The Boys includes its own cynical, tongue-in-cheek version of Marvel's MCU. Based on the comic books by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, The Boys offers a more mature, grimier slant on the superhero genre, depicting what the world might look like if masked vigilantes really did exist. Both the comics and Amazon Prime's new live-action adaptation delve into the seedier side of saving the world, where the aura of prestige surrounding superheroes allows those with powers to commit unspeakable acts of violence, hypocrisy and exploitation. Of course, this debauchery is only possible thanks to the protection of the Vought corporation, who own the world's best "supes" and transform them into commercial brands.
The comic book iteration of The Boys was first published in 2006 and during that 13-year gap, the real world has changed considerably, affording Amazon's TV adaptation plenty of new targets for The Boys' satirical cross hairs. One major influence the TV version of The Boys draws from is the explosion of superhero movies over the past decade. While the genre was certainly thriving in 2006, with the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises ruling at the box office, the years since have seen the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - a franchise spanning scores of interconnected movies, with multiple releases per year.
Fortunately, The Boys does not pass up the opportunity to lampoon the state of the superhero genre and fires shots towards both Marvel and DC, some more cynical than others. One of the most explicit jabs at Marvel comes during a cameo from series producer, Seth Rogen, who makes reference to the "Vought Cinematic Universe" or "VCU." There are a variety of fictional movie titles and posters that appear in The Boys and none of them are especially complimentary, so this line is perhaps more of a cynical rib than a loving tribute.
The VCU is by no means the only parallel The Boys makes between Vought and Marvel. During one strategy meeting, the Vought team insist that two heroes should combine to tackle a routine drug bust, simply because "everyone loves a team up" and Vought executive, Madelyn Stillwell even references building a theme park near Paris. The Boys certainly isn't shy in giving Marvel a tough time, but DC arguably take even more heat, with the likes of Homelander, Queen Maeve and The Deep acting as a pastiche of the most famous figures from DC comics. The Boys showrunner, Eric Kripke, has openly admitted (via EW) that his series pokes fun at both Marvel and DC but, despite the existence of the VCU, claims that many of the actual fictional movies seen in The Boys' first season were inspired primarily by the DCEU.
While The Boys certainly takes pleasure in mocking the more serious depictions of superheroes on the market, it never does so in a way that feels mean-spirited or overly critical; after all, the series owes as much to Marvel and DC as the next superhero story. Instead, much of The Boys' cynicism is directed towards the commercial aspect of superhero movies and the corporate motivations that are deeply embedded within each cinematic release. Some might argue that, with the backing of none other than global corporate, Amazon, The Boys has little room to fire shots at Disney, Marvel Studios or Warner Bros. but, from a fan perspective, The Boys is perhaps simply expressing the same cynicism-laced concerns that had already crossed the minds of superhero movie buffs.
The Boys season 1 is currently available on Amazon Prime. Season 2 is without a release date.