A dysfunctional family made of would-be superheroes promises a thrilling narrative, as is evidenced in Umbrella Academy, the television series which has everyone talking. The Netflix show is inspired by a comic book series. As it is with all adaptations from print to screen, there have been some changes.
Still, despite the invigorating program’s myriad of twists and turns, the twist concerning the character of Vanya Hargreaves is possibly the most compelling and exciting. Here are just some of the ways the character of Vanya Hargreaves is different on screen to the character portrayed in the comic books.
10 A character in context
The comic book portrayal of Vanya Hargreaves is relatively flat and without dimension. Vanya is shown as a walking plot device. Her character exists solely to dictate the narrative. The TV series, however, expands on her as a person. She is shown as a lonely soul who is the outcast of her family and is isolated and ostracized.
Her character is fleshed out on screen. Fans get to know her strengths and vulnerabilities as she becomes more relatable and real through fuller explanations of her personality, aspirations and back story.
9 Family takes center stage
The comic series does little to help readers understand the intricacies of Vanya’s family relations. However, in the TV series, time is devoted to Vanya’s interactions with her siblings. By placing her in a family setting, more impact is given to the story's final confrontation.
The dysfunction of the family is also emphasized on screen. Vanya’s siblings keep her at an arm’s length and view her with condescension and pity. A better understanding of these relationships gives more impact to when she surrenders to the earth-shattering force inside of her.
8 Transformation into a superhero
Vanya Hargreave's story has been rewritten for TV. In the comic, she joins the Orchestra Verdammten. The orchestra's members, influenced by The Conductor, aim to destroy the world through music. In the screen version, she is manipulated by a single man, Leonard Peabody. He pushes her towards reaching for transformation through deceiving her. This betrayal ignites the fire in her heart to see justice.
In the comic book series, the evil conductor helps to activate the talented musician’s power after inviting her into his orchestra, with its sinister motives.
7 Nature of powers
While both the screen and comic series showcase Vanya as a formidable force of power and destruction, Vanya’s comic book powers are slightly different from those she wields on the Netflix series.
In the comic, she is unable to use a variety of different sounds to harness her power. However, the screen version of Vanya can use even the sound of her own heartbeat to break down doors. Her chief source of power in the comic series is her violin. She uses this to create powerful music against her enemies.
6 Looks in the spotlight
Vanya is deliberately depicted in certain ways to highlight her transformation. She physically takes on the appearance of a violin in the comics, in fitting with her superhero title, The White Violin. Her actual body and form mutate in response to the powerful force which has overcome her.
In the TV series, while her own body does not morph into a violin to show the changes happening in her, her clothes and violin turn completely white. This white appearance of clothing and instrument show Vanya’s transformation into The White Violin is complete.
5 Into hero form
In her violin solo at the concert which marks a turning point in both the comic and TV series, Vanya dresses to show the transformation into a superhero, or rather, supervillain. However, her choice of outfit for the Netflix version is not as obviously ‘superhero’ as the comic series depiction.
In the comic book, she adopts a more traditional superhero look. She stands in a form-fitting leotard which turns from black to white during her solo. On screen, she wears a smart, traditional suit which changes from black to white.
4 Music sets the scene
The orchestra scenes and themes which are pivotal in Vanya’s journey differ between comic book and screen. When Vanya makes her debut in the opening scene of the Netflix series, she is playing at the Icarus Theatre. Here she performs spellbinding music from the Phantom of the Opera as a member of the local orchestra.
In the comic series, she joins the orchestra under the leadership of The Conductor and becomes part of the team of talented, somewhat sinister, musicians who perform The Apocalypse Suite.
3 Unfolding of the apocalypse
In the comic book, Vanya joins an orchestra under The Conductor, who wants to start the apocalypse and destroy the moon through the orchestra’s music. For this purpose, ‘The Apocalypse Suit’, a powerful, destructive music ensemble is composed. This is also the beginning of Vanya connecting with her inherent powers.
In the screen version, Vanya sets off the apocalypse in a different way. Her powers are set off through a build-up of anger and emotion over betrayal, deception, and injustice. In a tussle with one of her siblings, she sends off a wave of her power which destroys the moon.
2 Matters of the heart
Love and matters of the heart are portrayed differently in the TV series. The Vanya on screen has different love interests to her comic book character.
A surprise in the television version of Umbrella Academy is the absence of the romantic interludes between Diego and Vanya. Their story, written into the comic book series, completely left out of the screen version. On screen, Vanya and Leonard are made into a love item. Diego’s main love interest is another woman, called Detective Patch.
1 Behind Vanya's mask
The portrayal of Vanya in the TV series is a far more sympathetic one. Her weaknesses are exposed through different narrative devices, such as her relationship with Leonard. In this relationship, she opens up after receiving love for the first time and fans of the series see her clearly for the first time.
This allows the viewers to see the depths of her desire for love and acceptance. This more sympathetic view of her makes the reality of her family’s betrayal and rejection more devastating and impactful for the viewer.