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In adapting Preacher for television, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg accomplished what many comic book fans thought impossible. For their next adaptation, the boys are facing an equally daunting prospect in…well, The Boys.
Rogen and Goldberg, alongside Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, are lined up to adapt the Dynamite Entertainment comic book for Cinemax, all about a group of government-funded black-ops bruisers who blackmail and beat down superheroes gone bad. As it turns out, most of the superheroes are bad, with the members of the universe’s Justice League analogue recklessly killing innocents and performing sexually deviant acts in their very earliest appearances.
The comic, which comes from the mind of Preacher co-creator Garth Ennis, as well as veteran artist Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan), boasts enough vulgar content to put even Preacher to shame at points. For example, there’s a scene at the end of the first arc involving a deceased superhero and a hamster that defies clean explanation. How do Rogen and Goldberg plan on tackling such subject matter? It’s a good question — and it’s one they haven’t answered yet.
“We’re in a similar place with it now where we were with Preacher,” Rogen said during a press conference attended by The Hollywood Reporter. “Now that we’ve convinced everyone to let us adapt this into a show, what are we actually going to do?”
For his part, Ennis believes adapting The Boys is actually easier than adapting Preacher, if not in terms of subject matter, then at least at the storytelling level.
“I think in terms of plot, it’s going to be easier. I think it’s a lot more linear,” he told THR, adding that the current superhero landscape, pioneered by Marvel Studios, “has done a lot of the work for us already.”
“Ten years ago, if you introduced The Boys to a mainstream audience, they would’ve been mystified,” said Ennis. “They would be able to identify roughly who was standing in for Batman, Superman, the Hulk, probably Spider-Man and Captain America. Not beyond that. Now, 10 years on, with the success of the various franchises, mainstream audiences have been educated in the world of superheroes. So when an Iron Man-esque guy pops up, they’ll know who that is. That’s going to be simpler.”
What’s trickier, according to Ennis, is “making The Boys look as good as a superhero movie. It’s less grounded than Preacher in that regard.”
There’s also the matter of casting the larger-than-life personalities populating The Boys — including Billy Butcher, the group’s take-no-nonsense leader, always dressed in black and speaking with a voice that sounds like Michael Caine, according to one person’s description in the first issue. Ennis counts Butcher as his favorite character he’s ever written; casting that role is no easy feat.
There’s also Wee Hughie, a Scottish everyman who comes into the Boys’ orbit after a devastating personal tragedy involving an arrogant hero. In designing the character, Robertson deliberately drew Hughie as Simon Pegg; the resemblance was so famous among comic fans that Pegg even wrote the foreword to an early collection of The Boys. For his part, Rogen claimed he hadn’t even considered casting Pegg as Wee Hughie: “We haven’t actually. I just assumed he’s too successful to be on our television show. I assume he would want to be on his own television show. But that would be cool.”
Count that as one of the many questions that still need answering as The Boys develops, but at the very least, Rogen knows why he wants to make the show in the first place: “The idea of doing something in the world of superheroes, in a more traditional sense, was very appealing to us. Preacher is a comic book, but there’s something about the visuals of that world and the idea of really trying as firmly as possible to implant that type of idea in our world…it’s something we’ve talked about doing for years and years and years and years, and we’ve just never really found the right idea. We’ve kicked around tons of ideas like it, and [The Boys] is probably the way to do all of that.”
For Ennis, The Boys represents another way into the superhero conversation — namely, the people who want that conversation to end. He punctuated his point by describing the premise of The Boys with six simple words: “Sick of superheroes? Because we are.”
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