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FROM PAGE TO SCREEN: THE BOYS
 



 

Good luck to any Hollywood screenwriter who has to turn Darick Robertson and Garth Ennis’ graphic novel The Boys into a PG-13 or even an R-rated movie!

Preacher writer Ennis’ 2004 comic is offensive, vile, and egregiously pornographic as one Amazon.com user accurately puts it.

It’s filled with graphic sex scenes including orgies, oral sex, sexual harassment and - in one case – doggie rape! Also, the potty mouth dialogue will make Quentin Tarantino feel decidedly un-edgy and want to throw in the towel and make Victorian novel movie adaptations instead.

All this depravity is quite intrinsic to the storyline, its characters and plot situations. All any screenwriter who has to turn The Boys into a movie for Columbia will ultimately have to work with is the sort of high-concept plot description that will fit on the back of a matchbox. (No news as yet on casting or a director. Neal H. Moritz, Ken F. Levin and Jason Netter will produce. The movie is slated for a 2009 release date.)

That description will be: The Boys are a group of CIA-backed super-powered individuals who has to keep tabs on the world’s superheroes and see to it that they don’t get out of line. The joke is that we get this very ordinary guys dressed in “civvies” beating the crap out of costumed spandex types. The two main characters are Billy Butcher and Wee Hughie. The Butcher is a grinning macho, long-coat wearing tough guy. The character is your standard Ennis creation, one which the writer seems to have cribbed directly from his earlier Hitman comics. Wee Hughie (by the artist’s own admission) is based on Brit actor Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. Pegg is also, um, pegged to play Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ planned Star Trek remake by the way.

The rest of the team seem to blend into the background, and are there merely to provide super-powered muscle. They are Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman and The Female. Why The Butcher would want the bungling Wee Hughie in his team is a bit of a mystery though. After all, much of the plot in the first trade paperback is spent on The Butcher trying to convince the indecisive Hughie to actually join the team and sticking with them.

"In The Boys superheroes are arrogant jerks with little regard for their ordinary fellowman . . ."

In The Boys superheroes are arrogant jerks with little regard for their ordinary fellowman. In an early scene Wee Hughie’s new girlfriend is seen being killed off accidentally in a particularly gruesome manner which involves severed limbs  during a superhero/supervillain showdown. See if that scene makes it into any mainstream Hollywood movie!

Later on a group of “supes” (as they are called in the book) clearly based on DC’s Teen Titans is seen indulging in a sex orgy involving whores that are high on cocaine (so that they can, er, take the super-powered punishment). Later on we see a naïve new superheroine being inducted into the ranks of a group clearly intended as a satire of the Justice League after being forced into group oral sex.

Yup, it’s all egregiously pornographic and juvenile – but in a good way. Writer Ennis clearly hasn’t lost his youthful enthusiasm for the sort of darkly humorous, over-the-top violence and sex that made his name with the Preacher comics. Lord knows how be manages to keep it all up and dream up this sort of depravity for each comic that he writes though!

Unlike Mark Millar’s similarly-themed Wanted (about a world in which all the superheroes have been killed off and the supervillains run things) which has now been made into a movie starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, The Boys never feels forced. The Boys is often laugh-out loud funny actually. This sort of thing just comes natural to Ennis it seems – God help us all! Whereas Millar seems to have taken notes while watching Fight Club, Ennis seems to have self-plagiarized himself instead.

More Pulp Fiction (but with loads of sex!) than Spider-man, Ennis’ The Boys is a worth-while read if your taste in comics extends to this sort of thing. (The Boys will most likely be read by just, well, boys.) Much of the credit should also go to Darick Robertson’s art work, which tends to avoid much of the “busy-ness” that mars many of today’s comics.

As for a movie version, one can easily imagine a ballsy screenwriter/director such as Kevin Smith being truthful to the tone and spirit of Ennis’ book. Or maybe Robert Rodriguez. But the question remains: which Hollywood producer would be willing to mix spandex superheroes with the sort of violence and sex found in Sin City and Planet Terror? Not a particularly box office-friendly proposition that.

The chances are that Hollywood would rather go the Men in Black but with superheroes comedy route. In the hands of a skilful screenwriter this sort of rewrite of the material at hand might work, but then we will have Will Smith’s super-powered Hancock, won’t we?
 

 


The Boys Vol. 1: The Name of the Game
by Garth Ennis (Author), Darick Robertson (Illustrator)
 

Paperback: 152 pages
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment; First Printing edition (June 29, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9133305463
 


 

 



 

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