The Umbrella Academy is set to hit Netflix on 16 February, based on the hit indie comic written by…ex-My Chemical Romance vocalist Gerard Way? Glad to see him land on his feet after the band I suppose. We’ve yet to get our hands on the Netflix series but if it’s anything like its comic book counterpart, then we are absolutely pumped! Set in an alternate America, Umbrella Academy follows a group of gifted individuals borne of virgin birth and adopted by the less than paternal scientist, Sir Reginald Hargreeves. Together they form the Umbrella Academy. Unlike the X-Men or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children however, they draw their powers from divine origins, at times they even hint that God’s the baby daddy!
I’m not going to spoil anything else but all I’ll say is go pick up the first arc, Apocalypse Suite. After spending some time with the source material, it made me wonder what other comic book series and graphic novels would make an excellent full-scale Netflix series. I’m not talking about that namby-pamby Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. bullcrap, I mean the likes of Daredevil. And oh, there are loads but for the sake of brevity, we’ve decided to condense them into five awesome candidates! Take notes Netflix and listen up!
Unlike most TV networks, Netflix has little to no qualms when it comes to profuse profanities, gratuitous violence and the occasional erotic moment. These freedoms are great when used to enhance the narrative or build character pathos but when ill-handled, they can go the way of Marco Polo. One comic book adaptation that would definitely put all this boundary-pushing to good use would be visionary writer Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. Within the pages of Transmetropolitan are some of the funniest, most vulgar satirist depictions of modernity written in the context of the transitioning 2000s.
Reading it back again, the book is freaking prophetic to the post-Trump US and ever divided world. The series follows the pill-popping, gun-wielding, ballbusting obscene journalist Spider Jerusalem (what a name!) and his filthy assistants, one a hooker turned hired muscle and the daughter of subversive philanthropist Yelena Rossini. Watch them literally punch, kick and at times even f**k their way to getting to the truth.
I kid you not when I say that Transmetropolitan is easily one of the best comic book series I’ve read in this life and the next. The characters are colourful and language even more so. There is never a dull story and the commentary stings like an STD of a cheap whore. If Netflix is looking for something to replace the political drama of House of Cards, then Transmetropolitan would be an excellent fit.
It deals with all the seedy characters you have seen in there except this time they’re getting their asses handed to them but good old fashion journalism in a techno-dystopian America! Tim Roth would be a perfect candidate for Spider. If you get the chance to pick a copy, like any copy, do it (especially if you’re a Netflix exec)! And just in case you’re not sold, Jerusalem has a gun that makes people shit themselves to death. This needs to be shown on high def TV!
Those who remember Telltale’s Studio’s narrative-driven game The Wolf Among Us, may be vaguely acquainted with the comic book world of Fables but for the rest of the public, it is a gem that has yet to be revealed! We’ve seen TV series that have tackled the subject of Grimm fairytale characters in the modern world like Once Upon A Time. But what Fables lacks in novelty it makes up for in sheer talent! The magic of Fables isn’t divorced between the world of Fabletown and our reality but rather inhabits the charming quirks and idiosyncrasies of its characters!
If Netflix does decide to do Fables they could play it safe by introducing its audience to the character of sheriff/detective Bigby Wolf (a no so subtle pseudonym for The Big Bad Wolf). Through his eyes, the world of Fabletown can slowly unravel before our eyes. Then we get to know the more magical elements of the world like the dysfunctional couple Beauty and Beast, his father the Great North Wind and the tragic Prince Frog Catcher.
There’s a wealth of history and lore in Fables that could last them well over 13 seasons if they’re looking to pull a Walking Dead. The difference, however, is that Netflix will never have to worry about to being unfaithful to the source material or pissing off fans because Fables is more than just the story of a singular “Rick Grimes”. They want to do a noir crime drama? They can follow Bigby. They want a political drama?
They could follow the exploits of Snow White from her period as deputy mayor of Fabletown to her place in the war with the villainous Adversary. That war involves human soldiers teaming up with magical beings to battle a power-hungry despot for the fate of our world and theirs. The makings of a big-budget fantasy series. The beauty of Fables is its versatility. Game of Thrones, True Detective or even The Wire; it can be all of that and more.
Yet another Warren Ellis’ comic book series making its appearance on this list would have to be the iconic and ever meta Planetary. The series follows three agents of the Planetary organization, the ageless founder Elijah Snow, the technopath known simply as the Drummer and super strong field leader Jakita Wagner. Together, these three are dedicated to saving the world from all manners of scientific and supernatural threats all while preserving the wondrous weirdness of the world they inhabit.
So much of modern TV has been dedicated to putting a dark spin or grim view on pop culture. Black Mirror no doubt is leading the charge. Planetary, on the other hand, is a sort of anti-Black Mirror, it is a celebration of pop culture! Every issue is a homage to wider cultural references from Godzilla to John Woo films to old school B-grade sci-fi to DC/Marvel imagery! There’s even an evil version of Fantastic Four that seeks to rule the world.
Planetary is exactly what we need right now, a little more optimism in a world so steeped in bleak deconstruction and cynicism. Imagine that there’s a party full of all your favourite pop culture references and you’re invited! That’s what the comic stands for: the best of what we’ve built. There could even be some extra episodes fleshing out our current trends of superhero films, YA novel adaptations and dare I say memes.
Have we made some terrible mistakes (i.e. Tik Tok)? Yes but damn it, we’ve made some cool shit and that’s what counts. I know at this point, most of Y’all think I’m a Warren Ellis fanboy. It may sound redundant but please…PICK UP AN ISSUE! I especially recommend the one where they team up with Batman, Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth before jumping into the mainline stuff.
4. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman
Before the late 1980’s, the character of Sandman was more nothing than a goofy superhero who had the ability to put his villains to sleep. When Gaiman took the reins however he made something truly transcendent. He had revamped the character as Dream, the living personification of the collective hopes, stories, nightmares of all sentient life in the DC universe. That’s quite a step up, to say the least! Dream himself was a melancholy and emotional distant deity *cough* perfect for Benedict Cumberbatch *cough* but the stories told of him are anything but dreary.
The Sandman is a mystifying study into the human condition. Gaiman’s work is still heralded till this day as a masterpiece, so much so that DC commissioned him to get back to producing more this year. It just so happens that the format in which Gaiman wrote his books are quite adequate for adaptation. For you see he always writes them in episodic fashions, not unlike a season of The Twilight Zone.
Netflix scored big with Black Mirror and Starz is doing gangbusters with American Gods, another of Gaiman’s intellectual property. There’s clearly an appetite for strange and macabre tales of human depravity and high concept fantasy. So why not merge them together? There’s already a TV series that exists within the same universe on the air, Lucifer. The character Dream could easily make an appearance and poof!
We’re off to the races. Beyond Gaiman’s signature quality in the writing department, every panel of this comic is worthy of a portrait by itself. It’s as if the illustrators and colourists were on all involved in the same drug-induced quasi-spiritual paint orgy and became of one mind. Think I’m exaggerating, take at the look at this panel in Sandman: Overture.
Now imagine that brought to life. You can’t, can you? Our feeble minds cannot begin to process the magnificence of Gaiman’s splendid delirium. He’s like if Wes Anderson and Alan Moore had a baby! Get Denis Villeneuve on the phone and make a Sandman series. Now.
5. Sex Criminals
Right, let’s keep an open mind about this. Imagine a world where people have the ability to freeze time by…wait for it…orgasms. Certain individuals are capable of accessing a subspace of reality outside of space-time known as “The Quiet” by pulling one. I know crazy right? But wait, it gets weirder. Now imagine what would happen if two of these people met up and began robbing banks and committing crimes together.
Their modus operandi being climaxing at precisely the same time to stop time and go about their other nasty business. I’ll tell you what you get. You get Sex Criminals and it is bonkers and it is amazing. The story follows Suzie the librarian and her man Jon as they go on incredible adventures through a world stood still while learning to discover what sex, relationships and their autonomy means to each other. Oh, there’s also a group of time cops on their trail…who also control time by using pelvic floor exercises? Man, this is a rabbit hole.
It’s safe to say that most of us have become pretty desensitized to erotic displays and act of sex itself. It’s become pretty much become a trope over at HBO and it’s an easy way to provide fan service. There hasn’t been a major high budget TV series willing to explore the touchy subject of sexuality and personhood since 2003’s Angels In America.
Sex Criminals would make for insightful introspection with the raunch genuinely justified within the context of the text. If Netflix is looking to truly stand out from the crowd and address social issues in a manner that neither need be condescending or preachy, the Sex Criminals is should be their ideal choice. There’s no studio or network eyeing it at the current moment. Snatch it up now.