A few months ago, the prospect of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s eyebrow-raising comic The Boys getting a TV adaptation was whispered about online for about a minute before radio silence set in. Now suddenly. Deadline tells us that the show has a preliminary cast list and a deal with Amazon Studios. Oh, what a time to be alive.
It’s true. According to the Deadline report, Dominique McElligott, Antony Starr, Nathan Mitchell, Jessie T. Usher, and Chace Crawford—yes, the guy from Gossip Girl—are signing on to play major characters in the show. They join Erin Moriarty, lately of Jessica Jones season one, on the acting roster of what has the potential to really shake up superhero TV.
Honestly, though, why should we even care about all this? Didn’t we reach our superhero media saturation point sometime last decade? Yeah, we did. But The Boys is almost as far away from your standard superhero TV show as you can get. If you’re not yet convinced, here’s a rundown of just how different The Boys is from the rest of the genre.
They never did this in Daredevil. Or even in The Punisher.
WHAT IS THE BOYS?
The Boys is a 72-issue comic book series created by Ennis and Robertson (with Russ Braun taking over art duties partway through) about, frankly, how superheroes are terrible. The story takes on America’s post-9/11 sociopolitical climate by critiquing our superhero media obsession in conjunction with the military-industrial complex. Instead of dedicating their lives to furthering the common good, The Boys‘ superheroes lead secret lives of total depravity. Murder, bigotry, hard drugs, ethically questionable sex—it’s all part of pretending to save the world.
And while they kill/hate/snort/bone their way through life, these so-called heroes also present a massive threat to national and global safety. That’s where The Boys (no italics) come in.
WHO ARE THE BOYS?
They’re a secret international task force charged with taking down as many superheroes as they possibly can. By the time the comic takes place, their lineup has already gone through a few rotations. Throughout the comic, The Boys consist of:
- Butcher (Billy Butcher): The team leader. East London cockney thug who knows a lot more than he lets on.
- Mother’s Milk: The brains. A black American guy from the inner city trying to save his relationship with his rebellious daughter. He hates when people don’t use coasters for their drinks.
- Frenchie: The muscle, or at least half of it. A comedic “French” stereotype—think an incidental character you might see in The Simpsons—with an exaggerated accent and a warm heart.
- The Female: The other half of the muscle, who could take your face off with her pinky fingernail. Originally from Japan, she has mutism, will break your wrist if you touch her candy, and is Frenchie’s best friend.
- Wee Hughie (Hugh Campbell): A Scottish guy who joins The Boys when his girlfriend is accidentally killed by a reckless superhero, and who just wants to do the right thing.
From top left, clockwise: Frenchie, Mother’s Milk, The Female, Wee Hughie, Butcher.
It’s important to note that these are not the “good” guys. They’re the not-as-bad guys. Good people don’t last long in The Boys.
WHO ARE THEY FIGHTING?
The Boys’ superhero landscape is full of superteams, such as the G-Men (an X-Men analogue), Teenage Kix (every “youth-oriented” superteam you’ve ever read about), and Payback (they’re extreme! And yet, somehow, absolute C-listers!). But the big one is the Seven, a sort of parody of the Justice League made up of the most powerful—and most corrupt—superheroes the world has to offer.
- The Homelander: A Superman/Captain America analogue and leader of the Seven, to be played by Starr in the Amazon show. He’s a blond, blue-eyed, broad-shouldered Aryan dream in a stars-and-stripes cape, and all he really wants out of life is to prove his supremacy over every other living thing, even if he has to bathe the Earth in blood to achieve it. Is that so wrong?
- Starlight/Annie January: The new recruit, to be played by Moriarty in the Amazon show. She has light-related powers, and feels joining the Seven should be about fighting evil and making the world a better place. Oh, Annie. Annie, Annie, Annie.
- A-Train: A Flash-type speedster, to be played by Usher in the Amazon show. Like the characters who inspired him, he’s an impetuous guy who thinks more about immediate gratification than long-term consequences. Unlike them, though, said immediate gratification often involves preying on women and causing fatal damage to innocent bystanders.
- Queen Maeve: The Wonder Woman analogue of the team, with some Big Barda thrown in for good measure; to be played by McElligott in the Amazon show. A sword-wielding warrior named for the queen of the fairies in Irish folklore, Maeve spends her superheroic tenure in the Seven drinking martinis and having sex with muscular submissive men. Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad.
- The Deep: Sort of like Aquaman in antique diving gear; to be played by Crawford in the Amazon show. The comic’s never that clear on what he does, perhaps because Ennis, like many other authors, struggled with the “ruler of the oceans” concept. But he’s got powers. We promise.
- Black Noir: A mysterious mute figure who never speaks, to be played by Mitchell in the Amazon show. What is this guy’s deal? Why do the Seven keep him around? All will be revealed…eventually.
- Jack from Jupiter: The team’s Martian Manhunter analogue, who can make his body invulnerable by shouting the word “Carpo!”
That’s a whole shedload of power without much humanity to back it up, which is a surefire equation for bloodshed. Sweet. I mean, oh no.
HOW “ADULT” IS IT GOING TO BE?
Although there’s no word yet on how the TV series will approach this, the comic is a hard R. There are disembowelments, dismemberments, and impalements galore, and liberal doses of profanity. Hell, the superheroes decide to take world domination to the next level during “Herogasm,” a huge super-orgy drawn by longtime Ennis collaborator John McCrea. We’ll see if Amazon is ready to go there, but I hope they are.
What are your burning questions about The Boys? Let us know in the comments!
Images: DC/Wildstorm, Dynamite Entertainment, Wikimedia Commons, Vimeo
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