When Garth Ennis wrote The Boys comic book series in 2005, he zeroed in on the idea of corrupt superheroes controlled by corporate overlords via a U.S. presidential directive. Nearly fifteen years later, another controversial figure is in the White House, and Ennis’ story feels as timely as ever — even if its premise is about a group of vigilantes taking out caped heroes who closely resemble some beloved Marvel and D.C. characters dominating the box office — while Amazon prepares to launch the TV series adaptation from Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg.
We chatted with Ennis about why he’s never been a fan of the rise of superhero culture, and how, despite its mind-bending action and gory violence, The Boys presents one of the more realistic superhero universes out there.
This show really makes us question our fandom of superheroes — if they existed in the real world and were, well, a**holes. Are there certain heroes you modeled The Seven after on the show?
Well, I don’t like any of them. You can pick your favorite and watch me denigrate them. The thing is, due to a quirk of distribution and growing up in Northern Ireland in the ’70s and ’80s, I never really saw American superhero comics. Not often enough or for long enough that I was able to really get into them. I grew up on British comics until I was well into my teens. I was reading material very, very different from what you see in the American superhero tradition. I think coming to them as, pretty much, an adult, I responded to them the way adults did in those days, which is, “This makes no sense. This is ridiculous. This is silly.” That’s where the suspicion and disdain arose.
Are you surprised to see people still crave superhero content to the degree that they do?
Considering the state the world is in, I’m not terribly surprised by people resorting to fantasy. I’m always a little reluctant when I see people making that choice, but I do see where, in a world like this one, when things have gotten as wretched as they have, where that longing for fantasy has. Beyond that, I think there is a long human tradition of praying that a man will come from the sky to save you. Generally, hasn’t worked out too well, but I understand where the instinct comes from.
You created The Boys nearly 15 years ago. but after I watched a few episodes, it seems like you might as well have written this story yesterday. How do you feel about the timing of the show?