“The Boys” began as a comic book series at WildStorm, an imprint of DC Comics, in 2006. After six issues, though, the anti-superhero slant — and no doubt the over-the-top sex and violence — gave DC cold feet, and it canceled the series. It was picked up by Dynamite Entertainment, where it ran until coming to a definitive conclusion in 2012.
Now isn’t that odd, and hardly the only example of a nasty comic initially published at DC before they seemingly got cold feet, since for a decade, they did not relent on the status quo set with another vile comic called Identity Crisis, which certainly came close in its offensiveness to that of The Boys. You could assume they realized they’d gotten themselves in quite a pickle with a miniseries belittling the topic of sexual assault, and that such an abomination as Ennis’ product could draw more attention they supposedly didn’t want, so they backed away from it. Despite that, they’re certainly quite content to push agendas and other offensive ideas under the radar. It’s not only an oxymoron, it’s total hypocrisy.
The consistent run-through in about all of Ennis’ work, as actor Simon Pegg says in the introduction to the first hardback “Boys” collection, is “signature gleeful moral depravity.” He means that, of course, as a compliment.
Too harsh? Damon Lindelof, an executive producer on “Lost,” says in his introduction to the sixth hardback that “The Boys don’t play by the rules, and neither does Mr. Ennis.” That’s a nicer way to say that virtually every Ennis book is going to have bizarre sex, horrific ultra-violence and a cynical streak several miles wide.
Here’s another take: “I believe that Garth, as rough as a lot of his material is, as brutal as his stories can be, is a romantic at heart,” writes comics editor Scott Dunbier in the first “Boys” omnibus. “A romantic with a twisted side, sure, but still a romantic.”
You get the picture.
No, I don’t. Because it embodies a lot of the ideas today’s left would embrace, making a mockery out of the whole concept of romance to begin with, including “toxic masculinity”, more on which anon.
And as Lord Acton reminds us, absolute power corrupts absolutely. That isn’t just true in “The Boys,” Ennis and Robertson absolutely rub our noses in it. The “Supes” in these stories engage in degeneracy that would make Caligula jealous.
Enter The Boys. Their job is to police the Supes, and they do so with far more zeal than is necessary.
That’s because they’re led by Billy Butcher, who has a grudge against Supes. His wife was raped by Homelander, the Superman analog in this world, and his wife died when the baby punched its way out of the womb. So Billy isn’t a hero — he’s doing this for revenge.
“I had a hard time wrapping my head around a character as brutal as Butcher without imagining another version of Nick Fury or Frank Castle,” writes Robertson in the bonus materials in “The Boys Volume One: The Name of the Game.” He didn’t get it right, he writes, “until Garth described Billy Butcher as having a ‘dark, cruel smile of malicious intent.’”
Hmm, not only does this sound repulsive, it also sounds like Homelander is an allusion to US patriots and border patrol agents, based on the name he was given. And I just don’t see what’s so romantic about a tale where super-beings are depicted so revoltingly.
The rest of the team isn’t much better. Mother’s Milk is a cipher, mostly notable for insisting that everyone use coasters. But Frenchie and The Female are literally psychopaths, employing ultra-violence against the Supes, with blood, bone and guts lovingly rendered by Robertson.
Oh, sounds like the columnist loves this stuff, doesn’t he? The anti-Supes squad doesn’t sound any better than the designated villains either. Which could explain another problem with shock tactic tales like these: none of the cast are likable, and nobody’s truly a goodie.
And of the Supes, only Starlight isn’t absolutely revolting. But even she isn’t admirable, at least at first, performing sexual favors to get into The Seven (this world’s Justice League) and donning a revealing costume because Homelander tells her to.
She is mighty sympathetic, though. And to tell you the truth, the first time I started reading “The Boys” I put the book back on the shelf when I hit the point of Starlight’s sexual humiliation. (Believe it or not, it’s even worse in the comics than on TV.) I eventually picked the book up again due to heaps of critical praise, but I had to steel myself to get through a number of scenes.
So if you think “The Boys” occasionally gets vile on TV, just remember that the source material is even worse. (Or better, depending on your tastes.)
Wait a sec. Didn’t he just say artist Darick Robertson “lovingly” rendered all the goriness? Now there’s a discrepancy alright. Another reason I wouldn’t take his alleged distaste for the source material at face value is because in the mid-2000s, the propagandist who wrote this fawned over Identity Crisis, which, again, came very close in its own way to the atrocity that is The Boys. And the way Homelander is depicted sounds an awful lot like a representation of what the left today wants to declare “toxic masculinity”, to say nothing of a character representing a pervert.
Maybe the most dumbfounding thing about these adaptations is why anybody would consider source material that repulsive perfect for TV and films, or even want to bother seeing them. After all, if the zygote was offensive and degrading to begin with, why should anyone want to see the adaptations? To do that would only be validating the wretched source material. There’ve been far too many movies and TV shows already drawing from bad storylines in comicdom, including 2006’s Civil War. I realize it’s no shock that today, Hollywood will turn over every stone to find something to adapt for moneymaking, even if the most poisonous Gila monster and scorpion turn up underneath. I just hope the public at large is waking up to how pretentious Tinseltown’s become, and won’t tune in to see these embarrassments, nor will they let the mainstream press fool them with such apologia.
Originally published here.