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Peeing in Your Shower: Destructing the Contemporary Superhero in The Boys

Written by Keb Ellis on Monday, July 07 2008 and posted in Features
Hello and welcome to my boring column that looks at really boring topics like comics being understood as literary thingies which basically means because I’m an English major with no job, I read comics and over analyze them until you decide to shoot me. Oh, my name is Keb if you don’t already [...]


know, and I’m an English major and I tend to over analyze things. Anyways, enough of this wasting space already!

So I received a copy of the first Boys trade paperback for my birthday. I remembered reading reviews and interviews and thinking “Yeah, whatever Garth Ennis go away.” I say this because I’m not a big fan of Garth Ennis. I can understand why people like him, but I don’t. Before you try telling me to go read Preacher and Punisher MAX and that not liking Garth Ennis is like kicking the Pope in the nuts, well, don’t bother. We are allowed to have our opinions no?

So yeah, where was I? The Boys volume 1 The Name of the Game. Present, birthday, and me, well I never turn down birthday presents. I opened, I read, I skipped the introduction by the Shaun of the Dead guy, I looked over the first couple pages, I laughed at the dog, I read some more. I enjoyed the art. I didn’t expect to see such a blatant murder of the superhero. It was appalling, treacherous, low and absolutely ballsy on the parts of Ennis and Robertson. I fucking loved it!

I find it intriguing that Ennis takes the superhero and turns him (or her) into a giant piece of shit (figuratively…so far). Impressive! I have a dislike of super-heroics, particularly those from the older ages. I’ve always been a fan of those stories that deconstruct or humanize the hero, but Ennis, he does something different. The moment where we get Wee Hughie, hugging and kissing his girlfriend, then whoosh this big body flies out of nowhere and there’s Wee Hughie holding his dead girlfriend’s arms, and while I’m feeling sympathetic and also trying not to laugh (yeah it’s kind of funny), I’m in awe of how the hero acts when he captures the bad guy. That moment capitalizes on the pompous attitudes of celebrities and applies them to heroes. Running theme of the book, I think.

The problem with heroes is that they are so bloody moral. I often feel like reading an issue of Superman is like reading a didactic tale of what I should be when I step out of my house. When I read The Boys, I feel like I’m reading about over-powered celebrity totalitarians who run the world, and then the people who keep them in check. We’re exposed to a new type of hero, and not an anti-hero, but a power-mad asshole with a hard-on for control. It’s so sickly humanizing, that it de-humanizes the hero, makes him a villain, and perceptions become skewered. I can tell this is exactly what Ennis has in mind with this series. Ennis doesn’t want to deconstruct, he wants to bastardize superheroes, and then he sends in the Boys to kick their heads in.

The Boys, in my opinion, is a brilliant way of advancing the superhero into new territory.  Why bother looking at the hero as opposing evil, when we can see a hero doing things that we don’t necessarily want to believe they’re capable of. Of course, the over-the-top approach is completely Ennis, but it works. It draws out the conceptions, twists them and leaves us to accept the tangled mess as readers with the morals we hold. It’s like a deformed child: at first we’re disgusted, grossed out, and ten minutes later, we can’t help but look and admire it, maybe we even begin to see it as a thing of complex beauty.


Posted originally: 2008-07-07 17:11:14

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