Comics On TV

Everything We Know About The Boys, Amazon's NSFW Superhero Series

The raunchy, degenerate superheros land on Amazon in July in a new series starring Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, and more.

by | April 19, 2019 | Comments

You could say that 2019 is the year superheroes were thoroughly deconstructed on television. Between The Umbrella Academy, Doom Patrol, and Amazon’s upcoming The Boys, being a hero isn’t just about flying around, saving the day, and hiding yourself from your closest loved ones. And as The Boys teaser trailer Amazon recently unveiled illustrates, being a hero comes with plenty of “fringe” benefits: including a club where heroes can use their powers in all sorts of debauched ways, a voyeur with invisibility abilities, and various other abuses of powers. But that hedonism comes at a price as the titular Boys set out to knock some sense into the superhero community.

But there’s more to The Boys than that NSFW trailer suggests. Here’s everything we know about the subversive superhero series, which debuts Friday, July 26 on Amazon Prime Video.


Another Preacher Collaboration

Jack Quaid and Karl Urban in TheBoys_June28_Ep102_D10_JT_0348-Pano.dng (Amazon)
(Photo by Amazon)

As the trailer boldly touts, the hourlong comic book adaptation comes from executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who finally brought Preacher to the screen after a long gestation with other producers. But the series also comes from the same source as Preacher (pictured above): the comic books of writer Garth Ennis.

With artist Darick Robertson, Ennis set out to blast the superheroes apart in 2006 with The Boys. The title was initially published by DC Comic’s Wildstorm imprint, but was cancelled after six issues. According to reports at the time, DC brass became uncomfortable with the series after noticing its corrupt superhero team bore an uncanny resemblance to the Justice League. And considering the first thing the team does is coerce an obvious Stargirl analogue into performing oral sex on them, it is hardly a surprise DC would cancel it outright.

Ennis and Robertson soon found another publisher —Dynamite Entertainment — and continued their story for another 60-odd issues. Of course, as often happens with Ennis’ work, the coarseness of its initial story lines gave way to something more nuanced and considered, an element of his writing Rogen and Goldberg clearly enjoy as they keep adapting his comics into television.


Cutting Down the Superheroes

The television version stars Jack Quaid as Hughie, a blissfully happy human whose life turns to crud when his girlfriend is obliterated before his eyes by A-Train (Jesse T. Usher). The speedster hardly takes a moment to consider his actions before running off at superspeed to continue his pursuit of a perp. And while the scene was shocking to comic book readers — and will eventually be shocking to viewers — it is hardly an uncommon occurrence in the world of The Boys. In fact, a shell-shocked Hughie soon finds himself confronted with a standardized settlement agreement from Vought, the management company that represents and promotes the superheroes.

He also meets Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), a government agent with a mandate to clip the superhero wings when they get too rowdy. He intends to recruit Hughie into his cadre known as The Boys because revenge is a great motivator.

The team also includes Laz Alonso as Mother’s Milk, Butcher’s most trusted ally; Tomer Kapon as unstable weaponsmith Frenchie; and Karen Fukuhara as Female, a quiet killer repurposed into Butcher’s plans for the superheroes. Jennifer Esposito will also appear as CIA Agent Susan Raynor, Butcher’s somewhat unwilling accomplice within the Company.


The Light of the Seven

The Boys also focuses on the exploits of those very flawed and corruptible heroes. In the comic book, Starlight (played by Erin Moriarty in the television series) becomes our window into the worldview of the superhero team known as The Seven — which we presume will carry over to television as Starlight is described as a lead role.

More akin to a superstar NFL team during a winning season than the Avengers, The Seven bicker about percentages, likeness rights, and their next movie role more than they maintain the safety of the planet. Thanks to the simultaneously beautiful and grotesque artwork from Robertson, the reader is left to wonder if such a team even needs supervillains to fight. They do a great job of being their own worst enemies.

As mentioned before, the team is composed of some fairly obvious Justice League stand-ins, including Homelander (Antony Starr), Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), the aforementioned A-Train, The Deep (Chase Crawford), and Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell). From the trailer, it is easy to see corrupted versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Batman in their aesthetics.

And also like a major league sports team, The Seven’s destiny is not theirs to control. In the television series, Elizabeth Shue plays Madelyn Stillwell, Vice President of Hero Management at Vought. She plots the team’s adventures and maintains public relations for them when incidents like A-Train atomizing Hughie’s girlfriend occurs. But she is also a cog in the Vought machinery and may have motives differing from her superiors.


The Significance of Simon Pegg

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

In the early 2000s, capturing a celebrity’s likeness was all the rage in comic books. Marvel’s The Ultimates featured Samuel L. Jackson’s visage as its version of Nick Fury well before he was cast in the role. Ultimates writer Mark Millar would continue the trick with Wanted, in which the main character bore an intentional resemblance to Eminem and the story’s take on Catwoman featured a woman who looked very much like Halle Berry.

On The Boys, Robertson, a big fan of Shaun of the Dead, decided to use Simon Pegg as the basis for Hughie – known as “Wee Hughie” in the book. Pegg was thrilled to become a comic book character and told fans he would gleefully play Wee Hughie in a Boys film should it ever get off the ground.

Then Pegg aged out of the role, illustrating just how long it can take for a comic book to become a live action project. But Amazon thrilled fans by revealing Pegg’s presence would still be part of The Boys television destiny. At New York Comic Con last October, they announced the actor would play Hughie’s father. It is an important visual connection to the books history fans will no doubt enjoy when they finally get to see the show.


Irreverence Is on Display, But It’s Not All The Boys Has to Offer

As must be clear by now — and obvious from the teaser — The Boys will not be as sympathetic to the heroes as, say, Doom Patrol, or cast them in the positive light of The Flash or Supergirl. Irreverence is the key word to use when discussing the show’s tone, and a few choice shots in the teaser definitely scream it. But considering the way Ennis’ stories work, we also expect that irreverence to take on a different shape as the series evolves away from the initial storyline.

Additionally, Supernatural creator Eric Kripke is on board as an executive producer and showrunner. Based on that long-running series, we know he can balance irreverence with a certain amount of emotional underpinning. In fact, when we talked to him about the series, he mentioned that balance was a key reason he got involved with The Boys.

“Beneath all of this blood and perversity and shock, there’s a couple of very tender love stories,” he said of the Ennis and Robertson comic book. The “human tenderness” in those stories will give the gory, extreme scenes a little more dramatic weight.

Kripke also teased he was surprised by how “current” the earlier parts of the comic felt, suggested the television series may also have an unexpected timeliness.


It Has a Launch Date

The Boys Key Art (Amazon Prime Video)
(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

The show will debut on July 26, which will thrill fans who have tracked The Boys‘ progress to the screen for years, almost getting a movie or TV show before the project ultimately collapsed. In 2010, Vice’s Adam McKay was set to direct a feature film version, but that clearly fell apart when Columbia let it go and a subsequent attempt to place the project at Paramount failed.

Even the television show took some time to get off the ground with it originally ordered by Cinemax in 2015 before finding a home at Amazon. But perhaps ending up on the streaming service was its best destiny. The 8-episode first season may work better as a bingable chunk than dolled out across weeks.


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