Garth Ennis Hints at New Discoveries in The Boys: Dear Becky
Warning: If you only know The Boys as a TV show, this article spoils plot points from later in the story.
Earlier this year, The Boys: Dear Becky #1 re-introduced readers to Hughie Campbell in the most Garth Ennis way possible. He’s shown lying on his bathroom floor in the fetal position, with his pants around his ankles and a terrified expression on his face as he stares at an overturned book in front of him.
A few pages later, we learn the source of his horror. The book contains the writings of Billy Butcher, the former leader of The Boys who, over a decade prior, roped Hughie into joining his crusade against the world’s most corrupt superhumans. All these years after Hughie killed him in a fight atop the Empire State Building, Butcher has somehow wormed his way back into his life from beyond the grave.
Hughie may not be having the best time, but longtime fans are delighted to see The Boys’ colorful cast of characters again. It’s been eight years since Ennis and co-creator Darick Robertson published the original series’ 72nd and final issue. The series memorably concluded with Hughie foiling Butcher’s plot to wipe out every supe on the planet. But tragically, he couldn’t stop Butcher from killing their three other teammates along the way.
This is where Dear Becky comes in. The new series, which features art by Ennis’ longtime collaborator, Russ Braun, shows us how Butcher came up with his plan for supe genocide in the late ’90s while he was still working alongside Mother’s Milk, Frenchie, and the Female under their old boss, Greg Mallory. Additionally, readers get to travel back to the ‘80s to see Butcher living in happier times with his wife, Becky. We caught up with Ennis to find out how he chose to explore these parts of Butcher’s history.
“It really came down to the practical question of how I got Hughie–the lone survivor–into a Boys story featuring the other four–all now dead–without having to do some ‘untold tale’ that would slot into the original run in rather dubious fashion,” Ennis explained. “Hence the structure of the story, Hughie in 2020 reading about the other four (and Mallory) in pre-Hughie 1999, with a flashback within the flashback that sees Butcher and Becky back in about 1986. Given that the whole Boys story essentially revolves around the Butcher-Hughie relationship, I wanted Hughie to be able to fill in exactly this kind of detail for himself.”
There’s no denying that Becky, who reined in Butcher’s most violent tendencies before her death at the hands of another “hero,” is an interesting presence. Ennis has previously said that fleshing out her character was one of his biggest motivations for returning to the world of The Boys. Actually, readers could have gotten a lot more scenes with her than what’s being published right now.
“I could have written a lot more of Becky,” Ennis admitted. “In fact, I could happily have filled the entire 176 pages with Butcher and Becky being in love in 1980s London. But I think people might have been expecting a bit more than just a romance comic.”
Of course, Dear Becky gives us a lot more than romance and supe-trashing. Just like the original Boys, two of the new series’ greatest strengths are its biting satire and cultural commentary. The first issue alone contains references to “woke” culture, Brexit, and even the coronavirus. Ennis uses both Hughie and Butcher as mouthpieces to air any grievances he might have about the state of the world. But he’s quick to point out that the characters take different approaches in how they vent these frustrations.
“[Hughie] certainly enjoys holding forth on various topics, and has a good old rant or two,” noted Ennis. “But we see again and again that he hasn’t quite got the courage of his convictions. Butcher, on the other hand, who comes from a far less privileged background than Hughie and has better reasons for his jaded view of the world, tends to hold his tongue until his words will have an actual effect. You’ll see an example of that at the start of part seven.”
“The last episode also contains some commentary on the state of the world in a somewhat broader sense,” teased Ennis. “Perhaps from a more unexpected source.”
Even though more than 10 years have passed in The Boys’ universe, Hughie still can’t shake the spectre of Butcher. Ennis insists that he’ll never stop being haunted by the events of the original series. Regardless, the discoveries Hughie makes in Butcher’s letters to Becky might alleviate some of the damage.
“You’ll see that Hughie didn’t exactly stick to his resolution from the end of the original series; one more example of him failing to walk the walk,” said Ennis. “He’ll never really be at peace with the events of the past. It would be impossible for any mortal being to go through that much trauma and simply process it. But he will perhaps find different, less jarring terms in which to think about it.”
“What’s really stuck with Hughie is of course his memory of Butcher,” added Ennis. “How necessary he was to the man, and at the same time how horribly manipulated he was by him on that long and grotesque walk through hell. So perhaps getting a close-up look at Butcher’s motivation in Becky’s diary will help him a little.”
The Boys: Dear Becky #5 arrives on September 30.
You can view Robertson’s covers for the first five issues and several pages of Braun’s artwork in the gallery below. How have you been enjoying the series so far? Let us know in the comment section!
Recommended Reading: The Boys Omnibus Vol. 6 TPB
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