In the upcoming months, Dark Horse will release the collected volumes and deluxe editions of The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion (September 17), The Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite (September 24) and The Umbrella Academy: Dallas (November 26). In the meantime, The Beat caught up with Gabriel Bá (who tag-teamed with his brother, Fábio Moon) at Comic-Con to chat about his collaboration with Gerard Way and why normal people are so darned hard to draw (as compared to superheroes).
Nancy Powell: So how did you get involved with Umbrella Academy with Gerard Way?
Gabriel Bá: They were looking for artists for the series back in 2006, and they saw my work on Casanova and Rock n Roll, which was a self-published book that we did. And they came looking for me. They presented me the outline for the story, the projects, and I liked it. That’s how I got in touch with Gerard. We connected really well, and that’s that’s how I got into working with Umbrella Academy.
Powell: Did you have a lot of artistic freedom when you worked with Gerard or did he have specific ways of laying out scenes?
Bá: No, he had a lot of sketches for the characters, and there’s always some visual tips or directions on the scripts because he thinks visually a lot. But I have all the freedom to change things that I think can work differently or take what he writes and then search into my own references to make it. So I have lots of freedom.
Powell: Can you give us a little teaser about what the fourth series will be about?
Bá: Yes! They are all together now. And they’re going to see what this new team of heroes is all about. And I think we’ll keep exploring their own dramas, like Rumor’s own drama with her daughter and ex-husband. And Seance dealing with his drug addiction, and why he does that. But I think the main thing is it’s this new cast of characters that we presented on the last issue of Hotel Oblivion. Who are they? Want do they want? That will change the lives of the whole team.
Powell: So how is working with Gerard different from working with Fabio? For example the two of you working together know what you like. You know what you want. You know how you’re going to lay things out. Is it a little bit different working with somebody else versus working with your brother?
Bá: Yes, it’s different. Not only because of the distance. Because with Fábio we talk. We work in the same space, and we talk all the time about the stories and art and everything. But Gerard and I connected really well from the beginning. I understood all the references he used to create Umbrella Academy and what he wanted in terms of art for the story, what styles he and that he was looking for. So all the suggestions that I do, he really likes it. We understand each other really fast in terms of what’s best for the story, how to make it work better. So it’s really easy working with him because we get along really well and understand each other really well.
Fábio Moon: Our work relationship is so much faster because we’re basically an old couple. We know each other so well that we have to speak very little to understand each other. So every time we have to collaborate with somebody else there’s more.
Bá: Yeah, there’s more explaining just to see if we understand each other perfectly.
Powell: Which character has been your favorite to draw so far in Umbrella Academy?
Bá: I think I like Space Boy most because he’s the most visual and extreme with this large, burrito body. When he was fat during [Umbrella Academy] Dallas he was just great. I think I like him the most. And also Seance because from all the characters, he’s the one that has more, I think, visual transformations because he’s the most fashionable of the group. So these two characters were the most fun to work with.
Powell: Who’s your least favorite? Who’s the most difficult to draw?
Bá: I think Rumor. Rumor is very difficult because even though she has this pea coat that really makes for her look, I think that her hair is difficult to do. And sometimes she’s wearing her costume or uniform or whatever, sometimes she’s not. I want her to be recognizable in every scene, and that’s kind of difficult because she’s one of the most regular looking characters of them all. So I struggle sometimes to make her look good, at the same time be recognizable and at the same time and do whatever she needs to be doing. But I can’t say that I don’t like drawing her. It’s just I think she’s one of the most difficult ones.
Powell: In general is it more difficult to draw somebody who’s normal than it is to draw somebody who’s eccentric?
Bá: It’s not more difficult, but you have to rely on different things. I don’t even have to draw Space Boy’s face if I don’t want to because he has this shape. When you’re drawing a superhero in uniform you have a uniform. So you could have a trash can, if you draw basic patterns of the uniform on a trash can, it looks like that. It’s a trashcan version of this superhero because they have their symbol. But with normal people you don’t have that. So you need their faces or their style or different elements. And I’m used to that because the stories that I tell with Fábio are with normal people and not with superheroes. But sometimes it’s hard to get those elements right all the time, in every angle, in every scene, from far, from close up. Sometimes I still do struggle with characters like that you don’t have that key visual element to rely on.
Powell: Are the two of you collaborating on anything new?
Bá: We are, but it’s not coming out so soon. And we can’t really talk about it. But we are doing something together that we will both draw and both write. Hopefully we will have more stuff about that. Fábio is also working on Casanova. That’s the other book that we collaborate on with Matt Fraction. So he’s still working on that as well.
Powell: It’s good to see you guys back.
Ba: Yeah, we love San Diego. If we could, we would come every year, but sometimes we just have to stay at home and work. It was important for us to come visit.
Powell: Because of the fiftieth?
Bá: Because of 50. We skipped last year. And I finished Hotel Oblivion, so there’s a lot of readers who would like to see me. I want to see what people think about the end of the book, if they’re excited about the new series. This is the first big show that we did after the TV series came out, so I wanted to see what changed, if anything changed.
Powell: Have you seen the Umbrella Academy TV series?
Powell: What do you think?
Bá: I love it. Yes, I think it’s great. People are working on it, they’re very talented. They know what they’re doing. Every change they did was a smart change that worked for the story being told as a TV series. And I couldn’t be happier. Pretty excited about Season 2. I think people are going to like it.