A series synopsis that includes a ragtag group of people with superpowers could describe both The Umbrella Academy and Misfits, two genre shows that use a common premise to uniquely examine the superhuman phenomenon. Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is based on a graphic novel written by Gerard Way in 2007 and 2008, while Misfits is a series that ran for five seasons in the UK beginning in 2009.
Each became massively popular because the eccentric characters and wacky plots resonated with fans, and while the scope and budget of each are quite distinct, their commonalities are present enough to ensure that if viewers become a fan of one, they’ll probably become a fan of the other. Exploring their similarities and differences allows fans to appreciate what makes each so special.
10 HAVE IN COMMON: BOTH FEATURE A MOTLEY CREW OF SUPERHUMANS
Both Misfits and Umbrella Academy focus primarily on two ragtag groups of young people blessed with superhuman abilities. In the case of the Hargreeves children, they were born with them, while the “misfits” received their powers thanks to a freak electric storm.
Each group responds to their abilities differently, but viewers watch them suffer through the growing pains of their powers in society together. Both groups have larger than life personalities sometimes (but not always) reflected in what they can do.
9 ARE DIFFERENT: THE HARGREEVES ARE SUPERHEROES
In Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, viewers learn that the Hargreeves children were superheroes in their younger years, complete with uniforms and signature black masks. Their father acts as their handler and distributes them out into the world to fight crime and save lives.
By contrast, the Misfits have very little direction and no centralized leader. After receiving their superpowers they don’t immediately decide they owe the world access to them, and none of them become “superheroes” in the traditional sense.
8 HAVE IN COMMON: ROBERT SHEEHAN
Robert Sheehan first came to viewers’ attention in Misfits as Nathan, a reckless and clownish boy who gained the power of Immortality after the electric storm. In many ways, the character was a precursor to Klaus from Umbrella Academy, and can almost be thought of as Klaus as a teen.
Just like Nathan, Sheehan’s Klaus is the breakout star and fan favorite of Umbrella Academy. He’s just as immature and irritating but trades an orange jumpsuit for leather pants and a pink boa.
7 ARE DIFFERENT: THEY TAKE PLACE IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
Because Misfits takes place in England, specifically an area of London comprised of mostly tenements and low-income housing, it has a certain aesthetic and set of colloquialisms that give it a distinct tone. Where it takes place informs its plot, especially regarding English customs and sayings.
Umbrella Academy takes place in America, in different cities and time periods, and is therefore informed by the customs and vernacular of the United States. Attitudes espoused in the series don’t necessarily reflect those found in Misfits.
6 HAVE IN COMMON: STRANGERS BONDED BY SUPERPOWERS
Though the Hargreeves siblings consider themselves family, they aren’t related by genetics. Each of them came from a different mother and then taken by Reginald Hargreeves to be enrolled in his Umbrella Academy. The Hargreeves children bond over being special and set apart from regular people.
The Misfits are forced to work together as part of a juvenile rehabilitation group, and after the electric storm gave them superpowers, they bond over their abilities and how much they change their lives.
5 ARE DIFFERENT: CLASSISM AND AUTONOMY
The Hargreeves family is affluent in The Umbrella Academy thanks to their father’s fortune, and because of their celebrity status as superheroes, some of them enjoy influence and autonomy even after the family dissipates.
By contrast, the misfits come from working-class families and live in tenements, and their lives aren’t much improved with their superpowers. They each have some sort of criminal record, and only gain a modicum of social status in Season 2, but by Season 3 they’re back to paying off their debt to society at a juvenile rehabilitation center.
4 HAVE IN COMMON: DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS
The relationships between the characters in both Misfits and The Umbrella Academy are not just tumultuous and melodramatic, they’re downright dysfunctional. Many of the characters actively dislike each other, so much so that in the case of the Hargreeves children they spent years avoiding each other entirely.
Both the series have clashing personalities that often get them into arguments; Five and Diego in The Umbrella Academy for instance, or Nathan and literally anyone else in Misfits. They think nothing of using and abusing each other for momentary satisfaction, only to realize they’ll need each other again when faced with a crisis.
3 ARE DIFFERENT: STAKES
While the Misfits are primarily concerned with problems in their immediate locale, such as the occurrences in their neighborhoods or at the community center, the Hargreeves children are faced with cataclysmic events that could result in the total annihilation of the planet.
The crisis faced by the Misfits are incredibly important to the group, and there’s a great deal of personal conflict, while the Hargreeves siblings often have to put their own feelings aside to end the impending apocalypse. Only after they’ve saved the world are they allowed to be introspective.
2 HAVE IN COMMON: TIME TRAVEL
While the concept is used to varying degrees in both series, time-travel is still a very big part of their narrative arcs. In Umbrella Academy, Number Five’s association with it shapes not only his interactions with his siblings but the groups’ interactions with the world around them as they all get moved in and out of different time periods.
In Misfits, time-travel only occurs when Curtis uses his superpower, and again when he sells it so that a man can go back in time and try to kill Adolf Hitler. When it does appear, it’s usually to go back in time for a brief period of time -a few hours- as opposed to a few decades as in The Umbrella Academy.
1 ARE DIFFERENT: BUDGET
Even though Misfits debuted in 2009, it had a small budget for the time, and because of the intimate nature of the series, relied more heavily on plot, character development, and cast chemistry to engage viewers. It couldn’t showcase world-ending catastrophes and superpowers that were too visually difficult to render.
The Umbrella Academy, by comparison, can contend with anything released by the MCU and shows everything from Vanya levitating in sonic forcefields, to Pogo talking, to the moon plunging into Earth with the start of the apocalypse.
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