The clihéd stereotypes about superheroes on screen, which were mostly established by the 1960’s Batman series and the Superman movies of the 1970s and 80s, are still often lampooned, but seldom actually used. The 2019 Warner Bros. film Shazam! was pretty wholesome, and both Spider-Man and Captain America have certainly had their moments, but for the most part, the genre has moved away from its roots. From the wisecracking Tony Stark to the brooding Dark Knight to the Netflix Defenders, we’ve gone decidedly darker and more layered than the stereotype should allow. This was a natural progression, and then in 2016, they gave Deadpool his own movie, and suddenly, the whole genre seemed to shift a bit.
As streaming platforms and cable networks looked to get in on the action, they started pulling from more obscure titles, and we saw AMC, following huge success with Kirkman’s Image series The Walking Dead, put the Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon story Preacher on the screen.
Jump to 2019, Amazon Prime releases another Garth Ennis classic – The Boys, and Netflix drops The Umbrella Academy – based on the Dark Horse books by Gerard Way. Both of these shows are full of entitled, selfish hairdos with superpowers. They likely owe much of their television inspiration to shows like the British masterpiece MisFits (2009-2013) and Powers (2015-16), which was the first original series on the doomed-from-the-start Playstation Network.
MisFits, much like The Umbrella Academy featured several characters who weren’t interested in being heroes but still managed to get into all manner of trouble. And it’s probably no coincidence that Robert Sheehan plays Klaus, the character on The Umbrella Academy that seems least interested in heroics as Sheehan also played Nathan Young – the character that was the least interested in heroics on MisFits.
And Powers, in theory, is not dissimilar to The Boys, as it’s about trying to keep the Super Community in check. The difference there was, they were cops who investigated supers, while Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher character only pretends that’s his job.
These shows all seem to be the inevitable backlash answer to genre saturation, turning the superhero on its ear and giving us something new – and so far, they’ve both been good. And while we should be talking about three new trailers here, since Deadly Class was really in the same vein as these two, Syfy pulled the plug on that after only one season.
I’ve probably paddled on long enough here, so let’s take a look at what coming up in the sophomore efforts for each show.
The Umbrella Academy ended its first season on a pretty dour note, but they’ve been flung back in time and given a chance to fix things. Sort of. And while last season saw them acting pretty solitarily, it seems like we’ll get some more teamwork this time around.
The Boys (aka “What if the Justice League Were Full of Assholes”) ended their season with Butcher and Co. on the run after a pretty big shocker. Homelander is still a psycho, The Deep is still a joke, and Queen Maeve seems burnt out – Starlight is our only real hope at an actual hero. And what does Billy do with his life now that he knows the truth?
The Umbrella Academy drops its new episodes on Netflix at the end of the month – Friday, July 31st. We’ll have to wait until September 4th for the return of The Boys to Amazon Prime.
Sources: Amazon, Netflix, SyFy, Hulu