The Boys has been the superhero “watercooler” show since its debut on Prime Video in 2019. So naturally, it’s getting a few spinoffs. The first is The Boys Presents: Diabolical, a series of animated shorts set in the world of the show. A world where a massive conglomerate named Vought has manufactured super-beings for their own purposes. And regular people have to fight them covertly. All of this naturally lends to an animated interpretation.
While only a few of the episodes showcase characters from the show, they all use The Boys mythology to tell unique stories that reflect our real world. (Well, except for the one with the runaway laser-eyed baby. We’re not sure that has a real-world parallel). We got to chat with Diabolical showrunner Simon Racioppa, as well as series writer Eliot Glazer, about bringing this wild animated series to life.
Nerdist: So Simon, the episode that you wrote, the “One Plus One Equals Two,” actually goes a long way in humanizing Homelander. To an extent. We’ve seen a bit in the live-action show. But you see him at a point early in his heroic career where he isn’t completely awful. What was the genesis of that episode?
Simon Racioppa: So that was the last episode I wrote. I knew I was always going to write one of them. But I kept it to the very end because I wanted to see how the other Seven came up. And what story areas were we touching on. So after we had the other Seven in process, I started talking with [The Boys showrunner] Eric Kripke, who was involved in the whole series. And we started talking about what we hadn’t done. And he was like, ‘I would love to do something else with Homelander. Maybe an early mission with him and Black Noir.’ So that got me thinking. And we came up together with this idea of doing Homelander’s first mission. Basically, the first time he goes out. And that’s all I needed.
That was a jumping-off point for me to just get into the character and what his first mission would be like. Obviously, he’s a different person. It takes place probably about ten, twelve years before where the show starts. And to examine how maybe he wasn’t born this way. Maybe part of this is through how they raised him. Could we expect anybody raised by a corporation in these horrible conditions to come out normal? I didn’t want to exonerate him of all the things he does. But I wanted to open the door a little crack to let you have a little sympathy for him, as much of a psychopath and a sociopath as he is. That was the thinking there.
Most of the episodes are irreverent and contain dark humor. But the “John and Sun-Hee” episode was very serious and heartbreaking. Very shocked to see Andy Samberg wrote that episode. How was it for you guys to take such a serious turn for this one story?
SR: We were happy to do it. Again, the idea behind Diabolical was that every episode should be completely different. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves. The goal was to give you something different from the mothership show. So when Andy pitched that idea, we were like, yes, this feels really different from everything else. And Andy also is a huge film aficionado. He’s written a lot of short films and a lot of different stories and things like that. So it’s no surprise that he could execute this so well and bring us this amazing story.
The Korean angle of it came from our director on that episode, who is Steve Ahn. And he’s the one who brought that angle. Because obviously, I’m not Korean, Andy Samberg is not. Steve is. And he interpreted it through his own experiences. He had a family connection that resonated with him through that script, that something that had happened to him. So he could bring that Korean angle to it. We found a great Korean studio, Korean composer, and just really brought that to life as much as we could. I was really thrilled with how the episode changed so much in some ways from concept to the finished version, but also that core emotional story stayed the same all the way through.
Eliot, your episode “Boyd in 3D” was about two ordinary people who use Vought products to make themselves suddenly beautiful. Not to mention social media darlings. I felt it was also very much a commentary on body dysmorphia and how social media has made that a worse problem for many people. So how did you think of tying this real-world affliction into something that’s usually so irreverent?
Eliot Glazer: Trying to explain or understand social media and the effects of it is too much of an existential process for me to wrap my head around. The pitfalls of social media and body dysmorphia are such a huge part of it. And I think it’s just affected me and my sister (Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, who has a story credit), as I imagine it’s affected everybody. And so dialing in onto that one story seemed like the most grounded way to connect to an animated story that could still, again, be fantastical and be outrageous in the confines of a cartoon.
But I think that was just something that we’re both naturally interested in. The idea of not just body dysmorphia as it relates to social media, but also how it forces you to want to present yourself a certain way. And how the falseness of these pictures and videos, the performative nature of it all can be so consuming. This was a way to tell that story and to provide some sense of commentary on it. Not that either of us is above it, and not that we are any less apt to fall into those traps, I guess. But at the same time, you’re right, it’s so common. And it just felt like a pretty natural place for us to go and the story found its route in that world, in that way.
You didn’t just write the episode, you also voiced Boyd. You got to do voice work alongside Kumail Nanjiani, Emily Gordon, and Nasim Pedrad. Was voicing Boyd always part of the intention or the plan, or did you decide on that after writing?
EG: I basically floated it by the team when they started casting it because it just felt natural to me. I guess because the story feels personal and I love doing voiceover, it was just a perfect opportunity to be involved in that way too. And I happen to know Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon as friends, and we didn’t record in the same studio together because of COVID. But I guess the chemistry there was also, hopefully natural because it was born from our friendship. And I know Nasim Pedrad too because she was on New Girl, which I wrote on as well. So it was a blast. I haven’t done that much voiceover, so this was a really fun opportunity to get to do so in a more intimate way.
One of the greatest things about Diabolical is the episode that Garth Ennis himself wrote, which features his comic book versions of the characters. So for anyone who reads the comics, it’s a real treat. So now I have to ask with multiverses being all the rage, is this you guys’ way of saying, hey, the comic book version is adjacent to the TV version? Or am I overthinking this?
SR: I don’t know. It would be fun. We talked, and we joked about calling the show “Into the Butcherverse,” doing an episode of Butchers from all different dimensions and he’s all the same. He’s the one thing that’s always the same in every other dimension. But no, just working with Garth and getting to do his version, it was just a no-brainer. Early on, he was one of the first people, if not maybe the first person, we approached about the show. Because it just made sense. It was like, ‘hey, we can do his version.’ And why not go back to the source for one of our episodes? Where it all started. So he wrote us essentially the lost issue of The Boys, like a stand-alone issue.
And then we got Darick Robertson, who obviously was one of the co-creators and the artist, to do that original cover. When those hands are pulling out that comic book, that’s an original Darick Robertson cover done just for us, just for the show. So in every episode we tried to go as authentic as possible into whatever that episode was. So for that it meant Simon Pegg playing Hughie. It meant going back to Garth Ennis, it meant getting Darick Robertson to do some art. And that guided that whole episode.
Eliot, do you have a favorite moment in your episode, “Boyd in 3D?”
I feel like the scene where (the two main characters) are in the pool. And technically they’re connecting with each other and reaping the fruits of their non-labor. Or just getting the opportunity to just lounge and be hot in a pool, which I think is pretty silly. I think and I hope that it speaks volumes about the idea of what social media can do and the fact that they’re both in the lap of luxury, but doomscrolling, they’re both in these doomscrolling holes. (Nerdist: these days, we’re all doomscrolling. Is anything more relatable?)
The Boys Presents: Diabolical premieres on Prime Video on March 4.