With the success of Amazon’s series adaptation of Garth Ennis’ graphic novel The Boys, the streaming provider has officially taken the stage with a superhero project capable of competing with the likes of Marvel and DC. Season 2 is currently in production, and the reaction to the initial season is still fresh, making the entire enterprise a good reminder of what can happen when outside-the-norm competition is allowed to play with a big budget.
The Boys represents a lot of the reasons why more splashy superhero TV shows should exist outside of the Marvel/DC duopoly. In honor of the series starting its journey as a top-tier competitor, we’re going to run through just why Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s latest foray into graphic novel adaptations is so important to the market.
We won’t spoil any plot details here, but if you want to go watch The Boys before reading why exactly we need this show, we can’t blame you. And before we go any further, we do know that The Boys technically started its life in the DC Comics family under its WildStorm Productions imprint. That was only for the first six issues, though, with the bulk of the comic's run published under the independently run Dynamite Comics. With that very careful caveat in mind, we can begin.
The Boys Is Allowed To Go More Extreme Places Than Marvel or DC
Both in terms of the comedy that’s on display, as well as the social issues that are discussed, Amazon’s series adaptation of The Boys is a lot more bold than what you’d typically see out of a Marvel or DC comic adaptation on the small screen. The Boys is even partly focused on just what sort of films and series comes out superhero dynasties, and what functions they would serve in a world where those heroes actually exist.
The Boys pokes fun at superhero franchises being run as tightly as the heroes that inspire them, there are a bunch of extremely tongue-in-cheek jokes that mock the bombastic nature of comic book movies. At the same time, with these heroes existing in the flesh, there’s an equally strong current of commentary pointed at how the traditional news media and governmental institutions would approach, and sometimes influence, these heroes.
Marvel and DC have definitely played around with this subject matter, as we’ve seen in Captain America: Civil War and Justice League in the past. Hell, just having The Boys start out as a slightly removed DC Comics title is proof that the two big creators aren't totally immune to this sort of thinking.
But with The Boys, the story can pivot towards what would happen if the heroes everyone trusted turned out to be just as depraved and flawed as the lowest common denominator within the population they protect. Also, there’s a ton of gore, explicit language, and sexual content that wouldn't be found traditional comic adaptations, means The Boys gives the adult viewers something they can enjoy without having to share with the kids.
Characters Outside The Standard Marvel / DC Stables Can Come Out To Play
As we see The Boys' central Supes like Queen Maeve, The Deep, and Homelander muddling through their complicated lives and personalities, we’re treated to seeing heroes on our screen that are quite different but still familiar to those we already adulate over in the traditional comic book narratives we’re used to.
You can pick out each of the exact heroes that The Seven's members are inspired by as they creep on all the new superheroes joining the Vought corporation. Trying to integrate superheroes into the American military only adds to the levels of commentary The Boys is running in parallel with our very real world. New heroes like these call for new villains to step up, too. Or in this particular case, new anti-heroes.
With Billy, Hughie, and the rest of the core squad aiming to take down Vought’s superpowered liabilities, The Boys gives viewers not only new heroes to ogle at, but an entirely new story structure to deal with. Rather than just following the heroes around in their antics, we now have a story where the whole purpose is to undermine the supposedly virtuous and invincible beings. Just as the original graphic novel was a breath of fresh air to the garden-variety superhero stories clogging up comic shelves, Amazon's The Boys now opens the doors further to non-traditional superhero narratives.
The Boys' Success Is Proof That Not Only Marvel Or DC Comics Can Survive
A huge glut of the superhero content that’s on the market, both in theaters and on TV, is from Marvel- and DC-related properties. While there have been, and continue to be, other attempts to adapt outside of those two powerful houses, it’s still a pretty dominated market. (Which is to say nothing of those properties' content in a positive or negative way.)
Who better than The Boys, a comic mostly known as a property in the Dynamite Entertainment universe, to smash the hold that these two companies have on the world of entertainment? While Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg also helped develop the weird and out-there adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher for AMC, that was a Vertigo/DC joint. A step in the right direction, admittedly, as the Vertigo imprint goes places that DC usually doesn't.
But having a big success from a comic that doesn’t come from either of the major two labels, or even from a label with cult familiarity like Dark Horse Comics, only helps diversify the market even more. It’s the sort of success that other smaller publishers Skybound, Valiant, and IDW will be encouraged by as they bring their own books to market for adaptations. It may have started life as a cousin to DC Comics' stable of books, but as a predominantly Dynamite produced comic, The Boys counts as a win for the indies.
Amazon’s The Boys Widens The Competition For Disney+ And DC Universe’s Comic Adaptations
As Marvel and DC both control a huge share of the comic book market place, both in source material and adaptations, their respective streaming services are going to be emboldened by their presence in the market. So the same sort of stranglehold you see on both sides of the comic coin could be translated into the same sort of dominance in the streamer market.
Now that Amazon has The Boys in play, that softens up the market for more competition. With a successful show developed and deployed outside of the DC/Marvel hegemony, other streaming companies and comic companies may be able to pair up to make things interesting in the light of obvious successes that will come from both DCU and Disney+.
Among other big titles, DC Universe has Titans coming back for a second season soon, while Disney+ is going to debut a lot of series that extend the lives and stories of established Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. Now that Amazon will can boast The Boys' success in its deck, Netflix can possibly challenge the market with its original superhero team-up from Mark Millar and his MillarWorld catalogue of characters.
Seth Rogen And Evan Goldberg’s Unique Choice In Comic Source Material Can Continue
When Preacher and The Boys both debuted on their respective platforms, each show shocked audiences that were used to stereotypical comic heroes and their journeys. That’s partially because the stories being told in those books are so unique, but the other part of the equation is the fact that with executive producers like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on the case, those sorts of stories have been given a chance to thrive in extremely brutal ways.
There’s absolutely no question that Rogen and Goldberg’s sensibilities are attracted to the weird and the unconventional. Preacher continues proving that in spades, and now The Boys has only doubled down on the fact that the trusted partnership between them will always be on the lookout for something that’s out of the ordinary.
So long as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg keep plucking strange and unusual comics out of the obscure corners in the publishing business, there will always be a chance that a new hit similar to The Boys will break out. Even if their future graphic novel adaptations don’t strike it as big, they’ll at least keep the industry primed and ready to continue bringing new and unique visions to the table, in hopes that they will. (We're talking about you, Invincible.)
The Boys obviously isn’t the first comic series to come from outside of the Marvel/DC industrial complex, but it is one of the best examples for why Hollywood needs to continue nurturing talent from that very same source. As the superhero/cinematic universe machines become larger and more commonplace in the world of entertainment, having something like this show around is a sort of check and balance against the corporate monoliths that threaten to totally overtake everything. Which is fitting, considering in its initial run at DC-owned WildStorm, the whole central message of superheroes being corrupt was something the company really wanted to ditch.
Also, when a show like The Boys introduces characters so unique and entertaining that they give an actor like Karl Urban a role so damned good it was practically made for him, everybody wins. Just as the series helps nurture stories that are outside of the norm, it’s good to see Urban finally get a chance to dominate on screen, and kick even more ass for the folks at home to watch. Sure, it's too bad that we didn't get to see Simon Pegg as Hughie, but the tradeoff is worth it.
The Boys is currently on Amazon Prime, and is a highly recommended binge for all of you to take in one, long run.