Season 3 of Prime’s dark satirical superhero series The Boys might not debut until June, but we have animated anthology series The Boys Presents: Diabolical to tide us over until then.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical, an animated anthology series of eight 12-minute episodes, each with their own distinct style of animation and set in the universe of The Boys, is being produced by Titmouse, the studio behind such shows as Star Trek: Lower Decks, The Midnight Gospel, the Animaniacs reboot, and Amazon’s Invincible.
The first episode, Laser Baby’s Day Out is a cheeky and gore-filled ode to Looney Tunes. Although it features the Vought lab, creating superhero babies, it feels disconnected from the universe of The Boys. It is pretty funny to watch such a wholesome animation style used in such a gore-filled way. Written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, it is the only short with no dialogue, instead filled with visual gags reminiscent of Bugs Bunny and friends. If you watch this cute little animation and think The Boys Presents: Diabolical won’t be for you, skip ahead as none of the other shorts shares any DNA with Laser Baby’s Day Out.
The second episode, An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents, comes from the mind of Justin Roiland (Ricky & Morty). Animated in a similar style with many of the same actors, this short feels more in line with The Boys unique brand of dark comedy. The gross-out, zany humour of Ricky & Morty easily blends into the world of corrupt and cruel supes.
The Roiland-penned episode features the kids who gained useless superpowers and were orphaned when their parents realised they couldn’t make money from their skills. Narrated by Christian Slater, whose superpower is narrating scenes, it stars a selection of kids with useless powers, including a boy whose head is a speaker who can only play ‘Only Wanna Be With You’ by Hootie & The Blowfish. This short is best viewed multiple times as there are so many visual gags hidden in the backdrop. This definitely feels like an episode that could be expanded, rich with ideas about impractical and useless superpowers.
I’m Your Pusher, written by The Boys creator himself Garth Ennis, is an homage to the original comic books. Although it’s a forgettable entry, starring Succession’s Kiernan Culkin as a drug dealer to the superheroes, we finally get to meet more supes including Iron Cast and Great Wide Wonder. This short suffers from the 12-minute runtime and would have benefitted from a full 30-minute entry. The set-up is infinitely more interesting than the abrupt ending.
Boyd in 3D by Broad City’s Elliot and Ilana Glazer features bright French-inspired animation. Stepping away from the world of superheroes it tells the story of a couple who use a new Vought cream to become attractive and famous. It’s a relevant but overdone tale of the perils of social media fame. A highlight of the anthology, it perfects the pacing required for such a short animation, easily relatable with relatable themes like catfishing and our constant need to brand ourselves online.
Awkwafina’s unmissable prints are all over BFFS, a bizarre ode to Saturday morning animation. She voices a lonely girl, Sky, who steals Vought juice and gains a talking turd called Areola. It’s a strange but oddly touching story about one girl and her talking poo.
Nubia VS Nubian has the bright aesthetics of the early X: Men animations. Written and starring Aisha Tyler, it shows the breakdown of the marriage of two superheroes (her husband played by Don Cheadle). Their son decides to stage a re-match with their former arch-enemy with the goal to re-ignite the spark. The set-up of this black supes family is more interesting than the ultimate pay-off.
John and Sun-Hee has a more Studio Ghibli aesthetic. With its Korean drama and horror inspiration, it stands out for stark visual style, poignant storytelling, and an intense level of gore. Whilst The Boys plays up a cartoonish gore, this Andy-Samberg penned short feels a little more serious. John, in the aim to save his ailing wife, injects her with Vought’s serum only for it to have devasting consequences. Jammed between two upbeat animations, John and Sun-Hee feels even more gut-wrenching.
Lastly is One Plus One Equals Two, the only short that is directly linked to the live-action series. It details Homelander’s first days on the job and shows that he wasn’t always as heartless as he appears in the current day. This is perhaps the kind of storytelling expected from fans when they heard that a The Boys spin-off anthology was coming.
The voice work is flawless throughout, with a star-studded cast of some of the funniest actors currently working including Michael Cera, Kenan Thompson, Nasim Pedrad and Kumail Nanjiani. Plus, recognisable characters and voices from the live-action show also appear throughout including Chace Crawford’s The Deep, Elizabeth Shue’s Madelyn Sitwell and Dominique McElligott’s Queen Maeve. Although not everyone has returned. Karl Urban is noticeably replaced by Jason Isaac as Billy Butcher and Simon Pegg voices Hughie (played by Jack Quaid in the live-action show with Pegg starring as his father), which will amuse fans of the comics as Hughie bares a strong resemblance to the Hot Fuzz actor.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical suffers from pacing. Most of the 12–14-minute runtime is dedicated to setting up the premise, yet often fails to deliver on the payoff. BFFS and Boyd in 3D, are the only two shorts that make the best use of their minimal screentime. Others will leave you wanting more with their rather abrupt endings.
The Boys and Garth Evans have created such a rich world of superheroes and unusual powers, all to the backdrop of seedy Vought. This anthology show smartly expands this world, focusing on how the civilians are affected by living in a world where flying men with laser eyesight is a common occurrence. Existing characters are cleverly woven through, with only one episode focusing on Homelander.
Fans of Annie, Hughie and Butcher may find this zany collection of shorts redundant. Don’t expect anything but easter eggs connected to the live-action show. These entertaining animated shorts are an amusing diversion but won’t bring anything additional to fans of The Boys. Like most anthology shows, not every episode will cater to your tastes or your humour.
Whilst it doesn’t always deliver a satisfying finale, the set-up and characters in The Boys Presents: Diabolical makes it well worth a watch. There are too many good ideas that don’t get explored enough, so let’s hope some of these characters make their live-action debuts soon.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical premieres on Prime Video on March 4
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy