The Boys' New Big Bad Is Almost Too on the Nose for These Extraordinarily Racist Times

Stormfront as he appears in issue #31, and Stormfront as portrayed by Aya Cash.
Stormfront as he appears in issue #31, and Stormfront as portrayed by Aya Cash.
Image: Carlos Ezquerra, Hector Ezquerra, Tony Aviña, Simon Bowland, Dynamite, Amazon Studios

Look to your left. Now look to your right. Did you see a Nazi? If you were reading and/or watching The Boys in anticipation of the developments coming in the second season, chances are good your answer’s a resounding “Ugh, yeah. I do.” Our deepest condolences.

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Because the worlds of Garth Ennis’ The Boys and Amazon’s live-action adaptation of the comic are both dominated by megacorporations who sponsor superheroes, the dynamics that exist on various hero teams aren’t just about how different characters get along, but also larger ideological powers vying for an opportunity to spread their respective messages. After introducing us to a reality in which famous capes were every bit as debaucherous and inclined to commit atrocious crimes against humanity—knowing full well that the empowered criminals would and could never really be held accountable—The Boys’ second season makes a point of doubling down on that reality in the way that it centers Stormfront (Aya Cash) and puts her whole schtick out front. It’s something that’s somewhat less nuanced in the comics but still speaks to the fact that she’s a deadly menace.

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While Stormfront simply becomes the newest member of the Seven in the show, the comics character’s story is a bit more complicated. He’s a member of a similar, but slightly less prestigious, team known as Payback. Like all Vought-American-owned capes, Stormfront has an elaborate, fictional backstory that’s presented to the public in order to make him a marketable product. While most everyone believes that he’s a reincarnated Viking with the ability to call lightning down from the heavens (Stormfront’s vaguely a Thor analog on a team of pseudo-Avengers), the reality is that he was a regular person born some time in the early 20th century who gained his array of superpowers as a result of Nazis experimenting on his mother in the years leading up to World War II.

Though Stormfront proved useful to the Nazis in combat during the war, he was ultimately deemed to be too much of a potential problem because of his virtual indestructibility. The Third Reich intended to murder him to make sure that he never became a threat they would personally have to deal with—but unbeknownst to his masters, Stormfront was whisked away by his creators. He was given the opportunity to become one of the world’s most recognizable superheroes with new origins that obfuscated his past. Though the Nazis wanted to wash their hands of Stormfront, he embraced their ideology wholeheartedly, and while he would eventually begin to hide his views about white supremacy, they were still very much a part of who he was as he moved into the modern era of superheroics.

The Female of the Species fighting Stormfront.
The Female of the Species fighting Stormfront.
Image: Carlos Ezquerra, Hector Ezquerra, Tony Aviña, Simon Bowland, Dynamite, Amazon Studios, Dynamite

In the comics, one of Stormfront’s biggest objectives is to establish Payback as being the world’s top team of powered heroes, but he’s also still quite committed to pushing his racist agenda and taking opportunities to inflict pain upon non-white people. In Amazon’s adaptation, Stormfront’s more of an unknown quantity. Much as Vought controls the heroes it essentially owns the rights to, the show’s version sets herself apart through the way that she uses social media to boost her own profile and spread fear about “supe-terrorists.” What unnerves Homelander—the Seven’s de facto leader who’s been the cause of so much of their pain and suffering—about Stormfront is both that she’s almost every bit as physically powerful as he is but also knows exactly how to work the public to make them embrace her as a celebrity.

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From the clips that Amazon has shown from The Boys’ upcoming season, Stormfront sees her new spot on the Seven’s roster as an opportunity to push her own agenda, part of which involves advocating for a degree of equity for the team’s female members. Cash told EW of the role, “she can be quite the feminist. There’s a lot of, I wouldn’t say misdirect, but she also is a very empowered woman.” She also seemingly gets sexually involved (in some capacity) with Homelander, a known sociopath. This suggests that as the season progresses, the two of them are only going to continue to become more involved with one another and presumably get into all sorts of messed up, metahuman nonsense that results in the deaths of innocent people.

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The Boys presenting Stormfront as the Seven’s new champion for representation on the team is the sort of twisted idea that makes both the comic and the show interesting. Even on its face, Vought bringing in a white woman in an effort to diversify smacks of the ways in which real-world initiatives to make spaces more inclusive oftentimes don’t really go far enough to tackle the issues they’re meant to. Not only is Stormfront yet another white face rounding out the Seven’s ranks, if her mindset ends up aligning with her comics counterpart’s, the Seven would also be bringing an outright Nazi into their midst, which has larger implications than people might initially consider.

Again, teams like the Seven don’t just go out and fight crime, they’re the money-making faces of an entire content machine that churns out films, comics, toys, and other forms of media that all exist under the Vought brand. Stormfront becoming the newest, and potentially most popular, member of the Seven can be interpreted as Vought giving an antisemitic, white supremacist a microphone to spread their hateful message to the public under the guise of wanting to keep the public safe. In many ways, it’s easy to see her as an example of the kind of institutional racism that’s always existed within America’s political power structures that’s only become more pronounced and explicit in the age of Donald Trump.

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If Stormfront’s every bit the disgusting villain that her namesake was in the comics, The Boys is poised to present us with a particularly ugly aspect of its world that’s far too rooted in our own reality. But putting that sort of racist bullshit on blast is something that could also end up making The Boys second season truly stand out in a media landscape that’s increasingly being dominated by more and more stories about costumed heroes.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

“These Extraordinarily Racist Times”

Oh come on! Today’s western societies are the less racist cultures that have ever been, and that are today on this planet. The work done by western culture on tolerance and acceptance of every individuals is just short of miraculous when you look at our past, or at the rest of the world.

It’s far from perfect, and there is sill a lot of work to do, but it’s time people come down from their high-peak of outrage and realise how lucky we are to live in these societies right now, so that we can continue to do this work in peace.