Ahead of its TV premier, SyFy released the first episode of its upcoming Deadly Class series online, and with it, fans have gotten a taste of what the series has in store. Additionally, seeing the pilot early gives us an idea of how the TV show has adapted the source material. From the pilot we can gather all the things that the show has gotten right about Rick Remender and Wes Craig's Deadly Class, and all the things that got changed in the adaptation process. The comic was perfect for adapting into a TV series, since it is, in many ways, a teen high school drama with assassins and action movie elements thrown into the mix, making for an awesome TV pitch.
But, as it is with any good adaptation, some things had to be changed and moved around in order for a story created in one medium to work in another. Thus, not quite everything made it into the TV series, though since only the pilot has been released, nothing is for certain. Regardless, the Deadly Class pilot managed to do a lot of good in adapting the hit comic series, but there were a few things that got changed or lost in translation—things changed for timing, adaptation of set pieces, character relationships, etc.—that we think deserve exploring. These changes and other differences between the comic and TV series are by no means "getting it wrong," but it's still interesting to see how things were adapted, so let's take a look, shall we?
20 GOT RIGHT: MARCUS' MOTIVATIONS
Starting off, let's take a look at how the main character, Marcus, was depicted. Portrayed by Benjamin Wadsworth, Marcus starts off the series as a homeless orphan who is sleeping on the streets and eating trash until he is recruited into being a student at King's Dominion, an academy for assassins in training. With this training, Marcus has one goal in mind, to assassinate Ronald Reagan.
This is the same motivation from the comics, as Marcus holds Reagan responsible for his parents death, an origin that we will get to later in this list. For now, we can definitely say that the series got Marcus' lofty goals, and the motivations that drive them, right.
19 CHANGED: THE COLOR
When the trailer for the series first premiered, there was one major element that was noticeably missing from the live-action adaptation, the color. Obviously, only so much can be done to recreate the comics' colors, but the desaturated appearance of the pilot was rather disappointing.
The pilot isn't completely deprived of great color moments, but it's far from what we were expecting from a series adapting the brilliant work of colorist Lee Loughridge. We were hoping for the TV series to pop with color; gritty but vibrant, neon and dark all at the same time. However you want to describe it, the TV series definitely needs some color effects added in post.
18 GOT RIGHT: HIGH SCHOOL
The central concept of Deadly Class is that it's a high school drama with the added, well, drama of training to be assassins and killers. This is something that the pilot gets right on a lot of levels, the high school setting and the high school drama. Though just a bit of the school has been shown thus far, what we've seen of life in King's Dominion has really captured the book's approach to high school narratives.
High school already feels like survival of the fittest, and the added danger of all the students being killers in training from assassin families only makes things worse, a feeling that the series captures in its tone and setting.
17 CHANGED: BLACK ARTS ASSIGNMENT
There were quite a few differences between how Marcus' first assignment was depicted in the comic and how it was adapted into the TV series. First of all, AP Black Arts wasn't taught by Master Lin in the comics, and second, the assignment feom the class was to specifically assassinate a vagrant who deserved it, not anyone who deserved to perish, as it was in the pilot.
Additionally, Marcus' target and his execution were a bit different in the comics. In the pilot, it was well-known that Marcus' first victim was a killer around the homeless commune that he frequented, where in the comics, Marcus got a failing grade on the assignment because it wasn't 100% clear if his victim was deserving of assassination.
16 GOT RIGHT: THE CLIQUES
The one thing that every '80s high school story needs is very clear and present cliques, groups that the main character cannot belong to, and Deadly Class made sure to point this out early in the comics, painting Marcus as the outsider. The pilot pulled this off just as well. Though there are a few changes made, the spirit is there and the point is made, Marcus is an outsider.
The hallway scene shows us some of the cliques and tells us that are more than just groups of friends, they're also allegiances in the school, gangs to join. The lunch scene gives further exposition on each specific clique, all of which elevates the high school narrative in the same way the comics do.
15 CHANGED: KINGS DOMINION
The King's Dominion of SyFy's Deadly Class is a bit different from the one featured in the comics. As you can see from the image above, the school in the comics appears as a gothic building, a haunting, intimidating character of a location. In the pilot, Kings Dominion is a bit different looking.
Chalk this one up to a TV budget, but SyFy's King's Dominion is not quite on the same level of spectacle as the comics, which isn't a major drawback—the characters and plot are the focus after all—and for the most part the school looks pretty good, but there are a few exterior shots that make it feel like more of an old apartment complex than a prestigious assassin school.
14 GOT RIGHT: CASTING
Wes Craig has a very unique art style, featuring heavy stylization that help brings a punk rock aesthetic to the world of Deadly Class. Because of this stylization, casting perfectly to the characters might have been a difficult process, but the TV series definitely nailed it.
Lana Condor as Saya is a perfect match, as is Liam James as Billy, Luke Tennie as Willie, María Gabriela de Faría as Maria (they even have the same first name!) and, of course, Benjamin Wadsworth as Marcus. Not only do they evoke the spirit of the character visually—like real life versions of their stylized designs—but they are also all fantastic in their roles.
13 CHANGED: EVENTS AND PACING
This one is to be expected with any comic book adaptations, or just adaptations in general, but it's worth noting that there are a few interesting changes made to the events of the first few issues as they were adapted into the pilot. Mainly, a few things were either cut out (though they are possibly being saved for later) or moved around from the order of events that occurred in the comics.
Some examples of these kinds of changes include how long Marcus was on the street before being taken in by the school, him meeting students of King's Dominion before he attempted to take his own life and when he received the symbolic rat skeleton.
12 GOT RIGHT: HENRY ROLLINS
One cast member that has only been seen briefly, but is nonetheless one of the best parts of the show, is Henry Rollins. The Black Flag frontman, Author and singer has, in recent times, developed an acting career, showing up in Sons of Anarchy and voicing Zaheer in The Legend of Korra. Rollins' most recent role is as the poison teacher in Deadly Class and it's a fantastic casting choice.
For one thing, the series takes place in the 80s, when punk rock had a huge following—thus the series' punk aesthetic—and though Deadly Class takes place in specifically 1987, after Black Flag's final breakup, having Rollins in the show is a great homage to the time, and he's a lot of fun in the role.
11 CHANGED: MEETING THE STUDENTS
Unlike a comic, which can spread out its serialized storytelling, a TV series has to make deliberate choices on what events happen when, what characters get introduced and how all the pieces fall into place. We mentioned this earlier when we discussed changed events and pacing, but there is a more specific example of adaptation that can be clearly seen in SyFy's Deadly Class pilot.
When Marcus meets the headmaster and some of the students of King's Dominion in the comics, the students present are not the same students in the pilot. In the pilot the students that Marcus meets are all the character he will be interacting with throughout the pilot, a choice that makes sense to keep things more streamlined.
10 GOT RIGHT: MARCUS' ORIGIN
Perhaps one of the most beautiful segments in the Deadly Class pilot was Marcus' origin, which depicted the story of how his parents died in a great animated flashback. The sequence is animated to look a lot like Wes Craig's art style, which is why it hits so hard when the fatal moment occurs.
Not only was this a perfect way to adapt the sequence, which would have been somewhat ridiculous in live-action, it also captured the spirit and purpose of the flashback, to show where Marcus' motivations come from—he wants to kill Ronald Reagan because his mental health care repeals allowed a crazy woman to attack his parents and orphan him at a young age.
9 CHANGED: MASTER LIN
King's Dominion headmaster, Master Lin, is portrayed by Benedict Wong, who definitely captures the spirit of the character, though his appearance is much more toned down than his comics counterpart. In the comics, Master Lin is bald with a very large white mustache and short goatee, where in the TV series, he still has hair, which is not yet grey, like his much less extravagant mustache.
This look makes a lot more sense for a TV adaptation, and in fact works a lot better for the character, since he would look too much like a cartoon if he was rocking that 'stache in the TV series. Overall, it's a pretty great translation, and Wong's portrayal of the character is just as fitting.
8 GOT RIGHT: MEETING MARIA
When Marcus first encounters Maria, he is entranced by her dancing and beauty, a beauty that is quickly contrasted by her deadly nature as she attacks the police officers chasing after Marcus. This scene in the comics happens almost exactly the same in the TV series.
The main difference between the comic and the TV series with this scene is that Maria attacks the cops with a choking powder of some kind in the comics, where in the pilot, she uses her dance to cover up slashing at the officers with her bladed fans. However, what this scene lacks in perfect panel-to-frame recreation—which would have been overkill—it more than makes up for in capturing the feel and spirit of this powerful moment.
7 CHANGED: DAY OF THE DEAD
The way in which Maria attacks the cops after Marcus wasn't the only change made to the Day of the Dead scene, as the events leading up to it were modified a bit. Before Marcus enters the crowd, he gets high via an unfortunately spiked joint, which results in anxiety, disorientation and paranoia, three things that make his trip into a crowded Day of the Dead festival much more frightening.
The experience is only made more worse when the cops go after Marcus, leading to his encounter with the students of King's Dominion. However, Marcus' intoxicated state is only in the pilot, and in the comic, Marcus is merely wandering the streets when he runs into the cops, Maria and the other students.
6 GOT RIGHT: THE SOUNDTRACK
We mentioned earlier that the punk aesthetic of Deadly Class is a major part of the comic, and the TV series definitely captured this with the soundtrack. Everything from early Descendents to Agent Orange, the music featured in the pilot both fits perfectly with the punk tone of the series and promises more awesome punk tracks in the episodes to come.
It's good to see that the soundtrack is being given proper consideration in featuring punk rock of the time, and we hope it continues to do so throughout the rest of the series. In fact, the part we're most excited for is the issue of the comics where Marcus experiences punk and metal shows with his classmates, scenes that we hope make the cut.
5 CHANGED: SAYA
Lana Condor makes for a great Saya, there's no denying that. There is, however, something that captures our attention about how the pilot interpreted the character. Saya's character was changed somewhat in terms of her allegiance, motivations and relationship to Marcus, all of which seem much more tethered to King's Dominion and Master Lin in the pilot.
It's not a major change, Saya is an excellent student, but she wasn't quite the teachers pet she is in the pilot. This isn't necessarily a bad change either, just a more direct way of showing that Saya is not to be trusted rather than revealing it over time as it is in the comics.
4 GOT RIGHT: MARCUS, MARIA & CHICO
One of the events that got shifted around a bit was Marcus' first encounter with Chico. Most of it is the same, they meet each other at Marcus' locker and there's a bit of tension, but instead of Chico offering membership into his and Maria's group, it is Maria who extends a hand in the pilot, leading Chico to get in Marcus' face.
However, despite this change, the relationship between these three is portrayed perfectly in the TV series; Marcus and Chico have beef, Maria wants to get closer to Marcus and the inevitable love triangle teases a fated battle between Marcus and Chico in the near future.
3 CHANGED: MARCUS RUNS AWAY
Since Chico has beef with Marcus right away in the pilot, the two face off in the alley behind the school, a scrap that results in Marcus having his fill of King's Dominion. In the next scene, he is seen walking the streets wearing his old clothes and carrying his things, as though he was running away. As he is wandering, he comes across Willie, which leads into the two completing their AP Black Arts assignment.
However, most of this never happened. Yes, Marcus and Willie work together as partners on the assignment, but they also purposely go out to find a target. In other words, Marcus never ran away from the school in the comic, at least not this early in the story.
2 GOT RIGHT: ORIGIN OF THE SCHOOL
The origin and purpose of King's Dominion is the idea of giving power to the powerless, giving those who are oppressed and beat down in life the tools to exact justice, revenge or to take back their agenda. This idea is communicated in both the comic and the pilot, both versions of this origin working perfectly in their respective mediums.
In the pilot, Master Lin tells the story of his great grandfather and how, after finding the American Dream to be full of oppression and indentured servitude, he taught himself to kill and used those skills to take back his power, a notion that motivated him to create King's Dominion to teach others to fight oppression with death.
1 CHANGED: SAYA STEPS IN
Before finding something of a home at King's Dominion, Marcus' life was pretty terrible. So terrible, in fact, that he sought to end his own life at some point. In the comics, it was before he was found by Master Lin and his students, but in the pilot, Marcus attempts to take his life after declining Master Lin's offer to join his school.
That's not the only difference either, since in the comics, Marcus believes he is alone when he is contemplating taking his life, with Saya observing him as she was ordered to do by Lin. Saya urges Marcus not to do it under her breath in the comics, but in the pilot, she makes her presence known and steps in to stop him.