Minor spoilers below for certain elements of Netflix's Sweet Tooth, so be warned if you want to go into the series completely blind.
Executive producers Susan Downey and husband Robert Downey Jr. had a rather difficult task at hand when it came to finding the right ways to turn Jeff Lemire's celebrated comic book series Sweet Tooth into an audience-grabbing Netflix show. And you can bet quite a few important conversations with showrunner Jim Mickle revolved specifically around how to bring Lemire's specific art style to life for its population of animal-human hybrids, particularly when it came to adding cuteness to the equation for live-action.
From Christian Convery and the younger actors who portrayed Gus to Naledi Murray's Wendy to the huggable furball Bobby, Sweet Tooth is peppered with adorable youths that immediately make Neil Sandilands' already monstrous General Abbot look even more depraved for his hatred of them. When I spoke with Susan Downey ahead of Sweet Tooth's debut, I asked her how important it was for the live-action hybrids to be so cute, in terms of how audiences would view them, and she answered with:
You know what? That's actually a really smart question. Because we have designs that aren't so cute. You don't want them to be off-putting, because what they represent is something that is different, that is new. But you want us leaning in. They're the best of us, they're the next, they're the future. And so we wanted to make sure that, yeah, much like Gus in being our main hybrid into the story, there was something that was intriguing about them, and nothing off-putting.
It doesn't take a leap of logic to understand why that's the case for the Sweet Tooth TV series, either. As distinct and familiar as Jeff Lemire's artwork is for all the characters throughout his DC Vertigo comic series, they're purposefully not photo-realistic, and most of the humans have a certain disturbing edge to their looks that gets even more magnified when it comes to the hybrids. So if the show had brought Lemire's illustrations from the page to the screen with pointed authenticity, it probably would have been more akin to a David Cronenberg horror than the warm and fuzzy series that fans are currently streaming.
It was already pretty evident that the show was leaning away from creepy vibes when audiences got our first look at Christian Convery's Gus, and things went gloriously over the edge once Bobby was introduced and instantly made everyone want to hug him. No offense to Comic Bobby, but I don't think anybody would be sharing cutesy GIFs of that lil dude if his TV iteration looked exactly the same. As non-virtuous as it is to say, we as a people like adorbs animals better than the alternative, especially when it comes to two animals that are mashed into one being. And especially if there are also cute outfits involved.
Find out what happens to Gus, Big Man and all the hybrids on Netflix, where Sweet Tooth's first eight episodes can be streamed in full. And don't forget to keep up with all the other awesome shows hitting the 2021 Summer TV schedule while waiting to see if Netflix renews the comic adaptation for Season 2.