Netflix The Umbrella Academy Season 1: Four disastrous mistakes to avoid when adapting a graphic novel for the screen

With so many graphic novels being turned into live adaptations, movies like 'Sin City' and 'Scott Pilgrim vs the World' have set the bar extremely high for future adaptations.

                            Netflix The Umbrella Academy Season 1: Four disastrous mistakes to avoid when adapting a graphic novel for the screen

With 'The Umbrella Academy' set for a 15 February, the interweb is already abuzz with rumors and theories about their favorite dysfunctional family coming to screens. But not all comic to screen adaptations have mustered the expectation of superfans.

Take for instance the mishap of the 2003 'Hulk' movie, where the too-long run-time of 138 minutes, hardly had any substance to it. Granted that the effects were not bad for the time, but all the CGI in the world cannot really disguise a poorly developed plot line. 

The Hulk 2003, Image courtesy: IMDB
The Hulk 2003, Image courtesy: IMDB

Here are a few mistakes that should be avoided in order to make a successful graphic novel into an even more successful movie:

Not enough information; way too much information

Pleasing a fan base with their favorite on-screen adaptations can be tough, but if the story is canonical, any preemptive backlash from fans tends to reduce. Not to mention the increased catchment area with movie adaptations, as it brings in a new fanbase as well. Since graphic novels already have an existing fan base, a director must tread lightly on the subject matter or risk his career going down the drain. (Read Joel Schumacher and his 1997 'Batman and Robin'). The right balance of introducing the characters appropriately and making sure the story is developed enough for even the most oblivious of viewers, is a hard thing to achieve, but that is exactly what it takes to make a successful movie adaptation.

Low budget productions

While the plot is one of the more important aspects of a movie, a decent budget is more likely to ensure the success of these movies. Though there are a very few graphic novel movies that have thrived on a low budget, the best example being 'Deadpool'.

But 'Deadpool' had the advantage of having their actors carry the movie's plot, and its hilarious take on this unstable mercenary won the hearts of even the most rabid fans. A graphic novel is a very visual form of storytelling, and its movie counterpart shouldn't be anything less. A good budget ensures that.

Deadpool 2016, Image Courtesy: IMDB
Deadpool 2016, Image Courtesy: IMDB

Showing scenes in trailers that doesn't exist in the movie

The trailers are one of the main ways a viewer decides whether they're interested in a movie or not, and quite often, either due to time or budgetary restraints, certain scenes from the trailer don't make it to the movie. In 2019's 'Aquaman', for example, we see an epic scene with Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), downing a bottle of whiskey before walking calmly into massive waves, but unfortunately, this scene wasn't there in the movie. On the contrary, sometimes directors do add elements to keep the plot secret, for example, Hulk fighting in Wakanda, in 'Avengers Infinity War', even though he's not present. This sort of deception tends to work, is acceptable and is highly appreciated.

Changing important characters completely

One of the most unforgivable acts in adaptations is changing a character completely based on the director's creative fancy. While fans do appreciate subtle changes in their favorite superheroes and anti-heroes to fit plot lines, an outright remake of a character reflects poorly on the direction and doesn't really sit well with fans either.

Take for example Ryan Reynolds first ever portrayal of 'Deadpool' in Marvel's 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine', as the double-katana wielding merc named 'Wade Wilson'. But fans cried murder when they saw that their favorite anti-hero was absolutely nothing like his graphic novel counterpart.

Thankfully Reynolds exonerated himself with the new 'Deadpool', and fans have all but forgotten that poor decision in 2009

The Umbrella Academy:

For anyone familiar with the graphic novel, they know the flamboyant art style of Gabriel Bá, and that in itself is a hard thing to convert on-screen. But with the release of the first trailer, fans are not disappointed with the dark yet subtly hilarious portrayal of this superhero family. Seeing the characters using their powers may be another issue, but once we saw how much is invested into detailing 'Pogo' (Adam Godley plays a hyper-intelligent chimp-butler), we have a very good feeling about how this series will turn out. Don't take our word for it, do check out the teaser below, you will not be disappointed!


'The Umbrella Academy' will premier on Netflix on 15 February, so don't forget to bookmark what will definitely be an amazing ride.