The Umbrella Academy comics are so much weirder than the show

The world of Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is weird. But it could be much, much weirder. The three-season superhero drama is loosely adapted from Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s ongoing comic book series of the same name, which is even more maximalist and idiosyncratic than the show.

In the show, sure, there’s still a villainous talking fish and cartoon-masked assassins, but in many ways their world(s) are quite similar to our own. The world of the comics, however, is something else entirely. It’s a world where you can watch a human wrestle a space squid, ranchers ride supersized roosters like horses, teleportation devices are a common form of transportation, and you can buy soda from a vending machine that allows you to speak and understand other languages.

While trying to do a faithful adaptation of the comics would be as disastrous as the Umbrellas trying to save the world, I can’t help but wonder sometimes what it would be like if the show embraced some of the comics’ weirder plots and world-building. Because they get well and truly weird — here’s just a taste:

[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers from the first three volumes of Umbrella Academy comics but doesn’t include any spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season 3. Though Number Seven is named Viktor in the Netflix series, the comics character is named Vanya and referred to as such. ]

The first villain the Academy fights is Zombie-Robot Gustave Eiffel

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite
Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

The villains in the Umbrella Academy comics are a trip. They may even be my favorite part of the entire series, and this is a perfect example of why.

In Apocalypse Suite, the siblings have their first-ever villain showdown when they travel to Paris after the Eiffel Tower starts throwing visitors off the top. After the young superheroes break into the tower, they discover it’s being controlled by its architect, Gustave Eiffel, who has evaded death all these years by turning himself into a zombie-robot. Diego is able to take down Zombie-Robot Gustave Eiffel with the classic knife-to-the-head move, but Eiffel still manages to trigger the tower’s launch sequence. Because, oh yeah, the Eiffel Tower is also a spaceship.

The Eiffel Tower isn’t the only monument the Umbrella Academy fights, either. In Dallas, they end the Abe Lincoln Memorial’s murderous rampage when Allison “hears a rumor” that Lincoln was assassinated, thus manifesting a John Wilkes Booth memorial to take down the Lincoln one.

Some of the other villains the Umbrella Academy fight include Dr. Terminal, who created a machine that converts the matter he consumes by eating people into energy that staves off a fatal disease; The Murder Magician, a hypnotist who sawed a doppelgänger of Allison in half; and several killer robots.

Hargreeves’ monocle is magic

In The Umbrella Academy’s first season, Luther thinks the fact that Hargreeves’ monocle is missing is a major clue to unraveling his murder — which turned out not to be a murder, of course. But other than the monocle’s red herring moment in the show’s early episodes, it hasn’t played any part in the Netflix drama beyond being quite the fashion statement for Hargreeves.

In the comics, Hargreeves’ monocle is actually magic, or at least so scientifically advanced that it may as well be magic. When you look through the monocle, you’re essentially able to see the truth of a person, such as Five seeing the horrific experimentation Pogo underwent at Hargreeves’ lab or being able to tell that Vanya was The White Violin even though her body had been completely transformed.

Diego and Vanya were in a punk band with a chimp

“Anywhere But Here”
Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

Back when Diego and Vanya were still angsty adolescents, they were in a punk band, the Prime-8s, with a chimpanzee named Body. (In the comics, talking chimpanzees are just a normal part of society.) Unsurprisingly, Hargreeves disapproved of the “trash racket” band and wanted Vanya to pursue formal violin training in Paris instead. Diego told Vanya not to go and they made a pact that after that night’s show, the siblings would leave the Academy and dedicate themselves to the Prime-8s full time.

But when Vanya turned up to the gig, Diego was a no-show, having gone to fight a mime gang with their siblings instead. This was the final straw for Body and the band disbanded, leaving only one album as their legacy, called I Don’t Wanna Kill the President. Diego and Body did stay in touch, though, as Body eventually becomes one of the cops Diego works with as a vigilante.

Hotel Oblivion is actually a space prison for supervillains

The third season of the show hinges largely around Hotel Oblivion, but the comics version of the hotel is — in my humble but expert opinion — way, way cooler. The original version of Hotel Oblivion is a prison Hargreeves built in a pocket dimension to house all the supervillains defeated by the Umbrella Academy. Upping the hotel’s eccentricity factor is the fact it’s guarded by The Scientific Man (a clear riff on Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan), and the entire prison apparently doubles as some sort of cosmic trap for an eldritch tentacle monster. Don’t ask me to explain that last part more because I genuinely can’t.

Five’s DNA is bound with that of assassins

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas
Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

Five is good at killing people. Astoundingly so. In the show, that’s the result of his natural abilities combined with his Commission training. But in the comics, there’s a more sinister explanation for how Five became the world’s best assassin.

When Five was recruited by Temps Aeternalis, the comics’ version of The Commission, they modified his DNA by binding it with that of notorious assassins, making him, essentially, the ultimate killer. Though Five kills without a care, even he was horrified at this revelation — though it didn’t stop him from pretentiously bragging about his souped-up DNA in the panel above.

Five and Luther are twins

The new season of The Umbrella Academy focuses even more on the complex dynamics and definitions of family. I initially thought — OK, dreaded — that this meant the series was about to drop one of the biggest twists from the comics.

In Dallas, Allison teams up with Five to assassinate JFK, posing as Jackie O and using her powers to kill the president. The only reason Allison does this, though, is because she’s being extorted by the Temps Aeternalis.

The timeline preservation agency had gone back in time to before the siblings were born and put a gun to the head of the only one of their mothers who was carrying twins — Luther and Five, to be precise. While it’s unknown whether Allison would have gone through with the assassination if it was only to save Five, she loved Luther too much to lose him, even if it meant compromising her morals.

Luther and Diego take a road trip to outer space

The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion
Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

While we’ve gotten some space things in the series, such as Luther’s tenure on the moon and the fact that Hargreeves is an alien, the comics are much more space-heavy. In Hotel Oblivion, Luther and Diego track down Hargreeves’ old spaceship and head off into afterspace, a portion of the universe that doesn’t follow the laws of known science.

But exploring barely trodden frontiers comes with unexpected dangers. When the brothers use space suits to venture outside the ship, they get caught in a “merge sweep” and their bodies and minds begin to meld together — a horrifying and potentially permanent ordeal that’s only stopped when the brothers are able to find the one thing they have in common: their love for each other. (Cue awws.)

Klaus, Diego, and Luther try to end the Vietnam War by resurrecting an ancient emperor

Rather than their trips into the ’60s being total accidents, in Dallas, Klaus, Luther, and Diego purposefully decide to go back in time to stop Five from assassinating JFK. Unfortunately, their inexperience with time travel shows when they accidentally arrive three years too early and in Vietnam. Luther spends the majority of that time throwing himself a pity party in the jungle, while Klaus opens a bar and Diego becomes a U.S. sergeant fighting in the war.

Klaus and Diego concoct a scheme to end the war by resurrecting Emperor Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyễn dynasty and, in the comics, a practitioner of the dark arts. When the emperor wakes up, though, he begins attacking everyone in sight, meaning the brothers have to kill the mummy they had just resurrected.

In the wake of one plan’s failure, Klaus, Diego, and Luther immediately pivot back to their original plan to stop the assassination. It turns out that in addition to running a bar — and having a baby with someone! — Klaus had been working with a young Pogo on constructing a televator. The siblings then use the machine to travel to Dallas, with Klaus leaving his infant behind.

Five is serenaded by a Marilyn Monroe chimp

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas
Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

These are just two rather inconsequential panels from Dallas and they honestly aren’t even that weird by Umbrella Academy standards. I just wanted an excuse to share these cursed images with you all.

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Sadie Gennis