This may come as a shock, but the comic book version of The Boys is even darker and more gratuitous than the Amazon series. In fact, The Boys was originally published under DC Comics’ Wildstorm imprint, but DC was so concerned about the content of the comic they abruptly canceled the series and allowed creators Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson to take it elsewhere.
The comic tends to be more graphic in its depictions of sex and violence, and features an infamous menstruation sight gag that hasn’t (as of yet) made the jump to the Amazon series. The comic also takes a darker approach to many of the main characters. Billy, for example, is a more intimidating and less sympathetic figure in the comic, to the point where he eventually becomes as much a villain as Homelander. Frenchie is meaner and less likable. Even Hughie himself is less an affable superhero geek than an antisocial conspiracy theory nut.
Hughie & Annie
As in the Amazon series, The Boys comic focuses heavily on the romance between Hughie and Annie. But in the comic, Hughie doesn’t use that relationship to manipulate Annie and work against the Seven. He doesn’t even realize he’s dating a superhero at first. And when Billy finds out about their relationship, it leads him to wonder if Hughie is actually a mole working for Vought-American.
Another key difference is that both Hughie and Annie are much more proactive in the show. Both characters stand up to their respective teams in Season 1, whereas it takes them much longer to become disillusioned and stand up for themselves in the original story.
In the Amazon series, Kimiko is the only member of The Boys with superhuman powers. In the comic, they all have powers. Billy and his team regularly consume Compound V as a way of leveling the playing field against the Seven. The Frenchman even seems to have superhuman powers of smell.
The comic also reveals the origin behind the name “Mother’s Milk.” We learn that MM is the only team member to have powers since birth. His mother worked at a factory contaminated with Compound V. MM was born with super-strength but also a birth defect that requires him to regularly drink his mother’s breast milk. We’ll see if that weird origin story makes the jump to the Amazon series.
The Simon Pegg Factor
When they created The Boys, Ennis and Robertson modeled Hughie directly on actor Simon Pegg (specifically Pegg’s appearance in the sitcom Spaced). The resemblance is pretty obvious in the comic, especially since Hughie is Scottish in that version. Unfortunately, Pegg is a little too old to play the part of a young, idealistic Hughie in the Amazon series, but the show does pay homage to that inspiration by casting Pegg as Hughie’s father.
Other Superhero Teams
The show focuses on the rivalry between The Boys and The Seven, but in the comic The Seven are just one of several superhero teams operating across the globe. The Boys basically work their way up the ladder, using teams like the Teenage Kix and Payback as practice before going to war with the Seven. It remains to be seen if these other teams will appear in future seasons of the show, though Stormfront did debut in Season 2.
The Amazon series does introduce several original heroes of its own in Season 1, including religious guru Ezekiel and washed-up mind-reader Mesmer. It also features Teenage Kix member Popclaw in a significant role, albeit in a relationship with A-Train that doesn’t exist in the comic.
Mallory & Stillwell
The biggest changes involve the characters Mallory and Stillwell, both of whom have been changed from male to female. The comic features a back-story for Mallory involving him being a WWII vet whose life was artificially extended by Compound V, a story which the show seems to be ignoring. As for Stillwell, the shift from male to female opens the door for a twisted sexual dynamic between she and Homelander. The fact that Stillwell dies in the Season 1 finale is another big change, as Stillwell serves as one of the main antagonists of the comic all the way until the end.
The Plane Crash
One of the more gut-wrenching sequences in The Boys Season 1 comes when Homelander and Queen Maeve attempt to rescue Transoceanic Flight 37 from terrorist hijackers. While they easily dispatch the terrorists, Homelander’s careless use of heat vision dooms the plane and its passengers.
A similar scene plays out in the comic, with one big change. That failed rescue mission happens aboard one of the hijacked planes on 9/11. Instead of crashing into the World Trade Center, the plane crashes into the Brooklyn Bridge. That disastrous incident causes Maeve to become disillusioned and an alcoholic, whereas she’s already fallen down that hole before the plane crash in the show.
Billy Butcher is a more imposing figure in the comic. Not only does he have Compound V-derived super-strength, he’s got a sidekick in the form of his trusty bulldog, Terror. Terror is known for urinating on his master’s enemies, and much worse.
Despite the fact that Terror has appeared in some of Amazon’s promotional material, he rarely shows up in the series apart from a quick flashback cameo and a slightly longer appearance in Season 2. Terror seems content to kick back and take it easy in this version.
As in the Amazon series, the comic reveals that Billy’s hatred of superheroes stems from an incident where Homelander raped Billy’s wife, Becca. The details differ quite a bit in the comic, however. The show leads viewers to believe Becca was killed in the process of giving birth to a superhuman child, only for Homelander and Billy to discover that Becca and her son are still alive and in hiding.
In the comic, she did actually die in childbirth, whereas in the show she doesn’t die until the Season 2 finale. In another huge change, Billy himself murders the superhuman infant in the comic, whereas he accepts responsibility for protecting Ryan in the show. The comic also reveals it wasn’t actually Homelander who raped Becca, which leads us to…
Black Noir’s Makeover
In both versions, Black Noir is depicted as the Seven’s resident Batman type. He’s silent, scary and really good at beating criminals to a pulp. The comic makes a major swerve near the end, however, with the reveal that Black Noir is actually a deranged Homelander clone. Black Noir’s job is to keep tabs on his “brother” and kill him if he ever steps out of line. Black Noir finally carries out his mission when Homelander attempts a hostile takeover of the US government. But by that point Vought has simply replaced one dangerous superhuman with an even more dangerous superhuman.
Once unmasked, Black Noir reveals it was he, not Homelander, who raped Becca, which makes his subsequent, gory death all the more well-deserved.
Two seasons in, the TV series has yet to reveal Black Noir’s identity. However, it’s looking increasingly unlikely he’s a Homelander clone, or that he was the one who raped Becca. While seemingly immune to pain, Black Noir suffers major injuries over the course of Season 2 (including being brought down by his peanut allergy). And from what we’ve seen of his scarred face, he appears to be Black (as is actor Nathan Mitchell). The TV series is probably keeping Black Noir’s identity a mystery for good reason, but the actual reveal could turn out to be completely different from the comic.
Stormfront and Lamplighter
Stormfront, like Mallory and Stillwell before her, is changed from male to female for the Amazon series. The show retains the character’s basic back-story as an ageless Nazi whose powers are equal parts Thor and Shazam, but the fact that she’s a woman now plays heavily into her changed role on the Amazon series. Rather than being a member of the super-team Payback, Stormfront is a full-fledged member of The Seven whose rivalry with Homelander turns to heated romance. She also finally meets her end not thanks to Billy Butcher and his team, but Homelander’s son Ryan.
Season 2 also finally puts Lamplighter in the spotlight. While both the comic and TV series reveal Lamplighter to be the supe responsible for murdering Mallory’s family in an act of intimidation, the show also reveals Lamplighter was misled into believing he was killing Mallory herself, not civilians. In general, he’s portrayed far more sympathetically in the Amazon series right up until his suicide, whereas in the comic he’s summarily beaten to death by The Boys and resurrected as a braindead zombie. The show also adds a new angle by making Lamplighter a sort of prison warden/nurse in Vought’s medical research facility.
The CIA’s Role
While we’ve already covered how the Amazon series gender-swapped Mallory, it’s also worth pointing out how different the overall relationship between the CIA and Butcher’s team is. In the comic, The Boys are fully funded and sanctioned by the CIA, a necessary countermeasure to Vought’s growing dominance of the geopolitical arena. While the same holds true for the original incarnation of the team seen in various flashbacks, the show depicts the group as a fully independent organization in the present-day. That winds up creating major complications for Butcher and his team in Season 2, as they find themselves wanted fugitives.
However, this is one area where the comic and TV series will begin to align more over time. Showrunner Eric Kripke revealed to IGN that The Boys will transition back to becoming a CIA-sponsored group in Season 3.
“The Boys we will find at the top of Season 3 will actually be very recognizable to the ones in the comic book: officially backed by the CIA now, offices in the Flatiron building,” said Kripke. “You know, it’s going to be kind of classic Boys but with a couple twists and turns.”
Victoria Neuman vs. Vic the Veep
To date, perhaps no The Boys character has changed more in the transition from page to screen than Victor Neuman. In the comic, Victor is the idiotic former CEO of Vought, who now serves as Vice President and Vought’s political proxy. He’s nicknamed “Vic the Veep” and was intended to be a parody of then-US President George W. Bush.
Neuman is another character who switches from male to female in the Amazon series, but that’s the least of the changes. In the show, Victoria Neuman is depicted as a crusading politician (more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than George W. Bush) who lobbies against Vought’s unchecked power and attempts to expose their crimes. The Season 2 finale shakes things up even further, revealing Neuman to be a superhuman killer with the power to psychically explode heads. At this point it’s unclear where her true allegiances lie and if she’s actually working for Vought as Vic the Veep does in the comic. Kripke hints she’ll be more of “a wild card” in Season 3.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.