A group of dysfunctional superheroes. An unethical corporation that starts with V and ends with t. A female superhero who gets sexually assaulted. Sound familiar?
The Boys: Inspired by Watchmen?
If you read the above and think, “Another Watchmen-inspired messed-up superhero trope,” you’d be right — in part. But you’d also be making a mistake to miss Amazon Prime’s series, The Boys, especially if you like that kind of trope. It’s well-done, addictive, and you can easily binge the first season’s eight episodes to prepare for Season 2, releasing on September 4th.
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Watchmen was a pivotal comic series in so many ways — both paving the way for both less-traditional and darker comics like the Sandman as well as inspiring other entertainment properties focusing on superheroes with issues. Did you like The Incredibles? If you’re familiar with Watchmen, you recognized plenty of similarities in Pixar’s hit (albeit in a much more family-friendly way), from superheroes being made illegal to the dangers of capes. 1
While shows like The Boys may have existed in an alternate universe in which Watchmen didn’t, its existence would have been much less likely. The show seems to give the nod to Watchmen’s influence in the naming of the corporation, which manages the show’s group of top superheroes (known as “The Seven.”) Vought is just a few letters away from Veidt. Coincidence? Perhaps, but unlikely.
Unlike Watchmen,2 however, the superheroes in The Boys have real superpowers. Homelander, a Superman/Captain America mashup, is the #1 superheo here. He can fly, has super strength, and can shoot laser beams from his eyes. Overpowered, much? Oh, yeah, he’s also a sociopath with mommy issues. Scary.
The Boys Comic Series vs. TV Series
A comic series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson is the basis for The Boys. I’ve never read the series but understand that, like most comic-to-TV adaptations, some significant differences exist. Which is better? Reading reviews reveals mixed reactions between those who favor the TV series and those who prefer the original comics.
A Brief Summary of The Boys
We get introduced to the world of The Boys via Annie January, (oops, I almost wrote Annie Jupiter here.) She’s an idealistic supe who fulfills her lifelong dream of joining The Seven, only to find that working for the Vought corporation is not all she thought it would be. It turns out that powerful superheroes have the same problems as other women climbing the corporate ladder. Her first hint that The Seven is not all she dreamed? Being sexually assaulted by one of them. However, unlike Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, she eventually gets her #metoo moment, and the perpetrator ends up with a fitting consequence for his actions.
But let’s talk about the other side of this: The Boys. The title doesn’t refer to The Seven, but to a group of vigilantes, led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban.) Butcher has a personal vendetta against Homelander. He’s so focused on vengeance that a vortex of chaos swirls around him, sucking in others who’ve also been harmed by supes. A young man, Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), gets pulled in after a drugged-up supe accidentally kills his girlfriend. He’s left in the street, holding only her arms — immediately showing us what kind of show this will be.
The show doesn’t suggest that vigilante justice is a good thing. A sort-of vigilante mentor of Billy tries to caution them that “vengeance isn’t a path to glory; it’s a one-way ticket to a dead-end.” Revenge may have started as justice-seeking, but when does it begin to turn the vigilante into the exact type of thing he is trying to fight? How can you complain about a wake of collateral damage left by villains when you leave your own in trying to fight them?
The Boys Season 2 Trailer
Season 2 of the series looks promising. Watching the trailer, it appears to focus on the supervillains seeded during Season 1, and on a new addition to The Seven: Stormfront, a female superhero with lightning-bolt powers. We’ll be watching.
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- And those are just a couple of examples.
- with the exception, of course, of Dr. Manhattan