I saw the Amazon Prime series, The Boys, this weekend and noticed that the comics were available in my Kindle Unlimited(the first four volumes anyway), so I decided to read them. They’re behind the final episode of season 1 with regards to the narrative, but the show and comics have very different pacing. The differences were interesting to me so I thought I’d talk about it.
The show has two real narratives which last the whole season, Hughie’s revenge and Butcher’s revenge, and focuses almost exclusively on the Seven as superheroes, with other superheroes being pushed to the side. In the comics these two narratives are present but they haven’t been the comic’s focus. Instead, the comic has followed the boys as they infiltrate various groups, they’ve been to Russia, and they’ve done these things alongside the two other narratives, with every few editions having a self contained narrative. I’m uncertain as to why this difference exists, but I suspect it has much to do with the release schedule. Comics are released regularly and steadily, but the TV show was released all together, so the comic’s writers probably felt that they needed smaller narratives within the larger one, meaning that readers wouldn’t have to wait vast amounts of time for a fulfilling story.
The Boys really is a comic, with the reader being expected to have some knowledge of comics, with parody versions of existing comic properties. There’s Batman, who has a strange relationship to Robin, there’s the X-Men, there’s the Seven, who are probably Justice League. I’m not a massive comic fan but I have enough knowledge to understand most of the references and parodies in all these stories, which usually mock the original character and display how ridiculous their whole concept is. A reader wouldn’t know this unless they were a comic reader, or someone who had watched most of the comic book movies of recent years. This information is required to enjoy the comic version of The Boys, and because the TV show focuses on the Seven, far less information is required. As we should expect, the producers wanted to make a TV show which was accessible to non-comic fans.
There’s also the fact that some things are simply not acceptable with a modern TV show and they are with comics. There’s racist and homophobic language, a woman who essentially behaves like a dog and is simply called ‘the woman’. Lots of sex scenes and extreme violence. Overall the comic is not remotely believable while the TV show attempts a more realistic take and these differences are consequences of the mediums, of their history, culture and popularity. The most likely explanation seems to be that TV is way more popular than comics and as such comics have never been under the same pressure to conform to modern standards, or it may simply be that comics are sufficiently distant from the real world, that people don’t feel the need to impose real world standards upon them.
These differences make each version of The Boys distinct enough for me to enjoy both. Whether I’m right about the origins of them or not is immaterial, it is good that they are not the same. It means I get to enjoy the same story, in two totally different fashions.