Superhero satire The Boys includes a version of Stan Lee who put a dark spin on one of the legendary Marvel creator’s most famous catch-phrases.
While The Boys is known for its wild satire of superhero comics, that satirical tone also extends into the real world and the comic book writers and artists involved in their creation – creators such Stan Lee. One character from the comics acts as a comment on the superhero comic book industry as a whole, taking a look at the dark side of its creation.
Starting in 2006, The Boys was created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson. The series is a vicious satire of superhero comics and tells the story of a clandestine group of black ops agents known only as “The Boys.” This team is the only line of defense between regular everyday humans and the superheroes of their world, who are all spoiled, vainglorious celebrities more concerned with focus group points than they are with protecting innocents. While the comic has since been adapted into a mega-successful TV show, the Boys comic series retains an explosive satire all its own – one that really only makes sense in the world of comic books and the industry that creates them.
It’s in issue #7 of The Boys where the audience gets a taste of this behind-the-scenes takedown of the comic book business. The issue introduces an old man known only as “The Legend,” a former comic book editor who was recruited by Vought-American to help them develop superheroes in the real world. Growing to hate his own creations, the Legend now works with the Boys to help them take down Vought-American and the Justice League-inspired Seven for good. The Legend decided to turn on his corporate masters after the death of his son in the Vietnam War due to a faulty rifle produced by Vought. The Legend goes on to explain how the event changed him forever: “When my boy got killed for profit, the true believer in me died forever.“
Stan Lee’s “True Believer” Takes On A New Meaning in The Boys
It’s an interesting choice of words, as famed Marvel Editor-In-Chief Stan Lee used to always refer to Marvel fans as “True Believers.” This choice of words is a carefully-selected phrase on Ennis’ part. While he’s never named in The Boys, the Legend is obviously an amalgamation of many comic book creators. He’s got Thor co-creator Jack Kirby’s cigar, Batman editor Julie Schwartz’ glasses and Superman editor Mort Wiesinger’s orneriness. Yet it’s the character’s use of the “true believer” phrase that ties him in with the most publicly-known comic book creator of the last century, and places the behind-the-scenes affairs of comic book making in a dark light.
While the comic book industry has given the world some of the most beloved entertainment properties of the last decade and change, it’s a sad reality that many of the men and women who created these characters haven’t received so much as a penny from the billions of dollars these properties rake in for their corporate owners each year. In that way, their creations are not unlike their own children, forever lost to them in the same way the Legend’s son is lost to him. The Legend’s quoting of Stan Lee in The Boys is a powerful reminder that while superheroes always save the day in the comics, in the real world, that’s not always the case.
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