The Boys: Never Meet Your Heroes

The Boys: Never Meet Your Heroes

Angel Rocha, Entertainment Editor

Back in 1986, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created one of the most influential comic book series of all time: Watchmen. During a time when comics were dominated by superheroes, Watchmen ignored their admiration and perfection. Instead, it focused on a bleak world where vigilantes were outlawed and heroes were morally corrupt. The impact the graphic novel had was so significant that it pushed comics to a new era known as the Dark Age of Comics, where comics covered a variety of mature content and themes.

Now, in 2021, our media is dominated by superheroes. Marvel puts out at least two new films per year, with plans to release dozens more within the next ten years. Marvel shows like Daredevil and The Defenders are Netflix’s largest properties. DC releases Oscar-worthy contenders like Joker and their own superhero shows that dominate the CW like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. The biggest games of the last few years include DC’s Injustice 2 and Marvel’s The Avengers. The highest grossing movie of all time is Avengers: Endgame. It’s clear that there has never been a better time for the superhero genre. 

However, many of these properties still place superheroes on a pedestal. They’re incorruptible beings with a clearly defined antagonist. There’s only ever the good and the bad. That is, until Amazon released their own satirical, modern-day WatchmenThe Boys. 

The Boys creates a world where super beings are the norm. Much like in our own world, they have their own movies and TV shows. They’re employed by Vought, a company responsible for representing supes. They dominate the media and are the embodiment of people who are true and just. At least, that’s how they appear on the surface. When the cameras are off and the crowds are absent, The Boys explores every horrible vice each “hero” had while displaying the murky depths of corporate corruption. 

We follow Hughie Campbel, who is the projection of every modern superhero fan. He has posters and figurines of his favorite superheroes in his room, and he’s knowledgeable on every comic issue. He’s infatuated by the Seven, who are a parody of DC’s Justice League, until speedster A-Train runs through his girlfriend, killing her and leaving Hughie seeking revenge against superheroes. In his vengeful rage, Hughie is approached by a mysterious Billy Butcher. Butcher recruits Hughie to The Boys, a secret group who are determined to expose and destroy the superheroes that dominate every aspect of normal life. The Amazon original is the answer to the question that Watchmen posed all those years ago – “Who watches the Watchmen?”. The Boys. The Boys do. 

With a refreshing lineup of superheroes and a plethora of sadistic, complex side figures, The Boys is at its best when it comes to its characters, the highlight of whom has to be Homelander. Played by Antony Starr, Homelander is the main antagonist. 

He is also a parody of DC’s Superman. 

While they both stand for freedom, hope, and the American way, Homelander is far from a hero when the cameras are off. He’s not afraid to curse out his fair share of secretaries, crash planes with his laser vision, or punch through the chest of an armed robber. Homelander also differs from Superman in that he was raised by scientists, not by some Kansas family with honest American values. This causes him to act like a man-child, as evident by his amusing actions in several episodes. Also, he doesn’t have an obvious weakness like Kryptonite, but his ego is sensitive. Homelander’s eagerness to be loved causes him to be manipulated rather easily, and it’s rare to see a character with immense power have such weak confidence. Despite the horrific, erratic decisions Homelander makes during the series, at several points I found myself sympathising with him, and that’s a praise to Starr’s stellar performance.

The inclusion of Erin Moriarty’s Starlight is equally refreshing. In a fictional world filled to the brim with shady characters and acts of violence, her character is a literal shining exception. Starlight’s chemistry with Hughie doesn’t make their romance feel forced, and her moral clash with the rest of the superheroes prevents the show from going off the rails. The Boys has established itself as one of Amazon Prime’s headline properties, and its mere existence broadens is necessary in order to broaden the superhero genre.