"The Metaphor of the Superhero": 'THR Presents' Q&A With 'The Boys' Writers

Showrunner Eric Kripke and writers Anslem Richardson and Rebecca Sonnenshine discuss making the white-supremacist villain female and the freedom of satire: "This show gives us a place to put our rage."

Television creator Eric Kripke had been a longtime fan of Garth Ennis' comic books — The Boys among them — but it was his love of another one of Ennis' properties, Preacher, that paved the path to his eventual Amazon show.

When he heard that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were turning Preacher into a television series at AMC, Kripke was filled with envy, he recalled during a recent THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media. So when Kripke eventually sat down with one of the show's producers, Ori Marmur, he deadpanned his reason for meeting: "I mostly just wanted to say 'fuck you' for giving Preacher to somebody else." But what was intended as a joke turned into an unexpected job opportunity. "Well, we're about to close on The Boys. Do you want The Boys?" Marmur responded in earnest.

Just like that, Kripke found himself turning the dark, biting superhero comic he'd read as a fan into a high-spectacle TV series for Amazon. As often happens when someone takes on the task of adapting a beloved property, he was faced with figuring out what from the comics he wanted to stay true to and what he wanted to take liberties with. In doing so, the thought occurred to him, "Am I the person that is going to ruin the thing I love for the world?"

Along the way, he realized it was inevitable that he'd have to change some things. So how did he manage the prospect of potentially upsetting some fans? "With an incredible amount of Xanax and Prilosec," he joked. "I went into this thinking that adapting was going to be like, 'Finally, I don't have to come up with my own shit. This is going to be great,'" he said. "But it's so much worse." Despite Kripke's concerns, the series premiered to rave reviews in 2019, with its second season only serving to grow the show's fan base in 2020.

The Boys takes place in world where superheroes go rogue and abuse their powers. After working through much of the source material in season one, the writers looked to other sources for season two inspiration. "Because The Boys is a satire, a lot of it is [found] outside of the books," said writer Anslem "Slem" Richardson, who noted that they look at thought-provoking articles in The Atlantic or The New York Times. "It's, 'What's going on in society? What movements are happening, and what can we use the metaphor of the superhero to tell that story and expand that story?'"

In the second season, one of those main storylines was modern-day white supremacy. "As we were heading into season two, there was this ugly vein of white nationalism [in the country], and I thought this was the perfect vehicle to express it," said Kripke, who noted that the narrative had become even more relevant by the time the episodes debuted. "This show gives us a place to put our rage, so it's healthy in that way."

There is a male villain in the comics, Stormfront, who is a Nazi, but writer Rebecca Sonnenshine came up with idea of gender-flipping the character for the series. In her mind, the show already had a strong-man villain in Homelander, played by Anthony Starr, and giving him a female to play off of would knock him off balance a bit. "There are these figures out there who are like Stormfront, who are these fun, peppy women who have these dark ideologies," she said. "It's a little bit more stealth and a little bit more insidious."

Quiped Kripke, "We took today's paper about [Georgia Congresswoman] Marjorie Taylor Greene, went back in time, gave it to Rebecca, and she based it on her."

This THR Presents is brought to you by Amazon Studios; additional Q&As and other supplementary content can be viewed in THR's new public hub at THRPresents.HollywoodReporter.com.