It's been a long and fantastic run for Dynamite Entertainment's "The Boys." Beginning in 2006, readers were introduced to a grim and gritty world of irresponsible and borderline insane superheroes with only one team of augmented, vengeance-driven men standing in their way: The Boys. Using analogues of popular heroes and super-teams, series creators Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson gave readers a look into the inner workings of this world through the members of The Boys: Wee Hughie, a Scotsman whose girlfriend was ripped apart in the wake of a super-speedster; the extremely violent and somewhat aptly-named Frenchman; The Female, a mute weapon of mass destruction; second-in-command Mother's Milk; and the vicious and vengeful Billy Butcher.
For the last five years, these five angry and violent individuals have torn a hole through the superhero community, sticking it to the heroes' parent company Voight-American, slowly unraveling how superheroes came to be and gearing up for a final confrontation with The Seven, their world's most popular and premiere super-team. Throughout the series, Ennis has been slowly unraveling plot threads, even taking Wee Hughie into his own miniseries, "Highland Laddie," to tease readers with a few more lingering questions. With the end in sight, Ennis revealed to CBR some details on the series' future including some of the major pieces he has planned leading into "The Big Ride."
"Hughie's return, obviously, his doubts and fears about Butcher, especially after his time with Mallory," Ennis said of some elements he has planned before the series draws to a close. "Vought-American's ongoing schemes, plots and plans. And the Seven, now dominated by the Homelander's agenda -- although I wanted to throw them a little curveball here, have them suddenly preoccupied with Jack from Jupiter's indiscretion (or not)."
Hughie's return after the events of "Highland Laddie" still left many lingering questions, including the status of his feelings for Annie January, and Ennis says the question will be put to rest soon. "You'll see how that develops in #59," the writer told CBR News. "One of the things I've come to appreciate about Hughie is that his doubts and neuroses never really go away. So whereas most comic book characters manage to conquer their fears (usually during some moment of crisis) and become fully rounded hero types, Hughie -- like most people I know -- remains resolutely himself, whether he likes it or not. When the moment comes he can't go over the edge properly."
Although a good amount of answers and payoff from past plot points will undoubtedly come to light, Ennis still plans to introduce a few more superteams for The Boys to take down. "There are two more superteams to meet, both of whom show up in the next story arc," Ennis said. "One is a '90s-style cyberpunk outfit, with lots of prosthetic limbs and biomechanical organs and attachments. The other is a more traditional group who've been mentioned before but never seen -- they're best described as a team of grown-up sidekicks. Both have small but important parts to play."
The superteam with the most important part to play, though, is The Seven. Ennis has hinted that The Boys are gearing up for a final conflict with their arch nemeses, but what can readers expect in terms of how the Boys' choice to bring the fight to the Seven will turn out? "You'll see next issue that the Boys make no such choice," said Ennis. "What happens instead is prompted by the actions of another party entirely -- and not the Seven."
While Ennis brings up a whole slew of new questions in the current arc of "The Boys," he's putting out a good many answers in "Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker," a new miniseries that reveals the origin of Billy Butcher, the leader and most brutal of The Boys. According to Ennis, there are two reasons that it's time to give readers the lowdown on Butcher. "His oncoming confrontation with the supes in general and the Homelander in particular, and the slow maturation of his own plans," he said. "Time to show where he came from, how his motivations developed."
This is not the first time Ennis has explored the origins of The Boys. The Frenchman, The Female and Mother's Milk have all told their stories to Hughie during the series' run, but Butcher will be confessing his beginnings to only one person: his dead father. "Mallory pointed out a couple of issues ago that Butcher's greatest skill is his ability to keep his mouth shut, to keep all his secrets to himself - thereby showing no weakness for anyone to work with," said Ennis. "He does have some things to get off his chest, but dead men tell no tales, as they say -- so who better than a dead man? As the story goes on you'll see why he chooses his father's wake as the moment to unburden himself; he has a little unfinished business with his old man."
Joining Ennis for "Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker" is original series artist and co-creator Darick Robertson, who described drawing a younger Butcher as "challenging."
"This Butcher is younger and a lot angrier," Robertson told CBR News. "Later, we'll see him meet his wife and fall in love, so showing Butcher evolve into a happy young man who's found love and settled down before tragedy strikes and changes him again is a strange balance to strike."
Butcher's origin marks Robertson's return to "The Boys" universe, putting all his focus onto the leader of The Boys. "Now that I'm in the final issues of Butcher, I can see how this time was necessary," Robertson said. "This particular origin story is a strong one, and Butcher is a key character. It was important to me to draw all the origin stories, and this one is a journey that has had me drawing the squalor of the East End of London in the '70s to the war ravaged Falkland Islands, and now the evolution of Butcher into the future leader of The Boys."
In addition to Butcher, his recently-revealed ex-mentor Mallory gets some time in Butcher's origin along with some brief appearances by the original line-up of The Boys and the Legend. "You'll see him go from childhood right up to the formation of the Boys -- the original line-up do make an appearance, but only Mallory gets any time in the spotlight, playing as he does a most important role in our hero's eventual choice of career," Ennis said. "You'll also see the Legend during his time as EIC of Victory Comics, and- naturally- some of the supes who show up in Butcher's sights."
At the end of the day, this is a story about Billy Butcher and what made him who he is. Artistically, Robertson noted the challenge of designing a young Billy Butcher while still depicting who he might come to be. "There was not only the challenge of designing young Billy Butcher and his family, but to capture that element of what makes that character come through so he works as a lead character in a stand-alone way. It usually comes down to his expressions."
Similarly, Robertson remarked on key differences between his work on "Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker" and his art duties on "The Boys."Â "There are small things that distinguish Butcher. His body language and attitude in the way he stands or is amongst a crowd," said the artist. "In the past I've been able to contrast that with Wee Hughie and the others.Â I'm also drawing characters sequentially for the first time, like Butcher's mentor, Mallory.
"In some ways I am experiencing this side of the character that I hadn't really visualized before," Robertson continued. "I was always trying to bring out that essence Garth Ennis was looking for when I first designed Butcher: 'A dark, cruel smile of malicious intent. He should look knowing, like he can see right into us, know our fear. A glint in the eye. An amused look.'"
"In this story, that look, that part of Butcher, is formed, so finding a balance of the angry young man, the happy young man and then the man he will become that the audience knows, has been something I've been conscious of while creating the art for this series."
While Robertson's design work for young Butcher is very conscious of balance, Ennis' description of Butcher's motivation couldn't be further from it. "Butcher's desire for revenge is what drives and consumes him, 100%," said the writer. "He's just a lot more thoughtful and restrained about how he goes about getting it. About the time the series finishes, events in the regular book will be lining up nicely for him -- or so it will initially appear."
Much of Butcher's hate is focused squarely on Voight-American, and Ennis assures that the beginning of their long vendetta will be brought to light. "All will be revealed in the latter half of the series," Ennis said. "Mallory's the man that throws the gasoline on the fire in that regard."
For Robertson, his favorite moment for the origin story had to do with Butcher's wife, Becky -- one that fans should already be familiar with. "[My favorite moment to draw was]Â a horrible, horrible scene where we actually see what Butcher described to Wee Hughie in the early issues of 'The Boys,' about what happened to Butcher's wife, Becky. Also, I really loved creating Becky, who is introduced in #3. I fell in love with this character a little bit myself in her too brief time in 'The Boys' universe."
As Ennis reflected on both the series proper and Butcher's upcoming origin, he also cited Becky as one of his favorite characters -- and not just for this book. "What I really enjoyed about this miniseries was writing Butcher's life story and introducing his wife Becky [in #3]," said Ennis. "I was determined to make her someone who really mattered, because so often with these revenge-driven characters we never get much sense of who their loved ones were - Maria Castle, for instance, has rarely been anything more than a cypher in The Punisher. I actually just started the last issue of The Boys [#72] yesterday, and I can honestly say that Butcher and Becky are pretty much my favorites out of all the characters I've created over the years -- in any series, not just this one."