by Ash B.
Set in haunted amusement park themed around the life and career of fictional actress-superstar Pauline Phoenix, the world of DeadEndia is full of spooky, supernatural fun. If you’ve got a Netflix account and a kid older than 7, or you’re fan of cartoons with great representation, you’ve probably heard about Dead End: Paranormal Park. The Netflix show was adapted from a graphic novel series called DeadEndia, which you can borrow from the library.
The main characters of Norma, Barney, and Pugsley began as an animated web short for Cartoon Hangover. Creator Hamish Steele used this as inspiration for a new webcomic, which, in turn, became DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test and DeadEndia: The Broken Halo graphic novels. The third and final book is anticipated to release next year.
I was first introduced to the world through the graphic novels – so, imagine my excitement when one of my favorite reads became an extremely well-adapted animation! The show diverges quite a bit from the graphic novels in some ways, particularly how the main characters meet and the story begins. From there, the first episode of the show lines up pretty closely with the first chapter of DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test. The demon king is summoned and possesses Barney’s dog, Pugsley, instead of one of the humans as planned; Norma cleverly figures out how to defeat the demon king; Pugsley is left with magical powers, including the ability to talk. The story continues with a balance of paranormal adventures, such as “monster of the week” style demon-fighting episodes/chapters, along with the emotional rollercoasters of personal identity, mental health, romance, and family struggles.
The novels strongly resonated with me because of the way Barney’s transmasculine experiences were included. In both the comics and the show, we find out that he was primarily interested in getting a job so that he could gain independence from his parents. The show allows for more development of Barney’s relationship, though. I think the cast and crew nailed it, with a family that goes through realistic misunderstandings and growing pains, but makes it through the rough patch to fully embrace the LGBTQ+ kid.
The graphic novels have a special place in my heart for certain heartwarming details. For example, Barney gives Pugsley a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar as he learns to read, and Pugsley compares Barney to the titular caterpillar. Pugsley eventually clarifies: “My comparison was due to the fact that we all start off looking and sounding a little different to how we turn out. Some more than others. But that doesn’t change who we are on the inside.” This line, especially in the context of the rest of the chapter (which I won’t spoil here), is so gentle and comforting to a trans reader like me.
Probably the most notable point of difference between the show and comics is the target audience. The comics are aimed at young adults (ages 14+), with Barney, Norma, and their peers being in their early twenties. When adapted for the small screen, the characters were aged down to be in their teens and the material made suitable for a younger audience. The graphic novels can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike, and you can borrow them in print from HCLS.
Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. Their favorite place to read is spread out on a blanket under the shade of the tree.