Amazon is turning a comic book co-created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, ‘The Boys’ into a live-action series, courtesy of Eric Kripke, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. Robertson was on the Toronto set recently to speak to the press and he discussed how the show will vary from the comics, but assures “fans of the comic are gonna be happy.”
The original comic book has a strong cult following thanks to its harsh skewing of conventional super heroics, dark humor and over-the-top violence, but as Robertson points out the book came out ten years ago and “what would’ve been funny 10 years ago would be offensive now.” He stresses that ‘The Boys’ isn’t just out to trash superheroes, calling that a “low-hanging-fruit way to read the overall allegory that absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
He further explains the characterization of one of the comic and TV show’s major players, Homelander, a Superman-strong, Captain America-type, played by Antony Starr, who doesn’t live up to his squeaky clean public image when the cameras aren’t around.
“The allegory is obvious on some levels, but I love Superman. I think he’s a great character… You can’t just put anybody in that suit, give them all the power, and expect them to be Clark Kent. The fact that he is restrained and caring with his powers and wants to help people, that’s the character inside. What happens if the person in that suit doesn’t have the character? What if they’re not good people, but they’re sold as good people? And that’s where our story takes off.”
In fact, Robertson stated that The Seven, ‘The Boys” version of the Justice League, will actually play a larger role in the story than they did in the comics. That includes The Deep, a goofy Aquaman knock-off who originally wore a huge diving helmet. But with photogenic Chace Crawford playing him, the costume has been redesigned… and there’s no helmet to obscure his face.
“He is the Aquaman I wish I had designed because it’s such an innovative design and take on that character. He plays such a bigger role in this story than he did in our [comic] that I feel like I’m experiencing him for the first time through the production, but I love it. Where it matters, he plays a great role and there are beats from the comic he fills in.”
And as for the removal of some of the comic’s sophomoric humor, Robertson stresses that it’s not the raunchiness that’s important, rather the heart at the center of the book.
“It makes sense to tweak it for now, otherwise what would’ve been funny 10 years ago would be offensive now, but not in a way that it’s [Butcher’s dog] Terror on top of a little dog. In the way that tone isn’t good for now and I’m a big believer in moving forward with better ideas. So, does it work perfectly for everything that’s happening in the moment as the comic? No… However, smarter minds than I are on the job and I think fans of the comic are gonna be happy, newcomers to the show are gonna be blown away, and I think people that watch the show and read the comic are gonna find a whole deeper story.
“The danger of adapting something like The Boys is, let’s make it the beat-up-superheroes-nasty show and it’s almost slapstick-y and how far can we go with the gross-out humor? And what I think happened at that point is that the heart of what made our comic work and what was so great about Garth’s story is that it’s really about three love stories: it’s about Butcher losing his wife, it’s about Hughie losing his love, and Hughie is finding love again where Butcher is going down in the dark hole. Butcher never recovers, and that’s a love tragedy story surrounded by superheroes doing awful things. So if you didn’t have that through line, I think it would be a lesser show. What I see in the adaption and having read the whole first season is that’s the piece that everybody understands in a really good way.”
On the series, Karl Urban plays the crass leader Billy Butcher, while Jack Quaid plays “Wee” Hughie Campbell, the hapless new recruit of a violent group of agents, referred to as The Boys, determined to keep these hedonistic heroes in check. Their team also includes Laz Alonso as Mother’s Milk, Karen Fukuhara as The Female, Tomer Kapon as Frenchie and of course, Terror. Jennifer Esposito will play their boss, CIA agent Susan Raynor, and it was just announced that Simon Pegg, who was the visual inspiration for the comic book version of Hughie, will play the father of the TV take.
Joining Starr and Crawford are Dominique McElligott as the Wonder Woman-like Queen Maeve, Nathan Mitchell as this team’s dark knight, Black Noir, and Jessie T. Usher as speedster A-Train. Erin Moriarty stars as Annie January a.k.a. Starlight, an optimistic, wholesome hero that is the newest addition to the team. Elisabeth Shue plays Madelyn Stillwell, the Vice President of Hero Management for Vought American, the company responsible for these super beings.
‘The Boys’ will premier on Amazon sometime in 2019.