The Boys was written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Darick Robertson. It was originally published by Wildstorm before moving to Dynamite Entertainment.
The series is set between 2006–2008 in a world where superheroes exist. However, most of the superheroes in the series’ universe are corrupted by their celebrity status and often engage in reckless behaviour, compromising the safety of the world. For this reason, a super powered CIA squad, known informally as “The Boys”, is charged with monitoring the superhero community; the name is Butcher’s contribution, a reference from his neighbourhood that those in power would “send the boys” to handle anyone causing trouble.
Ennis has said that the series would “out-Preacher Preacher“, presumably referring to the extreme violence and sexuality that were that series’ hallmark, and that the series would end with its seventy-second issue,
The Boys are a CIA black ops team, initially created by Col. Greg Mallory to manage, police, and sometimes liquidate Vought-American’s super humans. While this is in part to help protect normal humans from the actions of the largely out of control “supes,” this is also to ensure that the company lack the stability or the platform to push the use of superhumans in national defense.
Over time, however, the team’s focus was changed, due to Butcher’s increased influence, from one of management and containment to one of direct confrontation. As Mallory notes in #55, 14 people were killed by the Boys from 1987–95 and “nearly three times that number” between 1995 to 2002, when Butcher had gained more influence. This coincides with Mallory belief that in Issues #54-55 that in spite of the seductiveness of the concept of special forces teams, the application of them can often go wrong as they try to justify their budgets and create their private conflicts. As a result, Mallory feels that the original concept for the team has gone awry, and would never have created the unit as it currently stands.
The first iteration of the Boys were decommissioned after a disastrous confrontation with the Seven in 2001 that resulted in civilian casualties. However, the unit was reformed a few years later – indicated in #1 to be soon after the 2004 Presidential election – and have carried on where they left off. Due to the fact that direct confrontation may be needed, all the members have been enhanced strength and durability due to injections of Compound V, and all (with the exception of Hughie) show no restraint when on the attack – although they avoid killing when it complicates matters in most cases.
Billy Butcher : A native Englishman and the leader of the current incarnation of the Boys, Butcher is the second most prominent character in the series, aside from Wee Hughie. He was the first member of the team recruited by team founder, Greg Mallory, and served as the original group’s second-in-command until its disbandment as the result of events depicted in #50. It was he that coined the team name “the Boys” because in the East End “the boys” were who you said you’d send in to take care of troublemakers. At the beginning of the series, he works to reassemble the old team, with a new fifth member filling in for Mallory, whose leadership position Butcher takes for himself.
Hughie Campbell: The main protagonist of the series. He is often called by his nickname “Wee Hughie,” Hughie first experiences the world of super-humans first-hand when his girlfriend Robin is accidentally killed by ‘A-Train’, during a fight in which the latter was traveling faster than the speed of sound. Due to this experience, Butcher recruits to take Mallory’s vacated spot on the Boys, and would later inject him with Compound V, without Hughie’s permission.
Mother’s Milk: A large, African-American man, he first appears in issue 2. He is a highly patient and methodical man, taught by his father to check every possible angle and means of attack, and can be somewhat particular (getting annoyed whenever anyone doesn’t put a drink coaster under their glasses). He is the only member on the team, aside from the retired Greg Mallory, who is an American citizen by birth. His nickname apparently came about because he is the “purest”, i.e. most goodhearted, member of the team. In issue #35, M.M. reveals that he is the only member of the unit to have been exposed to Compound V since conception. His mother worked in a factory that had previously been a Vought-American lab, and hadn’t been sanitized afterwards, leading to her being contaminated with Compound V. As a result, his brother Michael was born with severe mental retardation and he himself was born needing regular doses of his mother’s breast milk to survive. #17 hinted at this, and showed him throwing up and feeling disturbed by the constant need. At the same time, he finds the nourishment highly energizing and developing into a breast fetish, adding to his discomfort.
The Frenchman: First seen in issue 2, he is one of the original Boys, and displays a penchant for extreme violence within a few frames of his first appearance. His spoken French uses incorrect phrasing, though whether this is an intentional plot point is not known. He takes an immediate liking to “Petit Hughie.” He and the Female are the ‘muscles’ of the team – and mad. While the Frenchman is merely crazy, the Female may be psychotic. According to Mother’s Milk, however, it’s better for the rest of the humans if they are in the team rather than in the outside world. Like Billy and Mother’s Milk, the Frenchman possesses military experience, particularly holding knowledge in ballistics, to the extent that Butcher refers to him on that matter. The Frenchman also possesses an incredibly strong sense of smell.
The Female: One of the earliest members of the Boys. First appearance is issue 2. She is known for her brutality (which visibly shocks even Butcher), and suffers from selective-mutism. When not working for the Boys, she used to do freelance work for the Mafia. Her nickname is derived from the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name.