The year is 2017 and I am sitting here typing a recap/review of a Grant Morrison adaptation. We’ve got dark Archie, foul mouthed Deadpool and the Avengers avenging things on the big screen so it only makes sense that the big eye of buying up comic book options has found its way to Grant Morrison. “Happy!” is probably the easiest of all his work to adapt so it makes a lot of sense that this what is finally seeing the light of day first. The first episode of “Happy!” is a trip. It’s as violent as they’ll allow on TV but also funny but most importantly it’s one of the few things to actually adapt what an artist does. Let’s jump into this but be warned, there are spoilers for this episode throughout.
1. Dark Timeline Elliot Stabler
Imagine Detective Elliot Stabler compromised all that he believed in and got kicked off the force and no longer had to control some of his more violent tendencies. That’s Nick Sax. He’s a bloated drug addict, alcoholic and hitman who’s honestly any second from getting killed by someone or overdosing on something. Honestly, throughout the entire comic book, he never really becomes one of those special characters. He serves a purpose but never really rises above that. So, clearly, adapting this was going to be hard however they found magic with Chris Meloni. I love Law & Order: SVU. I have never actually watched Oz so this whole performance was a real experience for me but ultimately it was a good one. He takes Nick Sax and just totally leans into him being the absolute worst. He’s dirty, foul mouthed, gross and honestly the best possible lead for a show that puts him opposite an imaginary blue unicorn. He doesn’t make you like Nick but he makes you want to watch the trainwreck that his life has become. He’s just so good in this role.
2. Where Can I Buy A Happy Plush
I want a Happy plush and I want it immediately. Patton Oswalt voices the titular character, a winged blue unicorn. Happy is the imaginary friend of a little girl named Hallie. Happy (for still unknown reasons) needs to find Nick Sax when she is kidnapped by a deranged man dressed a Santa Claus. Imagine Dan Akroyd’s character in Trading Places when he’s at rock bottom and gets in that Santa costume. Oswalt is the perfect voice for this character and I wonder if he got to ad lib any of this because it’s so natural. He’s a great contrast to Nick Sax and I genuinely laughed out loud at much of his dialogue. The animation is excellent as well and way better than I was expecting given how so many TV shows bite off more than they can chew when it comes to CGI. More importantly, Happy gives us someone to root for. We want he and Hallie to be reunited and as quickly as possible. In all honesty, this show kind of falls apart if Happy doesn’t work as a character and so far, he works.
3. The Impact of Art
A lot of comic book adaptations focus solely on the writing. They rarely borrow from the comics as far as the aesthetic and the way the characters look and dress. Happy! is not one of those. Darick Robertson’s influence on the comic book is seen in this show. This is a grimy and nasty version of New York City and everyone in it is just as grimy. The styling of these characters, down to Happy himself are all taken directly from what Robertson does in the comic book and that’s something that will make this adaptation very special. Daredevil, Spider-Man, Captain America and Wonder Woman all wear costumes that are designed by costume designers who have a very specific thing in mind but with Happy! we get to see Robertson’s influence in almost every scene and I like that a lot.
4. Supporting Cast
Unlike a four issue comic book miniseries, a television show has a lot of time to fill in and to do that, adaptations will add in characters, backstories, side plot, etc. Happy! takes the time it has and fleshes out the characters a little more. This first episode is basically a beat for beat translation of the first issue but it gives time to other characters right off the bat. We get a little time with Hallie and her mom, including her abduction and I think we’ll get to know the two of them much more than we did in the comic. We also spend a lot of time with Det. Meredith McCarthy, who’s not as squeaky clean as she wants people to believe and we even see Francisco Scaramucci and how he operates a lot in this opening episode. Things like this can make an adaptation fill out more and help it stand as its own thing so I hope to see them developed in a meaningful way.Continued below
5. Where Is the Heart?
It’s hard for me to look at Happy! and not think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in even the most superficial ways. Both blend animation with live action and both feature hard boiled tough guys in the lead dealing with zany cartoon characters. However, the biggest difference between these two is that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? has heart and right now, Happy! doesn’t. This is a show that leans really into being edgy (whatever that means now) by being full of swears and lots of violence. At the core of this, there is a lost little girl and Happy really wants to find her. The comic struggles to get that heart and what this doesn’t need is a full on redemption arc but it does need to find something. I hope it can do that.