If you haven’t heard of The Umbrella Academy by now, where have you been? It’s a super popular Netflix show based off of the graphic novels by Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance fame). I, personally, watched the show first and quickly became OBSESSED. The show is quirky and fun while also having a generous amount of darkness and violence. After finishing the show, I turned to my library to read the graphic novels and was surprised by the differences I found. This is actually a case where I prefer the on-screen version, but there are things I like about the graphic novels as well. I’m going to do a character by character comparison and then at the end I’ll do a general comparison.
Luther/Spaceboy (Number 1)
First, let’s all just agree that Luther is the worst. Like, actually the worst. He’s not quite as bad in the comics, but in the show he’s SO moody and self-righteous and escalated things in a terrible way. In the GN, he’s still a bit of a baby but he’s more tolerable. Maybe that’s just because we don’t see quite as much of him…
Diego/Kraken (Number 2)
In the GN, Diego is missing an eye for a reason that has not been explained. Obviously, they felt they didn’t need that in the show. Perhaps in a later season? In both the show and the GN, Diego has a lot to prove and feels that he should be the leader, not Luther. I feel like the GN makes that tension feel a little more angsty though. Netflix Diego is a lot more likable.
Allison/The Rumor (Number 3)
Allison is a pretty sympathetic character in the show, for me, even if I think she’s too easy on Luther. In the comic, Allison is super angry and we don’t get to see as much of her backstory with her husband or Claire. I think the way they’ve extrapolated Allison’s power for the show into helping her achieve fame, etc. is really interesting. Even though it’s not quite “canon”, I find her Netflix backstory very compelling.
Klaus/Seance (Number 4)
In the GN, Klaus is a way more helpful character. In fact, he’s actually the one that stops the apocalypse…kind of. In the show, I wondered how helpful he would actually be in battles. His only power is to summon the dead and he’s scared to do it. So how does that help? In the GN, he’s not scared of summoning the dead and uses his communications with them to get information that is helpful for the rest of the team. Also, he has telekinesis. The Klaus in the GN is a more enjoyable character for me, but Netflix Klaus is more interesting.
Number 5 is CRAZY in the GN. Like, seriously unhinged. Netflix Number 5 appears to be more human and actually cares about his family, whereas I’m not convinced GN Number 5 does. (Actually, I’m not really convinced that any of them care about each other). Another interesting difference, GN Number 5’s power is to jump through time. He uses microjumps to make it appear like he’s moving from place to place. Netflix Number 5’s power is to teleport, essentially, and then he figures out how to travel forward through time as well as space.
Ben/The Horror (Number 6)
Similar to the show, the GN doesn’t say what happened to Ben. Unlike the show, the only time we see Ben in the GN is in the flashback scenes (and his statue in the courtyard). I liked that the show made Ben more of a character by having him hang around Klaus (because OF COURSE). I’m excited to learn more about him in both future volumes and episodes.
Vanya/The White Violin (Number 7)
Vanya is a lot more angry in the GN than she is in the beginning of the show. Her progression to becoming the White Violin is more subtle and measured in the show, where the GN it just kind of happens to her. Also, in the GN she and Diego seem to have had a thing in the past? Weird. Overall, she seems a lot less rational in the GN than the show (even though she has her moments in the show too).
Reginald Hargreeves (The Monocle) – In the show, it’s a little confusing who Hargreeves is, where he came from, or what he wants with the kids. The GN makes it clear right away that he’s an alien? And that his face is actually just a mask. Also, his monocle plays a much bigger role in the GN as it seems to have some kind of extra power–that doesn’t really play into the show at all.
Mom – She seems to have a lot more awareness in the GN than in the show. I like the GN version a bit more, but I found her origin story on the show pretty interesting.
Cha-Cha and Hazel – Netflix has definitely humanized Cha-Cha and Hazel by 1,000,000%. In the GN, they are ruthless killers and we never see their faces. In the show, you actually have sympathy for them.
Pogo – Netflix Pogo seems nicer. That’s kind of my only take-away.
Show vs Graphic Novel
As I said before, I like the show a little better than the graphic novel because I feel like we get to know the characters on a deeper level. I thought the diversity that they included in the show seemed really genuine–it makes sense that these babies would be of different races. The medium of the show lends itself to taking more time with characters and plot points and I think that’s important with a story this complex. The GN is still enjoyable, but feels like it’s much faster paced because it is. The way that the Academy stops the apocalypse is quite different between the Netflix show and the GN, so I’ll be interested to see where season 2 takes it–whether they incorporate more things from volumes 2 and 3 of the GN or not.