Okay, I will do a review of this using this style of the YouTube channel lost in adaptation. This channel highlights the differences between a TV show or film and its source material.
Here, the source material is a comic book written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabrielle Ba. I think because it is a comic quite a lot of the story had to be put in in order for it to make the right length. (If you want to read the comics, I would strongly recommend them)
So, let’s talk adaptation.
What stayed the same?
I am actually quite impressed by this because most of the back story has been adapted very well for the screen.
Alison has a daughter she is in a custody battle about with her soon-to-be ex-husband. It is also true there is some strange connection between her and Luther.
The beginning is also set up very well with the funeral of the ‘father’ which is the catalyst to bringing them back together as a group. Most of the characters are easily recognised from comic to TV.
The appearance of five is also accurate, as he is an old man in a young boy’s body. He is also obsessed with the end of the world because (as stated in the show) he jumps forward in time too far and cannot return.
Hazel And Cha-Cha are also depicted in the same style, although they are introduced earlier than they were in the comics. Diego and Vanya are also quite well represented.
The story runs along the same lines so I would consider it quite a good adaptation in this respect.
What they changed.
Well, as I previously mentioned this is based on a comic quite a lot needed to be added to make it fit. There is a lot more back story within this as they build up all the distinct characters. So, for example, five isn’t obsessed with Dolores or a glass eye. The character is trying to figure out what ended the world and how to stop it.
Klaus. There is not much I can say about this character that would make him similar to the comics. In the comics, he is not an alcoholic or on drugs. He is quite rational and would respond to his siblings well. There is also no mention of Ben (other than he died) in the comic, but I think the reason he was included was to give that rational side.
Vietnam. In the comic it is Diego, Luther, and Klaus that go back in time to Vietnam and they do this with a purpose in mind is to go back to Dallas for the execution of JF Kennedy to find five and Alison. (This is going into season two, so I won’t really mention it right now). What I will say is that he ends up with a baby, so there is definitely no mention of Dave or any of the fighting.
Vanya. The discovery of her powers is done by a villain who kidnapped her and wakes them up by an undisclosed manner although we are told it is painful. No random guy digging through the trash and finding a notebook! This is also why there is no glass eye that five discovers when he arrived in the post-apocalyptic world. She also turns into a white violin (rather than someone dressed in white and playing a violin) which is a very noticeable difference. Within the comic she is stormed because five shoots her in the head. (Not in time to save the world)
Hazel and Cha-Cha. Like I said, they were introduced a lot earlier. This wasn’t the only addition though, because in the comics they weren’t major characters. Instead, they merely appeared, failed in their mission, and died. However, this was an addition that I really liked as it explained a lot about the commission and the way everything worked within the organisation.
Diego’s love interest. Non-existent in the comics, but a pleasant touch all the same. It also gave a way to tell about his superhero complex.
Grace. They gave her a back story that started with trying to control Vanya and the anger. She was a creation by Hargraves and she was a robot. However, the comic does not really give her any input into the story for quite a long time. She is the ‘mother’ of the group, but you don’t see any memories of them growing up.
What they left out altogether.
All the elements of space. In the comic, most of their battles take place about trying to kill alien invaders or preventing some kind of attack. The Eiffel Tower, for example, turns into a space rocket and lifts off. These are not your average super heroes fighting the normal villains. Hargraves himself is not your average person, but that is not explained in the first season at all.
They can fly. I am not sure why this was omitted but possibly it is down to budget.
I would say that this is a very good adaptation of a piece of work. As you can say most things were added rather than being missed out altogether. I think this is probably because of Gerard Way being as involved as he was. I like the additions that were made and thought they fitted in with the characters. Even the changes in Klaus gave the character a whole new depth, and I really liked the addition of Ben. Adaptations leave a bitter taste in the mouth of readers, but this is not the case with the umbrella Academy.