The Boys is a series by Garth Ennis, with art by Darick Robertson and others. It concerns a CIA-sponsored team of Empowered Badass Normals which monitors, polices and (often) terminates corrupt superhumans. Gritty, violent, and darkly humorous, the series frequently veers into Author Tract territory regarding its gleeful depiction of the majority of costumed supers as perverts and child molesters, dropping some anvils on a lot of ugly tropes that have been plaguing superhero comics. Much like Watchmen by Alan Moore, this series is a Deconstructor Fleet. However, instead of attacking the mythos of the superhero, it goes after the sleazy corporate underbelly that grew up around it.As with Preacher, a few different limited series have been published. Herogasm is, for whatever reason, a six-issue limited series that's essentially an extra arc in the main plot, as Butcher's squad investigates the superheroes' annual island getaway in order to learn what really happened on 9/11. Highland Laddie follows Hughie during his absence from the main book, as he returns to his foster parents' home in Scotland. Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker is a six-issue miniseries featuring Butcher, reminiscing about his life after returning to England for his father's funeral. The team consists of:
Alternate Universe: Beyond the whole superhero thing, the main deviations are the presence of Vought-American throughout the twentieth century, Robert Kennedy winning the presidency, George W. Bush dying in a chainsaw accident before his political career manifested and the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge due to a botched rescue attempt by the Seven on September 11, 2001.
Dakota Bob, the President during the series's present day, apparently got his political career started as a backup vice-presidential candidate for George H.W. Bush, after Dan Quayle's verbal tics got him thrown off the ticket.
In the "Barbary Coast" arc, Mallory tells Hughie about meeting Prescott Sheldon Bush - father of George, grandfather of George W., prominent figure in conspiracy theories - in 1944, on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge. In real history, the elder Bush did not pursue political ambitions until 1950; in The Boys, he's already a senator from Connecticut, although his explicit connections to Voight-American provide a handy reason why he might have gotten ahead of the game. The elder Bush is promptly shot dead in a German ambush, whereas the real Prescott Bush lived until 1972.
Tek Knight. He has sex with a male telepathic android, a cup of hot coffee, his Alfred-Expy butler's ear and a watermelon. It turns out this is because of a tumor. Then again, many of the other supers have sex with anyone or anything and they don't have tumors.
Terror, should his beloved Billy command it.
Apathetic Citizens: The East Enders' lack of reaction towards his mother collapsing on the sidewalk (due to his father's beatings) prompts him to think the Luftwaffe missed a few spots.
Applied Phlebotinum: Compound V, the substance that Vought-American and the CIA use to create superhumans.
We know that Garth Ennis doesn't have any respect for superheroes, because he grew up reading (and later writing) Judge Dredd and most of them seem very silly to him.
As seen in issue 27, Garth Ennis doesn't think much of American St. Patrick's Day.
Badass Longcoat: All of The Boys wear a long black coat, precisely because they're scarier than most superheroes' costumes and even make the Boys feel more tough. Butcher explains the fashion accessory as an easy way to tell friend from foe in a vicious melee.
"When in doubt, fuck-up any cunt not wearin' a coat."
— Billy Butcher, The Boys
Badass Normal: Though The Boys themselves only appear to be normal the Vought American troops play it straight, killing off a group of X-Men expies (all 60+ of them) in a matter of seconds using only present day weapons.
Bear Hug: Soviet superhero Love Sausage bear-hugs Billy Butcher (in a friendly fashion) when they first meet.
Berserk Button: The Female must not be touched. Although The Frenchman can touch her without setting off the Ax-Crazy in her; it has been revealed that following a very, very troubled childhood, Frenchie was the first to show her kindness, becoming a father figure of sort, while the others stayed their distance until she was properly house broken.
Big Bad: The nameless Vought-American executive. And Homelander. And maybe Black Noir. And maybe even Butcher himself.
By a process of deduction, his name seems to be Stillwell.
After having killed Mallory, Vas, The Legend, Mother's Milk, the Frenchman, and the Female, as well as coming up with a plan to kill every single person with a trace of V in their blood, the real Big Bad seems to be Butcher.
Bio-Augmentation: Every one of The Boys was treated with the same Super Serum that created all of the superpowered people. As a result, even Wee Hughie has enough Super Strength to punch holes in other supers, and, presumably, corresponding resistance to trauma. As Butcher explained, Muggles just can't get far in the world where "superheroes" don't have much compunctions against killing or maiming their opponents.
"Can't operate without it. 'cause otherwise you get into a barney with one of these cunts, an' he punches you in the face, he's gonna take your whole head off..."
— Billy Butcher, The Boys, "The Name Of The Game."
Every major superhuman and team has been wiped out, their amoral escapades made public knowledge, and Butcher even gets his revenge on the superhuman who raped his wife, but he then attempts to kill every superhuman on the planet and as a result dies at Hughie's hands.
Hughie and Starlight live Happily Ever After, but Mother's Milk, Frenchman and the Female die at Butcher's hands.
Some might say The Bad Guy Wins as Vought-American Consolidated throws most of the blame on Jessica Bradley and gets away scott free as "American Consolidated", but it was All for Nothing as superheroes have been thoroughly outed as pointless and/or amoral, and AC's first attempt at changing that image is not promising; "The True", a dysfunctional new superteam(one of which is "plainly The Deep") clad in charming KKK white. Stillwell is implied to have a Villainous Breakdown - his first expression of emotion in the entire series - when he realizes that he's been left with the worse of all mercantile outcomes: bad product.
Black Comedy Rape: Billy's dog Terror is trained to violently sodomize small dogs and cats. Billy and Hughie see it as the funniest thing ever. Later, we get a double-dose of it when Monkey first gets his own dildo shoved up his arse after trying to use it on a far-from-helpless paralympian, and then gets buggered, mercifully off-screen, by Terror.
Boisterous Bruiser: Vas, aka "The Love Sausage", a former Russian superhero who is so unbelievably pleasant that even Billy Butcher likes him. Hughie also enjoys his honest virtue and friendliness, and is the only one who will drink Vas' brake fluid-derived alcohol.
Body Horror: Happens to those with incomplete control over their powers. Frankly, also describes the result of most of the violence seen in the series. Special mention must go to Black Noir after his fight with the Homelander: his superhuman body has suffered at least a dozen instantly-fatal-to-normals wounds and because he's a pinnacle superhuman HE'S STILL GOING.
Also an auxiliary role of The Seven. Homelander and A-Train have been shown to be utilized in this capacity.
The Homelander: Really, it's Vought's fault, expecting us to clean up their mess. Some C-Lister goes off the rails and they think there won't be any collateral?
Came Back Wrong: Voight has a really expensive procedure that can re-animate anything with Compound V in its system... as brain-dead zombies prone to soil themselves, as demonstrated by The Lamplighter and Blarney Cock.
Captain Ersatz: Most superheroes are obviously based on ones from other companies.
Pegg's been told that "the part is his if he wants it," in the Film of the Book, although Pegg himself has expressed concern that he might be too old to play it at this point.
He has a point, since Hughie is supposed to be in his late 20s/early 30s, while Pegg is in his 40s.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Vought-American, but especially the nameless Vought-American executive who runs everything behind the scenes and functions as the series' Big Bad.
Crapsack World: Nearly all of the "heroes" are assholes, America is almost completely run by corrupt corporation that can get away with selling faulty military hardware time and again among other worse things, the protagonists are nearly as bad as the "heroes" and just about everyone else is portrayed as a colossal Jerk Ass if not worse.
Crisis Crossover: Parodied. The 'Herogasm' miniseries establishes that the superheroes routinely use 'crises' of this nature as a cover story for when they want to get out of the public eye in order to have an orgy.
Cruel and Unusual Death: So many. Butcher slowly gutting Jack from Jupiter with a cleaver, President Schaefer getting his face eaten by a rabid wolverine, any of Frenchie and the Female's many kills, and of course, the incredibly horrific things that Black Noir does to an ordinary family while pretending to be the Homelander...
Curb-Stomp Battle: The final confrontation between superheroes and the military turns into this, as F-16s armed with missiles designed specifically to target supes devastate the flying heroes whilst A-10s sent against the ground-based heroes do what they do best, and do it extremely well. A much-weakened and disemboweled Black Noir, fresh from killing the Homelander, attracts a storm of firepower from the Marines outside the White House and still survives long enough for Butcher to finally pry open his skull with a crowbar, rip out his brain, and crush it in his fist.
In Mallory's flashback to WW2, a German panzer brigade wipes out an unprepared US tank battalion, casually slaughtering the pathetically incompetent prototype supers who unwittingly led the Germans to the battalion in the first place.
Cute Bruiser: The Female. Note that she's only "cute" in appearance.
Actually she is shown to become this more literally near the end, as the Frenchman's efforts to deal with her explosive anger bear fruit, she is even shown laughing out loud when it is revealed Hughie trying to get fap material of Queen Maeve may have ended up giving them a lead on Black Noir.
Darker and Edgier: Takes this to extreme levels, so the world looks no more "realistic" than any four-color comics (it includes things like massive corporate conspiracy that allows a bunch of incredibly perverted and sociopathic people to successfully pass for The Capes since 1950s, for starters), it is just on the very opposite end of Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
Dating Catwoman: Wee Hughie is sleeping with superheroine Starlight. But neither one knows what the other one actually does for a living. Until issue 44. More literally, the threesome between Tek-Knight, Swingwing and Talon. Talon is an Expy of Catwoman.
In a more vicious sense, Butcher and Raynor's relationship. They hate each other passionately, and thus meet up regularly for wild illicit sex. Butcher records one such encounter, which is ultimately used as blackmail against Raynor when she tries to run for Congress.
Dawson Casting: An in-universe example, most of the people who are are in teen and kid superhero groups are actually in their late twenties to early thirties.
Death Equals Redemption: Before Queen Maeve gets killed by The Homelander, she manages to save Starlight from getting killed too.
Defector from Decadence: Starlight really looks like she is going in this direction. Not surprising, considering what she has to put up with.
The later issues portray Queen Maeve in this light, in a weird sort of way. We've mostly seen her as a martini-swilling background character, with a personal butler and, we're told, a penchant for bodybuilders. She's clearly post-traumatic after the events of September 11th, and turns out to be the Boys' mole in the Seven.
Distracted from Death: In the issue that shows Butcher's past as a Royal Marine, we see him and his squad charging a machine gun nest during the Falklands War. Butcher makes it into the nest and slaughters the Argentinians there, then triumphantly turns to celebrate with his mates, only to see that they all were mowed down charging the nest.
Does Not Know His Own Strength: Wee Hughie didn't expect to be able to punch a hole through the stomach of a super, as evidenced when he accidentally killed Blarney Cock. Earlier, he expresses his fear of ripping off his own penis the next time he jacks off.
Epic Fail: Vought-American in general. Going chronologically in-universe;
VA's first major government contract(prior to that, they made boots) was a team of incompetent first-generation superhumans that they tried to foist on the Army at the Battle of the Bulge. They not only draw the Nazis right to the camp where they're being deployed and get themselves killed to the last man, but in the process manage to trash a shipment of tanks and fighters that were already performing only slightly better than they were(also provided by Vought) - the sole survivor being Mallory.
Their next masterpiece was the V.A.C. F7U Grizzly - basically the Brewster F2A Buffalo with the serial numbers filed off.
The straw that broke the camel's back was the M-20 Assault Rifle, which failed so badly that the MacGyvering Viet Cong didn't even bother to salvage the guns or the ammunition, instead using them as mounts for the heads of the one thousand American GIs that died trying to use them at the Battle of Ia Drang Valley - a slight exaggeration of what happened when the original M16 rifle was deployed in Vietnam without sufficient testing of the design and ammunition. The only difference between fiction and reality is there wasn't a single dramatic incident, but simply an ongoing stream of lethal failures. Vought never got a government contract again.
Marine Corps Rifleman, Vietnam: We left with 72 men in our platoon and came back with 19. Believe it or not, you know what killed most of us? Our own rifle. Practically every one of our dead was found with his [M16] torn down next to him where he had been trying to fix it.
But the Pièce de Résistance was the Seven's attempt to save Flight 175 on September Eleventh. Even if their plan had run smoothly, they would have entered the plane from both sides through the forward doors. The plane would have depressurized from both sides. On top of that, the attempt was part of Vought-American's plan to boost supers for national defense. That they would allow such a poorly thought out plan of attack with so much riding on it is idiotic. Especially as they had their moronic man in the White House, Vic the Veep, knock out the president with a fire extinguisher in order to let the Seven make the attempt.
Vought-American is, overall, a representation of a small but recurring theme in Ennis's work: the greed and carelessness of war profiteers (and corporations in general). While Vought's activities throughout history (as discussed in issues #19-22) are pretty ridiculous when you see them on the page, they're actually Aluminum Christmas Trees; a decent example of the same thing in real life is the shortage of body armor for American troops at the start of the Iraq War. Essentially, his theme is that such corporations are really only interested in bottom-line profit, not any moral concerns, and if there's a way for them to increase their profit without having to worry about such concerns as safety, morality or even whether the product works (such as, say, if they've bought and paid for all the lawmakers who might intervene and restrain them), then they won't hesitate to follow it.
Expy: As with Hitman, most of the antagonists to appear in the comic are thinly disguised parodies of mainstream superheroes. The Seven are roughly analogous to the "Big Seven" Justice League, although Starlight is the replacement for another member from a Teen Titans analogue, so her corresponding character seems to be Starfire; Tek-Knight, despite his suit, is a Batman parody; the G-Men are a barely-concealed take-off on the X-Men; the Maverikz, a one-shot super-team that appears in issue #31 long enough to get maimed, are take-offs of the original line-up of the Outsiders; Payback's members all correspond to various Avengers; and Paralactic, the super team sent to mildly inconvenience the Boys in issue #61, are vaguely similar to the WildC.A.T.s.
Eye Scream: Lots of it. A particularly horrifying one occurs when one little girl's powers backfire and she ends up with her eyes melting and running down her face as she cries that she's sorry.
Fan Disservice: Plenty of it. The death of The Crimson Countess and Hughie and Starlight's first sexual encounter are both prime examples.
Famous Last Words: "Why the fuck you gotta do this? Why you gotta be the way you are?! You think I fucking want this shit, goddammit?!" – Mother's Milk
"Nice one, mate." – Butcher.
Fastball Special: A hilariously gory subversion. Maeve picks up her nerdy, sycophantic butler and throws him bodily at the Homelander. The butler crows with delight at being shown such favour by Maeve – and then splatters fatally against Homelander's super-durable chest.
The Smart Guy: This role gets divided between Butcher and Mother's Milk.
The Chick: Wee Hughie. He fits this role much better than the actual woman in the group.
The Big Guy: The Female and The Frenchman. They're almost exclusively portrayed as the muscle of the group.
French Jerk: Averted. The Frenchman is probably the warmest, friendliest, most genial guy in the entire series. Of course, he's also a homicidal maniac, but that just makes it even more remarkable how affable he is.
Gag Penis: In his first appearance, the Boys look on in horror as Vas stands proudly in his spandex uniform, and it is very blatantly obvious why his superhero name was "Love Sausage." It's so big that he becomes physically unable to run after encountering a room full of scantily dressed women. That's right, he was stopped by his own erection.
"Big titties... are my kryptonite."
— Vas, aka Love Sausage, The Boys, "Glorious Five Year Plan."
Justified by the sad real life example of a man with a two-foot-long penis. Even minor arousal sends a significant amount of blood to his genitals, causing him to lose consciousness.
Genocide from the Inside: This is Butcher's ultimate plan, to wipe out everyone who has every been exposed to Compund V. The fact that he and all of his closest friends are among those people and it would mean destroying a big chunk of the world's population due to how ubiquitous the stuff has become doesn't stop him from moving forward with his plan.
The Ghost: Mallory. Until he first shows up, in disguise, during the Highland Laddie arc.
A God Am I: Believe arc, issue 46, as the Homelander sends the Mullers to their deaths, he spends the final moments of the "flight" bashing religion as whole aside, the existence of God in particular, then he spouts the settling line.
"The only man in the sky is me."
— The Homelander, The Boys, "Believe."
Gorn: Lots of it. Sometimes played for laughs, other times (especially in the 9/11 sequence and the images of Black Noir's atrocities) for horror.
Groin Attack: Butcher's keen on these, as part of his overall dirty-fighting methods. Stormfront gets a pretty serious one from Mother's Milk in The Self-Preservation Society and apparently Monkey suffered quite a bit after Butcher did it to him.
The Reveal shows that he was already past this point by the time of the Little Nina incident. He comes up with a plan to kill everyone with compound V in their system, which would include all of The Boys as well as countless innocents, becoming the Big Bad, and also the Hero Killer by personally killing Mother's Milk, as well as setting up a bomb to take out The Frenchman and the Female.
Hijacked by Ganon: Black Noir is looking more and more like this for the franchise as of Issue #64.
Historical In-Joke: Batman's alter ego is Bruce Wayne, and the alter ego of The Boys' version of Batman, Tek Knight, is Robert Vernon. Sounds like a small reference to Robert theBruce
Ludicrous Gibs: When the Seven's intervention into the 9/11 attacks backfires, Queen Maeve decides to flee. The terrified passengers grab onto her, trying to stop her from flying away. She flies through them in a fountain of gore and severed limbs.
Karma Houdini: Stillwell gets off scott free for the events the Supe attack on the White House. He then informs Hughie that the rebranded Vought American intend to go on business as usual.
Although it seems to be rather a pyrrhic victory for Stillwell as he is now locked in an endless, fruitless struggle to turn superheroes into a profitable product. Knowing all too well their deficiencies, and seeing that they are never going to change, he himself realizes that he is stuck with a "bad product."
Kick the Dog: After an failed attempt to engineer a confrontation between the Seven and the Boys, one of the Seven kills Terror. As the Boys were investigating Jack From Jupiter at the time, Butcher has one of his periodic psychotic episodes and guts him with a carving knife. However, a Meaningful Look in the previous issue implies that Homelander was responsible.
Kick the Morality Pet: Billy spends sixty-odd issues showing what a calculating, cool-headed manipulator he can be. When Terror is killed, however, he throws it all to the wind and brutally murders the guy he believes to be responsible, regardless of the repercussions.
Kids Are Cruel: A flashback shows that upon seeing a dog stranded on a rock in the middle of a river, Hughie and pals proceed to throw stones at it. Fortunately, Hughie realizes what he's doing and rescues him.
Killed Off for Real: Terror, Jack from Jupiter, A-Train, Queen Maeve, Oh Father, The Homelander, Black Noir (and must of the superheroes who took part in the Coup), Love Sausage (or Vas to his friends), The Legend, Mother's Milk, Dr. Vogelbaum, The Frenchman & The Female. And as of Issue 71, Billy Butcher.
Kill Them All: The only named characters to survive the series are Hughie, Starlight, The Deep, Kessler(AKA Monkey), Rayner and Stillwell. Even out of those, Rayner's nascent political career is ruined by Kessler releasing a choice piece of blackmail material provided by Hughie, and Stillwell is implied to have a breakdown after realizing that his job - turning superhumans into a marketable product - is completely hopeless. But the other three finally shed their Butt Monkey statuses, with Kessler relatively secure in his CIA directorship and Hughie and Starlight living Happily Ever After.
Madness Mantra: Butcher, at the end of The Big Ride arc, repeatedly asking Jack From Jupiter"Why'd you kill me dog, Jack?" each time he stabs him.
"It ain't me, son. I'm somewhere else, watchin' it happen."
— Billy Butcher, The Boys, "The Big Ride."
Manipulative Bastard: Billy Butcher. He is willing to say and do anything to draw Hughie into his personal crusade.
Meaningful Name: Stormfront, a Superman/Thor analogue with a, ahem, fascist bent, shares his name with a white supremacist message board.
Mook Horror Show: More than once, though in at least once case replace "mook" with "supe."
Mooks: Subverted when an army of faceless mercenaries under Vought-American's pay obliterates an entire army of superheroes with cold, efficient ease.
Morality Pet: The events of Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker states that Terror is a literal example for Billy, on the advice of his late wife.
The Female, despite being an irredeemable sociopath, clearly adores both Terror and Jamie the Hamster.
Inverted - Hughie is already a really nice guy, so him adopting Jamie the Hamster makes sense. Threatening Jamie, however, turns out to be Hughie's Berserk Button.
Subverted - Billy initially portrays his relationship with Hughie in this way ("I always wanted a little brother"), but it quickly becomes clear that this is just another part of Billy's machinations to get Hughie doing dirty/wetwork that The Boys require.
It may not have been just that, though. Yes, Billy is a ruthless SOB, but at the same time throughout the series he's clearly been genuinely fond of Hughie, making him one of the few people to have that kind of relationship with Billy (apart from the rest of the Boys and Vas). However, as the latest issues have shown, Billy won't let any sentimentality get in the way of his objective, which is the elimination of every person with Compound V in their system, including himself.
Motivational Lie: Near the very end of the series, Butcher is trying to get Hughie to perform a Mercy Kill on him, and Hughie can't, both for psychological reasons and because Hughie is badly injured himself. Then Butcher tells Hughie that Butcher killed Hughie's parents, complete with details about their house that back up that Butcher had been there. Suddenly Hughie doesn't have a problem offing Butcher. A couple of minutes later, Hughie gets a call from his parents telling him how nice his boss was when Butcher apparently visited them Off Panel.
Muggles Do It Better: A central point of the series. When the faecal matter hits the cooling device, undisciplined, untrained superheroes prove to be no match whatsoever for the military, both in the present and when Vought first sought to use them in the Second World War.
Ms. Fanservice: Starlight's official role in The Seven, although she rebels against it. She also spends an awful lot of time naked through out the series.
National Stereotypes: Played with in the case of The Frenchman; he's from a village called Franglais, where they speak a unique dialect and regularly engage in the time-honored tradition of baguette-jousting on bicycles whilst wearing stripy tops and onions and uttering the "Haw-he-haw-he-haw" battlecry. Just don't suggest to him that the French are cowards. Of course since he's an insaneUnreliable Narrator, the accuracy of his backstory is questionable, to say the least.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Played with. The reason of why Mr Marathon, the original speeder of the Seven, died in the ill-planned rescue of the hijacked plane was because of his half-baked attempt to stick to the allegedly heroic ideals of the team. When the Homelander was about to turn tail and leave, Marathon insisted they continue. Not because of The Flash expy's moral sense or anything like that; he just pointed out that Vought-American would surely fire them if they gave up.
No One Could Survive That: Black. Motherfucking. Noir. One of the marines watching the White House from behind the fench said this when seeing the super draging himself along out of the Oval Office with half of his head missing, his limbs burned to the bone and his guts hanging out behind him after killing Homelander. Then, he was continuously shot at by a full platoon of marines (including some tanks), leaving him with no hands, no feet, no ab muscles, one arm missing, and his whole skin pierced with more holes than Spongebob, and he still managed to stand up. Then, Butcher came at him and cracked open his skull with a crowbar, and took away a large chunk of his brain, and it wasn't enough to take him down. AND THEN, Butcher crushed the brain chunk in his hand in front of Black Noir's eyes, and ONLY THEN he finally died (or maybe understood he was dead)!
Only Sane Man: Mother's Milk, at least before Wee Hughie's arrival.
Older Than They Look: Specifically invoked for Stormfront, Mallory and Vogelbaum, and suggested for everyone else, due to the effects of Compound V making them age slowly - in appearance.
Mallory: Don't get too excited, it's not eternal life. Feels more like taxidermy, if the truth be told. You'll get a few more years than you might have done, and you won't look your age until the end. You'll only feel it. Pickled was the word Vogelbaum liked to use.
Psychic Radar: Member of the super team Payback, Mindroid, can use his telepathy to detect the presence of another person in an area at least the size of a building. He can't precisely define an exact location, only whether or not someone's in the room or not and what their surface thoughts are.
Rape as Backstory: An in-universe example, oddly enough. The Seven are having their image reworked into a Darker and Edgier mold, and the public relations people try to convince Starlight to go along with rape being a part of her back story and motivation for becoming a hero. 1) This wasn't true, and 2) Starlight has been sexually abused, by members of the Seven, including a forcible Attempted Rape. As a result she's not pleased and verbally chews out the PR guys.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Stillwell, the nameless Vought-American executive, delivers a major one to the Homelander in #64, pointing out that for all his raging God-complex and evil tendencies, he's done absolutely nothing worthwhile or original whatsoever and is ultimately just an insecure little speck desperately trying to find some way of impressing him. The Homelander... doesn't react well.
Reed Richards Is Useless: Technology that could be made to improve living conditions and save lives is instead being used exclusively to make shiny suits so millionaire playboys can go on high-tech joyrides.
Scotireland: Lampshaded in-universe example. Hughie is Scottish, but when infiltrating the G-Men on St Patrick's day, they ask him if it's celebrated the same back in Ireland.
Ennis himself said later in an interview: "What the fuck does that even mean?"
Shout-Out: The Female got her powers from falling into a big canister of synthesized Compound V. The name of the person in charge of the project? Doctor Uderzo. The team that was sent to retrieve Female are about as successful as the marines in Aliens and even quote the movie directly. The few comics that aren't on the receiving end of a Take That are the 2000AD ones Frenchie buys for Female.
The bar that Butcher is drinking in during issue #27 is an extremely subtle reference to Preacher, as is its bartender.
The "Get Some" story arc (The Boys # 7) opens with the Tek Knight talking to a shrink. The point is the way this shrink is drawn in some panels bears a certain resemblance to actor Michael Keaton (maybe not as blatant as Christopher Walken in "Punisher Presents Barracuda", also written by Garth Ennis, but the similarity is there). It's quite fitting since Tek Knight is a pastiche/parody of Batman, and Michael Keaton is of course well known as having played the Dark Knight in the Batman films by Tim Burton.
Mother's Milk purchases a large bottle of maple syrup from an individual bearing a distinct likeness to Marge Simpson in "We Gotta Go Now".
Spider Jerusalem can be seen in issue one (page #10, panel two), in the background between A-train and the Glaswegian Policemen.
In Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker, Butcher directly quotes Spider's favorite catchphrase of "If I gave two tugs of a dead dog's cock..."
During the Name of The Game arc, as Butcher explains why he works for the C.I.A. he makes an allusion to Batman in his reasons.
"I mean, what else am I gonna do? Use me billion dollar inheritance and operate out of a cave?"
Several characters in Hughie's hometown are named after DC Thomson comics, including Beezer, Topper (Tupper) and the Reverend Dandy, the latter of which breaks the fourth wall in the same manner of the characters from those comics. Hughie's parents resemble those from Oor Wullie, and Hughies sits on a bucket in the same position as Wullie.
Silent Bob: The Female hasn't made so much as a sound on panel, yet she is quite capable of making herself understood to the Frenchman.
Except that one time she laughed at Hughie for stealing Queen Maeve's file from Doc Peculiar's place in the hopes of scoring some wank material. Everyone else was as disturbed as you'd think by this.
As of issue 66, after a timeskip of unspecified length, she's still laughing.
Semi-subverted in issue 68, where a dialog balloon says: "I hate mean people". While it's obvious that she's the one talking (because the other three characters present in the scene are shown in the panel), she still hasn't been actually SHOWN uttering any words.
Deconstructed with Butcher, who shows exactly what would happen when such a 'hero' loses the common goal that made him a hero, as Butcher ascends into Big Bad status.
Butcher: Men are only so much use, Hughie. Men are boys.
The Sociopath: Most of the superheroes, when they're not performing for the media. Taken Up to Eleven by the Homelander and even more so by Black Noir, who commit staggeringly nasty acts of violence purely For the Evulz.
Butcher ultimately becomes one, despite his affable façade.
Stripperiffic: Starlight's costume becomes progressively skimpier as the series goes on, though not by her own choice. She finally finds the courage to say "no" when they attempt to dress her in what is effectively a slingshot bikini.
Also, it is mentioned that when Vought-American was looking for a vice presidential candidate hand puppet, they went to the Bush family, but the last son had managed to cut off his own head playing with a chainsaw.
Starlight's reaction to the aforementioned "bikini" costume can be seen as a shot at quite a few Rape as Drama plots in mainstream comics in the 2000's, particularly Identity Crisis (the storyline, we were told, that involved a DC editor's decree that "we need a rape") and Kevin Smith's "The Evil That Men Do."
Swingwing's public service announcements on behalf of teenage gays are an extremely thinly veiled shot at Judd Winick's notoriously anvil-laden run on Green Lantern.
Ennis seems to despise the Bush family in general. Prescott Bush is a Sleazy Politician who dies because he ignores the objections and military procedure of those who know what they're doing in favor of following orders from the corporation who bought him, George H.W. Bush is less competent than his own vice-president and only gets to be president because he served his time and it was his turn, and George W. Bush, (as has been mentioned a few times on this page) accidentally cut his head off while playingwith a chainsaw before ever gaining national recognition.
The whole story can also be seen as a Take That to anti-heroes who are presented as being as noble as traditional superheroes, like the tagline on the Rob Liefeld created Youngblood. Especially in light of The Seven being more focused on making money from their merchandise than being heroes, which is commonly stated as Liefeld's reasons for not getting comics out on time in the 1990's.
You can generally pinpoint how much Ennis dislikes certain characters. Some of the most venomous depictions of characters are ones that Ennis has gone on record as hating: Wolverine becomes a near-mute freak who can't eat his own food without assistance, Nineties Anti Heroes are C-List Fodder, and Soldier Boy is regularly referred to as "an insult", an opinion Ennis has often offered about heroes being involved in real-world events. Consider the following: the very first line of dialogue after the comic left DC because DC was worried it would taint their brand was a Batman expy proclaiming "I like to have sex with things." On the other hand, he has a soft spot for the Big Three Justice Leaguers, and as a result;
Tek-Knight is a relatively nice guy who even dies heroically, saving a mother and child from a wheelbarrow-full of bricks falling from a construction site (though he has a Dying Dream of saving the world from an asteroid by fucking it.) It's even revealed that his recent bouts of unwilling hypersexuality were caused by a brain tumor.
Those Wacky Nazis: Stormfront, created by Vogelbaum for the Nazis, now working for Vought. He still holds to the ideals of the Third Reich, though.
The Unfettered: The nameless Vought-American executive, to the point where he terrifies superpowered-individuals who could kill him in an instant.
To the incredible extent that not only is he outwardly calm, he's inwardly calm too - Homelander is dumbfounded that, even when threatened with violent dismemberment, the VA exec's heart rate doesn't budge in the slightest.
The Worf Barrage: half a dozen tanks, thirty miniguns, all of them firing depleted uranium rounds of the highest calibre. That's the unholy shit unloaded on Black Noir ALONE while already having half of his limbs burned, half of his head snatched away and all his guts hanging out as a result for killing Homelander. And he still manages to survive that (although he comes out of it crippled to such a point that the mere fact of him still standing up could fit in the Artistic Licence - Biology trope.
Title Drop: When Butcher explains that where he came from, you'd send "the boys" to take care of the problem.
Urine Trouble: Various characters piss themselves when faced with interrogation by the Boys. The "resurrected" superheroes are all apparently incontinent, too.
At one point, the Female pisses on the ice cream of a boy who earlier stole her lollipop.
Vice President Who: Zig-Zagged. Vic the Veep is incompetent, borderline mentally retarded and doesn't even hide that he's a Vought Corporation puppet through and through, but that doesn't make him harmless. For example, as the President is about to give the order to shoot down the 9/11 airliners before they hit, Vic knocks him out with a fire extinguisher (everyone else had been staring at the screens), as Vought/American wanted their supers to save the day as a PR move.
Violent Glaswegian: Averted. Wee Hughie is the only member of The Boys who isn't a violent psychopath.
Villainous Breakdown: Homelander is fond of these when he doesn't get his way. Stillwell seems to be most likely to instigate these.
Ironically, Stillwell seems to have one at the end. He realizes that whatever he does to spin super-powered people to the public, it's still flawed and ultimately, bad product.
Villain with Good Publicity: Ironically, Superheroes. The Legend even says there aren't very many genuine super villains because most of the amoral sociopaths realize that being a privileged, well paid "Superhero" is so much easier.
"Wee" Hughie: Brits just get a wee bit suspicious when folks start wavin' flags, you know? Mother's Milk: Don't blame 'em. Mattera fact, you might say the more you wave it, the less it means. Less you think about what it means. Start wrappin' shit up in it, wear it like some kinda goddamn suit...? Hell. Pretty soon, it don't mean nothin' at all.
Wham Episode: Issue 31 The next issue line is "And Then There Were Four..." Also the last issue of the We Gotta Go Now story arc.
Issue 63 may be the start of a series of whams, as Frenchie loses an arm, and A-Train and Queen Maeve are killed.
Issue 65. Homelander is dead. Black Noir is dead, a clone of Homelander, and the one who REALLY raped Becky. He also is the reason why Homelander became, "...a complete fucking psychopath by accident."
Issue 66. It opens with Butcher killing Vas in a warehouse in Moscow. Hughie and Annie separate, Butcher promotes him to second-in-command, and the Boys are on hiatus for three months.
"I know, I know. You're the best mate a cunt like me could ask for. I don't deserve to fucking know you. But I ain't got no mates."
"I hate mean people."
The Worf Effect: Stormfront bigtime. Despite several references to him being second only to the Homelander, he loses an eye to the Female, whom he fails to kill, has his testicles crushed by Mother's Milk which causes him to abandon his team in a fight. He retreats again when Butcher blows glass in his other eye leaving the rest of Payback to die at Butcher's hands and yet The Boys are so worried about facing him after all that, they call The Love Sausage in from Russia to help stomp him to death.
Meanwhile, Black Noir was explicitly designed to be superior to the Homelander so that he could take him down if Vought needed him to. In the end, after he is severely weakened by his offscreen fight with the Homelander, the military cuts him down with DU ammo before Butcher pries the top of his skull off with a crowbar.
Then again, he'd already served his purpose in killing the Homelander, the very reason for which he had been created.