Unlike most other superhero shows, Amazon Prime’s The Boys brings a little more realism to their superheroes, in terms of corruption and powers. That’s where VFX supervisor Stephan Fleet comes in. “We always approach everything, no matter how absurd or supernatural,” Fleet says, “with the thought of ‘what would make it feel the most real?’ I’m getting emails right now from Eric [Kripke] saying, ‘what would make this crazy thing feel the most real.’ It’s a very common topic for us.”
The Boys follows a group of rebels trying to take down the corrupt superheroes, called “supes,” who destroy and kill without consequences. After the shocking conclusion of the first season, Homelander and Vought hold more power than ever while Hughie (Jack Quaid), Butcher (Karl Urban), and the rest of the group are on the run. While still trying to expose Vought’s corrupt nature, a new sadistic supe, Stormfront (Aya Cash), hits the scene and complicates their mission even further.
With the introduction of a new and flashier supe, Fleet had to research and create the effects for her powers. “Plasma actually is more what it is than lightning,” Fleet says, “So, we looked at Nikola Tesla, like how he captured electricity in Tesla coils, and also that plasma ball gift that you put your hand on.” Then, Fleet was in charge of putting together all of the subtle details to make Stormfront’s powers as real as possible. “We looked at how cameras pick things up and when the camera’s pointed at electricity, what I noticed is that most of the time when you have the electrical arcing happening, and it turns off really fast, you get these weird glitches in the camera, like almost white frames. So, we replicated that.”
The destruction caused by the lightning was just as important, which involved a seamless collaboration with practical effects. “For the shot where Kenji (Abraham Lim) is first tossed into the building, we shot from outside in one place, and then the actual living room area was built on a soundstage so that we could demolish everything for real,” Fleet says. “So, a lot of that destruction is real and we were removing wires and adding things like a bit more dust, more cement, stuff like that.”
The scene was not only the real introduction to Stormfront’s powers, but an introduction to her true nature as well. “We had Stormfront who, up until this point, you don’t really know much about. So, at first you kind of like her because she has a strong social media voice and she’s using it to lobby for a pro-female approach to supe-ing,” he says. “But now all of a sudden you see her kill this innocent guy by slamming him into the refrigerator. It was the director’s idea that we’d go up the building and see it getting destroyed, like, ‘who cares about the people that live in this building. We’re just going to go after this one guy.’ So yeah, the whole thing was just a blast and definitely violent and extremely destructive.”
In the end, the most important thing to Fleet is to ground the fantastical and supernatural into some form of reality. “We replicate all the mistakes and all the errors that happen in real life, like on cameras with real electricity, and we add that to our visual effects,” Fleet says. “What’s kind of funny about that is, I remember one person on social media was like, ‘there’s an error in your visual effects. There’s a glitch. You need to fix it.’ And I’m like, ‘no, no, no, it’s perfect. Some people are like, ‘no, there shouldn’t be a mistake,’ but that’s the way we are in the world and we embrace mistakes in real life.”