Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for The Boys: Herogasm comic book mini-series and The Boys season 3.
The Boys season 3 adapted Herogasm, a spin-off of The Boys comics about an annual superhero orgy. Herogasm is an infamous miniseries from Garth Ennis’s comic book storyline – one that The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke had been building to since the show premiered. The Boys Herogasm episode finally came in the third season. Surprisingly, the biggest difficulties in adapting Herogasm from page to screen didn’t lie in how to present the incredibly adult subject matter, but in how to adapt the storyline to fit the markedly different fictional world of The Boys series.
The Boys was a controversial franchise long before it became Amazon Prime’s most popular original show. Originally published under DC Comics’ Wildstorm imprint in 2006, the series was abruptly canceled after six issues due to its extremely graphic content and the satirical strikes made against the idea of superheroes in general. Thankfully, the publisher allowed ownership of the series to revert back to writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson so they could try and sell the series to another company. It was later picked up by Dynamite Entertainment, who published another 66 issues of the monthly The Boys comic, as well as four tie-in miniseries. Then, over 10 years later, the first episode of The Boys aired on Amazon Prime in 2019.
Herogasm was the first of The Boys miniseries‘ and spinoffs, and it proved to be controversial, even by the standards of mainline The Boys comic. The miniseries contained obvious parodies of many popular superheroes engaging in practices that were kinky at best and illegal at worst, iring some fans and creators alike. In addition, The Boys: Herogasm plot added context to one of the most shocking moments in the comic’s original storyline – the role that the superhero team The Seven played in 9-11. Since the 9-11 themes weren’t carried across when The Boys was adapted for the small screen, fans of both knew that Herogasm’s storyline would probably be heavily altered for The Boys season 3. Here’s why The Boys Herogasm episode was so anticipated and how it ended up different from the comic series that inspired it.
The Boys Herogasm episode is based on an event of the same name from the comics. They’re similar in that both are superhero orgies, but the still incredibly graphic on-page Herogasm is a little different than the show’s take. In The Boys comics, Herogasm is an annual festival in which most of Vought-American’s superheroes meet secretly at a remote tropical resort for a company-sponsored orgy. For one weekend, virtually anything goes and all manner of amusement, both legal and illegal, is made available to the people responsible for protecting the planet, with various sex workers being paid $100,000 each to make themselves available for anything and everything.
What made this spectacle even more disturbing was that it was always covered up by a public announcement that all the heroes were joining forces to face some fake crisis that required all of them to work together. After spending several days getting drunk, stoned, laid, and generally debasing themselves as they saw fit, the Supes returned home to a hero’s welcome with the world none the wiser as to what they were really doing in private.
The orgy in The Boys Herogasm episode in season 3 isn’t the same as the Herogasm comic miniseries because The Boys comic and TV show universes are vastly different. The show isn’t a shot-for-panel adaptation, and it was always going to take Herogasm in its own direction. The most glaring difference for fans of both versions of The Boys is the lack of Vought’s history or involvement in the show’s superhero orgy. Herogasm is a Vought-sponsored event in The Boys and Herogasm comic series. The company uses it to allow their stable of superpowered celebrities to let off some steam in the depraved and impossible ways. In The Boys season 3, Vought has nothing to do with Herogasm. It’s a yearly event started by Soldier Boy in the 1950s. The annual Herogasm in episode 6 was a private function held at the house of the TNT Twins – middle-aged members of Soldier Boy’s former team.
The premise of the show’s Herogasm has been changed, and so too has the orgy’s purpose in the narrative. In The Boys comic, Herogasm is used to weave exposition of relevant events that happened prior to the series’ first issue. There is also an incredibly shocking moment between Black Noir and Hughie that didn’t make it into the show (not that there were complaints about this particular deviation from the source material). In series 3 of The Boys, Herogasm becomes the stage for the first on-screen showdown between Homelander and Soldier Boy – something the show has built toward since the end of its second season. This was completely different from their comic-book Herogasm encounter, which is more sexual in nature. The show’s Herogasm event also provides the backdrop for a pivotal moment: Butcher revealing his Compound-V-given laser eyes and super-strength to a shocked Homelander. It’s also where A-Train finally manages to apologize sincerely for the death of Hughie’s girlfriend, Robin, but then dies of a heart attack after dragging racist cop-vigilante Blue Hawk across miles of road at full speed.
All in all, Herogasm is a different orgy in the show, presented with a different purpose. Aside from the exposition of plot points regarding “Vic the Veep”, Herogasm in Garth Ennis’ comic books showcased the depravity of the participating supers, and of course, generated some more controversy for a series that relied on it to sell copies. The Boys series on Amazon Prime uses Herogasm for the same reasons, but it’s also the staging area for some of the show’s most pivotal plot moments. While the widely-anticipated Herogasm episode of The Boys season 3 wasn’t as controversial as its comic-book counterpart due to many of these changes, it did keep its core essence – it’s weird, extreme, and the epitome of NSFW
Amazon Studios put out a content warning trailer prior to the Herogasm episode of The Boys, with an additional disclaimer directly after the Prime Video vanity card during the episode. While the tone of both warnings was obviously tongue-in-cheek, playing up to the controversy and hype surrounding the long-awaited on-screen Herogasm, it may have inadvertently overset expectations. The Boys is already an extreme show. The previous episode had an elongated sequence where a naked Seth Rogen participated in masturbatory webcam exploits with the Crimson Countess, and nothing beyond Rogen’s actual penis was left to the imagination. Season 3’s first episode included a moment where shrinking hero Termite returned to full size while still inside a man’s urethra, which was exactly as disturbing to watch as it sounds. There has yet to be an episode of The Boys missing at least one scene that makes viewers without strong stomachs watch from between their fingers.
For a show like The Boys to preface an episode with not one, but two, content warnings, there was intense speculation about just what the on-screen Herogasm would entail. The Herogasm spin-off miniseries of The Boys comic pushed ideas of taste and acceptability to their limits. Several of the moments in Herogasm deliberately broke taboos, and not all of the acts portrayed between the pages were consenting. The Boys on Amazon Prime previously hadn’t shied away from that particular aspect of the source material, either. Fans familiar with both the show and the comics were quick to warn those unfamiliar with Ennis and Robertson’s work to be prepared. However, when the episode aired, many felt the warnings had overplayed what the episode contained.
The content warning trailer didn’t lie. Herogasm in The Boys season 3 delivered everything fans were warned to expect by Amazon Studios – excessive bodily fluids, full-frontal nudity, explicit sexual content, and quite possibly the largest penis ever rendered in CGI. However, nothing in Herogasm felt worthy of a content warning when compared to The Boy’s other episodes, especially since The Boys is a streaming exclusive, so the chances of channel-hoppers inadvertently stumbling across it and complaining to the FCC are nil. As outrageous as they were, all the acts shown in Herogasm were between consenting adults, and it’s not the first time The Boys has featured an uncompromising view of superheroic group depravity. Taking into account the already-adult tone of the show as well as the extremity of events in the Herogasm comic source material, the content warning felt a little unnecessary and even misleading post-viewing.
The Herogasm episode of The Boys has been discussed online since it was first announced Amazon would be adapting the comics into a show. As the name eloquently alludes to, there is a healthy dose of shocking material in The Boys: Herogasm. It’s perhaps most known for the controversial scene in which Soldier Boy sleeps with Homelander, hoping that it will earn him a place in The Seven. However, that’s far from the only event in The Boys: Herogasm that made the prospect of seeing it televised one of the first talking points among fans. Most of the miniseries expanded on shenanigans that occurred in the background of The Boys, or were referenced but took place off-panel. A notorious example is a four-way between Fantastico, a parody of the Fantastic Four. A-Train, who witnessed the event, said he thought it was a ménage à trois between the male members before he realized Invisi-Lass was in the middle. Some of the panels of the comic come close to being pornographic. Even with the standards of streaming television and the free-hand Amazon has given the showrunners, it would have been difficult to justify going as far as the source material.
For example, Herogasm featured a shocking scene involving Black Noir and Hughie Campbell. Hughie is discovered by Black Noir, who then sexually assaults Hughie with his thumb while calling him a “good soldier“. This scene was barely accepted by many comic fans, and many felt it was too far even for The Boys. This, like many other non-consensual moments, didn’t make it into the show. The Boys series has shown rape, but it’s never played for cheap shock. It would be impossible to handle respectfully against the backdrop of Herogasm, where the viewer’s attention will be on either Love Sausage’s prehensile manhood or The Deep’s intimate moment with an octopus.
Herogasm was also controversial because of stories centered on 9/11. In the comic timeline, The Seven made a botched attempt to stop one of the hijacked planes. It crashes into the Brooklyn Bridge, leaving over 1,000 dead. The Boys infiltrate Herogasm to question a Secret Service agent assigned to Vice President Victor Neuman (Victoria Neuman’s comic counterpart). They discover that Vought-American had “Vic The Veep” as a sleeper agent, using him to neutralize the President during the 9-11 attacks. With the President temporarily out of action, Neuman gave the order for NORAD to stand down. The Seven then attempted to neutralize the last plane approaching New York City, despite fighter jets previously being ready to shoot the plane down, a task which they failed. If The Seven had been successful and landed the plane safely, Vought-American could change laws prohibiting superhuman militarisation, allowing them to create super soldiers and make a fortune in defense contracts. When The Boys: Herogasm was released in 2009, less than a decade after 9/11, this arc caused quite a stir. Whether it still would if included in a 2022 TV series is unknown, as in the show’s continuity the September 11th attacks never occurred.
Despite Herogasm traumatizing the crew of The Boys and the possible overreach of the creative content warning, the episode defied all expectations and was adapted seamlessly into The Boys TV canon. It seemed like there was little reason to include Herogasm material beyond pushing the envelope to see if season 3 could get away with outrageous sexual content matching the violence seen in the first two seasons. However, the Herogasm episode turned out to be one of the best of season 3, and a pivotal moment for multiple story arcs critical to The Boys Amazon Prime series. Like much of its source material, The Boys looked to the pages of Herogasm for inspiration rather than a direct script. The episode feels spiritually faithful to the miniseries, keeping its core outrageous essence, but it uses these thematic building blocks to create a Herogasm that’s more than a CGI-penis-filled shock fest.
There’s a reason Hughie, Butcher, Mother’s Milk, and Starlight (after a confrontation with Victoria Neuman) find themselves at the TNT Twins’ isolated home. A major story beat for seasons 2 and 3 of The Boys has been the return of Soldier Boy. He is hell-bent on eradicating his former teammates, including the twins. Having Herogasm at their house when Soldier Boy shows up was a masterful way to adapt the concept into The Boys without derailing the plot. It gave instant justification for the likes of A-Train, The Deep, and Blue Hawk being present for Soldier-Boy’s explosive showdown with Homelander. From a narrative perspective, getting an ensemble roster of characters in the same place and time for key events is tricky. With Herogasm, The Boys found a platform for one of its most dramatic episode climaxes yet, cohesively bringing together several previously-isolated story threads for a conclusion almost as shocking as Love Sausage answering the door.
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Author: Matt Morrison