The Boys Presents: Diabolical Interview With Simon Racioppa and Giancarlo Volpe

the boys diabolical

For The Boys fans who have been eagerly awaiting season 3, set to premiere June 3 on Amazon Prime, there is a cure called The Boys Presents: Diabolical.

For those who have yet to watch, it is an anthology of emotionally shocking and irreverent stories set within the dark and twisted superhero universe of The Boys. The catch is that all of the stories are animated, usually in different styles and told by different creators. Only one or two episodes touch on characters from the show, but they all expand on the premise of the fan-favorite series.

Below, you can read With An Accent’s Wondercon interview with The Boys Presents: Diabolical EP and showrunner Simon Racioppa, as well as with director Giancarlo Volpe, who worked on episodes 3 and 8 respectively. As they were roundtable interviews, several other outlets were present for the discussion:

Q: So your episode is canon with the rest of the universe?

Giancarlo Volpe: Yes, correct. The episode I co-directed that Simon wrote is blessed by Erik as a canon episode. Now, officially, Homelander’s [episode] is part of his backstory.

Simon Racioppa: I realized we had a good blend of comedic and dramatic, and I started talking to Erik [Kripke] about that. He was like, “I wish somebody had done an episode about Homelander’s first mission or something early on,” and I went “that is something I will do.”

I was talking with Erik to make sure the canonical-ness of it was correct, and it’s kind of nerve-wracking writing a script for Erik Kripke in his universe – in his world about his character and trying to get that right. When he was pleased with it, I was very happy.

Q: How much leeway do they give you? What were you allowed to do and how far were you allowed to go?

Simon Racioppa: Again, Erik was like “go as far as you want.” He kept pushing us to go further. As far as gore and stuff, he was the biggest one who was like, “It needs more blood, it needs more organs. Let’s go further.”

As far as content, it was pretty open. The Boys pushes those boundaries as far as it can go, and Amazon is a great partner they never really pulled us back. We had kind of free reign, there were almost no rules. It was about what can we produce in ten minutes. That was our one constraint; we had to make it and get it in at a reasonable time frame without anyone dying.

Q: Can you talk about twiddling down a story to get the most punch in a ten-minute window?

Giancarlo Volpe: Yeah, that’s part of the business. Most scripts get a little long and have to be edited. Most animatics end up a little long and have to be edited. I tried to tell myself that it is good that happens, because it forces you to pick the best scenes, the best lines and the best jokes. But it is usually a painful process, because you go, “I really miss that joke.” But it is sort of redundant too, so you have to kill that joke.

the boys diabolical homelander

Q: What episode did you use as a leaping board to figure out he wanted to be good at first before he got pushed into the other direction?

Simon Racioppa: That came out of two different things. The first was talking to Erik about the character. Obviously, there is a Homelander in the comics, and I’ve read all the comics, but the Homelander of the comics and the Homelander of the show is slightly different. So, this is Erik’s version and it was about talking to him.

The other thing is my personal belief that nobody is born evil. You’re built out of your environment and experiences, and how you are treated is something that would be interesting to explore. If you were raised by Vought, you would be terrible. It was about the fun of exploring that.

Q: Are there any characters from Diabolic you would like to see in live-action?

Simon Racioppa: Well, the jokey answer is to see Areola and have Awkawfina voice her. I think it would be great if John and Sun-Hee showed up in the back of some Vought episode. Even if it is just a reference somewhere.

Giancarlo Volpe: That is a great one. Nubian Prince did appear in the pilot episode. He is just sort of on the news for a second.

Now that I’ve sat with those characters for so long, it would be great to see them in an episode. I think that one pops to my mind pretty quickly. Some of the other ones are harder to picture, like Booby Face would be so weird. There is Love Sausage, who is in the show, so anything is possible.

Q: If you get a second season are there other aspects of Vought or the universe of The Boys you would like to incorporate into this side of things?

Simon Racioppa: What I would like to say the promise of Diabolical is we don’t repeat ourselves, and we do something new every single season. It is a grab bag, so nothing should be the same as season 1.

I would like to go further and explore other aspects of Vought. There are international superheroes, obviously the show is focused very much on North America like New York. It would be great to do some stories about some other parts of the world. I think Vougt International probably has some reach. Would be nice to do some stories about what is happening in Australia, what is happening in Asia, and what is happening with Vought somewhere else.

Q: Your episode is canon. Does any of the episode’s information translate into season 3?

Simon Racioppa: That would be a great question to ask Erik. I think they are symbiotic, our season and their season. They are the mothership show. They lead, we follow. But I would like to hope that some of this comes back and affects them in season 3 and 4 moving forward.

Giancarlo Volpe: That is a good question, I don’t know for sure but it would be cool if there was a little glimpse or something. Or maybe ridiculous if you cut from Anthony Starr to animated memories [laughs]. That would be really cool if we got some sense of that at some point. They kept me in the dark I don’t know a ton about season 3 but maybe that’s for the better. Only because I want to watch it and have fun with everyone else.

Q: In the episode “John and Sun-Hee,” we see that Vought reach is actually hurting innocent people that have no want for heroes or villains. How important was that to show?

Simon Racioppa: I think it is this huge corporation with lunchboxes and restaurants. They’ve got Voughtaburger. They deliver groceries. I think the idea is that, if you live in the world of The Boys – unless you live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere – Vought has some influence on your life, and probably not in the best way. You probably don’t want Vought groceries or Vought supplements, but you probably have no choice because they control the market. It is a fun dystopia to explore in that sense.

Q: Each episode is different as far as the art, were you able to have any feedback regarding how your episode looked?

Simon Racioppa: Oh, yeah. Since I was the showrunner of the series, I was involved in the visual development all the way through. We have a directing team with fantastic directors on all our episodes that really brought our episodes to life. I’m lucky enough in my role to hire those directors and see that whole process and guide it as best as I can without screwing it up either. Making sure they all follow the creative vision we want every episode.

Q: Were there any episodes that posed any particularly interesting challenges in terms of bringing that concept to life?

Simon Racioppa: They all came along pretty smoothly, I think the biggest challenge was we had about ten months to do it. On a normal production schedule in any other type show, you have an episode in pre-production, an episode in production, and an episode in post-production. You finish one episode are work on the next one.

In ours, we had so little time we are all doing all the stages at the same time. It just turned out to be an excessive amount of work as we were trying to cram it all into a very small timeline.

Q: How did you approach the episodes you worked on?

Giancarlo Volpe: We had started production, and the first two scripts that were ready to go were Garth Ennis’ one, which was “I’m Your Pusher,” and the Justin Roland and Ben Bayouth one. We hadn’t even hired all the directors yet, so it gave me an excuse to direct episode 1 – which later became episode 3.

I kind of selfishly picked that one because I really love Butcher, and I really wanted to. The opening of that episode was seven pages of Butcher bullying OD, and I was like “Yeah, I really want to do a Butcher scene,” so I chose that. After I had started drawing, Simon and I were sitting in a meeting, and Simon goes, “By the way, this one is a homage to the comics. You know that, right?” And I was like “No.” I just thought it was cool that Garthy wrote it; I didn’t know we had to craft it as a homage to the comic.

There was a little erasing, which was weird. But it was an interesting challenge, as it was the first time I had adapted a comic. That was really another cool feather in my cap.

Q: With all the people you had to work with talent-wise, what went into you picking what you guys actually used? For both writers and cast?

Simon Racioppa: We tried to find the people who would be best for the role. Honestly, it was a lot of sitting around brainstorming and we had a wonderful casting director named Linda Lamontagne, who also cast Invincible with me. It would just be conversations, and we would make lists and talk about it; make offers and go out and find those people.

It’s not willy nilly, it takes time and thinking about it. For the writers we went out to people whose work we admired and whose creatives we admired and who we thought would be interested in doing short films in the world of The Boys and we just started making calls. It sort of helps when Seth Rogen is making those call. That opens a lot of doors for us.

the boys diabolical writers

Q: Since you’ve got someone like Seth Rogen making calls, if you get another season is there anyone you would like to make a call to?

Giancarlo Volpe: Oh man, who would be fun? I’m drawing a blank. It’s funny they give us this list of celebrities that are fans of The Boys, so maybe these people [are good to] reach out to. And one of the most surprising ones was President Obama. Imagine if he wrote one! It would have some odd explorations.

Q: What do you think the animation medium brings to the superhero genre that live-action may not quite be able to capture?

Simon Racioppa: Scope is a big one. Obviously, Diabolic or Invincible to do either of those shows live-action the budget would have to be ridiculous, it would be to high. Even with budgets you see on Game of Thrones and other big shows, we would have to change the subject matter so much to fit Invincible into a TV show if it wasn’t animated.

Animation was the only medium to use to tell that story and do it properly, so I think that is what it allows you to do. It allows you to do a truer adaptation of certain material than you could do if you had to do live-action.

Q: Does animation make a lot of the of the gore and violence easier for the audience to process?

Simon Racioppa: I think so. That’s a really good question. If you had the budget and took a few Diabolic episodes or took some episodes of Invincible and shot those live action, I think they might be unpalatable. There may be too much grotesque horror, but because we were able to do it animated, there is a little more detachment between them and allows you to take them in a different way.

This is probably a question for a psychologist to dig into an answer but I think you can watch something that is animated and perceive it as different than if it were live-action and probably someone much smarter than me could answer that on a much better level. That’s my sort of read on it. It allows us to push the limits a little further than you could in live-action.

Giancarlo Volpe: That is an interesting question, one of the things that I found and I’ve said this before is that I’ve never been terrified of a cartoon. Which is interesting because there are people who have said they have been. But I’ve watched some movies were I go ‘I don’t know if I want to finish this’ and you are getting the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. So there is something softer and safer about animation.

We were trying to overcome that, especially on the gore scenes. But there is a certain point where there is only so much more blood I can add to a shot. I told our designers for example when that poor woman gets her jaw ripped off, I was like ‘I’m not going to insist on anyone to pull reference to draw this and I’m not going to check it either and I have no desire’. I’m actually pretty squeamish in that way so as long as it sort of feels correct let’s go with that.

Q: Where does your love for this genre come from, you’ve done so many projects man where does it come from?

Giancarlo Volpe: This is a great question, I just sort of go to whatever interests me. If it is a video game that is out that I’m super into I’m all about that. If it is The Sopranos, I’m super into that. I’m always the guy that goes to the indie section of the comic book shop and gets a lot of indie stuff. I’m always sort of looking for less mainstream stories but I tend to work on mainstream stuff. Maybe there is something there.

I like the smaller personal stories, so I try and put that into an episode of Green Lantern or The Boys. It’s a mix of my interest, but I am a tried and true animation guy, comic book guy, and video game player. That’s my interest.

Q: How was this different from working on your more family-friendly stuff?

Giancarlo Volpe: That is a good question. I spent my career doing mostly children’s entertainment. It’s not necessarily my choice it’s just what pays the bills in this town. I’m often one of the people in the room who is like ‘guys can we make this a little edgier’. The main thing is I don’t want to talk down to kids and I think that is dare I say the secret formula to making great entertainment as to not talk down to your audiences. This was very different in that it was no-holds bared.

I was the one now insecure like saying “Are we pushing this to far? Can we get away with this? This is a lot.” That was certainly a mental shift. I certainly wanted it to feel in tone with The Boys and I wouldn’t have been doing my job correctly if I toned it down so I had to keep it at the pace of the series. I figured to Amazon’s credit and our collective executives if we crossed a line somebody would have said ‘hold this one a bit’. But this series was not about that it was push it.

Q: If there is a season 2 is there another character from the show or the comics you would like to tackle?

Giancarlo Volpe: That is a good question, I was surprised Starlight wasn’t in this at all. I think her and Hughie are the two are you supposed to be pinning for like a sense of good in this dark cynical world. That would be fun to see her and Hughie do something together that popped into my head immediately.

Watch The Boys: Diabolical on Amazon Prime. The Boys season 3 premieres on June 3, 2022.