Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!
The path from the comics bin to television series is looking more like a conveyor belt these days. The most recent example is Paper Girls. The Image Comic, penned by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang, started as an original sci-fi comic about four paper delivery girls in 1988 who accidentally time travel to the future. It ended its comic run in 2019 and the Prime Video live-action adaptation made its debut in July 2022.
Of course, not every comic gets that kind of rapid adaptation treatment, but the last decade has seen plenty of non-superhero-centric stories that originated in comics and were turning into successful television series that gave them a whole other audience. In honor of Paper Girls and the long-awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman premiering on Netflix on Aug. 5, SYFY WIRE presents six of the best non-cape, sci-fi comic book TV adaptations.
The Walking Dead
Arguably the granddaddy of them all, The Walking Dead started as Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's black and white opus about the post-apocalyptic remnants of society surviving amongst the undead walker hordes. The comic book existed for seven years as an Image Comics hit before AMC adapted the books into the 2010 TV series starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. A global blockbuster in its first five seasons, The Walking Dead ushered in a whole franchise of undead storytelling on AMC and helped make horror a sought-after genre on the small screen. The core series ends its 11-season run later this year, but the characters, storylines, and actors are now bona fide pop culture icons.
The Dark Horse Comics series Resident Alien, created by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, was a hit indie miniseries before SYFY turned it into a comedy/drama about an alien who crash-lands on Earth and takes over the body of small-town doctor, Harry Vanderspeigle. As embodied by actor Alan Tudyk. Harry has evolved into a comedic tour de force through Tudyk's vocal intonations and physical discomfort. And the series has amped up the ensemble by creating a roster of characters from the town of Patience, Colorado, who are almost as weird and colorful as the actual alien.
Another zombie-related comic book, iZombie, from Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred, made a gory splash as a TV series on The CW. The Vertigo comic book had a two-year run and then, three years later, it was adapted for TV by Veronica Mars creators, Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright. They injected more cases of the week and delightful snark into their interpretation of "Liv" Moore (Rose McIver), a Seattle medical intern who is turned into a zombie. Over five seasons, Liv and her circle of friends battled the expansion of the undead in a pretty epic battle of the brains.
Indie author/illustrator Jeff Lemire's Vertigo book Sweet Tooth ran for four years and then was resurrected for a new set of stories in 2020. His tale of post-apocalyptic ruin and hybrid children that grow out of the destruction struck a chord with readers and then mainstream audiences when it was turned into the Netflix series of the same name in 2021. Starring Christian Convery as the sheltered boy with antlers, Gus, streaming audiences also fell in love with the sweeping story of a virus that alters humanity, and the good people left behind to start anew. Season 2 is expected on Netflix in 2023.
The Vertigo spin-off comic book based on the DC Comics character created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenber, Lucifer was plucked from the pages and turned into a dramedy for Fox in 2016. After three seasons, it was unceremoniously canceled and the fans had a fit. Netflix heard their cries and picked up the show for another three seasons where it became a global hit. Starring Tom Ellis as the titular Lucifer Morningstar, the series gave audiences romance, mythology, snark, and lots of tragedy as the fallen angel tries to become a better demon.
The Umbrella Academy
The hit Dark Horse Comics series The Umbrella Academy was created by writer Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá and ran for 11 years with three separate collected volumes. In 2017, Netflix optioned the books for a series that premiered on the streamer in 2019. It became a global hit telling the story of the seven adopted Hargreeves children who all have special powers and fight crime. Often faced with the imminent destruction of the world, they jump in time to help correct events to prevent the doom of all mankind and bicker amongst themselves all the while. As of yet, the series hasn't been picked up for a fourth and final season.