Thanks to Amazon’s brilliant show, Ennis’ and Robertson’s ‘The Boys‘ has become a global phenomenon. This complex and gritty comic book tells the story of a group of “regular” humans who oppose the ever-so-popular superheroes of their age but who are actually everything but heroic.
The story shows a fight between a regular human (or humans here) and a large corporate system bent on keeping itself alive. ‘The Boys’ never hesitated while crossing the usual boundaries, which made this gritty story so popular.
In this article, we will list ten comic books similar to ‘The Boys’, either in the subject (resistance against a ruling structure) style (gritty, dark stories) or even both simultaneously.
Writer: Alan Moore
Illustrator: Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC Comics
1985. Two police inspectors try to figure out what led a bodybuilder in his sixties to cross the bay window of his apartment and crash ten floors below. Having concluded that a man with certain high-level connections has been murdered, the police leave the crime scene. A masked character then arrives on the scene: Rorschach. The latter, calling the victim “The Comedian,” assumes that he was murdered not for what he had done or was doing but because he was a superhero.
Rorschach then makes the rounds of his former colleagues to inform them of his findings and warn them. The Owl II, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, and his companion, the Silky Specter II, have different reactions. If the Owl seems to feel guilty about the Comedian’s death and his past, the Specter is delighted, having apparently never put up with the individual, nor does she support Rorschach. Ozymandias regrets the death of the Comedian but thinks that Rorschach’s conclusions are only the result of paranoia, as usual with him.
2. ‘Kick-Ass: The Dave Lizewski Years‘
Writer: Mark Millar
Illustrator: John Romita Jr.
Publisher: Icon Comics, Image Comics
Publication: February 2008 – August 2014
In “The Dave Lizewski Years” first volume, originally titled “Kick-Ass,” Dave Lizewski, an ordinary New York high schooler, ponders the absence of real-world superheroes. Inspired by this thought and spurred by his life circumstances – his father raising him alone after his mother’s tragic death from a brain hemorrhage – Dave decides to become a superhero.
Dave embarks on his journey after buying a wetsuit on eBay and donning it as a costume beneath his regular attire. But his superhero dreams quickly turn to nightmares as he faces brutal beatings. His identity remains secret, and after months of rehabilitation from a severe assault, he returns to vigilante work.
When a video of Dave saving a man goes viral, he becomes the sensation “Kick-Ass.” However, his newfound fame doesn’t sit well with Mafia boss John Genovese. At school, rumors about Dave’s injuries lead his crush, Katie Deauxma, to believe he’s a gay prostitute, which Dave goes along with to be closer to her.
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Illustrator: Cory Walker
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication: 2003 – 2018
Markus Sebastian Grayson, son of Deborah and writer Nolan Grayson (also known as the superhero Omni-Man), learns at age seven that his father hails from the Viltrumites, an alien race. Nolan tells Mark that he’ll eventually inherit superpowers, which he does at 17, showcasing abilities like super strength, speed, flight, semi-invulnerability, and rapid healing.
Upon meeting a group of young superheroes named the Teen Team, which includes Robot, Dupli-Kate, Rex Splode, and Atom Eve, Mark realizes he’s schoolmates with Eve. They soon discover a sinister plot where their teacher transforms students into explosive devices, which Mark bravely relocates to Antarctica for safety. Later, when faced with a powerful alien named Allen, Mark chooses diplomacy over conflict. Allen reveals he’s been mistakenly testing Earth’s defenders’ strength for years.
However, when Mark’s friend William learns of his powers during a cyborg attack, life gets complicated. Things take a darker turn when Omni-Man, Mark’s father, slaughters the Guardians of the Globe, revealing the Viltrumites’ true intentions: planetary conquest. While Mark starts dating Amber Bennett, chaos ensues as the resurrected leader of the Guardians, the Immortal, confronts Omni-Man, only to be killed again.
Writer: Garth Ennis
Illustrator: Steve Dillon
Publication: 1995 – 2000
Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a former pastor who was possessed by a supernatural entity that gave him the power to make anyone obey him. This entity (called Genesis) is a fugitive from Paradise, and the angels seek it to arrest it again. When they discover that she and Jesse Custer have become one, the goal becomes to kill him. To this end, they revive a nineteenth-century killer, the Holy of Assassins, and send him in pursuit. Fate makes Jesse find his ex-girlfriend, Tulipa, and with her, the most eccentric character in the magazine, the Irish vampire Cassidy.
Both begin to accompany him in his escape from both the police and the Saint. At the end of the first story arc, Custer confronts one of the angels and extracts the information he needs to understand the whole situation, such as the origin of Genesis (the half-breed son of an angel and a demon).
5. ‘Civil War‘
Writer: Mark Millar
Illustrator: Steve McNiven
Publication: July 2006 – January 2007
After an altercation between the New Warriors (Night Thrasher, Namorita, Speedball, and Microbe) and a group of villains (Cobalt Man, Speedfreak, Coldheart, and Nitro), more than six hundred residents of the town of Stamford in Connecticut, in the United States, perish when Nitro, a superhuman with destructive powers, destroys several city blocks and their inhabitants. Only one member of the New Warriors, Speedball, survived the blast and was thrown miles away from the scene.
Wounded, he was handed over to the authorities and held responsible for the death of the 600 inhabitants of Stamford. Opinion turns against the superheroes, deemed morally responsible for the Stamford disaster. Supported by Iron Man, the American government then promulgates a special law by Congress: the law on the census of super-humans. This law requires any super-human to register, reveal their secret identity to the authorities, undergo appropriate training, and work under government orders.
If they do not comply with this law, they will be arrested and detained in prisons designed to accommodate superheroes who have entered illegally. Maria Hill, the director of SHIELD, then asks the legendary Captain America to create a team of registered superheroes to apprehend all the superheroes who would not submit to this new law.
6. ‘Umbrella Academy‘
Writer: Gerard Way
Illustrator: Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Publication: September 19, 2007 – 2009, October 3, 2018 – present
‘The Umbrella Academy’ takes place in a universe where 43 women worldwide give birth at noon on October 1, 1989, none showing signs of pregnancy before going into labor. Seven of the children are adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves and turned into a team of superheroes he calls “The Umbrella Academy.” Hargreaves gives the kids numbers rather than names, but they are ultimately named as Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Five, Ben, and Vanya by their robot mother, Grace.
Reginald involves six of his children in crime-fighting while excluding Vanya, believing she lacks powers. In season one, the present-day sees Luther as a former moon-dweller, Allison as an actress, Vanya as a violinist, Klaus as a drug addict who disappeared for years, Ben as a deceased spirit communicating with Klaus, and Diego as a problematic vigilante. When they discover Reginald’s death, the siblings reunite for his funeral. Five, returning from the future, warns of an upcoming apocalypse while being chased by time-traveling assassins.
7. ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen‘
Writer: Alan Moore
Illustrator: Kevin O’Neill
Publisher: ABC / Wildstorm / DC Comics
Publication: 1999 – 2019
Wilhelmina Murray was recruited by Campion Bond on behalf of MI5, the British intelligence service, to bring together a diverse group of extraordinary characters to defend the interests of the Empire. Accompanied by Captain Nemo, she travels in the Nautilus to Cairo to recruit an Allan Quatermain victim of opium. Together, they head to Paris, where Detective Auguste Dupin helps them capture a beast that attacks prostitutes and turns out to be Edward Hyde, the alter ego of Dr. Henry Jekyll.
Back in London, while the Secret Service deals with the state changes of Dr. Jekyll, Mina Murray, Quatermain, and Nemo investigate the mysterious apparitions of a supposed “Holy Spirit” who assaults the students of a correctional facility for young girls. They discover that the assailant is Hawley Griffin, The Invisible Man. With this latest addition, the League is formed, whose first mission will be to investigate the theft of cavorite, an antigravity material developed by Dr. Cavor, with which they fear that the enemies of England could use it to attack the Empire. The investigations lead them to the London Limehouse, where a powerful Chinese underworld boss, who is none other than Fu Manchu, is building a large airship with which to attack London from the air with the help of the favorite.
8. ‘The Authority‘
Writer: Warren Ellis
Illustrator: Bryan Hitch
Publication: May 1999 – December 2010
The Authority is a team that acts on a large scale and in the context of mass destruction. The first three arcs will thus see the destruction of three world metropolises, the invasion of the Earth by a parallel Earth followed by the destruction of a country or the return of a divine entity determined to recover the Earth. From another perspective, the Authority’s action was eminently political: intervening on a planetary scale, the team influenced international politics.
However, the first screenwriter, Warren Ellis, had chosen not to develop this aspect, leaving the interpretation to the reader’s discretion. This changes with the arrival of the team title Mark Millar / Frank Quitely. Retaining the narrative techniques that had made the success of the first numbers, they give Authority an irreverent and quasi-revolutionary character. Heroes fight social injustice, not hesitating to challenge power and break the law when they deem it necessary. For example, they violently oppose the American government, which cannot bear to see them constantly interfering with its interests. The series also tackles controversial social issues.
Writer: Garth Ennis
Illustrator: John McCrea
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication: 1993 – 2000
Tommy Monaghan, a professional killer who lives and works in Gotham City, is the victim of an attack by Glonth, one of the seven shape-shifting, spinal cord-consuming aliens (see Bloodlines series) who were killed after a fight with Lob, fell to earth where they spread fear and terror. The bite inflicted on his neck, and the virus that was transmitted in the process does not kill Tommy but rather equip him with limited X-ray vision (along with jet-black eyes) and telepathic abilities.
In contrast to many of his professional colleagues, Monaghan has scruples. B. not someone whom he classifies as the “good” or who, in his opinion, does not deserve to die (which leaves a certain breadth of definition). These include children, police officers, or superheroes (such as Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman). For this reason, he always works independently and never for a permanent client to whom he is obliged and, therefore, should possibly shoot someone from the groups of people mentioned.
10. ‘V for Vendetta‘
Writer: Alan Moore
Illustrator: David Lloyd, Tony Weare
Publisher: Quality Communications
Publication: March 1982 – May 1989
On November 5, 1997, during Guy Fawkes night, 16-year-old Evey Hammond ventured out in London, intending to sell herself. Her initial encounter is with an agent from The Finger, the enforcer arm of the fascist government ruling England since the 1989 nuclear fallout. As the agent and his associate’s menace Evey’s life, a masked figure named “V”, donning a Guy Fawkes mask, intervenes, eliminating the agents and saving her.
V takes Evey with him to witness his first major attack from the rooftops: the blowing up of the Palace of Westminster. Evey hides with V in his hiding place, where he spares a large collection of forbidden art. V continues a series of attacks, mainly targeting former employees of Larkhill concentration camp, where V is the only surviving victim of brutal medical experiments.