When it was originally written, The Boys comic was an edgy ode to disillusionment, a cautionary tale that meeting your heroes and realizing your dreams would inevitably end in crushing disappointment and lifelong failure. Filled with pages of gratuitous violence, sexual depravity, and verbal hostility, you either loved it or your hated it.
Amazon Prime's new series The Boys takes the vital elements of the series and chucks the rest, favoring responsible writing over shock value, and bringing in some modern sensibilities to temper the comic's more outrageous tone. The result is a completely bingeable show about celebrity superheroes that emit altruism on the outside, while being dangerous narcissistic psychopaths behind closed doors. Here are 7 things it gets right, and 3 things it gets wrong.
10 BETTER: TRANSOCEANIC FLIGHT 37
When Vought International's plan to put superheroes in the military faces federal resistance, Homelander decides to provide incentive. In the show, he learns a transoceanic flight has been hijacked and goes with Queen Maeve to save it. He accidentally destroys the controls with his laser-eyes and ultimately decides the mission is a bust, leaving every passenger on Transoceanic Flight 37 to die.
This was much more gruesome in the comic, and involved a botched rescue of the flights intended to strike the Twin Towers during the September 11 terrorist attacks. The terrorists are dealt with, but the planes end up crashing into the Brooklyn Bridge.
9 WORSE: THE DEEP
The Deep (Aquaman lite) featured in the series is an egocentric, selfish prick that constantly tries to compensate for his lack of self-worth through bedding women and relentlessly seeking Homelander's approval. He's Starlight's personal hero and he sexually assaults her in their first encounter.
In the comics, The Deep was the most grounded and business-savvy of the Seven, and never touched Starlight (that was a team effort by A-Train, Homelander, and Black Noir). He also wasn't nearly as cringey as The Deep in the show because he was known to be mature and level-headed.
8 BETTER: COMPOUND V
In the show, Compound V is the secret serum that some superheroes take to give them an "edge" and augment their superpowers. A-Train uses it to remain the "fastest man alive", but ends up getting addicted to it. It's been suggested Starlight was pumped full of it as a child to ensure she'd become a superhero later in life.
In the comics, The Boys used it to inject themselves so they could take on superheroes in a fair fight. By giving it to the superheroes as an additional edge over The Boys, it raises the stakes even higher, makes The Boys extreme underdogs, and makes the superheroes even more diabolical.
7 WORSE: BLACK NOIR
The series doesn't do a whole lot with the character of Black Noir (Batman lite). The most mysterious member of the Seven, the show doesn't accurately convey whether Noir seeks the sanctity of the shadows by choice, or that his silence is because of his being mute rather than part of his mystique.
The comics keep Black Noir mysterious up to a point, but he does more in the first few issues of the series than all eight episodes of the show. Black Noir is capable of the same sort of despicable violence as Homelander, and worse. Hopefully Season 2 will make him a more meaningful part of the Seven and the overall story.
6 BETTER: HOMELANDER
Antony Starr has gone to great lengths to embody Homelander in his onscreen incarnation, perfectly mimicking his impetuous and unpredictable nature. One minute, he's smiling brightly and chatting with fans, the next he's erupting with psychotic violence on a member of his own team for destroying their public image.
The Homelander of the comics threw wild tantrums which, when combined with his powers, did make him wholly unpredictable, but also childish. A compromise had to be made between the extreme of his comic book persona and a reasonable sociopath on screen, and we feel The Boys series struck a believable balance.
5 WORSE: STILLWELL
While inherently there was no problem with changing the character of Stillwell from a man to a woman, it did present some complications for the narrative of the series. Because Madelyn Stillwell becomes pregnant, she has a weakness (her child). James Stillwell has no apparent weakness; he's a cold-hearted bureaucrat.
4 BETTER: THE FEMALE
In the series, The Female is one of the most essential of The Boys because she's been injected with Compound V. Kidnapped by a terrorist group and force-fed the serum by her guerrilla compatriots, she's a petite girl that can rip your face off. She was a byproduct of Vought International's desire to create supervillains only its heroes could eradicate.
In the comics, she accidentally eats some Compound V as a baby and develops her powers, but there isn't the same level of nuance to her origins as in the series, when she's an innocent bystander of a much larger plan. She's never even given a name.
3 BETTER: STARLIGHT
When we met Starlight in the series, she's an idealistic young woman who's dreamed of being a superhero her entire life. She's trained relentlessly to become a part of the Seven, and when she finally achieves her goal, her fiction is shattered when she's sexually assaulted by The Deep and learns her powers may not even be real. Her disillusionment is a driving force behind her learning to believe in herself, not external saviors.
In the comics, Starlight is much more meek, and it takes a long time for her to stand up for herself. Critics have attributed much of this to author Garth Ennis and his depiction of women in general throughout the series as damsels in distress rather than capable of taking care of their own business.
2 BETTER: SEXUAL ASSAULT
The Boys doesn't shy away from the real life severity of sexual assault. Sexual assault is featured prominently in different ways, and there are ramifications and repercussions, and it isn't there for it's own sake; it always drives the story, whether it involves Starlight's assault by The Deep, The Deep getting assaulted by a female fan, or Homelander and Butcher's wife.
In the comics, author Garth Ennis (who wrote Preacher) was often accused of not being able to draw a clear enough distinction between sexual assault and just sexual acts in general, peppering the pages of his work with gratuitous titillation that wasn't relevant to the narrative.
1 BETTER: BECCA BUTCHER AND THE SUPER BABY
In the series, the entire reason that Billy Butcher is hunting superheroes is because of what happened to his wife, Becca Butcher. Homelander sexually violated her, and as a result of their abhorrent union she became pregnant. Billy believes she died in childbirth but as we come to see, she's alive (as is her super son) and under protection from Vought.
In the series, Becca still dies in childbirth (for real), and the super baby is actually killed by Billy himself. Billy as a character is entirely more gruesome in the comics, but the series allows him to be a more complex character, especially now that his entire reality has been shattered.