Adapting comic books to the big or small screen is so common as to be meaningless, saying that some new show is based on a comic gives no significant impression to the average viewer. It’s still few and far between that adaptations manage to improve on their comic source material, but when it happens, it’s a big deal.
TheBoys began life as a comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson which fleshed out Ennis’s well-known distance for superheroes into a full franchise. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke took that humble beginning and turned it into the beloved Amazon Prime series that’s about to enter its hotly anticipated third season.
The narrative of both versions of TheBoys follows a very similar general premise. A group of armed men seeks to keep the immoral and selfish superheroes of their world online. The supes in question are owned by a global mega-corporation called Vought which serves as antagonist alongside the villainous superheroes. The eponymous Boys hunt and do battle with super-group The Seven, struggling against their immense physical power and their tremendous public fame. It’s a story about fighting an impossible foe and triumphing through underhanded tactics and sheer determination. The differences, as always, are in the fine details.
The first big difference between the original and the adaptation is the presentation of the titular team. The comic’s iteration of the group sees them as CIA agents who are tasked by the US government with keeping supes in line. To that end, they dose themselves heavily with a dangerous chemical called Compound V, which grants them superhuman strength and peak human conditioning. This allows them to fight the supes on relatively even ground, with the resources they need to set up relatively fair fights. These fights are interesting, but not groundbreaking. They’re strikingly similar to the way Ennis would portray normal humans like The Punisher doing battle with Marvel’s stable of heroes. The series removes Ennis’s thumb from the scale, tipping the balance of power very much away from The Boys.
The Boys of the screen are vigilantes, loosely monitored by a single CIA agent. They were once part of a government program, but it went so horrifically, that it was shut down. Furthermore, Billy Butcher and his friends do not have the superhuman abilities of their source material. Though the trailers show off his newfound powers from him, seasons one and two featured normal men. They have to strategize and specifically form plans to counter supes’ individual power sets. This makes every engagement much more interesting than the comic books’ superhuman fistfights. The Boys of the series don’t have a chance in a fair fight, but that makes the series that much more interesting.
In stark contrast to Garth Ennis’s take on TheBoys, the supes of the series are actual human beings. The comic barely develops five out of The Seven, most of them just stand around and swear. All of them can be described as mean-spirited parodies of one hero or another. The ladies of the project get the worst of it. Most of them boil down to distasteful sexual exploits or extremely distasteful victimization. Ennis’s hatred of superheroes is often fun, they deserve to be taken down a peg from time to time, but the comic suffers from the complete lack of humanity. The streaming adaptation shocks by making its super horrific people, but still undeniably human.
The Deep, A-Train, and Queen Maeve have story arcs that are often shockingly well-executed. They’re better than that of the comic book, but largely by default. Homelander is still an unforgivable monster, but the series allows him a relatable motivation. While their actions are changed, sometimes even softened, the fact that there is an undeniable spark of humanity in them makes them more effectively hateable than their comic counterparts. Seeing something in a monster that reminds us of ourselves gives that monster a real impact. The comics push past anything real and into the realm of comical edgy evil.
Sure, tons of characters are changed in gender from their source material. Names are changed, plot details turned on their heads, even the occasional deliberate twist to surprise dedicated readers. But, the real difference is that Garth Ennis’s TheBoys is a mean-spirited joke. Introduce supes that are actually villains in legally distinct parody costumes, then let the leather-jacketed goons beat them to death. It’s fun, but it’s simple. Eric Kripke and a team of writers and directors turned that into a story with real pathos and impressive depth, without losing any of the essential elements. It truly is one of the best comic book adaptations to grace the screen. TheBoys season three is set to premiere this June on Amazon Prime Video, and fans can only hope that they’ll carry that standard forward.
MORE: The Boys Star Karen Fukuhara Shares Story Of Being Attacked
Amouranth Loses $2 Million Due to Typo
About The Author