The Boys supervillain Homelander is just as maniacally insecure in short-form animation as he is in live-action.
In 2021, after two seasons of critical acclaim and a season two Emmy nomination for outstanding drama series, Amazon Prime Video expanded the world of The Boys, its no-holds-barred satire of superhero storytelling and modern-day America. And in March 2022, the second addition to the Boys shared universe, The Boys Presents: Diabolical, premiered with eight animated shorts, each utilizing anthology storytelling and a unique animation style.
The Boys and Diabolical executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg originally approached comedy triumvirate The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer) to write an episode, but Samberg himself had a rather unexpected idea. “I have a long-running rule of when Seth and Evan call me, I just say, ‘What is it?’ And the answer is almost always yes,” Samberg said during a recent THR Presents panel, powered by Vision Media. “For whatever reason, I was like, ‘I have an idea. It’s not a comedy idea, but I have an idea.’”
Samberg’s episode, titled “John and Sun-Hee,” was nominated for the outstanding short-form animated program Emmy and tells the story of a Korean-American man who steals Compound V to hopefully cure his ailing wife’s pancreatic cancer. The short’s fusion of drama and horror was certainly a left turn from the multi-hyphenate’s usual calling card of comedy, and Korean-American animation director Steve Ahn was then brought in to shape the Korean animation style of the piece. “Nothing was set in stone. I just needed to cook it more in Korean flavors and spices,” Ahn said.
Showrunner Simon Racioppa was encouraged by The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke to run wild and that no idea was too crazy for this adult animated series. Three of the episodes are also considered to be canon within the mothership series’ story, including Samberg and Ahn’s “John and Sun-Hee” and co-director Giancarlo Volpe, co-director Jae Kim and writer Racioppa’s “One Plus One Equals Two,” which is Homelander’s (Antony Starr) origin story. “Eric was like, ‘Let’s go crazy. There’s almost no guardrails. Let’s do something big and amazing and awesome.’ I think his only request was [that] it had to be great,” Racioppa recalled.
Supervising director Volpe, who also directed Garth Ennis’ “I’m Your Pusher” script, is grateful to be a part of a franchise and an animated series that can take chances. “There’s a lot of stuff that you’re not allowed to do because of this gross preconception that animation is for kids. And so, it’s such a great pairing to have animation and The Boys. We’ve been saying for decades, as animators or animation people, like, ‘Stop putting us in a box,’” Volpe said.
With so much superhero material available right now, The Boys franchise, based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic series of the same name, is able to go against the grain, and for Samberg, he appreciates the unpredictability that comes with a universe that is not trying to appeal to the masses.
Added Samberg: “[The Boys] didn’t start out trying to be for everybody. When you set up the rules early that you can do whatever you fucking feel like, that’s very freeing for a viewer to be like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ It’s almost like the superhero version of South Park where [the viewer] is like, ‘Well, I’m not holding this to the standard of a Marvel or something. I’m holding it to the standard of the world of The Boys because it created its own lane.’”
While conversations are currently happening for another batch of episodes, Racioppa insists that the title of the series would remain the North Star.
Added Racioppa: “[We would] give you something new. That’s the promise of Diabolical.”
This edition of THR Presents is sponsored by Prime Video.