Your Complete Guide To The Boys

Amazon's The Boys, an adaption of Garth Ennis' comics series of the same name, returns for a second outing on September 4, 2020. Viewers will have a chance to catch up with their favorite characters' fight against corrupted and commercial superheroes. This season, with its focus on the Boys' run from the law and the Seven's new position as defense contractors, promises to deliver all the satire, action, genre-torching, and dark humor that made the first season such a success.

The Boys' unique approach to the superhero genre — the superheroes are narcissistic violent sociopaths — made the show an overnight sensation. However, the comics' lengthy 72-issue, 2006-2012 run means there's plenty of lore, twists, and characters left out or remixed in the show. So in preparation for the coming season and facts that fans may be unaware of, here's a complete guide to Amazon's The Boys, but beware — diabolical spoilers follow.

A Supernatural Creator

The Boys, based on the comic series of the same name by Irish comic writer, innovator, and dark humorist Garth Ennis, has been adapted for the screen by veteran TV writer and showrunner Eric Kripke. Before The Boys, Kripke was most well known as the showrunner of Supernatural. While the shows' differences range in subject, Supernatural revolves around monsters, religion, and other inter-dimensional beings, and The Boys explores the human flaws of superheroes. Supernatural has two leads, while The Boys revolves around two separate teams of lead and secondary characters, and both shows are distinctly "Kripkeian."

Supernatural's found success probing the bond between its two heroes, Sam and Dean Winchester, and using the world they inhabit to poke fun at the genre they're operating in. The Boys is no different. The dynamic between leads in the titular superhero hunting group and their rivals in the Justice League gone child star crazy supergroup the Seven — and the way each group sends up superhero tropes — are the best parts of the show. For good measure, Kripke is an enormous fan of the original comic's run and its creator. In a 2019 interview, Kripke told Collider, "I'm a huge Garth Ennis fan. I'm a big fan of everything the guy writes." With a genre-tested fan at the helm, it's no surprise The Boys has been such a success.

Too graphic for TV

While the creator is an enormous fan of the series, Eric Kripke's also stated that not everything from the comics will make it to the small screen... which is probably for the best. The Boys creator and writer Garth Ennis made a career in comics of providing shock and obliterating the bounds of good taste. Ennis' work evaluates the hypocrisy and absurdity of institutions, beliefs, and symbols that most societies hold dear, from religion to superheroes. However, Ennis often parodies these sacred ideas with extreme violence, toilet humor, and every other aspect of "adult content." It's genius, but it's also not TV-friendly.

Even with the leniency a platform like Amazon provides, the comics remain far too graphic to ever be entirely faithfully adapted for TV. None of this is to say Kripke plans on watering down the gonzo spirit of the comics. In fact, he's been enjoying the flexibility a streaming service provides. Kripke told Collider he has "a filthy sense of humor, and I've always had to restrain it for network television." Considering everything we saw in season one — from botched dolphin rescues to nude invisible man vs. crowbar showdowns — it seems Kripke has finally gotten to let loose.

The UK actors who inspired The Boys' main duo

The Boys revolves a group of ex-military, spies, hitwomen, and average Joes and their efforts to expose the nefarious doings of the Seven, the world's most powerful and popular super-team, who are mostly jaded spotlight-addicted sadists with capes behind closed doors. However, the audience's surrogate into this world turned upside down is Hughie Campbell, played by Jack Quaid. Yes, son of that Dennis Quaid. Hughie's quest to avenge the death of his girlfriend, who was accidentally murdered by the Flash-like A-Train, leads him to meet the show's other protagonist, Billy Butcher, played by Karl Urban.

While both actors do a great job of bringing their characters to screen, and Urban especially nails the simmering insanity and glib nature of his comic counterpart, their roles on paper had already been cast. When creating Hughie, Ennis and illustrator Darick Robertson modeled the character off actor Simon Pegg — Hughie's even Scottish. And characters in the story constantly remark how Billy sounds like the British icon Michael Caine. While both actors had aged out of the parts they inspired — who wouldn't love to hear Michael Caine say "diabolical" just once, though? — Pegg appeared on the show as Hughie's father, in a nod to the work that inspired it all.

A superpowered fraternity

While Eric Kripke has remained faithful to the energy of the original comics, he's also made several creative decisions to reshape the basic plot of the show. One of the largest differences between season one of the show and its paperback brethren is the Boys' lack of superpowers. In Ennis' original run, the members of the team are aware of Compound-V and its power granting effect from the get-go of the series. Hughie is injected as he soon as he joins the team and the Boys do some serious damage as a result of their abilities. They have the compound because, again unlike the TV adaptation, they're backed and funded by the CIA.

However, the changes raise the stakes on the series. The superheroes they're fighting are a much bigger threat, so the audience empathizes and roots for its underdog heroes. It also has kept diehard fans of the original run on their toes, because the Boys have less protection and could be departing the show out of the painfully random blue, Game of Thrones style, any minute. Not to say none of the Boys have power — the Female of the Species, Kimiko, played by Karen Fukahara, retains her penchant for violence and Compound V given powers on the show as well.

The Seven ain't the only supes

Another departure from the comics affects the structure of the series. Ennis' story arcs often revolve around the Boys infiltrating and blackmailing — or as Butcher would put it, "spanking" — groups less powerful and notable than the Seven in an effort to find dirt on Vought's superhero organization. The show, on the other hand, has not introduced the audience to other fully formed superhero teams beyond mentions. While the other superhero teams the Boys encounter in the comics offer humorous takes on popular franchises, like the sex-addicted, Batman-inspired Tek Knight, leaving them out of the show streamlines the adaptation.

The individual encounters with each group, while always humorous, wouldn't work as well in The Boys' current eight-episode format. The Boys' battles with different groups rage for issues at a time, often only resulting in major progression for larger overarching stories in the final issues of a given storyline. It's the basic structure of comics and wouldn't translate well to the dramatic satire Kripke's producing onscreen. However, Kripke produced plenty of "monster of the week" episodes on Supernatural, so maybe weekly showdowns with new heroes is in the cards for season two.

Newcomer Stormfront is a Nazi

Season two's cast is expanding with additional characters, including Butcher's best buddy and slobbermouthed English bulldog, Terror. The most notable and buzzed-about newcomer is Aya Cash's Stormfront. In the comics, Stormfront is a lot like Thor, with abilities including super-strength, flight, and control over lightning. Unlike the beloved God of Thunder, however, Stormfront is also a Nazi. There's already been some theorizing on the internet about how Stormfront's vile beliefs will be depicted on the show, especially since the creators have opted to gender swap the character — in Ennis' run, Stormfront is a man.

While Cash hasn't confirmed whether her character will be a Nazi like her illustrated counterpart or if the show will even include that part of her character, Kripke stated his motivations for the gender swap during a Cable and Telecommunications Marketing Association virtual panel, telling the audience, "We wanted to sort of create Homelander's worst nightmare. And his worst nightmare would be a strong woman who wasn't afraid of him and proceeded to steal his spotlight." Adding a character to the Seven who directly challenges the authority of its leader Homelander (played by Anthony Starr) is a great way to shake up the second season.

Much more lore to explore

Season two could potentially expand its narrative by exploring the lore of The Boys. In the comics, the fight between the Boys and the Supes originated in World War II, when Army Captain Greg Mallory lost his battalion due to the mistakes of untrained superheroes. The Supes were placed on the frontlines by the Vought Corporation in an effort to gain a government contract for their superheroes. After WWII, Mallory joined the CIA and made it his life's mission to monitor the Supes and prevent Vought from gaining federal support. Along the way, he assembled the Boys, starting the narrative of the comics.

In the show, Mallory's full origins remain unexplored and Mallory is also gender-swapped: On TV, the character is portrayed by Laila Robins. Like the character she was adapted from Mallory, was a member of the CIA and founder of the Boys. However, beyond her motivations for hating the Supes — she lost her grandchild to superheroes — and recruiting Butcher, her actions before the show remain undisclosed. Exploring the original iteration of the team, before Hughie joined with Mallory still in charge, could be a great way for Kripke and company to continue to flesh out the engaging and brutal world they've created.

The Deep gets depth

While he had a surprisingly complex arc in the first season, Chase Crawford's the Deep is a far cry away from his inspiration. In Ennis' series, the Deep is a very minor character, he's never depicted in action, little is known about his origins or powers, and he generally functions as a punchline because he's the only superhero concerned with accounting. However, on the show, the Deep is used to explore the abuse of power dynamics, sexual assault, and the unpleasant reality of living with gills.

Season one's first episode addresses one of the most controversial moments in the comic: the assault of Starlight (played by Erin Moriarty). In both stories, when Starlight first joins the Seven, she is set upon by senior members of the supergroup and coerced into sexual acts. On the page, it's played for shock. Kripke and his creative team wisely decided to take the moment and its consequences seriously for its female lead and follow her as she gains the strength to call out her attacker: The Deep. Making the Deep a larger part allowed the storyline the space it needed to be handled seriously, not just for shock value.

A genre legend leads the cast

Much has been made of Karl Urban's strong performance as the diabolical Spice Girls-loving madman Billy Butcher. Considering Urban's long career in beloved comics adaptations, it makes sense that the actor crafted such a strong performance. Before Butcher, Urban played a CIA agent in the adaptation of Warren Ellis' Red, Marvel's Skurge the Executioner in Thor: Ragnarok, and he brought his grizzled chin to the definitive onscreen version of Judge Dredd — sorry, Stallone. Beyond his roles in successful comics adaptations, Urban has also made a career out of appearing as a character actor in sci-fi franchises.

He played the villainous Vako in the Riddick series, he appeared in the flawed but entertaining Doom adaptation alongside Dwayne Johnson, and he nailed the stiff mannerisms of Star Trek's Dr. Bones in J.J. Abrams' franchise reboot. All this is to say that Urban's a genre legend, and The Boys is made all the better by giving this veteran character actor center stage.

A masterclass in insanity

Karl Urban's not the only actor on The Boys with a pulpy genre background — the man portraying his nemesis got his career started the same way. Anthony Starr, whose Homelander performance drew positive notice for the suppressed insanity he brings to scenes, got his major breakthrough in another not-for-network-TV enterprise called Banshee. It tells the story of an escaped criminal, played by Starr, who assumes the identity of small-town Pennsylvania sheriff Lucas Hood. Following Hood's exploits as a criminal sheriff, it's one of the most bonkers shows ever committed to the small screen.

The show delivered ludicrous storylines involving the Russian mafia, CIA, and a particularly nasty excommunicated Amish drug dealer. However, it also featured some of the best fight scenes on TV before or since, and a stellar central performance from Starr, who wisely chose to play Hood against type. Instead of being a zany criminal or a strong and silent warrior, Hood is a man barely clinging to reality due to the trauma he's experienced. Each scene he's in plays like an interaction with a caged animal — he's defensive, on edge, and clearly fighting against the circumstances presented by his current situation. Starr staked a claim as an actor who can portray muted insanity on Banshee and it has worked wonders for him and Kripke on The Boys.

A contingency twist

The Boys has done a great job excising some of its source material's more shocking moments — but since it's only wrapped its first season, some of the series' most surprising twists have yet to appear. One of them has been on fans' minds since the premiere of the series — the identity of superninja Black Noir, played by Nathan Mitchell. He hasn't uttered a word onscreen, but with his all-black outfit, penchant for knife fights, and skills on the piano, he's captivated viewers. However, for longtime fans of the comics, how Kripke will choose to adapt the end of the series — if it, hopefully, makes it that far — remains a question mark.

At the end of Ennis' storyline — series-ruining spoilers from here on out — Black Noir reveals himself to be Homelander's clone. Vought created Black Noir to be a Homelander contingency plan; if their flagship hero ever left the reservation, their stronger carbon copy could take him out. However, Homelander never acts out in public, so Black Noir never has an opportunity to do the one thing he was created to do — and it drives him insane. Considering how fundamental Noir's identity is to Ennis' storyline, which Kripke has already altered, it will be interesting to see if the creative team decides to take this route or not. Clone or not, fans and are anticipating a bigger showing from Noir in season two.

Surprising fans of the comics

While Black Noir's identity leaves the possibility for an interesting twist, Kripke already surprised fans of The Boys — comic and show alike — with the ending of season one. All season, Butcher, Hughie, and the rest of the black ops couch surfers operate under the assumption that Butcher is avenging his wife's death. In Ennis' run, Butcher's wife was assaulted and murdered by Homelander (really Black Noir, but everyone believes it was Homelander until the end). However, in the show, Kripke pulled the rug out from under his audience: In the final moments of the first season, major spoiler, it is revealed Butcher's wife Rebecca is still alive and has Homelander's son.

Both Homelander and Butcher were led to believe Rebecca had perished, and their discovery upends their arcs in different ways. Homelander murders his handler and Oedipal outlet, Elisabeth Shue's Madelyn Stillwell, and Butcher realizes his sole reason for fighting the Seven was a lie. Both characters are left adrift by the revelation, and fans were left clamoring to see the next season. Fans shouldn't fret too much, though — promos show Butcher right back in the fight against the Supes in season two.