The Umbrella Academy, true to its title, has numerous references to umbrellas in its episodes, but a big question remains: why did Reginald Hargreeves choose umbrellas for the academy’s symbol? The superhero genre continues to be dominated by big, connected universes, but these have also made way for other, lesser-known, and sometimes darker superhero stories, as is the case of The Umbrella Academy, a comic book series created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. The Umbrella Academy was adapted into a TV series and released on Netflix in February 2019, quickly becoming one of the platform’s biggest hits.
The Umbrella Academy is all about the Hargreeves, seven adopted kids who along with other 36 babies around the world were born on the same day and under the same circumstances. This event caught the attention of scientist and billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), who set out to adopt as many of those babies as he could but only got seven. As the kids developed superpowers, he trained them and formed the team “The Umbrella Academy”, but unfortunately, Reginald wasn’t a good father, and so the kids parted ways as years passed and didn’t talk to each other. The Hargreeves reunited years later for Reginald’s funeral and had to team up to stop the apocalypse, which turned out to be triggered by their seemingly powerless sibling, Vanya (Elliot Page). There are still many mysteries around the Umbrella Academy and Reginald, and even though season 1 showed a key moment of their shared history, there’s still a big question around the team and its peculiar symbol.
At the beginning of the finale of The Umbrella Academy season 1, viewers are taken many years back to follow a younger Reginald as he left his home planet and arrived at the United States, where he found an old umbrella manufacturer building that was on sale. Reginald bought it and made a fortune out of it, and years later adopted the umbrella as the symbol for his team of superpowered children. It’s generally assumed that he chose umbrellas because of the building, but is there a deeper meaning to them in connection to the team and its purpose?
Fans of The Umbrella Academy have found different possible explanations to why Reginald chose umbrellas as the symbol for his team of exceptional children, of which some connect to what Reginald has said in the series and others give more of a viewer interpretation of it. Umbrellas could symbolize the team’s purpose, which is to protect the world from a variety of threats, very much like umbrellas protect from the rain, but the metaphorical umbrella can’t hold itself without its metal rods, which is what the Hargreeves represent (this connecting to Reginald’s line “you’re stronger together than you are alone”). Others add that umbrellas protecting from the storm is like what the Hargreeves do for the public, but umbrellas also keep from the sun, which could be what Reginald did to the team by “robbing them of a normal childhood”. Other viewers see each of the Hargreeves representing an umbrella, explaining that they are the only way to protect from the rain but they also have weaknesses (like the wind, for example), very much like each member of the team.
The team serving as the umbrella of the world, protecting them from a variety of threats including the apocalypse itself, connects to the meaning of the Umbrella Academy’s motto, “Ut Malum Pluvia”, which translates as “when evil rains”. This is actually the meaning behind the umbrella symbol in the comics, but as Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy has made a lot of changes already, it wouldn’t be surprising if it gives a whole new meaning to the symbol of the umbrella. As the series continues to explore the backstories of Reginald and the team, fans hope many mysteries will be solved soon, and so it remains to be seen what else the TV show will change from the comics.