Not everyone can make a hit album followed by a hit comic book. But Gerard Way, frontman and co-founder of My Chemical Romance, created The Umbrella Academy just a year after releasing the hit album, The Black Parade. Written by Way and drawn by Gabriel Ba, The Umbrella Academy was published by Dark Horse Comics as two mini-series (The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas) in 2007 and 2008. The book earned massive critical acclaim and took home the 2008 Eisner Award (the Oscars for comic books) for Best Finite Series/Limited Series.
Later this year, Netflix will be releasing a live-action, original series written by Jeremy Slater (The Exorcist) based on Way and Ba’s source material. The cast features a lot of star power, with Kate Walsh recently joining Ellen Page, Tom Hopper (Game of Thrones), Emmy Raver-Lampman (Hamilton), David Castaneda (El Chicano) and Mary J. Blige, just to name a few.
But just who or what, exactly, is The Umbrella Academy? Well, with as few spoilers as possible: the comic book is a weird, wonderful, unconventional tale of child superheroes, aliens, highly intelligent monkeys, robots and time travel wrapped in a package of hyper-violence, alternate histories and elements of horror.
This isn’t the X-Men, folks.
It goes a little something like this:
Forty-three children are all born around the world at the same time to women who had shown no signs of pregnancy in random locations around the world. Enter Sir Reginald Hargreeves (a.k.a. The Monocle), a world-renowned scientist/millionaire/inventor/Nobel Prize winner and secret space alien. Hargreeves finds and adopts seven of these mysterious infants in order “to save the world, of course.”
Calling Hargreeves an dispassionate care-giver would be a grave understatement. He trains the children to deal with looming extra-natural threats while calling them by numbers rather than names.
00.01 (Space Boy): A strong, tough, Captain America-style leader-type.
00.02 (Kraken): The rebel of the group, a knife-welding detective with the ability to hold his breath indefinitely. Think of him as if Aquaman were Batman.
00.03 (Rumor): A girl with the ability to alter reality through telling lies.
00.04 (The Séance): A telekinetic man with the ability to speak to the dead.
00.05 (No code name): A boy with time-jumping abilities. He ran away from home before the Academy’s first public adventure — which Hargreeves considers “no great loss.”
00.06 (The Horror): A boy with tentacles coming out of his stomach, like if Doctor Octopus was more front-focused.
00.07 (No code name): A girl with some limited musical talent. She is kept out the action by Hargreeves because “There’s just nothing special about you.”
Smash cut to ten years later when Hargreeves dies and the disbanded, dysfunctional family reunites, signaling the start of the doomsday countdown. Now the reunited Umbrella Academy must overcome their own individual problems and work together to prevent this catastrophe.
Netflix has ordered 10 episodes of The Umbrella Academy to debut later this year. Cindy Holland, VP Original Content for Netflix, told Variety, “What drew us to The Umbrella Academy is that it’s wholly unique, visual and stylized. These aren’t the usual superheroes, and this series will embrace the singular tone of the graphic novels — dark yet humorous, supernatural yet grounded in reality.”
Given how great the books are, we can’t wait for the series.