Why Netflix was the perfect place to bring 'The Umbrella Academy' to life

Netflix
  • Netflix’s new superhero series, “The Umbrella Academy,” dropped on Friday.
  • Showrunner Steve Blackman talked to Business Insider about working with the streaming giant, the differences from the comic the show is based on, and the soundtrack.

Netflix’s latest comic-book-inspired TV series, “The Umbrella Academy,” dropped on Friday. The show follows seven people born on the same day with unique abilities, who are all sought out and adopted by a billionaire who trains them to be superheroes.

Showrunner Steve Blackman spoke to Business Insider about what made Netflix the perfect place for the series, explaining how the streaming giant grants creators more freedom compared to broadcast networks.

“I’ve worked at many places over the last 19 years in Hollywood, and a lot of the times creative vision gets smothered by answering to which advertisers are on that night, or which demographic you have to hit, but that’s not the case with Netflix,” Blackman said.

READ MORE: How Dark Horse is building its own movie and TV empire out of comic books, from Netflix to a ‘Hellboy’ reboot

Prior to “The Umbrella Academy,” Blackman also executive produced Netflix’s “Altered Carbon.” After that series, he was looking for other opportunities with Netflix. He said he was attracted to “The Umbrella Academy,” and Netflix immediately went forward with the project when he pitched his vision, which he described as “a dysfunctional family show with a body count.”

“They don’t look at other people on the outside and tell you what to do,” he said of Netflix. “They’re like, ‘We hired you for a reason, you have the vision, we want to support that vision.’ I think that’s why a lot of people are going to Netflix. I don’t remember ever enjoying doing something as much because I’m unfettered from the bulls—.”

The umbrella academyNetflix‘The Umbrella Academy’

“The Umbrella Academy” is based on the Dark Horse comic series of the same name by My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way, who writes it, and artist Gabriel Bá. It began with a miniseries titled “The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite” in 2007, which was followed by a second miniseries, “The Umbrella Academy: Dallas,” in 2008. A third miniseries, “Hotel Oblivion,” is currently on comic-book store shelves.

Blackman told Business Insider that Way and Bá gave their input for the series, but knew that there would be differences from the comic (the first season of the show combines elements of the first two miniseries of the comic, for starters).

“Gerard always said, ‘The comic book will always be the comic book and the TV show will be the TV show,'” Blackman said. “He understood that I had to do my adaptation and it couldn’t be a page-for-page adaptation. There’s things I had to expand on and create additional backstory. But my goal was to be respectful to the fans who love the comic who have waited 10 years to see it come to the screen, and at the same time to also involve a bigger demographic.”

Blackman said there were certain aspects of the comic that had to be cut or changed for practical and budgetary reasons. For instance, there is a scene in the comic where the characters fight a robotic Eiffel Tower that is attacking Paris, and then flies into space.

“We just couldn’t afford to do the Eiffel Tower bit,” Blackman said. “There was a cost factor to doing that.”

To bring the series to life from the page to the screen, Blackman relied heavily on music, and said that songs were even written into the scripts. Way contributed covers of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” and The Turtles’ “Happy Together” for the soundtrack.

“I encouraged my writers and myself to write in the songs that they wanted,” Blackman said. “Music was its own little character in the show.”

Way told Billboard last month that he is open to returning for more music in future seasons.

“There were very early conversations about me potentially scoring,” he said. “But there was no way given my schedule that would work. But I’m sure down the line I’ll be covering more songs for the show.”

“The Umbrella Academy” is just one project from Dark Horse coming this year and the near future. Read Business Insider’s full story about what the company has coming up in movies and TV.

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