While Netflix's Marvel shows seem to be coming to an end--only two of the six series are left standing--that doesn't mean the streaming service is getting out of the superhero game. In Umbrella Academy, the new original series based on comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the street-level crime fighting has been replaced with time travel, the threat of global destruction, and some very entertaining dance sequences.
Umbrella Academy follows a highly-dysfunctional "family" of people with a variety of powers--and the one "sibling" that seemingly has nothing special about her--as they're reunited following the death of their father-figure. That's just the kickoff point for the series, though. Whether it's time assassins from the future, a talking chimpanzee in a suit, or an old man stuck in the body of a teenager, Umbrella Academy is a comic book and TV series that embraces the weirdness of its premise and isn't afraid to look silly to tell its story.
That said, comic book purists need to brace themselves. When you sit down to watch Umbrella Academy when it premieres on Netflix, you're going to notice some big changes from the source material. The first season roughly follows the first volume of comics, otherwise known as the "Apocalypse Suite" story. As executive producer and showrunner Steve Blackman told GameSpot, though, it would have been impossible to simply let the show play out the same as the comic.
"I wanted to respect what Gerard and Gabriel had done," he explained. "I didn't want to not feel that the fans would look at this and say, 'This is nothing I've ever seen.' At the same time, my goal was also to broaden it out to a whole new group of people who had not read the [graphic] novel yet. So, it was sort of looking at things... finding creative things that could make you feel that you're in a moment that you've seen before but then just expand on it as well as bring in sometimes new content that just had to fill [10 hours]."
To do that, not only were new elements added, but story elements and characters from other Umbrella Academy stories were given more time to shine--including Hazel (Cameron Briton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) in one of the season's best subplots. Beyond that, fans will get to see more development and interaction between the Hargreeves "family," which is a dynamic at the show's core.
If new things frighten you, Blackman doesn't want you to worry. While there have been some alterations made while adapting the comic, the heart of the show remains the same. "I'm hoping that the graphic novel fans will feel respected, that the material was respected and that the characters, you know, even though we made changes along the way," he says.
And it's that respect for the comics that sold Way on collaborating with Blackman on Umbrella Academy and essentially handing the showrunner control over how they're portrayed on TV. "It is about meeting and trusting talented people and I met Steve. I saw he had a vision, and I trusted that vision," he explained. "I said, 'Go for it.' And I'll do my thing on the book, and we'll have this weird little symbiotic relationship where I'm generating these crazy ideas and then you're taking them and expanding them or doing anything with them. So it's a cool relationship."
Based on the trailers alone, that cool relationship has created something special and unlike just about any other comic book show you'll find on TV. Umbrella Academy premieres on Netflix on February 15.