The Umbrella Academy comics are far stranger than the program
The universe of Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is strange. But it may be even stranger. The three-season superhero drama is based on Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s continuing comic book series of the same name, which is even more maximalist and unique than the program.
Sure, there’s still a malicious talking fish and cartoon-masked assassins in the program, but their world(s) is/are quite similar to ours in many respects. The world of comic books, on the other hand, is altogether different. It’s a world where humans wrestle space squids, ranchers ride supersized roosters like horses, teleportation gadgets are ubiquitous modes of transportation, and you can purchase Pepsi from a vending machine that allows you to speak and comprehend foreign languages.
While attempting a faithful translation of the comics would be as terrible as the Umbrellas attempting to rescue the world, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if the show adopted some of the stranger stories and world-building from the books. Because they become pretty bizarre – here’s just a taste:
[Editor’s note: The material contains spoilers from the first three volumes of Umbrella Academy comics but no spoilers from The Umbrella Academy season 3. Though Number Seven is named Viktor in the Netflix series, the comics character is called Vanya.]
THE ACADEMY’S FIRST ENEMY IS ZOMBIE-ROBOT GUSTAVE EIFFEL
The villains in the Umbrella Academy comics are out of this world. They could possibly be my favorite part of the whole series, and here is a perfect illustration of why.
The brothers face their first-ever villain battle in Apocalypse Suite when they fly to Paris after the Eiffel Tower begins hurling guests from the top. After breaking into the tower, the teenage superheroes learn that it is being controlled by its architect, Gustave Eiffel, who has eluded death all these years by transforming himself into a zombie-robot. Diego uses the iconic knife-to-the-head attack to knock down Zombie-Robot Gustave Eiffel, but Eiffel still manages to initiate the tower’s launch sequence. Because the Eiffel Tower is also a spacecraft.
The Umbrella Academy isn’t just concerned with the Eiffel Tower. In Dallas, they put an end to the homicidal spree of the Abe Lincoln Memorial when Allison “hears a story” that Lincoln was slain, manifesting a John Wilkes Booth memorial to replace the Lincoln one.
Dr. Terminal, who built a machine that turns the materials he consumes by devouring people into energy that staves off a deadly sickness; The Murder Magician, a hypnotist who sawed a doppelgänger of Allison in half; and many killer robots are among the other adversaries the Umbrella Academy faces.
THE MONOCLE OF HARGREEVES IS MAGIC
In the first season of The Umbrella Academy, Luther believes that the absence of Hargreeves’ monocle is a crucial clue to solving his murder — which, of course, was not a murder. But, other from a red herring moment in one of the show’s early episodes, the monocle has played no role in the Netflix drama beyond making a fashion statement for Hargreeves.
In the comics, Hargreeves’ monocle is either magical or so technologically sophisticated that it may pass for magical. When you gaze through the monocle, you can see the truth about a person, such as Five seeing Pogo’s awful experimentation at Hargreeves’ lab or being able to determine that Vanya was The White Violin despite her body being fully altered.
DIEGO AND VANYA PARTICIPATED IN A PUNK BAND WITH A CHIMP
When Diego and Vanya were still angsty teenagers, they were in a punk band called the Prime-8s with a chimp named Body. (Talking chimps are a regular part of civilization in the comics.) Hargreeves, predictably, disapproved of the “trash racket” band and preferred Vanya pursue proper violin study in Paris instead. Diego begged Vanya not to go, and they agreed that after that night’s presentation, the siblings would quit the Academy and devote their complete attention to the Prime-8s.
When Vanya arrived for the performance, Diego was unable to be found, having gone to fight a mime gang with their brothers instead. This was the final straw for Body, and the band dissolved, leaving only one album, I Don’t Wanna Kill the President, as their legacy. Diego and Body did keep in touch, though, since Body later becomes one of the officers with whom Diego works as a vigilante.
HOTEL OBLIVION IS A SUPERVILLAIN’S SPACE PRISON
The third season of the program revolves heavily around Hotel Oblivion, however in my humble but knowledgeable opinion, the comics version of the hotel is far, way cooler. The original Hotel Oblivion is a jail Hargreeves established in a pocket universe to hold all of the Umbrella Academy’s vanquished supervillains. The fact that the hotel is guarded by The Scientific Man (a obvious parody on Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan) adds to its oddity, and the entire jail presumably serves as some sort of cosmic trap for an eldritch tentacle monster. Don’t ask me to explain that final bit any further since I honestly can’t.
FIVE’S DNA IS INTEGRATED WITH THAT OF ASSASSINS
Five is skilled at murder. Surprisingly so. That is the consequence of his innate skills mixed with his Commission training, according to the program. But there’s a more nefarious story for how Five became the world’s finest assassin in the comics.
When Five was recruited by Temps Aeternalis, the comics’ version of The Commission, they altered his DNA by fusing it with those of famed assassins, thereby creating him the ultimate murderer. Even though Five murders without hesitation, he was terrified by this knowledge — however it didn’t stop him from boasting about his augmented DNA in the panel above.
TWINS FIVE AND LUTHER
The Umbrella Academy’s new season focuses even more on the complicated relationships and meanings of family. I immediately assumed — no, feared — that this meant the series was going to reveal one of the biggest comic-book shocks.
Allison joins forces with Five in Dallas to assassinate JFK, acting as Jackie O and utilizing her talents to kill the president. Allison is only doing this because she is being extorted by the Temps Aeternalis.
The timeline preservation organization had gone back in time before the siblings were born and shot the only one of their moms who was carrying twins — Luther and Five, to be exact. While it is questionable if Allison would have carried out the killing only to rescue Five, she loved Luther too much to lose him, even if it meant violating her morality.
LUTHER AND DIEGO GO TO SPACE ON A ROAD TRIP
While the series has included certain space-related elements, such as Luther’s time on the moon and the knowledge that Hargreeves is an extraterrestrial, the comics are considerably more space-centric. In Hotel Oblivion, Luther and Diego locate down Hargreeves’ old spaceship and venture into afterspace, a part of the cosmos that defies established scientific rules.
Exploring uncharted territory, on the other hand, brings with it unanticipated perils. When the brothers use their space suits to venture outside the ship, they become caught in a “merge sweep,” and their bodies and minds begin to meld together — a horrifying and potentially permanent ordeal that can only be stopped when the brothers discover the one thing they have in common: their love for each other. (Cue the awws.)
KLAUS, DIEGO, AND LUTHER TRY TO END THE VIETNAM WAR BY RAISING AN ANCIENT EMPEROR
Rather than being unintentional journeys back in time, Klaus, Luther, and Diego resolve to go back in time to stop Five from assassinating JFK in Dallas. Unfortunately, their lack of familiarity with time travel shows when they arrive three years early and in Vietnam. Luther spends the most of his time in the bush having a pity party, while Klaus runs a bar and Diego becomes a US sergeant fighting in the war.
Klaus and Diego devise a plan to end the battle by reviving Emperor Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyn dynasty and a practitioner of the black arts in the comics. When the emperor awakens, he attacks everyone in sight, forcing the brothers to slay the mummy they had just revived.
Following the failure of one scheme, Klaus, Diego, and Luther instantly return to their initial plan to avert the assassination. Klaus had been working on developing a televator with a young Pogo, in addition to owning a bar and having a baby with someone! Klaus leaves his child behind while the siblings use the machine to fly to Dallas.
A MARILYN MONROE CHIMP SERENADES FIVE
These are only two little panels from Dallas, and they’re not even that strange by Umbrella Academy standards. I merely wanted an excuse to show you these cursed photographs.