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The University of Southampton

University writer’s key role in upcoming DC drama Dead Boy Detectives

Published: 12 January 2024
Images of two comic covers
Cover artwork from Dead Boy Detectives #2(2014). © and TM DC. Art by Mark Buckingham & Chris Bachalo

An upcoming Netflix show is based on characters from a major comic series created by University of Southampton academic and author Toby Litt.

Dead Boy Detectives is an eight-episode series based on the original DC Comics of the same name, written by Toby Litt , Associate Professor in Creative Writing, and illustrator Mark Buckingham.

The Dead Boy Detectives are a fictional duo, Charles Rowland and Edwin Payne, first created in 1991 by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner in the DC comic book series The Sandman. Toby took these characters and added more – including central character Crystal Palace – to write the Dead Boy Detectives comics.

“The boys are the ghosts of two dead children who investigate supernatural crimes,” explained Toby. “Crystal Palace is able to see the boys and, in the comic, it’s because she has had a near-death experience and, when she was at the point of being neither dead nor alive, she was able to meet them. I invented a place called The Neitherlands, where people aren’t dead or alive, which is where Crystal met the two boys.”

The Dead Boy Detectives series was 12 comics in total, produced by Toby and Mark Buckingham in 2013 and 2014.

Head and shoulders image of man with beard
Toby Litt, Associate Professor in Creative Writing

The new Netflix series was filmed in 2022 and 2023 in Canada. It features George Rexstrew and Jayden Revri as the Dead Boy Detectives, with Kassius Nelson playing Crystal Palace.

Toby said: “I had a message from Neil Gaiman saying the television series is very much based on what Mark and I did in the comics. I expect some of the characters and storylines will look very familiar to me.

“It’s like having something come back to life. It feels fantastic that something that I did 10 years ago is coming back to life with bright shiny colours and with other people putting lots of energy into it. I can’t wait to see it.”

The launch date for Dead Boy Detectives is not yet confirmed. You can watch the Netflix teaser trailer here:

Netflix official series synopsis:

Do you have a pesky ghost haunting you? Has a demon stolen your core memories? You may want to ring the Dead Boy Detectives.

Meet Edwin Payne (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri), “the brains” and “the brawn” behind the Dead Boy Detectives agency. Teenagers born decades apart who find each other only in death, Edwin and Charles are best friends and ghosts… who solve mysteries. They will do anything to stick together – including escaping evil witches, Hell and Death herself. With the help of a clairvoyant named Crystal (Kassius Nelson) and her friend Niko (Yuyu Kitamura), they are able to crack some of the mortal realm’s most mystifying paranormal cases.

As part of The Sandman Universe for Netflix and based on the beloved comic series from Neil Gaiman, Dead Boy Detectives was developed for television by Steve Yockey, who serves as co-showrunner alongside Beth Schwartz and is brought to you by Greg Berlanti. Jeremy Carver and Sarah Schechter also serve as executive producers. The series also stars Jennifer Lyon, Briana Cuoco, Lukas Gage, David Iacono and Ruth Connell.

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