Something a little different today. I recently decided to give the Netflix show The End of the F***ing World a go. Then I discovered it is based on a comic by Charles Forsman. So naturally, being a comic and graphic novel lover, I decided give that a go. But when I came to write my review for the comic I found I couldn’t help but compare it to the TV show.
I’m not the kind of guy that always thinks the books are better and I like to judge each medium on its own merit. Sometimes I like the book more, sometimes I like the TV show / movie more. Sometimes I like them equally despite them having differences.
That isn’t the case here though. I’ll give the game away now, the comic is pretty bland, and I have a couple of issues with it. The show is possibly one of the most enjoyable TV shows I’ve ever seen. Since its release a couple of weeks ago I have watched it 3 times in total. It is likely to become a ‘go-to’ show for me when I just want something fun and enjoyable on in the background.
WARNING: The following post will contain major spoilers for both the show and comic. Both will be discussed in detail. You now have that information, do with it what you like. I ain’t your mum, I ain’t gonna tell you what to do!
Hey ho! Let’s go!
THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Comic – James is the protag of the story and it starts with his POV. He is a loner skater guy with shabby long hair. He explains that he realised he had no sense of humour when he was 9, that he killed a cat in the woods when he was 13 by smashing its body with a stone and that at age 15 he stuck his right hand into the garbage disposal. This resulted in him losing his index and middle fingers. He kills other small animals during his teenage years and claims to remember each and every one of them. He has a dysfunctional relationship with his father and they appear to argue a lot. He is an awkward individual who doesn’t really fit in with the social norms. He states that “There were times when I didn’t know how to act. Sometimes I would let things happen that I didn’t understand.” This leads to an incident where a man giving him a ride somewhere sexually assaults him.
TV Show – James is very similar in both the TV show and the comic. There are some minor differences though. Show James burns his left hand in a deep fat fryer rather than damaging his right hand in the garbage disposal. Show James identifies as being a possible psychopath (or sociopath. I can’t remember which). He initially pretends to fall in love with Alyssa because he has plans to knife her to death whereas in the comic he thinks about strangling her to death. In the comic he doesn’t kill Alyssa because he recognises that she is trying to make him feel something and he makes a conscious decision not to kill her when the time comes. In the show it felt much more like James didn’t kill her because she quickly changed plans on what they were going to do and he just went along with it. He then starts to grow feelings towards her in an organic way, rather than it being because it’s something he is looking for. I think in the show his feelings towards Alyssa shock him, he is uncomfortable with his feelings. In the comic he almost creates a scenario to make himself feel something.
There are a few other differences, but they are small and essentially they are the same character from page to screen. The same cannot be said about Alyssa though.
Comic – Alyssa is an emo kid. There’s no getting away from it. I know, I was rather emo once.
You still are! She says “I’ll stare at the clouds and the blue. I’ll get the feeling that everything is different. That I’m not even human or something. Like I’m a dog or a squirrel. Or an alien. An alien with no body. Only feelings. Feelings of the past… when I wasn’t so conscious.” … I know, right?! Somebody give this girl a hug. Don’t – she’ll kick your arse. She is a feisty young woman. Bored with life and the town she lives in. She regularly acts in a cocky and shocking manner just to bring some level of interest into her day. She falls in love with James after some time dating. She states “I think I love him. The boy needs someone.” Although she has a hard outer shell, she is quite a gentle person inside. She lives with her mum, and her stepdad. She refers to her stepdad as a ‘pervert’ although we never meet either of them. She decides to go to her dad after James suggests it.
One major issue I had with comic Alyssa happens in a scene where she protects James from being sexually assaulted. It happens during a car ride after they are picked up whilst hitchhiking. She grabs the abuser/driver by the the throat and demands he pulls over. But this happens:
I know this language can be explained away by saying she was angry, and she was protecting her boyfriend and that people say things they wouldn’t normally say in moments of heightened emotion, but it really got to me. It shows that comic Alyssa is homophobic. She doesn’t shout that he is an abuser or anything like that, instead she decides to insult him by focusing on his homosexual actions. I immediately stopped caring about comic Alyssa at this point. I could no longer get invested in her story or really care too much about what situation she was in. Because so much of the story is essentially about Alyssa, it just spoilt the rest for me.
TV Show – Show Alyssa shares some character traits with comic Alyssa, but they are different in a number of areas. During the first episode show Alyssa gets so fed up with everyone staring at their screens and not communicating in person that she stands up and smashes her phone. I instantly fell in love with show Alyssa! I felt such an affinity with her at that moment. I don’t have a mobile phone for the same reason (and a couple of others).
Show Alyssa is not homophobic in any way and is actively shown to be accepting and considerate of different sexualities. In the show she reminds James’ dad that “we are dealing with a large spectrum” when discussing sexuality. She meets a guy called Topher in the show and before bringing him ‘home’ for sex, she asks “Do you have a boyfriend?” During the sexual assault scene, show Alyssa asks James “Are you gay? It’s ok if you are, but you really should tell me.”
Comic Alyssa gets home sick during their travels, whilst show Alyssa has a couple of moments when she might show a small tinge of this, but never to an amount where she sits crying in the backseat of a car. Show Alyssa is much more of a driving force than comic Alyssa. All the major decisions that move the plot along are done by Alyssa – James just goes along with most of it.
Show Alyssa is fucking hilarious and we don’t really see any of that in the comic. Jessica Barden is remarkably talented and plays the character perfectly. Show Alyssa feels like she is vulnerable, but is driven in her goal to get to her dad. Comic Alyssa is vulnerable, but it’s suggested by James that they go and see her dad and she just sorta goes along with it.
Show Alyssa feels like such a real person. I grew up on a low income council estate and show Alyssa reminds me of some of the people I knew back then. I live on the very edge of Yorkshire (historically part of the town was in Yorkshire) and so our local accent is very similar to that of Jessica Barden’s. I remember walking down the street one day when I was about 15 years old. I walked past two girls of a similar age that I had seen around but didn’t really know. They stopped me as I walked past *insert harp music and wavy flashback screen effects here*:
Girl 1: “Why are you so fuckin weird?”
Me: “I don’t know how to answer that. I’m not weird to me.”
Girl 1: “What?!”
Me: “Everything about me is normal to me. You’re the one who views me as weird. Our perception of normality differs from person to person according to the stimuli and variety we are exposed to. You will have to tell me why you find me so weird.” Yes, I was one of those annoying little shits that had an answer to everything.
Girl 2: “You ain’t fuckin normal. You got long hair.”
Me: “Yeah, I have.”
Girl 2: “Well that’s not normal is it?!”
Me: “You have long hair…”
Girl 1: “Yeah but we’re girls!”
Girl 2: “Right?! No one’s gonna shag you with that hair.”
Me: “Note to self – keep this hair.”
Girl 1: “I’d have sex with you if you cut ya hair and acted normal.”
Me: “The thought alone is enough trauma, thank you.”
Girl 1: “See, you’re fuckin weird. I said I’d have sex with you.”
Me: “I heard you. I’ll pass thanks.”
Girl 2: “We can go and have sex now. Over there.” She points to the local children’s park across the road.
Girl 1: “Yeah, we’ll both do ya.”
Me: “It’s great to see you’ve overcome your repulsion of my weirdness so quickly, and the temptation is strong, but then I’d have to walk all the way over there, and then walk all the way back here and it sounds like a lot of effort just to get gonorrhea.”
I walked off leaving Girl 1 stunned at the thought that I wouldn’t instantly shag them, and Girl 2 shouting “Fuck off you fucking weirdo.” During my teenage years I hated people like that. I was surrounded by them, but now looking back I find it hilarious. I find Alyssa hilarious. I think it is because when I was growing up, the girls mentioned above were the norm around where I lived. I wanted something different. I liked it when people decided they would just be themselves whether that made them stand out or not. Show Alyssa does what she wants when she wants. She isn’t trying to fit in. I like that.
Law Enforcement: Cops and DC Eunice Noon and DC Teri Darego
Comic – They don’t appear. I KNOW RIGHT?! Instead, the cop that tracks down James and Alyssa is the partner/mother/relative/friend (?) of the guy that James kills and serves as the story antagonist. The murdered guy and the cop are part of a sadistic Satanic cult. The less we say, the better to be honest.
TV Show – GEMMA WHELAN IS SO FUCKING GOOD! I love this character and I love this actor. DCs Noon and Darego are detectives working on the case of the murdered man. They track James and Alyssa across the country. DC Darego is a ‘done by the book’ kind of detective and DC Noon is a little more relaxed and works on her instinct much more. I love both these characters. They are wonderful and as much as I was rooting for James and Alyssa, I didn’t dislike these two. They are not antagonists. They are detectives, doing their job to try and make sure no one else gets hurt.
Other characters appear in both with minor differences. The security guard that stops Alyssa after she steals from the store is gender swapped from the comic and the show. The hitchhiker abuser, the (soon to be murdered) man whose house they stay in and even the diner server all appear in both versions. As I said, there are minor changes but nothing that changes the story too much. Alyssa’s dad is much more developed in the show than in the comic. In the comic, he is just a bit of an average guy that became estranged from Alyssa. In the show, he is much more eccentric and interesting.
Some characters were created for the show and don’t appear in the comic. The obvious being the cop/detectives above. Frodo isn’t in the comic. I really like Frodo. I don’t think James’ mum makes an appearance (that whole subplot is none existent in the comic… I think.) Alyssa doesn’t have a brother in the comic. The police officer that deals with James after he is beaten up (another great fleeting character) isn’t in the comic.
The story is similar in the comic and the show, except the comic is based in the US and the show is based in the UK. In the comic whilst hitchhiking James states he is heading for Texas. I don’t think we get to learn where the show is based. It’s in England. There were a number of changes made that made the show a more enjoyable story for me. In the comic James is 16 when he first meets Alyssa and he is almost 18 by the end of the story. The show takes place over a few weeks at the most, maybe even less now I think about it. I think this change really helps for the audience to go along with the ride. It helped me grow attached to the characters because I felt like I was with them on their few days of complete madness. The comic just brushes over several important scenes and feels incredibly rushed in parts. Scenes that were 10 minutes long in the show are started and finished on one page in the comic.
James and Alyssa develop a sexual relationship in the comic. This works because of the longer time frame. In the show they don’t have sex. They do bits of other things but on the whole they have a sexless relationship. I’m trying to view this objectively, for those who don’t know, I’m asexual and therefore don’t really like it when I see a relationship that instantly revolves around sex. I think having the shorter time in the show means it makes sense that they wouldn’t have started a sexual relationship, and I feel this helps us, as the viewer, connect with the characters more. I know that sounds a bit odd, and I may not be making any sense, but I liked that nothing seemed forced between the two. I like how the showrunners didn’t go down that path. It’s too cliche and is the obvious route. Instead what we get is a teenage relationship, with the clear desire for sex, but the awkward situations that come along with that. I suppose not having sex made their relationship stronger in a strange way.
I touched on it earlier, but in the comic James and Alyssa meet, develop a relationship and then one day, after James has an argument with his dad, they go off on an adventure together. In the show, Alyssa very much drives the plot forward. She decides what she is doing and where she is going and she simply invites James along. Of course, he agrees because by then he finds himself a little lost, is enjoying the attention and excitement and often goes along with a situation just to see what happens. As the viewer, you are forced to do the same!
The comic is a contemporary coming of age story. But it is rather bland. The show is a dark humour romp with chaos and excitement. I laugh in certain parts every time I see it. (The only other show that does that for me is The Office US) The show feels quirky and unpredictable whereas the comic feels empty in parts.
The artwork in the comic isn’t very good if I am honest. It is minimalist and the style of the characters just looks odd. It’s monochrome. On the whole, I like monochrome comics. I think they work exceptionally well when the story is an intimate and emotional story. Some of my favourite comics/GNs/mangas are monochrome and when done well it can really portray emotion on the page in a way that colour couldn’t. Unfortunately, that is not what we have with this. It’s just bland, and boring.
I gave you one spoiler warning, I ain’t giving you another. Wait! I just did. Damn you and your trickster ways!! *shakes fist*
In the comic at the end, Alyssa’s dad calls the cops to report the two. The cop that shows up is the Satanic bitch seeking vengeance. James ties Alyssa to a chair to make it look like he had kidnapped her and release her of any criminal charges. James escapes through a window and is shot in the leg. As he falls to the ground, Satanic bitch opens her shirt to reveal a pentagram chest tattoo and a knife. She cuts James’ cheek, and cuts off his ring finger. Another cop is shouting for her to stand down. James gets the better of the exchange and headbuts Satanic bitch. He then pins her to the ground and continues to relentlessly headbut her. There is a gunshot and the panel is black, indicating James was shot. We then have a scene where Alyssa is back living with her mum and she is mourning the loss of James. She heats up a needle and burns the name ‘James’ into her forearm. I hate this ending! Just… bleurgh. No. It’s shit.
In the TV show, when the police arrive, James knocks Alysa down with the end of a shotgun and he runs off – in a similar way of trying to protect Alyssa. Whilst he is running, we hear a gunshot and the screen goes black. That is the end. It’s left open. Now, this was clearly done to leave the possibility of a second season in tact. But, it also works much better for the story. Whereas in the comic it is confirmed that James is dead, we don’t know in the show. It has much more of an emotional punch to the viewer. We can decide for ourselves what happened at this point. I like this. I like the open ending. I do have one minor issue though with the police shooting. I get why the police shoot James in the comic. He was assaulting a police officer and wasn’t stopping. It’s very possible he would have killed her if he wasn’t stopped. In the show, he is running away. Sure, he is armed, and he has assaulted a police officer and Alyssa, but he is running away. He is not an immediate threat to anyone. The UK police would not have shot him in that situation. Instead, they would have chased him and tried to corner him somewhere with the aim of arresting him. The only time they could have legally shot at him would be if he was about to shoot himself or someone else. This slightly tainted the ending of the show for me.
So we inevitably have to get to the point where I make a statement about which is better. And if you have read this far (well done on that by the way!) you probably have a good idea of which I preferred. That’s right, the winner is:
Ha, I tricked ya. It’s the show. It’s 100% the show. The show takes the prize every single time with everything. The changes that were made in the show all make perfect sense. They are done to help develop a character or plot movement. The show made me laugh out loud, hold my breath, recoil in shock and ultimately kept me glued to the screen. It is perfect binge watching TV. The comic was just boring. And I don’t think I feel like that just because I watched the show first. I read a lot of indie comics/GNs on comixology and most of them are forgettable. It’s like a hunt to find the diamond in the rough most of the time. This would have been one of those comics that I simply would have forgotten after reading.
The wonderful Liz (check out her book blog Cover to Cover) asked me if I wanted a season 2 of the show. It was a hard one (he said) and I had to go for a walk to think about it. On one hand, I like the show and the open ending of it. I also think the story works because it is short and because it isn’t stretched out too much. But, on the other hand, it’s so fucking good how could I not want more?! I finally decided that I would want 2 more seasons of the same length and that’s it. And I want James to be alive, and I want the story to continue following the two on the run from the police. Season 2 is about them on a boat and they sail to france or somewhere. Season 3 ends with them finally getting away and living somewhere abroad, together. Gemma Whelan has to return. Make it happen Channel 4/Netflix. Or ya know, do something better. Either one.
Do I want another comic? I’m glad you asked. No. I don’t think I would want to read another. The story is the story of James and Alyssa, and that couldn’t continue in the comic.
My rating for the comic: 1.259772 stars. This got a low rating because of how forgettable it is. But the homophobia pulled it down into the 1 star category.
My rating for the show: 5.52637 stars. Naturally.
Have you seen the show or read the comic? Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with me? Let’s chat about it. TALK TO ME ABOUT THIS SHOW I FUCKING LOVE IT SO MUCH!
Anyway, I’m off to… erm… steal a bra?! Until next time, Peace and Love!