I talked about the comic series a little in this previous post. It was a long series (72 issues) that I really enjoyed reading in 2018. And in several ways, the TV show improves on the source material. If you’re asking, ‘how so?’ then read on; I’ll list a few of the major differences between the comic and the TV show. Sometimes the divergences in premise might get close to spoilers (after all, just some of the stuff that happened in the comic might end up happening in Season 2), but I’ll give a warning for any speculative spoilers before I get into it.
In the comic series, Billy Butcher is a straight-up CIA operative. And he’s so good at his job that he’s given free reign to do whatever he wants. The Boys are his hand-picked and totally sanctioned team. In the comic, Butcher can manipulate Agent Raynor (played by Jennifer Esposito on the TV series) to do whatever he wants. On the show, Billy has virtually no control over the mechanisms of the ‘Deep State.’ He’s like an outlaw freelancer, which gives him a cool, seat-of-the-pants ‘Han Solo’ vibe. Butcher’s origin—the reason for his vendetta against superheroes—is pretty much consistent between in both TV and Comic versions. Slight spoiler warning for the rest of this paragraph: Basically, the story about what happened to Butcher’s wife is straight from the comics. But then the Season 1 finale adds a new wrinkle to the story.
The Other ‘Boys:’
In the comic, two-fifths of the team, Frenchie and the Female, are barely more than two-dimensional. On the show, they are far more fleshed out. Which provides some good tension because you both feel invested in them as supporting characters, but also more worried that they could die at any moment (as supporting characters are wont to do in shows like The Boys!) Mother’s Milk is probably gets a higher ratio of attention in the comic, but his character is basically the same. Here’s hoping they don’t follow the comic when it comes to explaining his family story (past & future) and they find a different way to explain his nickname.
The Seven on the TV show is mostly recognizable to the original team from the comic. There is no Translucent on the Seven from the comic book. Instead there is a character called ‘Jack from Jupiter’ who is an obvious counterpart to the Justice League’s Martian Manhunter. In the comic, Queen Maeve is a jaded, martini-swigging sadist. On the TV show, she obviously has a conscience, even if she’s being force into going along with some pretty messed-up stuff.
Hughie and Annie’s relationship:
In the comic, Hughie is a nebbishy Scotsman. In the comic, his face and personality are based on the actor Simon Pegg. (Although I think there is a bit of Karl Pilkington in there as well!) As an homage to the character’s origins, now now Simon Pegg is playing Hughie’s (Jack Quaid’s) dad. Hughie’s an American on the show, but his origin is essentially the same. He’s a regular guy who loses his girlfriend, joins the Boys, and then meets Annie January on a park bench.
In the comic, Hughie is a bit of a git (as Scot might say). He works with the Boys and dates Annie for about half the series before he realizes that she is a member of the most famous superhero team in the world. Annie’s alter ego, Starlight, doesn’t even wear a mask! In fact, it’s Billy Butcher who discovers that Hughie is dating the enemy, and eventually Billy drives them apart by showing Hughie video of Annie being coerced into a sexual assault by some of superhero coworkers. This comic takes places before #metoo, and unfortunately, the comic character of Hughie chooses to do some victim-blaming and uses this as one of his reasons to dump her. It’s pretty obvious in the comic that they’ll eventually get back together, but not before Hughie goes through what seems like dozens of issues of sulking on the subject.
In the show, Hughie has far more agency. He quickly realizes who Annie is, and he spends most of Season One torn between a couple of valid but paradoxical impulses. Does he do things that are good for his burgeoning relationship with Annie? Or does he do things that are good for the ‘quest for justice’ he’s started with Billy? Also, how does he handle his feelings of guilt over dating someone so soon after his former girlfriend’s death?
This, I think, is the biggest difference between the show and the comic. And here’s where I’m going to talk about things that might end up being plot points in Season Two. So skip this section if you’re concerned about spoilers. OK… here goes:
In the comic, the Boys know about Compound V from the very beginning. In fact, they’re all using it! So they are just as strong as their supe foes. (And some would say just as prone to being absolutely corrupted by those absolute powers.) In the comic, the Boys massacre dozens superheroes, and it never seems quite clear why they don’t take on the Seven in a full-on frontal assault. On the show, the scenario is far more clear and dire. The Homelander is the most powerful entity on Earth, and the Boys are all mere mortals (except for Kimiko, of course). So that really makes for a more interesting story with higher stakes.
How will the TV Series ultimately end? There’s a good chance that even the show-runners don’t know yet. But here’s hoping that this is one case where the TV show follows the comic pretty closely. Because the endings for the comic-book versions of Billy Butcher, Hughie, and the Homelander were all pretty epic! And that’s all I’ll say about that.