The Boys

What if the superheroes everyone loved and looked up to were actually awful people?


The Boys, an Amazon original series based on the comic book written by Garth Ennis, asks a simple question: What if the superheroes everyone loved and looked up to were actually awful people?

Ennis' original work was an inside-baseball satire of the comic industry, with characters meant to stand in for both fictional heroes and figures from the real-life world of comics. The series' target is the better-known world of culturally dominant superhero movies—and contemporary politics as well.

The series centers on a corporate-owned superhero team, The Seven, a sort of ripoff Justice League made up of familiar super-types—including the Superman-like Homelander, the Flash manque A-Train, the Wonder Woman–esque Queen Maeve, and the Aquaman-ish The Deep.

Publicly, The Seven are well-loved American icons who appear in commercials, sponsor running shoes, and play sanitized versions of themselves on corporate-branded reality TV. Occasionally they even save innocent people from harm. But behind the scenes, these heroes are petty narcissists, sexual predators, super-serum-addicted junkies, and even, when it's convenient, mass murderers. They're out to dominate the world, not save it.

That means attempting to manipulate Congress into voting for a bill that would allow them to become Defense Department contractors, scoring tens of billions in federal funding in the process. And the best way to drum up demand for their services, it turns out, is to play up their own pretend patriotism while amplifying the threat of anti-American super-terrorists who can't be stopped by conventional means.

It's a sordid story of malfeasance in which the heroes are crony capitalists and war-on-terror profiteers, not to mention pathetic jerks. The Boys is a show that assumes all power corrupts, and superpowers corrupt absolutely.

NEXT: Brickbat: Something Definitely Smells Here

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  1. An overwhelmingly unpleasant show with unlikable characters that hates what it is parodying. The mainstream comics have actually done this sort of story batter.

    1. I agree. I watched a few episodes hoping it would get better, it didn’t.

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  2. They’re out to dominate the world, not save it.

    Di you watch the show?

    They’re super powered dupes. They’re not out to dominate anything–the corporation that controls them is.

    They just bumble through standard stereotypes being controlled, packaged and dominated–somehow– by corporate flunkies.

    And the books are worse.

    1. Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing trying to keep his corporate sponsors in Mystery Men is both more on target and hilarious.

      Captain Amazing: We’ve always been each other’s greatest nemesises… uh, nemesee… wh-what’s the plural on that?
      Casanova Frankenstein: [Wearily] Nemeses.
      Captain Amazing: Whatever. You’re going to prison for life this time, Casanova. You see, here in Champion City we still do a fairly brisk trade… in justice.
      Casanova: I thought it was all about publicity and keeping your sponsors happy.
      Captain Amazing: See, it’s that kind of cynicism that I truly feel is starting to poison society.

    2. It’s pretty obvious that you didn’t finish the show since you’re entirely wrong about who is trying to dominate the world. There’s a reason why Homelanders corporate handler was obviously terrified of him all the time even while she was ostensibly his ‘boss’.

      I won’t say it was amazing, but it was thoroughly enjoyable in my view.

      1. True, but do recall Homelander’s corporate handler is positively middle management. She answers to an even higher, and much bigger power.

        1. That might come into play in the second season, but given what Homelander does at the end of the first season the ‘corporate evil’ plot line takes a backseat to an entirely different kind of actual evil.

          The corporation is your typical portrayal of an unethical corporation doing unethical things for ‘business’ reasons, but they aren’t the real bad guys in the story.

          There are all the elements some of us have come to loathe in Hollywood productions, but the way they handled those elements was ‘better’ in my view, or at least interesting deviations from the norm.

          1. The corporation is your typical portrayal of an unethical corporation doing unethical things for ‘business’ reasons, but they aren’t the real bad guys in the story.

            I’m not sure about that. But reasonable people can disagree. It seems that Homelander and the corporate machine work hand-in-hand. Homelander to me is a big star- not unlike a Johnny Carson or a David Letterman. In the end he still answers to the top brass who own his contract. They’re careful in how they handle him, he certainly has a lot of sway, but the corporation will stop at nothing to cover his misdeeds in service of the larger goal: Military contracts.

            1. SPOILERS:

              Homelander goes a’murderin’ through his corporate masters who are just trying to make money, even if they’re doing that pretty damn unethically (they plan on essentially making money off endless war).

              His goal is pretty clearly heading towards ‘violent takeover of mankind and rule’ rather than ‘lets make some profits!’. Seems like an important difference, and it’s the very reason he kills his corporate handler. She found out what he was doing behind the scenes. Recall Homelander is the one who created the terrorist super solders, not the corporation, and he killed the only person in the company that found out.

              You could be right though, I’m looking forward to a second season. We don’t know much about the real head of the company, and I suspect the ‘evil handler lady’ will look tame in comparison.

            2. “It seems that Homelander and the corporate machine work hand-in-hand.”

              I’m not all the way through Season 1 yet, but you and I have a very different read on the relationship between Homelander and the Suits. He might listen on the really little things, but on the big stuff Homelander does whatever he wants.

              Spoilers will follow:

              When Homelander wants to protect Compound V, he shoots the Baltimore mayor’s plane out of the sky. Then nearly kills The Deep because The Deep let the Suits know.

              When Homelander wants to drum up support for the Sups in the military, he crashes a packed passenger jet, rather than rescuing it like the Suits had planned.

              When Homelander wants to give a John Wayne make em scared speech, Homelander gives a John Wayne make em scared speech, Suits be damned.

  3. Thank you all for permission to pile on.

    I saw the first few episodes. Cynical corporation sponsors super-assholes, very original. Of course, if you want actually good movies/books about the corruptions of power, there’s Lord of the RIngs, there’s even Marvel’s Civil War cycle. At least those latter movies have an undercurrent of hopefulness. Which some of us like in our fantasy.

    1. Look, the more distressing or dystopian the situation, the more we root for the plucky heroes fighting against all odds. I’m not saying that works in life, but for precisely that reason it works in fantasy.

  4. i loved it. popclaw deserved better.

  5. It’s not the kind of thing I normally like because of it’s flaws. It could be pretty gratuitous and preachy. But it hooked me anyway and I watched the whole thing in like 2 or 3 days. I liked it. The acting was great and the character development/story was interesting

  6. The web serial Worm has at least portions of this as an element, and while i haven’t watched The Boys yet, i’m guessing it’s a better work. (Since Worm may be the best thing I’ve read in a decade).

  7. What if the superheroes people everyone loved and looked up to were actually awful people?

    What do you mean “if”?

  8. The Boys is good, with solid performances, but at ~show five, they need to pull back a little on the #MeToo harangue.

    The last motherfuckers that should be finger wagging about sexual harassment and the awful state of society for women is the people running the casting couch.

    1. I thought they did ok with that #metoo plot line. Better than most, anyway.

      It was almost comedy, which I appreciated. The guy that molests her is later in a Benny Hill like accident involving a dolphin, and is generally a bumbling fool knock-off of Aquaman. After a while you even sort of sympathize with the guy even while he’s pretty scummy. At the end of the show I appreciated his character and his growth as a character, which given how Hollywierd usually treats that material it was somewhat refreshing.

  9. The show was fucking great! Thanks for review.

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