Caution: spoilers ahead for The Boys seasons 1 & 2
Here are all the major differences between Amazon’s live-action adaptation of The Boys and the original comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Told over the course of 12 collected volumes, the story of Billy Butcher and his gang of superhero-busting oddballs gained a cult following thanks to its unique take on the superhero genre and visceral, no-holds-barred art style. When the possibility of a live-action TV adaptation of The Boys was first reported, the biggest question was whether this series would be a watered-down version of the comic books.
In that respect, Amazon’s The Boys, which has two seasons so far and a third coming up, is a very faithful interpretation of the story. While certainly not a beat-for-beat transfer from page to screen, The Boys boasts the same rebellious spirit, satirical humor, and ultra-violent tendencies as its source material. The overall story arc of Amazon’s The Boys TV show is also directly influenced by the comic books, albeit with considerable deviations in the style of adaptations such as The Walking Dead and Preacher.
Undoubtedly, the core of Amazon’s The Boys is taken directly from the comics, but there are still many differences between the two versions. While some changes have been made to better suit the televised medium, others serve to speed up important elements of the main plot or add a more contemporary slant on key events. Some of the alterations, however, aren’t as easy to understand or justify. These are the biggest changes The Boys makes to the comics.
Changes To The Boys’ Protagonists
The reformation of The Boys as a crime-fighter-fighting unit in the Amazon series closely mirrors the comic story, with Butcher recruiting Hughie following the death of his girlfriend and then rounding up his old cohorts. Their original reunion was considerably more amicable than in the TV series, however, with Frenchie delighted to see Billy again instead of demanding the Englishman settle his debts.
As for The Boys themselves, the Karl Urban incarnation of Butcher is very close to the one wreaking havoc in the comic books, with brash charm, a love of profanity, and a very well-hidden soft side. Despite the Oliver Twist via New Zealand accent, the biggest deviation in Butcher’s character early on is the absence of his beloved sex-obsessed bulldog, Terror, until season 2. The Boys does make several nods to Terror prior to this, however, including a stuffed animal in the back of Butcher’s car. Another minor detour on TV is that the hinted-at relationship between Butcher and CIA director Rayner is an outright, painstakingly detailed sexual affair in the comic series.
The Boys‘ other lead protagonist, Hughie Campbell, also remains relatively unchanged. Both the Simon Pegg-lookalike of the comics and Jack Quaid’s electronics salesman are represented as unspectacular everyday guys who have previously shown no desire for fighting or adventure. With that said, Hughie’s Scottish heritage has been scrapped in favor of a true-blue American background, and comic Hughie’s interest in conspiracy theories has been replaced by a love of music and superheroes, presumably to make the character more relatable.
Mother’s Milk is barely changed between the two versions of The Boys, remaining the OCD-riddled voice of reason. The only major alteration relating to Laz Alonso’s character is his daughter in the comic books being a tearaway teenager, as opposed to the young child seen on TV. Conversely, Tomer Kapon’s Frenchie has been modified considerably. The Frenchie of the comics is a largely incoherent madman who rambles in poetic bilingual speech and attacks enemies with an unbridled rage. Amazon’s Frenchie is a streetwise criminal with far more mental nous, a calmer demeanor, and a more compassionate, romantic heart. This makes for a far more rounded television personality.
However, it’s The Female that Amazon’s The Boys series alters most heavily. Karen Fukuhara’s character isn’t a member of The Boys when the TV show begins, slowly developing trust among the group with each episode. In many ways, The Boys season 1 acts as an origin story for The Female, whereas in the comic series, this silent but deadly character is already a firm friend of Butcher’s along with Frenchie and M.M.
The sixth, unofficial, member of The Boys is Mallory and, once again, this figure is changed considerably in the TV series. Introduced in The Boys season 1 finale, Mallory is a female former CIA operative who originally put The Boys together, but now regrets unleashing Butcher upon the world and the deaths of Mallory’s grandchildren at the hands of Lamplighter is a major point of contention between the group. In the comics, Mallory’s character is male, introduced at a far later stage and the deaths of his grandchildren aren’t as damaging to The Boys’ relationships with each other.
Changes Amazon’s The Boys Makes To The Seven
The most visible difference in The Boys‘ TV version of The Seven is the (temporary) addition of Translucent to replace Jack from Jupiter. Like Translucent, Jack is one of the slightly less detestable superheroes in The Seven but, as a play on DC’s Martian Manhunter, his alien origins perhaps wouldn’t have come across too well in live-action. Another deviation that helps The Boys feel more grounded is the replacement of The Seven’s comic book Sky Base with a generic city skyscraper.
Antony Starr’s Homelander is an incredibly faithful version of the original character, although the TV series does add more depth and nuance to his veneered nastiness and plays more heavily on the superhero’s parental issues. As revealed in the shocking season 1 finale, however, it appears Homelander was actually responsible for the rape of Butcher’s wife, whereas in the comics, the true culprit is revealed to be Black Noir. Similarly to Homelander, the characters of Queen Maeve and A-Train aren’t altered as such, but fleshed out with side stories such as Maeve’s romantic life and A-Train’s relationships with his brother and Popclaw.
Perhaps the most noticeable shift in character comes with Chase Crawford’s version of The Deep. On the page, The Deep is a mysterious character who rarely removes his diving helmet, but the iteration seen in Amazon’s The Boys is depicted as a vain glory-hunter obsessed with social media and casual flings. One major trait that carries over, however, is The Deep’s constant ability to make a fool of himself. This is highlighted in live-action by the hero’s hilarious attempts to free sea creatures from captivity and culminates in The Deep attending therapy sessions to address his inferiority complex – itself a nod to Aquaman’s perceived uselessness in the Justice League.
Erin Moriarty’s Starlight adheres closely to the source material in terms of her powers, personality and Christian upbringing. However, her development in The Boys is far quicker on TV than in the comic books. By the end of The Boys season 1, Starlight has grown into a more mature, independent version of herself and has already begun a relationship with Hughie, dumped him, and then reunited. While these inclusions are taken from the comic books, they occur during later volumes, with the accelerated development likely designed to avoid Starlight being portrayed as a weak character.
The sexual assault Starlight suffers when first joining The Seven also takes a different approach. Firstly, Amazon’s The Boys replaces Homelander, Black Noir, and A-Train with just The Deep, and the TV series is also far quicker to delve out justice to the ego-driven superhero after having Starlight publicly out his crime.
Differences Between The Boys’ TV And Comic Book Stories
Story and character arcs differ considerably between Amazon’s The Boys TV show and the original Ennis and Robertson comic books, although both head in the same general direction. Arguably the biggest alteration is the increased prominence of the Compound V storyline. The drug does feature in the comic books, and is ultimately revealed as the source of all superheroes, but this mystery forms a focal point of The Boys season 1 and explodes into scandal in season 2. To this end, Robin’s death in episode 1 only happens because A-Train is high as a kite on the stuff, whereas the A-Train in the comics accidentally hits her with a giant villain he’s fighting. The gruesome effect is the same in both cases.
Interestingly, The Boys season 1 presents Compound V as a wholly evil substance, and Butcher has never come across the drug in his previous escapades. In the comics, however, all of The Boys use Compound V as a way of making themselves strong enough to compete with The Boys’ parodical “supes” on equal footing. It’s possible that this angle was dropped to make The Boys look more moral – protagonists taking steroids as a standard practice isn’t always a winner on TV – however, this is something that could be explored in The Boys season 3 and beyond. Additionally, Amazon’s The Boys presents the titular group as a far more amateur outfit than the first volume of the comic books, where The Seven are already very familiar with Butcher’s gang.
Along with the increased role for Compound V comes a vastly more prominent position for Vought American, who are arguably the main villains of The Boys seasons 1 and 2. Once again, Vought are a presence in The Boys‘ comic series, but don’t come to the fore until much later in the story. The TV adaptation, however, digs deep into the company’s history and intentions, immediately establishing their ambition to force superheroes into the U.S. military.
Hughie’s first superhero kill is a watershed moment for the character in both versions of The Boys, but distinctly separate routes are taken to that destination. On TV, Hughie is made to plant a bug in The Seven’s base, is discovered by Translucent, and is eventually forced to kill him by triggering a plastic explosive placed strategically up his anus. The comics, on the other hand, show Butcher to already have Seven HQ bugged, and Hughie’s first job is an all-out take-down of the Teenage Kix super-team. Here, a Compound V-dosed Hughie misjudges his own strength and punches straight through a hero called Blarney Cock. While the circumstances are different, the effects are the same, as Hughie questions his suitability for this new career path.
The Comic Handles Becca’s Son In A Darker Way
The Boys‘ season 2’s storyline contains further departures from the source material, but still maintains the original’s spirit and the tone of season 1. A prime example of this is how Amazon’s The Boys deals with Becca’s son, Ryan. In the comic books, Butcher kills the son (who was conceived with Black Noir, not Homelander) upon birth, removing the perceived threat immediately. The show deviates from this, having Becca secretly raise Ryan until the age of 10 on a Vought-operated base, just out of Butcher’s reach. The TV version of The Boys still manages to make Ryan’s story awful and tragic, however, as he accidentally kills his mom using his laser vision in The Boys‘ season 2 finale.
This might not change the dark, brutal tone of the story a great deal, but it will likely have significant ramifications for Butcher moving forward. Rather than being a stone-cold baby killer, Urban’s version is now potentially faced with the difficult role of serving as a father figure for Ryan. While this is unlikely to go over well at first, it could ultimately make the show a bit more rounded.
TV’s Stormfront Is An Update For A Post-Social Media Age
The other biggest change The Boys season 2 makes is to Stormfront. Obviously, Aya Cash’s version is gender-swapped, and her sexual relationship with Homelander is also unique to the TV series. But her white supremacy is true to the source material – it just takes a different form in The Boys‘ season 2. The Stormfront of the comics is an overt Nazi who makes no bones about his opinions. By contrast, Amazon’s version of the character uses social media, memes, and carefully crafted public messaging to earn loyalty from the masses, which is a much more insidious tactic. Her views and aims are no less harmful, but the series’ version of Stormfront can actually get away with what she’s doing to a larger extent. This change from the comics makes plenty of sense, as it plays more directly into contemporary issues.
The Boys makes plenty of other changes to the comic book story, and some purists may be deterred by the Amazon show’s relatively loose relationship to its source material. However, many of the alterations make sense from the perspective of a TV series, and the most important factors of The Boys as a franchise remain untouched.
The Boys seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Amazon Prime Video.
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