Saturday, 4 April 2015

Introduction to The Boys

Well, I have managed to keep this blog going for a year.  I started with a lengthy series, so to kick off this blogs second year I'm going to spend a couple of months looking at Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's series "The Boys".  This is the series that made me decide to carry on collecting comic books after I had finished my Cerebus collection. I'm warning you all now, this is Ennis really letting loose.  It's a series full of sex, boobs, extreme violence and loads and loads of swearing.  I won't be showing any of the sex (I'm a prude really, honest), but some boobs and bums will make it through so remember to check for the NSFW tag in the blog title. This series has often been referred to as a deconstruction of superheroes that shows how much Ennis hates the American superhero archetype.  I don't think it is a deconstruction of superheroes though.  If it is, where Alan Moore used a scalpel in Watchmen, Ennis uses a blunderbuss then drives over the remains in a bus full of squawking clowns.  No, it's definitely a parody of superheroes that gets very near the knuckle in places, but what it actually is deconstructing is his own character archetype the "Macho Garth Ennis Anti-Hero".


The premise of the series picks up on something he created during his comic Hitman.  In one storyline Tommy Monaghan the titular hitman is asked to work as an assassin who will target and take down superheroes for the CIA.  There it was shown to be a bad thing, because of course the DCU heroes are decent folk.  But in The Boy's world this is not the case.  The heroes or "supes" as they are contemptously referred to, are shown to be venal, corrupt, immoral and hypocritical.  They need to be kept under control and The Boys are the CIA's response.  A team of superpowered enforcers - four men and one woman - who are led by a foul mouthed Englishman called Billy Butcher.  But Billy isn't the POV character in this series as he would be in any other Garth Ennis series, in fact Ennis steps out of his comfort zone and gives us the meek Scot Wee Hughie as the main character, and the series ends up being something of a tug of war for his soul between two people who never actually meet.

The Boy's ran for seventy-two issues, plus three miniseries of six issues apiece, making ninety in total.  It ran from 2007 to 2012, and started life at the DC imprint Wildstorm.  It was abruptly cancelled after six issues, possibly because the parody was so venomous and it being so obvious who he was targeting.  Luckily publisher Dynamite picked it up and it ran and ended as Ennis wanted to without further editorial interference and was initially collected in twelve volumes (the ones I am using here).  Although artist Darick Robertson was the co-creator, he stopped drawing it around book eight as he became an insanely in-demand artist for higher profile books, although he returned to draw the final miniseries and the final issue.  Capable artist Russ Braun took over as the main artist and Hitman artist John McCrea also illustrated three arcs.  Ennis is on record as saying it ended up being a good thing that Wildstorm/DC cancelled the title, "We'd have died on the vine [at DC]. The book would have been chipped and chipped away at until writing it was pure frustration." He also admitted to "a sigh of relief" as Wildstorm had been dissolved as an imprint not long after the move.

So that's my intro to the world of The Boys.  Of the three major creator owned series Ennis has done I feel it's the best.  Hitman became repetative in places and Preacher meandered rather in it's final third, but The Boys builds and builds to a tremendous series of climaxes where stuff introduced in the first volume doesn't pay off until the last. It's a crazy, sometimes nihilistic world, but one that also has decency, friendship, bromance and love underpinning it. It's a conspiracy thriller with at least three conspiracies running through the series, although one is so carefully hidden you'll only spot the hints it's building upon a reread. It's not for the faint-hearted, but it's a great series full of fantastic twists and turns that kept me guessing right up to the end so I hope you enjoy my look at it. As The Legend would say: "Splendido!"


  1. garth ennis with nothing to hold him back? this should be fun! :D congratz on the blogs first year as well. :)

  2. Happy birthday blog! Have some cake :-)

  3. Also, I'm a prude, but I don't mind pictures of sex. Not everybody is the same as me, though, so safety first! :-D

  4. Thanks, well, there will be some nudey pics but honestly the sex scenes are kindof grim, I'd feel dirty including them,I'm trying to keep some standards! Although this comic will sorely test them eheheheh. Next post soon just got distracted by Dragon Age 2, :P