Netflix’s Umbrella Academy’s Biggest Changes From the Comics


Originally released as a Dark Horse comic book, The Umbrella Academy has since become a well-received Netflix series. Viewers enjoy the weird story about a family of dysfunctional superpowered siblings who must come together when one of their own goes rogue. In an era rich with movies, TV series, and video games all inspired by comic books, The Umbrella Academy manages to offer a story that’s uniquely its own.

But just how much of that story is taken from the source material – and what exactly did the show creators have to change? As it turns out, Netflix took numerous liberties with the way the characters are portrayed, which makes reading the comic and watching the TV series a very different experience.

Related: Where To Start Reading The Umbrella Academy Graphic Novel

While the main story – about ex-child superheroes dealing with being young adults and saving the world from an apocalypse – remains basically the same, Netflix chose to alter the personalities of some of the characters, largely to make them more likeable or relatable. The original six-issue comic book miniseries Apocalypse Suite is big on snark and focuses primarily on how poorly the family members treat each other. Although some of this carries over into the TV series, the Netflix version allows the characters to express considerably more vulnerability.

Team leader Luther (aka Spaceboy, Number One), for instance, displays considerable swagger and self-assurance despite having a gorilla body (the result of some experimental life-saving surgery). Aside from a brief scene with his sister the Rumor where he admits that his grotesque form keeps him from living a normal life, Spaceboy actually doesn’t seem that interested in living a normal life, given all the time he spends patrolling the moon. By contrast, Spaceboy’s Netflix counterpart is ashamed of his body and not particularly comfortable with being the team’s leader, allowing the show to explore themes of body image and confidence.

Other characters also get a more sympathetic makeover, including Diego (The Kraken), who’s quite a nasty piece of work in the comics, albeit one who once harbored feelings for his sister Vanya (whom he treats badly). The TV series explores Diego’s capacity for love a bit more by giving him a past relationship with Detective Eudora Patch. In the comics, Kraken has a pricklier relationship with a male cop – Inspector Lupo – who functions more as the Commissioner Gordon to his Batman.

Meanwhile, Allison (aka The Rumor) is a more manipulative character in the comics, using her ability to control other people and even alter reality. She uses her power to manipulate her daughter (causing her to lose custody of her) and mind controls Luther/Spaceboy to love her. In the show, Luther and Allison’s relationship grows more naturally and Allison’s power is somewhat muted to mind control, which she uses in a more restrained way in the show.

But by far the most changed character is Vanya, The White Violin. Already the most sympathetic character in the comics as a child ostracized for not being “special” like her brothers and sister, Vanya tries to re-establish a closer relationship to them as an adult but gets rebuffed. She subsequently joins a mysterious orchestra that remakes her into a super villain – the White Violin – giving her siblings a new enemy to fight.

In the Netflix series, Vanya’s fall from grace is more gradual. Instead of joining the orchestra, she’s manipulated by Leonard Peabody, a fanboy who slowly manipulates Vanya into becoming the White Violin. Her defeat also comes at a higher cost – instead of just getting shot in the head like she does in the comics, Vanya manages to tear off a big chunk of the moon, sends it hurtling toward the Earth, and jumpstarts the Apocalypse.

Ultimately, the differences between the comics and Netflix series showcase a difference in their origins. The original Umbrella Academy series was only six issues long and didn’t have a lot of space to develop the characters (unlike the Netflix series which had ten, hour-long episodes to explore the characters). Comic book creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá also likely didn’t know their new creation would become so popular, causing them to wrap up the first storyline more definitively than the TV version’s first season (which had a greater chance to getting a new season). Fans may debate over whether or not the comic or TV series is better, but the truth is their different natures will always keep them separate albeit related entities.

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