While The Boys might be based on a successful comic book series, the superhero satire has managed to outdo its source material on numerous fronts. On occasion, an adaptation can improve on its inspiration. For example, author Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park is a successful but unspectacular sci-fi story about a theme park gone wrong. Its 1993 movie adaptation Jurassic Park is one of director Steven Spielberg’s best movies and is widely viewed as one of the best blockbusters ever made. Similarly, the Roderick Thorp novel Nothing Lasts Forever is largely forgotten, while its movie adaption Die Hard is pretty well regarded.
While the comic book inspiration for The Boys is (usually) darker than the series itself, this doesn’t mean that the source material is better than its adaptation. Particularly after season 3, it is fair to say that The Boys has managed to outdo its source material. The Boys is now better than the comics in numerous pivotal ways, from how the show handles sensitive material to how the series fleshes out its characters. While The Boys might not exist without Garth Ennis’s comic series of the same name, the show has deepened the social commentary of its source material, improved its characters, and made its plot more complex.
The social commentary and political satire of The Boys are sharper and more insightful in the television series. For example, Aya Cash’s version of Stormfront highlights how acceptable racist rhetoric can seem when it comes from the mouth of a sardonic, culturally literate millennial. In the source comics, Stormfront is a typical villainous Nazi, which robs this character of its satirical potential. Cash’s Stormfront allowed The Boys season 2 to laugh at major media outlets for platforming bigots for views, while Stormfront’s comic persona did not pursue this approach. This made Stormfront a more sinister and insidious villain in the adaptation.
This is true of The Boys “evil Superman” Homelander, too. Although Homelander is reprehensible in both the source comics and their television adaptation, he has more recognizable humanity in the show. This doesn’t endear viewers to him, but it does make it more believable when he amasses a huge following. The Homelander of the source comics is blatantly a monster who is using the thinnest veneer of smarmy charisma to deflect criticism from his horrific crimes. However, in The Boys TV series, Homelander is still a complete monster, but the existence of his followers feels far more believable due to his more complex portrayal.
Karen Fukuhara’s Kimiko Is Better Than The Female
On the topic of complex portrayals, Karen Fukuhara’s take on Kimiko is far better than The Female, her comic book counterpart. While The Boys season 1 largely wasted Kimiko’s potential, subsequent seasons spent more time focusing on her hopes, dreams, and relationships. Without a word, Fukuhara’s Kimiko has been able to become a fully-rounded, well-realized character in her own right. In contrast, The Female was never given much in the way of substantial characterization. Kimiko’s character shift in The Boys allowed the show’s version of the character to feel more complex and believable than her original inspiration.
The Boys Makes Its Characters More Complex
Kimiko is far from the only character who feels less one-dimensional in the television show. In the source comics, most of the Seven’s members are much more cartoonish villains, and this makes them less interesting since there is little reason to root for their potential redemption. For example, Queen Maeve plays a far more pro-active role in the show than she did in the comics, and even survives her eventual showdown with Soldier Boy. Similarly, Black Noir’s backstory changed his plot significantly from his comic persona, which was effectively a more unhinged extension of Homelander’s amoral villainy.
The Boys Updated Soldier Boy’s Villainy
Thanks to the MCU, The Boys season 3’s Soldier Boy needed to be different from his comic counterpart. This proved to be a major benefit to the show since Jensen Ackles’ version of the character is arguably the show’s best villain since Homelander. In the source comics, Soldier Boy is a sycophant who obsessively attempts to get into the Seven by trying to impress Homelander. In the television series, he is a violent fascist who murders scores of people in a single-minded quest to get revenge on those who betrayed him.
While Soldier Boy’s comic counterpart is comically cowardly, there is not much else to the villain. In contrast, the show’s version of Soldier Boy is more sympathetic, since he is not responsible for the experiments that made him the monster he now is. However, he is also a far scarier villain. The show’s Soldier Boy sees nothing wrong with detonating a massive blast in the middle of Herogasm, murdering and maiming dozens of heroes in the process. He is a more lethal character than his comic counterpart, and this ensured that the Soldier Boy of The Boys season 3 was a memorable monster.
The Boys Does Starlight’s Story Justice
In both the source comics and the show, Starlight is sexually assaulted as part of a horrific “initiation” into The Seven. In the comics, this traumatizes her, but the aftermath of the incident is rarely addressed in depth. Since every male member of the Seven is a perpetrator, there is little in the way of meaningful closure after the event. In contrast, the show’s version of this plot sees The Deep take center stage as the scene’s villain. As a result, his humiliating ordeal in The Boys season 2 allows the show to reckon with his misdeeds, while Starlight’s public condemnation of his crimes feels more believable after #MeToo.
The Boys Is Less Gross (But Still Darker) Than The Comics
While The Boys might be one of the nastiest shows on television at times, the series has nothing on the source material. The most infamous moments in the source comics include Butcher beating a superpowered baby to death, a scene that even many hardened comic fans found too gross to be amusing. However, this doesn’t mean that The Boys isn’t sufficiently dark. Ironically, because the show drops some of the more absurd elements of the comics, The Boys feels closer aligned to something resembling reality. As a result, The Boys is even darker than its source material when the show needs to be.
This story originally appeared on Screenrant