No matter what adaptation you think about, no matter if it is from a comic or video game, there are always changes to fit the original story to the new medium. This trend is evident in the recent Netflix adaption of Jeff Lemire’s beloved Sweet Tooth comic series. It’s a story about a hybrid boy named Gus, who meets a grizzled traveler named Jepp. The two travel through what was once society to uncover the truth behind the virus and answer the question on everyone’s minds: What came first, the Sick or the Hybrids? But, of course, this adaption includes its fair share of changes that improve the story overall and give some characters some incredible depth.
One of the most glaring changes from the comic is its dramatic shift in tone. The original comic is quite dark and can get a bit graphic at times. Netflix immersed viewers in a world on the brink of collapse and jumps straight into the lush, colorful forest that Gus would call home. From there on, the show keeps a hopeful tone as we follow Gus and his eagerness to find his mother alongside his companions Jepp and Bear. The show’s shift in tone was one of the best moves the series could’ve made. It still stays true to its source material but holds it in a light that makes it accessible and inclusive for viewers of all ages.
In the comics, Gus is avid to leave the woods with Jepp and find the preserve, but it’s never given much focus. This time around, the preserve gets an actual origin story. It is run by Aimee, an original character, along with her daughter Wendy. She is a supporting character from the comics who got a revamped origin. The zoo would eventually become a haven for Hybrids. The only place they could hide from the Last Men. By the end of the series, the preserve is attacked and rendered into its original status, a front set up by the Last Men. This way, they can attract hybrid children and capture them for their experiments.
Early on in the comics, we meet two characters. They were forced into becoming sex workers and are held captive in an abandoned building, Lucy and Becky. Lucy becomes an integral part of the group, although not to Jepps liking. The series plays around with the newly introduced characters until the final episode finally clarifies their role. Early on, we meet Bear, who is the leader of the Animal Army. He ends up joining Gus and Jepp after her people were against her sparing Jepp’s life. Towards the end of the series, Bear reveals that her real name is Becky, and she once had a sister named, you guessed it, Lucy.
Speaking of, Lucy becomes a mother figure for Becky and the Hybrid children. Yet, the show replaces that role with the original character Aimee. It makes sense to shift that story to a new character who can temporarily take on that role. This way, they can explore the relationships between Lucy and the others in a deeper way. She isn’t just the motherly figure but can take on a much more meaningful role in the group.
Netflix’s adaptation starts with Dr. Singh witnessing the beginning of the end, as the world crumbles around him as the sickness spreads. As such, we grow to sympathize with Singh much more than we do upon meeting him in the comics. Singh is a man trying to keep his ailing wife alive no matter the cost. We get a unique look at the character before he became the character we know from the comics, where he dissects hybrid children. It is all for the sake of finding a cure while at the Preserve.
The first thing you notice in the comics is Gus’ father talking about God’s plan. We even see him scribble these “messages from a higher power” into a book that’s later acquired by Doctor Singh, who becomes entranced by its tellings. It would be what pushed the main characters towards Alaska to uncover the true origins of Gus, leading to the resting place of many native gods. The series doesn’t tackle this subject in any way. There isn’t even a hint at Gus’ godlike status in Native religions. No word of Tekkeitsertok is spoken even as the series still seems to be heading in that direction. The ending of the first season hints at his travel towards Alaska, which could get explored in a second season.