The wait is long The boys season 3 — and the show’s chief creative team knows it. At the time when the Prime Video Series returns in June 2022, it will be nearly two years since the Season 2 finale aired. Fans recognize the role of the ongoing pandemic in the delayed third season release, but many are chomping at the bit for its return.
How, then, do you appease a fanbase desperate to reunite with Billy, Hughie, Homelander and company? You create an animated anthology series, based on the universe of the boys, which is full of the franchise’s unique blend of humor, heart and hyperviolence. And, to tie it to the live broadcast and graphic novel series, you give it a distinctively identifiable title: The Boys Presents: Devilish.
“We wanted to create a spin-off series for fans before Season 3 comes out,” showrunner Simon Racioppa told TechRadar. “There was a long wait between seasons 2 and 3, but we didn’t want to do something that was seen as a bit of quick TV. We wanted to do something worthwhile.”
Before the release of Diabolical on March 4 on First video, TechRadar caught up with Racioppa to learn more about its development. We find out the inspiration behind its original tales, why certain animation styles were associated with specific stories, and whether Diabolical’s characters or narratives will carry over into the live show.
Design a Sup-d up show
Set largely in the present, Diabolical comprises eight standalone tales that expand the universe of The Boys beyond the franchise’s main cast and plot. Each story follows a number of individuals – Supes or regular citizens – whose lives are directly impacted by Compound V, the serum developed by Vought Industries that grants superpowers to anyone who uses it.
As interesting as it is to expand the universe of The Boys, an animated anthology series involves some risks. The popularity of the live show is largely driven by its compelling narrative and talented actors, who truly embody the main characters they portray. Deviating from this successful formula, then, may not pay off.
For Racioppa, however, the decision to produce Diabolique as an animated anthology series was threefold: First, the difficulties associated with live-action projects during a pandemic. Second, a desire to honor the TV anthologies the show’s core team loves. And, finally, to work with other well-known writers and artists to bring some originality to the franchise.
“We had to do it during a pandemic and on a very tight schedule,” says Racioppa. “When Eric Kripke [The Boys showrunner]and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg [The Boys executive producers] spoke to me, doing it animated seemed like the best way to go because we could do it remotely. We are also very fond of old anthology anime series. Heavy Metal, The Animatrix and even Love, Death and Robots, which is more recent. We wanted to meet other creatives whose work we admired and who we knew were fans of the show, to see what stories they could tell in this universe.
Racioppa and his company also didn’t hesitate to bring together a whole series of talented people. rick and morty co-creator Justin Roiland, Brooklyn nine-nineit’s Andy Samberg, Shang Chi‘s Awkwafina and Garth Ennis – the co-creator of The Boys comic book series – are among those who created original stories for the series. Meanwhile, marvel movie starring Don Cheadle, stranger things‘ Caleb McLaughlin and Anthony Starr of The Boys, Dominique McElligott, Chase Crawford and Giancarlo Esposito are among its voice cast.
With so many people involved, there was every chance that Diabolical would diverge wildly from its intended trajectory – “It’s a showrunner’s job to keep everyone in line with the vision for the series,” says Racioppa. Nonetheless, Racioppa wanted each storyteller to be heavily involved in their episode, from concept to final product.
“In each case, the writer came up with the idea,” he reveals. “Once we heard they were interested we said ‘Great, come back to us in two to three weeks, we’ll set up a Zoom call and let us know what you think.'” When we spoke again, we discussed their ideas with Eric, Seth and Evan. The writer would leave and write a script and we would do the same a few weeks later. Then we kept them involved throughout production, so they saw the first designs, which we wanted to launch, first cuts of the episode, had feedback on the music, and everything.
Marrying history with style
Diabolical’s storytelling octet may have taken a while to formulate, but more challenges lie ahead. Namely, pairing each story with the right style of animation.
For some episodes, the process was seamless. The 2D vector aesthetic for An Animated Short Where P****d-Off Supes Kill Their Parents, the Roiland co-developed entry, will be instantly recognizable to Rick and Morty fans. Best Friends directed by Awkwafina is heavily influenced by traditional Saturday morning cartoons. Samberg’s John and Sun-Hee — “Andy really wanted to explore the idea of loss and saying goodbye to your loved ones,” Racioppa reveals — is rooted in Korean horror-drama anime series. Meanwhile, Laser Baby’s Day Out, co-created by Rogen and Goldberg, was always intended to celebrate the golden age of American animation, which took off in the 1930s.
“From the initial concept of Laser Baby’s Day Out, we knew we wanted to do a Looney Tunes-cum-Roger Rabbit style,” says Racioppa. “So we found great Looney Tunes directors, composers who had soundtrack experience, and other designers to build a team to execute this as well as possible.”
There were, however, entries whose animation techniques and visuals took much longer to settle. Boyd in 3D, the episode designed by Eliot and Ilana Glazer, required many back and forth between collaborators before its eventual aesthetic was affected.
“That one took a bit of work on the script and talking with the Glazers,” Racioppa admits. “It felt more like a storybook-style episode, so we went to French graphic novels for inspiration. That led us down the rabbit hole of French shorts and other artwork, which guided us to [2003 French animated comedy] Les Triplettes de Belleville and other works by director Sylvain Chomet. It brought us to the French animation studio Folivari, so we talked to them about it, they were enthusiastic, so we thought “yes, this style makes sense”.
back to the boys
As wonderfully inventive as its stories are, Diabolical could arguably be considered another animated anthology series.
In other words, if not for the boys’ DNA that runs through his artistic veins. The show is full of Easter eggs and other references to its live-action and graphic novel cousins - most notably in I’m Your Pusher, the Ennis-developed episode that uses the signature art style of the The Boys’ co-creator, Darick Robertson. One Plus One Equals Two, the Homelander-centric tale written by Racioppa, also deepens the backstory of the franchise’s fan-favorite villain.
How could Diabolical directly impact his older brother, though? Could we potentially see elements of the animated series spill over into The Boys season 3 and beyond? Racioppa thinks it’s possible, but some aspects will work better than others.
“Some episodes give the impression that they could fit into the main show,” he reflects. “The Justin Roiland episode, you’re probably not going to see a guy with a speaker for his head on the main show. But I think John and Sun-Hee might exist on the fringes of The Boys – you would have could have shot this live and it would have worked out great. That’s up to Eric, though. I know he likes things to cross over, but we’ll have to see.
Potential crossovers will likely be determined by the success of Diabolical. Amazon Studios has had great success with other adult animation offerings, such as Invincible and The Legend of Vox Machina. As the first Prime Video series to debut on Nielsen’s streaming ratings lists, The Boys has also proven that there is an appetite for R-rated content on the platform.
Diabolical therefore seems perfectly placed to meet these audiences. But, based on the official trailer’s low YouTube views and current lack of social media traction, Diabolical may not be the dead certificate winner that Amazon is hoping for. It is possible, however, that Diabolical will grow in popularity over the weeks. After all, it was launched alongside The Batmanhighly anticipated from Warner Bros. super hero movie. Many other movies and TV series would similarly struggle against such a cultural juggernaut.
Still, in our opinion, The Boys Presents: Diabolical is a risky business that pays off. It expands the boys’ world beyond the confines of its main story and lays the groundwork for the series more spin-offs to come to potentially succeed. If they did, Diabolical’s pioneering efforts to flesh out The Boys’ universe would be worth it.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical is available to stream in its entirety now on Prime Video.