When was the last time you enjoyed a good coming of age movie/series? First and personal favourites I could think of is The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused and Detroit Rock City – timeless pieces that cemented great moments during great eras in cinema. But where is that today? Oddly enough, they’re the latest comic book adaptations of the indie genre to make it onto the small screen.
Indie comics are far from your typical caped heroics we see now on the silver screen. Their anti-mainstream movement has appealed to audiences who want more grounded and sometimes explicit stories that only comics can portray. So obviously, this would have been the next source material for productions to adapt for our entertainment.
Popularised in the 1990s thanks to the revolutionary indie company, Image Comics, the genre has been a platform for many underdog writers and artists who need to make their break into the scene. More companies stepped up the plate and over time it had its own huge following that’s even made a simple comic about a zombie apocalypse the most watched television show during its prime – The Walking Dead.
Recently, two amazing titles have debuted their live action adaptations that vary in tone but still retains that coming-of-age feel we knew so well in the 80’s & 90’s. I’ve had my runs through both shows and I highly recommend for you to watch The Umbrella Academy as well as Deadly Class.
Personally, I’ve only just tapped into the indie comic genre, having only had a brush with its existence in my younger years reading Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Marc Silvestri’s Witchblade. I was recently introduced to more modern titles like Umbrella Academy by a good friend of mine which coincidentally launched its show on Netflix the exact same week we met. So let me start with what’s fresh.
The Umbrella Academy was published by Dark Horse Comics and written by Gerard Way – yes, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. Released in 2007, Gabriel Bá worked with Way in illustrating the story of seven children, all born on the same day by women who were never pregnant before, all gifted with special abilities.
If the X-Men comes to mind with that last sentence then you’re not far off since the story does resemble such a family but with more dysfunctional tendencies that fluctuat from the norm. Way often tells the story through heavy obscurity in the comics which many readers found frustrating at first but later reap the rewards of his talent nearing the arc’s conclusion.
I read the first book, The Apocalypse Suite, which is definitely short but sufficient in delivering a condensed story – still an impressive attempt for a first time venture into comic book writing.
Netflix debuted an adaptation of the comic on 15 Feb 2019 and manages to not only perfectly cast all the characters but also retell the story with much more clarity. Way stayed on as a producer for the show which he says has enabled him to elaborate more details than he could not have done in the comics.
Season one stretches through 10 episodes which expands the first arc in the comic but in more detail. Expect peculiar character development, interesting plot twists and even time travel in what could possibly be my favourite comic book adaptations to date!
Deadly Class was published by Image Comics and written by Rick Remender, famous for his other works like Tokyo Ghosts and the more popular Uncanny X-Force. With the art of Wes Craig, the story follows a teenage orphan named Marcus Lopez Arguello, homeless in the 1987 and is offered to attend King’s Dominion – a school for assassins. He was chosen to follow the trade of his parents and in doing so, learns the ropes of not only the deadly arts but how to survive in a school with the children of gangsters, mob bosses, and murderers.
As of this article’s publish date, there are nine episodes that sheds more light on not just Marcus but his small circle of friends who consist of the Yakuza, Cartel, Gangster and a punker which make for a great oddball team. They run into your typical teenage problems on a daily basis but the story begins to grow when they start tapping into Marcus’ history and how he endangers the reputations of his “friends” just to keep them alive.
Those used to the bingefest of Netflix might find Deadly Class more frustrating to follow as they release episodes weekly on SYFY but it honestly has a refreshing flow from storytelling to direction of cinematography that blends live action and animated comic art seamlessly! The actor for Marcus, Benjamin Wadsworth, has serious punchface that works well for his character but once you get over that, everyone in the cast plays their roles so well that you can’t help but love/hate some in particular.
If you’re curious about the literature behind these two titles, the Umbrella Academy currently has reprinted their first two story arcs, The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, in trade paperback (TPB) format. They’re quite thin and less elaborate than the Netflix show but in respects to the source material, it’s still a great read nonetheless.
Deadly Class has more content in comparison and already published hardcover collection of their first 16 issues followed by the next 15 issues in volume one and two respectively. The hardcovers are more costly but make for a great collection but I recommend going for the TPBs if you would settle for a good read.
The Umbrella Academy – 9/10
Deadly Class – 8/10 (for now…)