Dynamite/www.dynamite.com When news struck recently that Garth Ennis’ comic series, Preacher, was the latest comic series to be adapted on AMC, fans were ecstatic. All of the excitement has eyes turned onto other projects of Ennis’ to see what the veteran comic writer has done and what could potentially be adapted next. One series in particular that fans of Preacher should check out, if they have not already, is Ennis’ The Boys.
The Boys is about a team of characters that keep superheroes in line. Superheroes were spawned from an experiment called Compound V (nicknamed ‘Blue’). The compound was created during World War II by the Nazis, but production stopped after the war. The government still had a limited supply of it, but it is used in rare situations. Due to the nature of the genetically transferred powers, super-powered individuals can be discovered and are then thrown into teams. However, with the government being concerned that these individuals may use their powers to overstep their boundaries or even take over the country, the government set up The Boys to keep the heroes in check.
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD
The team has been given the authority by the government to keep surveillance on super powered teams and to make sure they do not step out of line. Stepping out of line can include anything from physically/sexually assaulting people, committing crimes or even plotting against the government. If these heroes do step out of line, The Boys come in and will either blackmail them or physically assault the perpetrators to remind them to behave. The team is made up of team Leader, Butcher, along with Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman, The Female and Hughie (who not-so-coincidently looks like Simon Pegg). The team was given a special formula of Compound V in order to have the strength to battle superheroes. Each team member has a reason for joining the group, but some are more personal than others. In the premiere issue, Hughie’s love is killed off by collateral damage thanks to a member of the top superhero team, The Seven. Hughie is reluctantly recruited as Butcher thinks Hughie wants revenge eventually. Butcher leads the team, as he has proof that the leader of The Seven, The Homelander, raped Butcher’s wife, which lead to her pregnancy resulting in her death.
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While Preacher and The Boys differ in story, there are a few between the two comics. While Preacher was about a man trying to literally find God, The Boys is about a group of individuals who keep superheroes in line. While the plots are different, the tone is not. Both series tackle their respective concepts with no regard for political correctness or good taste and are filled with lots of cursing and violence. The graphic violence, subject matter and swearing in The Boys is not just there for shock value, as it helps to enforce the grittiness of the characters. These are powerful characters dealing with powerful heroes, so when there is a clash, there is will be a lot of damage done. These dark themes and tones also showcase a flip side to the comic industry, as something that was deemed for kids a long time ago, is now shown in a dark and mature spotlight.
Another similarity between Ennis’ series is the controversy attached with them. While Ennis drew fire from religious groups for his interpretation of God and religion in Preacher, The Boys drew fire from the comic book industry itself. The Boys was even cancelled after its first story arc by DC Comics, as the company did not like the portrayal of superheroes and were worried that it would affect sales of other comic books. Ennis was able to continue his series at a rival company, Dynamite, which allowed him to complete the series. The series was a smash success, earning numerous placements on The New York Times Best Seller List for collect issues. Ennis has said on numerous occasions that he is a devote atheist and he hates the idea of the traditional superhero, so it is no surprise that both of these series show off his passionate views on these subjects.
While Preacher garnered repeated praise and awards for the series, The Boys has only met some of that praise. It may be because there are times in The Boys arc where it seems to be simply spinning its wheels to simply show how awful heroes are. There sometimes seems to be throwaway story bits together, so the journey to the finale does not seem as focused as Preacher’s. That being said, The Boys still has some amazing story moments and a hell of a ride getting there, as some of the characters have a dynamic and varied journey to the conclusion. It is just a shame that characters are not created equal in this aspect.
At a time when comic book adaptations are booming and topping the box office, it feels as if the market is becoming over-saturated again, as it was during the late 90s. With countless comics being adapted that showcase superheroes, perhaps it is time for The Boys to get adapted to skewer the genre in a whole new medium. Granted, to get the full effect, the show would have to be on a few-limits station like HBO or Showtime, or be turned into an R-rated film series. But, if someone were to take the financial risk, they may be surprised at the reaction. There are a lot of comic book fans who have skipped over the traditional titles and embraced the more adult line of comics. There are a lot of fans who grew up reading superhero comics that have become tired of changes to the industry, so they are ready to watch a series that gives traditional heroes the middle finger.