Welcome to the Multiversity Year in Review for 2020! While this has been, by many accounts, a terrible year, there were a number of fantastic comics released in 2020, and over the next ten days, we’ll be highlighting our favorites across 25 categories. If you want to give your thoughts on our picks or share your own, feel free to do so in the comments!
Best Television Adaptation of a Comic
It sure felt like we watched a lot more TV in 2020 than in previous years- and fortunately there was plenty to watch. Comic books continued to be a big part of the TV landscape, but this year’s comic adaptations were funkier and more experimental than previous years. There were hit shows made of subversive comics from decades ago. Companies got a little less precious with their IP. There was some exciting stuff! Here are our top three favorite TV series adapted from comics in 2020.
3. The Umbrella Academy
The first season of The Umbrella Academy successfully brought the Hargreeves family from the pages of comics to a live-action video series. It was the most popular series on Netflix upon its release, raking in millions of views. This put a great deal of pressure on the second season to deliver an experience as fresh and entertaining as the first, while also breaking new ground. In our opinion, it very much succeeded.
The Umbrella Academy’s second season most notably built on the strong characters established in the first season. Sure, there was a zany plot involving time travel, presidential assassination, and The Swedes, but all of that would mean nothing if the viewer did not care about the main characters driving these plot elements along. Each member of the Hargreeves family is complex and compelling, and the interplay between them is fascinating.
Season One of The Umbrella Academy gave the viewers the first look at an interesting world. Season Two proved that this world had more than just one good story in it, because it is built around a group of people that viewers simply want to see more of. We can’t wait to find out what happens to the Hargreeves family next. – Jodi Odgers
2. The Boys
Last year, we called The Boys the show that befit the current national mood. And in 2020, Hughie, Starlight, and the rest of The Seven (and The Boys themselves) proved yet again that they are show just right for this place and time.
If the debut season tiptoed around some of the socio-political issues that the comics tackled, this season barrelled into them head first. The chilling “How to Survive a Super-Villain Attack at School” public safety video. Hero-worship of the police and military. Stormfront’s easy manipulation of social media to spread misinformation and retain a fan base. The fetishization of Maeve’s bisexual lifestyle. The casual way a Nazi (Stormfront, again) worked her way into the daily fabric of life, presenting herself as a girl-power hero while plotting white power alongside the sociopathic Homelander. And then there’s Homelander himself, a man who you think cannot stoop as low as he does, but then takes the bar of common decency even lower. (Sound familiar?) Metaphor weaves itself in and out of every episode, providing analogue for all of our current social issues without beating you over the head with them.
The Boys is a smart superhero show for smart people. It’s a superhero universe that takes every trope we have about superhero universes, turns them upside down and inside out, and reminds us of the flawed humanity of those we put on a pedestal – – and has a lot of fun doing it. – Kate Kosturski
1. Harley Quinn
It turns out that Harley Quinn is the hero that DC needed right now. In a cinematic universe that embraces the dark and somber, Harley Quinn injected some much-needed color, humor, and anarchy into the world. From the high energy Birds of Prey to the exceptional second season of Harley Quinn on HBO MAX, Harley Quinn reminded us of something important about comics: don’t take them so seriously! The second season of Harley Quinn is a rip-roaring good time, a show that is both irreverent and a celebration of the DC universe. Take the chaos and heart of the writing and combine it with excellent animation and voice work, and it’s no surprise it’s on the top of our list this year.
One of the things that makes Harley Quinn the best show of 2020 is the strength of its ensemble cast. Kaley Cuoco clearly loves voicing Harley, embracing all of her chaotic energy and sassy joy, but also tapping into Harley’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. As Harley struggles to navigate her feelings for Ivy, Cuoco creates a truly nuanced performance without losing any of the humor and edge that makes the show so great. But that’s just one performance! Lake Bell is a delight as Poison Ivy, the consummate straight man. Alan Tudyk shines as the over the top thespian Clayface. Ron Funches absolutely kills it as the sensitive (yet hulking) King Shark. Tony Hale is possibly at his most unlikeable as Doctor Psycho but manages to make it work. Also, there is a whole slew of famous celebs who swing by for an episode of two. (Special shout out to Jacob Tremblay as Damien!) The animation, too, is bright and colorful, chock to the brim with fun visual gags and revels in the chaos that the show loves to embrace.
But the thing that makes Harley Quinn so strong is the writing. It’s a show with a lightning-quick pace, filled with creative wordplay and excellent jokes on par with another excellent piece of adult animation Bojack Horseman, and similarly knows how to create drama without losing any of the humor. Overall, it’s just a celebration of how weird comics are, and with a third season on the way, I can’t wait to see where they go from here! -Joe Skonce