Last week at New York Comic Con 2017, fans lucky enough to get into the SyFy block panel were given an extra little treat for their loyalty and dedication to the network. Typical panels run about an hour to an hour and a half. Even with the advertised presence of two major shows for the network in this one, the two-and-a-half-hour time stamp caught many fans by surprise. After the hype from the stage presenters and the house lights dimmed, one man crossed the stage alone. After making a joke, pretending to imitate Chris Meloni briefly, comic book writing legend Grant Morrison called all eyes to the screen behind him and bowed out gracefully. Those who made their way in to the Hammerstein Ballroom were treated with more than a sizzle reel, but the entire first episode of Happy! months ahead of its December 6th release date.
MODERN AND CLASSIC
Happy! Is not one of the classic, tried and true comic series that have withstood the test of time to earn some major screen adaptation. Instead, having been published in early 2013, stands as that special unicorn of entertainment media and pop culture that was just obscure and powerful enough to develop a powerful following in little to no time. Grant Morrison is known for reminding people to “be the new weird” and lives up to such a sentiment with each and every project he embarks on.
The new SyFy channel adaptation follows the same general story from the series. A down on his luck degenerate of an ex-cop turned hitman begins seeing a colorful and cartoony donkey/ unicorn hybrid named Happy that pushes him in the right direction of redemption. That brief explanation alone should be enough to sell at least an initial viewing. The graphic novel includes no shortage of vulgarity, blood, gore, and sexually explicit content. Not that the mature audience disclaimer itself is a selling point, but in the subtly of such outlandish inclusions and how they are both shocking, yet pertinent to the story being told and the universe unfolding.
FIT FOR THE SMALL SCREEN
The show seems to have taken these ques to heart and lives up to them in every possible way. Panel members admitted that, much like any adaptation, some things were pulled and others added, but the spirit of the comic still beats within it. Even the first episode includes levels of vulgarity, gore, and sexually explicit material that are engrossing without being gross, per se. In words, this seems like an impossible oxymoron of a setup, but Happy! successfully tap danced that fine line and created something that is shaping up to be incredibly special.
At its most basic of roots, Happy! seems to be the creation of a redemption story with the typical, unexpected anti-hero. What sets Nick Sax apart from others of this character trope is that he both acknowledges his fall from grace, and does not care one bit. He does not seem to grasp at redemption, nor does he actively try and evade it. The hero has reached a point of nihilism that it just does not matter anymore. Though not a great outlook on life, such development creates a truly fascinating yet simple character to watch.
A PLACE FOR ALL
Here is where all of the over the top violence and sexual implications fuel the fire. Are some of the scenes shocking? Absolutely. Do they feel as if they were shoehorned in for the sake of shock value? Not one bit. The TV-MA rated content peppered throughout even the first episode all exist to serve a point and press the further universal development onward. A man in a strange mascot-style costume receiving oral sex from a prostitute with the intention of bashing her brains in with a hammer while down there may come across as a little striking at least, but it absolutely fits into the narrative and propels things to the next scene. It is all a series of gritty and grimy set ups to the next ingenious entanglement of New York’s seedy underbelly.
The first episode of SyFy’s Happy! is equal parts modern crime noir and intense action thriller with dark humor, violence, gore, and sexuality sprinkled in. Not to mention the powerful contrast of a brightly colored cartoon unicorn-donkey against such a vile backdrop. This series is nothing short of absolutely unique and unparalleled in modern entertainment. Things only appear to be getting better. Here is to the December 6th countdown when we can all get as much blood, sex, and imaginary donkey-corns as we can handle.