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The Untold Truth Of The Boys' Hughie Campbell

In Amazon's adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's dark and satirical comic book "The Boys," Hughie Campbell is the point-of-view character that brings the audience into this bleak and grisly world of corrupt superheroes. Played by Jack Quaid, Hughie's life is changed forever when a speeding hero named A-Train obliterates his girlfriend in the street. Fueled by a sense of vengeance, Hughie is recruited by Billy Butcher to take down these supes once and for all.

Despite the series being largely an ensemble show, Hughie is absolutely the protagonist. The loss of his girlfriend is the inciting incident and many of his choices (like the killing of invisible hero Translucent) drive much of the show's plot. Given this lead status, the character gets a lot of screen time, but there are still things about the character's origins and behind-the-scenes info that has yet to be widely discussed. So let's take a look at how TV Hughie differs from comic book Hughie, in addition to some fun factoids about his love for Billy Joel and Jack Quaid's audition process to land the role.

Wee Hughie

Any time a property is transferred from the page to the screen, whether it be a comic book or a novel, changes are made from the source material when bringing it to life for the televised medium. Amazon Prime's version of "The Boys" is no different. While Hughie still represents many of the virtues held by his comic counterpart, there are a few key differences that we'll be looking at here, starting with his origin.

The Hughie in the comics is nicknamed Wee Hughie due to his short stature. He was adopted as a child and raised in Scotland. Unlike the Hughie of the TV series, Garth Ennis' version of Hughie doesn't know much about superheroes. The devastating encounter with A-Train resulting in the death of his girlfriend is his introduction to supes. He is recruited by former CIA operative Billy Butcher to come to America and help the Boys make sure supes are held accountable for their horrific actions.

He was based on Simon Pegg

While initially developing "The Boys" as a comic book, artist Darick Robertson struggled with finding a look for Hughie. While talking with Collider, he explains that the character's name came from a friend of Garth Ennis whom he met. "I'd only met him a handful of times and I didn't have any photographs of him," Robertson said. "While I remembered his personality very well, I couldn't draw him from memory very well." He wanted Hughie to have a vulnerability to him without looking like a pushover, but he just couldn't get it right.

Around this time, his friend Gary Whitta (writer of "The Book of Eli") let him borrow his VHS copy of Pegg's brilliant sitcom "Spaced." It was while watching the series that he found inspiration. He said, "I'm watching 'Spaced' and there's this wonderful, funny guy who is an aspiring comic book artist who works at a comic book store. And this is Simon Pegg and I'm like, 'That's him. That's Hughie.'" Ennis agreed with the creative choice and Robertson got to work.

Although Pegg was happy to serve as Robertson's muse, DC required him to get a signed release from the actor to protect themselves legally. It all worked out and Pegg was also brought onto the series to play Hughie's father.

He had superpowers in the comics

Part of what makes the titular Boys so interesting in the Amazon series is that they are average people with no powers taking on the biggest and mightiest superbeings in the world. Instead of relying on physical force to get the job done, Billy Butcher (played by Karl Urban) and his team need to outsmart Vought International and their heroes in order to take them down. The episode in which Translucent is killed by Hughie was largely made up of scenes where the characters use their critical thinking skills to figure out a way to hurt the supe, despite his invulnerable skin.

Things are a little different in the comics, though. Butcher's boys are injected with Compound-V, the chemical that gives the supes their powers. This allows them to face off against the heroes in a direct confrontation, rather than having to strategize each and every move. When Hughie is injected with it, he develops superhuman strength, durability, and increased critical thinking skills. He uses his strength to cause serious damage to a few supes (including A-Train) and doesn't take much damage in the process. If the Boys ever get powers in the show, it would likely result in a total, bloody war.

His first mission was taking on a team of heroes

Vought International has a few hundred superheroes under contract. None of them are as famous as The Seven, but they're out there promoting the company and following their marching orders. While the show has chosen to focus primarily on The Seven, the comics make it clear that there are four other teams out there as well. These teams are the Young Americans, the G-Men, Payback, and Teenage Kix.

Of those four, Teenage Kix has a reputation for engaging in despicable behavior, thus drawing the attention of the Boys. After being recruited to Butcher's team, Hughie is assigned a surveillance mission where he is tasked with spying on the immature supe group. The Boys are able to use information gathered by Hughie to blackmail the team and keep them under control. This leads to a confrontation with the Boys that quickly turns violent. During the fight, Hughie accidentally kills one of the Kix members and goes on to adopt the hero's gerbil.

He was almost a Led Zeppelin fan

Something we learn about TV Hughie fairly early on is that he has an undying love for the piano man, Billy Joel. In the second season, Annie (aka Starlight) asks him point-blank about his Billy Joel obsession and he explains that it was just the music in his house growing up, and that those days inspired him to never give up on people. Difficult as it may be to imagine a Hughie who isn't all about Billy Joel, however, the original choice for his favorite band was Led Zeppelin.

During an interview with Inverse, showrunner Eric Kripke explained the original choice and the decision to change it: "I think there was an original line of staring up at the Led Zeppelin poster on the ceiling and we changed it to Billy Joel because he wouldn't have a Zeppelin poster. He would have a Billy Joel poster." Something about Joel felt truer to the character so they decided to change it and really commit to that choice.

Their commitment was so intense that they even decided to use various Billy Joel songs to highlight Hughie's journey in Season 2. In that same interview, Kripke said, "In Season 2, when we were talking about his character we had this hilarious 'a-ha' moment where we realized how many Billy Joel songs were completely reflective of what he was going through in various episodes."

Jack Quaid auditioned for Seth Rogen

Multi-hyphenate Seth Rogen has made the seamless transition from primarily onscreen talent to a major creative force behind the scenes in the years leading up to "The Boys," with producing credits on "Future Man," "Good Boys," and the AMC adaptation of another Garth Ennis comic called "Preacher." When it came to bringing "The Boys" to television, he wasn't just an attached name either. He was actively participating in its development.

When Jack Quaid went in to audition for the role of Hughie Campbell, he actually read his lines opposite Rogen, who was playing Billy Butcher. He discussed the experience during a 2021 panel at New York Comic Con. "'I remember I was so nervous I was pacing around," he said, adding that while waiting for Rogen to arrive, he heard the actor's instantly recognizable laugh in the distance. "And I'm like, 'Okay, he's definitely approaching.'"

The character of Billy Butcher has a very thick cockney accent that couldn't be more unlike Rogen's own speaking voice, but he read Butcher's lines anyway, resulting in a very surreal experience for Quaid, who considers Rogen to be one of his heroes.

Simon Pegg finally got to play Hughie

Years before the TV series got the green light, there was the idea of making "The Boys" as a film. Adam McKay was one of the directors attached. The studios couldn't make it work in their minds, however, so the project never came to fruition. According to Darick Robertson, Simon Pegg already felt too old to play the part of Hughie back in 2009. The actor told Robertson that he felt the character was in his '20s and he was simply not the right age for the part.

When the show finally got made, Simon Pegg was brought in to play Hughie's father, as mentioned earlier. While it was a great nod to the character's visual inspiration, there was always going to be a segment of the fanbase wondering what the show would have been like if the actor they'd associated with the character for years actually got to play him. Well, with the release of the animated series "The Boys Presents: Diabolical," fans finally got to witness Pegg taking on the role he was born to play.

In the spinoff's third episode, Butcher takes out a drug-addicted supe by providing his dealer with a special concoction made up by Frenchie. As he, the dealer, and Hughie (voiced by Pegg) watch, the hero kills himself and another hero while high on the drug. It's a short episode and Hughie's screen time is very limited, but there is a certain satisfaction in seeing a creative loop being closed.