How times have changed. When Nickelodeon first aired the series You Can’t Do That on Television, decades ago, the “That” referred to such heinous acts as dumping liquid slime on children’s heads. In 2022, the animated anthology, The Boys Presents: Diabolical, features a character who naturally emits ranch dressing from a certain place. Only the show is a bit more blatant about it than Superhero Hype can be in describing it. The Boys went to some extreme, NC-17 level places in the second season. But despite everything we’ve watched on Adult Swim over the years, seeing that kind of material in animation still has the power to induce shocked laughter. Diabolical review.
Diabolical‘s shorts also take advantage of things that can’t easily be done practically on a TV budget. Massive amounts of casual, gory killings and explosions would blow a season’s budget in a single episode if done in live-action. And characters like a living liquid in the colors of the Mexican flag simply work better as drawings. Not to mention the shorts pay tribute to other cartoons the same way The Boys references other superhero properties. “Laser Baby’s Day Out,” by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is like a Baby Herman and Roger Rabbit short, if Toontown had its own Supes. And Awkwafina’s “BFFs” takes South Park‘s notion of Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo to a whole new level, with an anime-style twist.
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Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland teams with Ben Bayouth for “An Animated Short Where Pissed-Off Supes Kill Their Parents,” applying his usual oddball humor and bulging eye-pupils. A man with a speaker for a head is just more fun in animation. And the one and only song he’s able to play demonstrates a good sense of humor from a much-maligned band whose identity we won’t spoil here.
Occasionally, the action directly affects the main storyline. “One Plus One Equals Two” gives us an early Homelander story that explains his turn from idealistic hero to self-serving a-hole. And “I’m Your Pusher,” by Garth Ennis, effectively enters the multiverse, as Butcher and Hughie are drawn like they stepped out of The Boys comic, and voiced by Jason Isaacs and Simon Pegg, respectively.
Andy Samberg, of all people, pens the short that tries the most to hit the viewer in the feels. An aging man tries to save his cancer-stricken wife by giving her compound V. But as usual, the side effects aren’t exactly what the doctor ordered. In all likelihood, the scenes of an energy creature slicing people up with its tendrils will linger longer than the tearful goodbyes. But props to Samberg for going outside his usual comfort zone.
There’s also a really funny meta-joke involving another MCU mainstay in a role that feels like an oblique Marvel parody. Watch the end credits of each episode and you will figure it out.
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For the most part, Diabolical is just anarchic, dumb, destructive fun. It’s less like a cartoon for adults than it is the over-the-top cartoon within the cartoon those characters would watch. Think Itchy and Scratchy, Terrance and Philip, or Ants-in-My-Eyes Johnson. Any genuine love and positivity on display is secondary to bodily fluid jokes, laser disembowelments, and dogs doing all of the gross stuff dogs do.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical debuts on Amazon Prime Video March 4.
Recommended Reading: The Boys Omnibus Vol. 1
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