By Tom Power
You’re missing out if you haven’t too. Not only is it another hit for Netflix (check out our Umbrella Academy season 2 review), it’s full of comic book Easter eggs, historical references, and pop culture nods that require another viewing.
There’s lots to unpack, but we’ve picked out the 15 best references that will delight graphic novel fans and pop culture aficionados equally.
Read on, but watch out – some minor spoilers for season two are included.
Monster Movie Madness
With the siblings dropped into Dallas, Texas across a three-year period, their arrivals are marked by the horror films showing at the local movie theatre.
Curse of the Undead, The Curse of the Werewolf, and The Kiss of the Vampire landed in 1959, 1961, and 1963 respectively – the same time periods that Klaus, Allison, and Vanya arrive in the past. Additionally, Luther is called King Kong – first seen in 1933 – by multiple people, which doesn’t need much explanation given his simian proportions.
Diego’s Star Wars quip
As one of the most iconic franchises of all-time, Star Wars is often referenced or spoofed in other media. Diego’s Luke Skywalker quip during a therapy session should have been expected, then, but it also works on an additional level.
Diego likens Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the siblings’ father, to a villain – just like Darth Vader was to Luke. Diego’s therapist goes one further by alluding that Diego “played the hero to make daddy mad”, which is what Luke does to Vader in the original trilogy.
A.J. the Talking Goldfish
Season one didn’t delve too deeply into the graphic novels’ weirder side, but season two allows the comics’ craziness to show through.
This isn’t more evident than the inclusion of AJ Carmichael the talking goldfish. In the comics, AJ is the leader of the Temps Aeternalis – the comic equivalent of the Commission – and the one who sends Five on his JFK assassination mission. His role is tweaked slightly in the show, but AJ’s inclusion will delight comic fans regardless.
Klaus’ Lyrical Proverbs
Klaus’ escapades continue as he becomes a spiritual cult leader due to his powers – more on those later – but it’s his use of classic pop music lyrics that really endear him to his followers.
TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’, and The Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ are all used by Klaus to impart wisdom to those who revere him. Who would have thought that the ’70s and ’90s would impact the ’60s so much?
Season two’s nods continue with some classic literature. Three that feature are Jules Verne’s ‘From Earth to Moon’, the legendary poem Homer’s Odyssey, and Shakespeare’s ‘Uneasy is the head that wears the crown’ quote from Henry IV Part Two.
Homer’s Odyssey is used by Five to grab Sir Reginald’s attention after he misses the chance to question his father, while Verne’s novel calls back to season one’s moon-based apocalyptic event. Finally, Shakespeare is quoted by Ray to Klaus as a reference to the latter’s unwanted leader tag.
JFK’s assassination ties season two’s plot threads together, and there are plenty of references to those who were historically involved.
Lee Harvey Oswald is mentioned in news reports after Diego is arrested for attempting to murder him before he can kill JFK, while Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner and alleged gangster who actually killed Oswald, is Luther’s boss.
The Frankel footage, which Hazel gives to Five before he’s killed by the Swedes, is also used to replace the Zapruder film – the most complete real-life footage, shot by Ukraine-born American Abraham Zapruder, that captured JFK’s assassination.
In the comics, one of Klaus’ powers is the ability to levitate, and this is used to comedic effect when he shows off to some wealthy Texans in episode three.
As is the case with Klaus, things aren’t exactly what they seem. The culprit behind his floating ability is humorously revealed to be Ben, who begrudgingly holds Klaus aloft when asked to. The show has dispensed with other characters’ powers, but this is a funny reference that only comic fans will have noticed.
Luther’s Rocky tribute
Another movie throwback and one that reenacts Rocky’s famous jogging scene. Going for his morning run, Luther sports a grey tracksuit – akin to Sylvester Stallone’s legendary boxer – and even has some children run alongside him like in Rocky.
The scene ends with Luther getting sworn at by the kids after he trips up when he thinks he sees Allison, but it’s a lighthearted mocking of the original sequence nonetheless.
Comic Book Callbacks
Iconic comics are also referenced in season two. Be sure to listen out for Five calling Diego a rubbish version of Batman in episode two, The End is Nigh sign in episode five that throws back to the Watchmen graphic novel, and a more detailed look at Diego’s powers that are reminiscent of Magneto from the X-Men franchise.
The Majestic 12
Sir Reginald Hargreeves’ involvement with the Majestic 12 is one of season two’s biggest mysteries. The shadowy organisation, however, isn’t entirely fictional, and was supposedly a top-secret American committee set up in 1947. Composed of scientists, military leaders, and government officials, the Majestic 12 were said to be involved in recovering and investigating alien spacecraft.
Given their knowledge of Sir Reginald’s extraterrestrial origins, which will come as a shock to non-comic fans, the Majestic 12’s inclusion is a very cool historical and graphic novel reference for those in the know.
Pogo’s Botched Space Flight
Sir Reginald isn’t the only returning figure though. Season two brings Pogo back – albeit younger – and his role in proceedings looks back at NASA’s trials over manned spacecraft.
In episode five, Pogo is one of the apes used to explore the biological effects of spaceflight. Like many real-life ape astronaut experiments, Pogo’s launch goes horribly wrong. It’s only through Sir Reginald’s intervention – using the same serum that saved Luther in season one – that Pogo survives, and explains why he remains loyal to Sir Reginald throughout season one.
Black History Homage
Season two’s tackling of the civil rights movement is particularly pertinent, given the recent global Black Live Matter protests, but it also shines a light on historically prominent black Americans.
Wilma Rudolph, Malcolm X, and Dizzy Gillespie can be seen in newspaper clippings hung on the walls of the hair salon where Allison works. Dr. Martin Luther King, meanwhile, can be seen on the cover of Ebony magazine being read by a customer.
When Grace is snooping around Sir Reginald’s secret office, blueprints on the wall show off something called the Televator.
For those unaware, the Televator is a device that allows the Hargreeves siblings to time travel in the comics. They’re scattered across the universe, and quickly transport the Umbrella Academy to places where they’re needed. We don’t know if we’ll ever see the Televator in the show, but it’s a cool homage anyway.
Five Meets Five
Five meeting his future self is another funny moment, but it has precedent in the comics. In the graphic novel, Five also travels to the past to stop his future self from seemingly assassinating JFK.
This plot device is used here too but, rather than have both versions meet cordially to begin with, the pair fight it out from the off in the comics. Luther is on hand to sort the duo out, however, and helps to save the timeline in both instances.
Luther’s Fat Jibe
Luther finally grows a sense of humour in season two, and there’s one joke that will be doubly funny to comic fans.
After getting into a car with his family and causing the vehicle to lower significantly, Luther drolly tells his siblings not to make a fat joke. For comic fans, it’s a two-fold quip. That’s because Luther becomes obese in Dallas, the graphic novel that season two is based on, so comic readers will find an extra dimension to this self-deprecating putdown.
The Umbrella Academy season two is streaming on Netflix now