As the compelling frontman of dynamic rock outfit My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way was one of a few key musicians responsible for bringing emo and punk music into the mainstream eye at the turn of the millennium -- and successfully sparking a million conversations about what is and is not considered punk in the process. He was born on April 9, 1977, in Newark, New Jersey and raised in nearby Belleville. His grandmother Elena was a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to him growing up, teaching the young Way how to sing, draw, and perform.
Way's first public performance was as Peter Pan in an elementary school play, but just as that show was over, he made a conscious decision to immerse himself in art and comics (preferring things "slightly evil") rather than anything dealing with drama club. Since his neighborhood wasn't exactly the safest place, Way spent a lot of time indoors with his younger brother Mikey, creating imaginary worlds to which they could escape. Despite his passion for drawing, Way never lost his love of music and taught himself how to play guitar as a teenager. He was a withdrawn kid -- in contrast to his outgoing, life-of-the-party brother -- and Way spent a lot of time by himself sketching and listening to bands like Iron Maiden, the Smiths, the Cure, the Misfits, and Queen.
Following high-school graduation, Way enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in New York to study cartooning and illustration. He spent some time interning at DC Comics, and after earning his bachelor of fine arts degree, eventually landed a gig doing work in toy design and animation; he even pitched an animated series to Cartoon Network at one point. Way had always wanted to be in a band -- especially after one particularly inspirational Smashing Pumpkins gig in 1997 with his brother -- and though he played in a few random ones over the years, it wasn't until the September 11th attacks that he really got the motivation to do something important with his life. He witnessed firsthand the collapse of the World Trade Towers from his office window, questioned how he was making a difference with his days, and soon wrote the song "Skylines and Turnstiles" about the 9/11 events back home in his parents' basement.
Pressed with a sense of urgency, he confronted high-school friend and drummer Matt Pelissier to start a band, and after convincing guitarist Ray Toro (whom Way felt was the best guitarist he knew), the seeds to My Chemical Romance were sown. Bringing aboard his brother Mikey on bass -- who brought with him the band's name -- and eventually rounding out their sound with second guitarist Frank Iero, My Chemical Romance recorded their first album within three months of forming. It was released in 2002 on local indie Eyeball Records and produced by the band's good friend Geoff Rickly, a member of the local band Thursday, for whom Way had previously designed some T-shirts.
As My Chemical Romance's popularity steadily grew over the next few years, especially after the success of their second album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (whose cover art Way drew), Way continued to battle -- as he had for many years -- depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse. This was especially compounded by the death of his grandmother, for whom he wrote the song "Helena" as a means of coping. After suffering through some very low lows, Way finally managed to get himself sober in mid-2004. By the time of the fall 2006 release of the group's wildly popular concept album The Black Parade, Way appeared in the media noticeably several pounds lighter and with bleached-blonde hair in contrast to his prior jet-black locks. His transformation sparked many comparisons to Billy Corgan; Way denied those comments, attributing his look as merely a reflection of The Black Parade's sickly main character and its album themes of life and death.
Through his band's success, Way never lost his passion for art and comics, and continued to sketch while on the road. He created a comic book series called The Umbrella Academy that was due to be released in late 2007 via Dark Horse Comics; Way wrote the story, broke it down into issues, and designed the characters, leaving the actual drawing in the hands of two other artists, however. A few months after brother Mikey got married in March 2007, Way announced his own engagement to Lyn-Z, who played with Mindless Self Indulgence; the pair married that fall.
My Chemical Romance released one final album, 2010's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, along with a series of EPs called Conventional Weapons, prior to splitting in 2013; a compilation album, May Death Never Stop You: The Greatest Hits 2001-2013, followed in the wake of their disbandment.
Way began his solo career in 2014 with Hesitant Alien, a glam-influenced record released on Warner that September; it debuted at 16 on the Billboard 200. ~ Corey Apar