'Dead Boy Detectives' Packs A Powerful Queer Journey Into A Paranormal Adventure

When adapting “Dead Boy Detectives” for television, co-showrunner and producer Steve Yockey vowed to adhere only to “ghost rules,” meaning anything that’s spooky, supernatural and frightfully fun can happen.

“I really wanted to make ‘The Hardy Boys’ on acid,” Yockey told HuffPost. “And that’s what I think we did.”

Released on Netflix last week, “Dead Boy Detectives” is based on two characters created by Neil Gaiman for DC Comics’ “The Sandman.” The eight-episode series follows Edwin Payne (played by George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri), two British teens who died under unusual circumstances at a London boarding school: Edwin in 1916 and Charles in 1989.

Though separated in death by seven decades, Edwin and Charles become acquainted as ghosts and, together, decide to skip the afterlife in favor of becoming spirit sleuths dedicated to solving mysteries involving ax murderers, wicked witches and bloodthirsty sea monsters, among other fearsome foes. The two complement one another nicely, with Edwin describing himself as the “brains” to Charles’ “brawn” in their otherworldly operation.

In "Dead Boy Detectives," actors Jayden Revri, left, and George Rexstrew play British teens who meet as ghosts who are dedicated to solving paranormal mysteries. Ed Araquel/Netflix

Before long, the pair are whisked across the Atlantic to assist a teen psychic, Crystal (Kassius Nelson), who, unlike her mortal peers, is able to see and hear them. They also join forces with Niko (Yuyu Kitamura), Crystal’s eccentric neighbor and no stranger to the macabre.

Yockey, whose credits include “Supernatural” and “The Flight Attendant,” first encountered “The Sandman” in high school, shortly after he’d personally experienced the death of a loved one. Following Edwin and Charles on their adventures, he said, was “oddly comforting in a psychedelic way.”

As Yockey built a career for himself in Hollywood, he never forgot about “The Sandman,” specifically the characters of Edwin and Charles. After “The Flight Attendant” premiered to critical acclaim on Max in 2020, he felt confident enough to reach out to Gaiman about the possibility of bringing “Dead Boy Detectives” to the screen.

"Dead Boy Detectives" actors Kassius Nelson (from left), George Rexstrew, Jayden Revri and Yuyu Kitamura. <span class="copyright">Courtesy of Netflix</span>
"Dead Boy Detectives" actors Kassius Nelson (from left), George Rexstrew, Jayden Revri and Yuyu Kitamura. Courtesy of Netflix

It didn’t take long for Gaiman to give his blessing. “He really became a sword and a shield for us creatively,” Yockey said, “and I’m grateful for it.”

Though “Dead Boy Detectives” isn’t a typical coming-of-age story, Yockey and co-showrunner Beth Schwartz knew they wanted the series to depict real-life teen challenges. Much of the early buzz on the show has emphasized Edwin’s gradual embrace of his queer sexuality ― thanks, in part, to the appearance of the devious and seductive Cat King (Lucas Gage).

Along the way, Edwin also finds that he’s developed romantic feelings for Charles. Whether his pal will reciprocate his crush, however, remains to be seen.

“We always felt that Edwin died before he understood that he could be with a man,” Yockey said. “As a ghost, he’s spent all of his time with best friend Charles, and that was good enough for him. So when Crystal comes along, that upsets this siloed dynamic.”

Watch the “Dead Boy Detectives” trailer below: 

As a result, Edwin is “all of a sudden encountering all these instincts he’s never encountered before, and he reaches a crisis point,” Yockey said. “His sexuality isn’t all that he stands for; it’s only one piece of him. But I think that journey of self-discovery and identity adds a richness to the character.”

Reviews of “Dead Boy Detectives” have been positive. “There’s a certain young adult demographic that’s going to eat this show up, but that shouldn’t deter any other viewer who loves a good comic book or ghost story,” The Wrap’s Lauren Piester wrote. The Hollywood Reporter’s Angie Han called it “a fast, fun binge” and an “appealingly kooky supernatural adventure.”

Though it’s too soon to tell if “Dead Boy Detectives” will be renewed for a second season, Yockey has a few thoughts on Edwin’s potential trajectory in particular.

“Now that Edwin’s more comfortable with who he is, what does that mean for him moving forward? How does he explore this gay life he’s embraced in his death? There’s a lot of fun to be had with that.”

Co-showrunner and producer Steve Yockey (center) first encountered the
Co-showrunner and producer Steve Yockey (center) first encountered the "Dead Boy Detectives" character in high school, shortly after he’d personally experienced the death of a loved one. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images