot fall in love?” So, while Gerard’s inspiration was superhero comics, it sounds like Pete is drawing more from sources like Blade Runner and Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?

There’s also another huge difference, and that’s in the intersection with the boys’ bands. TUA is no way apparently related to My Chemical Romance, and Gerard has promised there will never be a TUA/My Chem collaboration video. Though some of the chapter titles in The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite are lyrics from the unreleased bonus track “Kill All Your Friends,” and if you listen to that track closely it seems to have been inspired by or have influenced the first series (I’m now wondering if that had something to do with it being pulled from The Black Parade, though Gerard has also mentioned he just felt like it didn’t fit in with the rest of the album). However, the connection between Fall Out Boy and Fall Out Toy Works is obvious just from the name. Also, the plot is heavily influenced by the song “Tiffany Blews” from Folie a Deux, right down to the main character being named Tiffany Blews and reportedly another character known as “our dear, Gravity Wells” who is an obvious reference to Lil Wayne’s bridge in the song “Dear gravity, you held me down in this starlit city.”

So, while I’m sure the comparisons are still going to be made around these parts, I, for one, am finished. I plan to enjoy both of these comics, as well as Gerard’s new project The Fabulous Killjoys, which was announced at Comic Con, on their own merit. I suggest you do the same.