‘The Boys’ are coming to town! Based on the acclaimed comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the series follows both a group of superheroes who have become corrupted by their celebrity status and the Boys, the titular vigilante group who take it upon themselves to keep the “heroes” in line. Like AMC’s adaptation of Ennis’s ‘Preacher‘, ‘The Boys‘ is being developed for Amazon by Evan Goldberg with Eric Kripke acting as showrunner. While at New York Comic Con, we were lucky enough to sit down with both Goldberg and Kripke to discuss the process of adapting the comics, the show’s approach to Ennis’s penchant for over the top violence, and more.
Why is now the perfect time to bring ‘The Boys’ to life?
EK: I would say it’s a show whose time has really come. It’s much more current today than it was when Garth Ennis originally wrote it. He originally wrote it somewhere around 2004, 2005, there weren’t that many superhero movies. Superheroes hadn’t really taken over culture. There wasn’t a massive conglomerate called Marvel. I mean there was, but not at the world dominating level that it is. So in a lot of ways, the world has grown to reflect more of the world of ‘The Boys’. And then the other thing was when I first got the gig, Garth and I had dinner and I asked him, “What inspired the idea?” And even this was two or three years ago, before the last presidential election. And he said, “You know, I was really interested in what would happen if you combined the worst of celebrity with the worst of politics.” And even at the time I was like, “What a crazy idea!” [laughs] “What a wild, sci-fi idea you’re talking about, buddy!” And then everything happened, and now we live in a world where we’re controlled by these bizarre xenomorphs of celebrity and politician. And so I would say ‘The Boys’ is just a big, fat target to say a lot of interesting and subversive things in the guise of a superhero action show.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of actually adapting the book?
EK: Yeah, well… [Gestures to Evan]
EG: Oh, I can talk? I’ll talk!
EG: Well, when we sat down – me and Eric – at the very beginning, we talked about how the comic is awesome but some things just apply more to this adaptation than others, that kind of being the politics of it. Garth has a tendency to get a little gross sometimes and get a little nuts, and we wanted to ground it a bit more in reality because it is a comment on our reality, currently. Marvel doesn’t feel like our world, and we just wanted this really to feel like our world so that things we explore would feel like an exploration of real life and not a hypothetical world with different rules.
EK: Yeah, and weirdly we also wanted to give it a lot of heart, you know? I think one of the reasons Garth and I got along is he asked me what I thought about the comic and I was like, “I think it’s really sweet.” [laughs] Because there’s these storylines buried underneath all the gore that are really quite tender, like the Hughie/Annie storyline, and Frenchie and the Female. There’s these very sweet love stories, and about people’s loyalty towards each other. I really wanted to dig that out, because it is, it’s a very cynical, hard, bloody show, but I wanted characters that you really loved and cared about, so we were really focused on bringing them up. So it’s a really character-driven story, despite all the crazy, superhero high concept-ness.
Is it going to be easy for people who haven’t read the comics to jump into the world?
EG: Oh, yeah.
EG: Unless you’re someone who somehow has not seen an ‘Avengers’ film, you will get it. It’s just in the world now, people understand. And even before ‘Avengers’ and all that, there’s Greek mythology. People understand these things. There’s always these archetypes in society, and right now, as weird as it is, it’s like… nerds like me, it’s our comic book characters from when we were kids. But they’re just the archetypes for the heroes that everyone kinda understands innately in all storytelling.
EK: And it was actually an idea from Seth (Rogen) and Evan when we were starting to adapt it, they started ‘Preacher’. Because Garth has a thing where he likes to jump in at like, year eight of a fourteen year story, and what they did on ‘Preacher’ – I thought so brilliantly – was they rewinded it a little bit and they unpacked it so you could have an entry point for people to get into the world.
EG: Because comics, you’ve got to hook people right away. They need to be hooked and they need to be in. You can’t take the time, using ‘Breaking Bad’ as an example, to slooowly like, have a story, and take off, and on TV you can do that. Not to say the pilot of this show is insane, and it does jump straight in the deep end, but it’s not as deep as it gets. It gives you a nice ramp.
EK: We’re able to introduce each character and give them their due. We’re able to watch the Boys actually come together as a unit over a couple of episodes, rather than, you know, “Here’s five characters. Get to know them all!” You get to meet each one. I always talk about the beginning and the structure as “the world’s most fucking whacked out ‘Wizard of Oz’ ever.” [laughs] Because you start out with these characters and they meet up with other characters, and then they meet other characters and they all slowly kind of form this unit, which has been a good structure and kind of gave us the room. Because it’s a huge cast, I mean we have like twelve regulars. Plus all the superheroes have their own super fucked up story. And so it’s ‘Game of Dirty Thrones’ in that way.
How are you going to handle some of the more graphic elements of the comic?
EK: In two ways. With a lot of responsibility and discussion, but with a lot of motivation. I think the thing we all said at the beginning was we really didn’t want this to be shocking for shocking’s sake. You know, that kind of doesn’t… That’s not my vibe. For as crazy as their shit does [Gestures to Evan], they tend to have-
EG: We’ve done it before! And usually, it’s a mistake. We like to do more thoughtful things these days.
EK: So we really started with like, “What are the characters going through and what are they feeling?” And if it makes sense to really mess with that character’s head to make them go through a horrific experience, then they’re gonna go through it. But we’re not gonna do it just for the jolt of it. So hopefully every shocking moment of the show is really grounded in someone you really care about. And if you always go character forward, it’s usually a good compass.
The eight episode first season of ‘The Boys’ will arrive on Amazon in 2019.