Netflix/Dark Horse Comics
Netflix is good at a lot of things, but perhaps above all else the streaming giant seems to have gotten really, really good at casting. Stranger Things, for one example, is pitch perfect. Ozark is the same way. And from the get go, it’s clear that The Umbrella Academy is the same way—after watching even just a couple episodes of the show, it’s difficult to imagine the principal characters any other way. Tom Hopper, Elliot Page, Robert Sheehan and the rest of the cast truly embody the strange and superpowered family members they play.
Interestingly enough, The Umbrella Academy is based on the comic series by Gerard Way (yes, the My Chemical Romance frontman) and Gabriel Bá, and the characters you think you know so well on-screen are actually ever-so-different on the page. And while some are entirely different—for one, The Handler (Kate Walsh) doesn’t exist in the comics—others have slight changes.
But perhaps the biggest change is that each of the main characters has a superehero-esque nickname. Sometimes, like in Luther’s case with “Spaceboy,” these names are occasionally referred to in the show. But generally speaking, it’s a thread that the show didn’t stick with. And that’s something to notice right away when doing back research into the cast.
But either way, it’s interesting to note how the Netflix portrayal looks next to their comic counterpart. Take a look below and see if you think the casting department really nailed it.
Luther Hargreeves – Tom Hopper
Luther is known as #1 in the show, and referred to as that number quite often, he’s also called “Spaceboy” in the comic. Tom Hopper is great in the role as the guy who wants to be a leader, but doesn’t always know quite exactly what to do. His depiction, somehow, in the show is a lot more realistic than in the comic—as you can see, his comic counterpart runs around with his gorilla chest out frequently, where the show’s Luther just looks comically buff.
Diego Hargreeves – David Castañeda
Diego is called “The Kraken” in the comic, though he’s usually just referred to by his first name in the show. He’s also been changed from white in the comics to Latino in Netflix’s adaptation. Castañeda is great in the role playing the most aggressive (and at times, reckless) member of The Umbrella Academy. He means well, though, and the actor does a really good job of playing him for that: under all his layers, he just wants to do the right thing.
Allison Hargreeves – Emmy Raver-Lampman
While every Umbrella Academy fan knows Allison’s power of whispering “I heard a rumor…” they might not know that her nickname in the comic is “The Rumor.” The character changed from the comic in that the illustrated version of the character is a white girl with purple hair, while obviously actress Emmy Raver-Lampman is a black woman; Raver-Lampman, primarily a theater actress who’s appeared in Hamilton, crushes the role of Allison, one of her first on screen.
Number Five – Aidan Gallagher
As Five, Aidan Gallagher (who is actually only 16 years old) might just be the most compelling character in the entire show. If you think about it, basically the show’s entire storyline revolves around him, and, accordingly, he has the least changed from the comics, where he’s frequently referred to as “The Boy.”
Klaus Hargreeves – Robert Sheehan
Gallagher’s competition for most compelling character in The Umbrella Academy probably comes directly from the guy playing his brother, Irish actor Robert Sheehan. As Klaus, Sheehan is flawed, interesting, and most of all, funny (how could you not be when you can…you know, talk to the dead). He’s called “The Séance” in the comic, and also remains fairly accurate from page to screen.
Vanya/Viktor Hargreeves – Elliot Page
An Academy Award nominee for his role in Juno, Page is easily the most established member of the titular Umbrella Academy (though Mary J. Blige, who plays Cha Cha, rivals him in general). He plays Vanya, who has some mysterious abilities that emerge throughout the course of the season. In the comics, his character is referred to as “The White Violin.”
Ben Hargreeves – Justin H. Min
Ben’s role in the show is interesting—he’s dead, so he only appears in scenes with Klaus, who, of course, can speak to the dead. Actor Justin H. Min does a really nice job playing him with a sarcastic edge that makes their shared scenes fun for viewers to watch. He’s called “The Monster” in the comics, because of the tentacle-like arms that come out of his body that he can use as weapons.
Hazel – Cameron Brittton
Hazel is pretty perfectly and pristinely adapted from the comic to the screen—but whatever is going on with that armband didn’t quite back it to Netflix. As Hazel, Netflix veteran Cameron Britton (who’s best known for playing serial killer Ed Kemper in Mindhunter) is one of the very best characters in the show—somehow making a whole lot of people relate with a time-traveling assassin.
Cha Cha – Mary J. Blige
Again, Hazel and Cha Cha are pretty fairly depicted from the comic to the Netflix series (apart from the whole Nazi armband thing going on here). Academy Award-nominated actress and superstar R+B star Mary J. Blige plays the more sinister of the duo, Cha Cha.
Leonard Peabody/Harold Jenkins – John Magaro
The Leonard Peabody/Harold Jenkins Umbrella Academy character was created specifically for the Netflix series, but a character called “The Conductor” in the comics is very similar. In the comics, The Conductor is constantly trying to use Vanya for her powers to start the apocalypse; in the series, Leonard is using Vanya to get back at The Umbrella Academy for wronging him when he was a child. He’s the “fuse,” as they say, and he makes Vanya “the bomb,” Magaro is becoming one of our most interesting character actors (with roles in The Big Short and First Cow), and he crushed it in Umbrella.
Reginald Hargreeves – Colm Feore
The ringleader of The Umbrella Academy, Reginald looks pretty accurate in his Comic to Netflix adaptation. It’s all about the M+M—mustache and monocle. Colm Feore does a really nice job playing this cold and distant “father” to the young superpowered team.
The Handler – Kate Walsh
As we said earlier, the character of The Handler doesn’t exist in the comics—Five reports directly to Carmichael, who works for the commission and is a talking fish floating around in tank that controls a human body. We get a taste of that character in Season 2, as you’ll see below.
At least The Handler, played wonderfully by the great Kate Walsh, has the same cool hat that Carmichael rocks in the comics, though. Carmichael is a new character for Season 2, but we’re glad that we get more of Walsh at her best as this character.
Grace/Mom – Jordan Claire Robbins
Here’s a big change! At least the robotic mother figure, known in the show as both Grace and Mom, has skin in Netflix’s version. She’s looking much less human in that comic panel, huh?
In Season 2, when the gang jumps back to 1963, we learn that Grace/Mom is actually based on a real woman—a scientist—who Reginald knew. She’s also played by Jordan Claire Robbins, and their appearance, of course, is identical.
Known in the comics just as “Carmichael,” the show introduced this talking goldfish character in Season 2, and gave him a first name: “AJ.” Since The Handler is a new character created for the show, their relationship here is uncharted waters. It’s interesting to see that The Handler and AJ, who’s her boss, have a prickly relationship—to put it nicely.
In the comics, Carmichael is the leader of Temps Aeternalis, which is what fans of the show know as “The Commission.” He’s a intelligent goldfish, and in the comic source material he uses that intelligence to influence the timestream—though it’s significantly less impactful in the show.
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