'Sweet Tooth' Finds a Safe Home at Netflix

The Jeff Lemire comic book series slinks perfectly into Netflix's recent crop of oddball comic book adaptations.

Sweet Tooth Cover
DC Comics

A good project never dies. It waits. Time is on its side. Someone, somewhere, someday will recognize its merit and pull the trigger.

A television series based on the Sweet Tooth comic book has bounced around the market for a while. Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey‘s production company, Team Downey, were the first to recognize the potential in Jeff Lemire‘s DC Vertigo series. They fell hard for its purposeful mix of the adorable and the horrible, first taking it to pilot at Hulu. When that studio passed, Team Downey kept shopping. They knew there was a suit out there who would connect.

Netflix, meanwhile, is hungry for comic book content, and they’re happy to be free of the usual claptrap from Marvel or DC. Spandex, shmandex. With successful adaptations of The Umbrella Academy, Daybreak, Locke & KeyThe End of the F***ing World, and I Am Not Okay With This under their belt, the streaming platform is charging full steam ahead with Bone, The Old Guard, and a squad of Mark Millar shows. Now they’re adding Sweet Tooth to the slate.

The Sweet Tooth comics play in familiar arenas. However, as written and illustrated by Lemire, the apocalyptic vision is utterly singular. You may sense a little Mad Max here, a little I Am Legend there, but the filter in which Lemire strains his story looks unlike anything else you’ve previously encountered. The vibe is much more European, stretching space for character rather than bombast.

The narrative follows the ever-increasing dangerous adventures of Gus (to be played by Venom‘s Christian Convery), a sheepish child with antlers protruding from his skull. All his life, the kid has been tied to a tiny cabin in the woods, told by his father that the world was erased by a paintbrush of fire and catastrophe. Gus is also told a great “Accident” cursed him with his deer-like appearance. The child’s curiosity for the world beyond his home is successfully quelled until Dad drops dead.

Struck catatonic with fear, Gus stumbles around the cabin, unsure of what to do, having never before fended for himself. Soon, a group of strangers penetrates the homestead. Their plans to acquire the strange child are foiled when the mysterious Jeppard appears and quickly obliterates the interlopers. Together, the two breach the woods, in search of a Sanctuary that Jeppard promises will offer peace and, more importantly, answers for Gus.

Another aspect of Sweet Tooth that gives it a better chance of being a step above the usual superhero fare is that the series, on the page, only lasted forty issues. Unlike characters such as Spider-Man or Batman, there is a definite beginning, middle, and end to Gus’ journey. Ever since losing (or freeing depending on your outlook) themselves of Daredevil and his friends, Netflix has sought strong, narratively focused comic book adaptations.

Sweet Tooth can be told in eight episodes, or it can expand into five seasons. The first trade paperback detailing Gus’ escape from his cabin and quest for Sanctuary is pre-packaged to be digested in eight hours. If the audience is there, the truth about the Accident can be easily explored beyond, introducing a myriad of characters as equally bizarre and compelling as the little deer boy.

Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.