The Inverse Interview
Aisha Tyler wants to see her 'Diabolical' characters on 'The Boys'
“I wanted this to have a real relationship to the live-action series.”
— Aisha Tyler
The Boys is so unique in among the many superhero genre offerings because it focuses on the corruptive nature of power and how that often reveals the worst in people. For writer and actor Aisha Tyler, this goes against the classic superhero canon of good guys being always good, which doesn’t reflect the real world.
"I also just love going inside the life of a superhero when they are not fighting crime," Tyler tells Inverse. "And I thought the more mundane stuff like getting coffee at the supermarket or when a relationship starts to crumble was a really funny area to mine."
Tyler wrote the episode "Nubian vs Nubian" of the animated spinoff, The Boys Presents: Diabolical, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The new show is an anthology of parable-like stories, introducing new supes while also bringing back familiar faces in animated form. Tyler’s episode particularly deals with a superhero couple who are getting a divorce and their young daughter who is willing to do anything to get them back together.
"There's always that moment where all of us think of our parents as superheroes," Tyler says. "And there's the moment where our parents stop being giants and just start being human. This is about that moment for Maya, as she sees that they are just regular people doing their best. So she takes the reins of the family."
In an interview with Inverse, Aisha Tyler discusses her episode of The Boys Presents: Diabolical, turning superheroes into pro wrestlers, being inspired by anime, and how the episode could tie into future seasons of The Boys.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
This episode treats superheroes like pro wrestlers, which is a different side of the corporate take on heroes than we see on The Boys.
In America, if there were superheroes, they would be corporatized, right? We corporatize everything here. Ground Hawk probably was a white hat, now he's a black hat, but that's a story that was written for the guy — he's just a nice guy. I love that when Maya comes to him, he's really sympathetic. He's a sweetheart. He has this persona, but he wants to help.
I always loved that about The Boys. Everything we're seeing is just a veneer; it's a script that's been written. It's not about helping people; it's just about making more money. That says a lot about American culture right now. People can very quickly and easily draw their own conclusions.
You not only write the episode but are the voice actor behind Nubia. Did you write it with yourself in mind for the role?
I didn't write that role for myself. They asked me to write an episode, and that was what I was focused on. I honestly was not thinking about voicing the character. So when they were starting to think about casting, I sent a list of actors who I thought would be good for both of those roles. And they came back and asked me to voice Nubia, and I was like, "Of course I do." She was really fun to voice, but we didn't know who we were gonna get [for Nubian]. We had a really ambitious list of actors for Prince Nubian, and then we got Don Cheadle, which was just the biggest get of all. So it ended up being pretty awesome.
Did you write the episode with a visual style in mind?
I did. I grew up liking superheroes and collecting comics, and my favorite was Teen Titans and X-Men. I wanted that old classic kind of X-Men style. It's been described online as anime-style, but I didn't want the adorable big-eye, cutesy anime. I wanted that old-school edgy, like Justice League but better, look that I grew up on. I sent them examples of Black Lightning, Samurai Jack, and Afro Samurai, which I really loved.
How much did you want the show to connect to the main story of The Boys?
When I direct, I typically try to build Easter eggs into my work because as a fan, I always love when I can discover stuff and when it feels like you're getting a peek into a part of a much larger world. We have a backstory to Nubian and Ground Hawk; we know that they've been paired together in this kind of pro wrestling thing for a while now. Ground Hawk also references the Young Americans, later in the episode. There are pictures on the floor at Ground Hawk's place that deepens the story, and you can imagine at the end of the episode that they're going to continue interacting. They live in the same neighborhood!
How would you imagine these characters fitting into the live-action show?
I think they would fit perfectly fine. When I was pitching my ideas, they sent me this huge character bible with all the different characters, all the different divisions and units, and all this art. Then I narrowed it down to a shorter list and started asking, what about these guys? And they're like, you can't have this one or this because they're showing up in the series. That was really fun to find out what was going to be happening downstream. But these obviously feel like a center bullseye for the actual world of The Boys. They could definitely show up, and I wanted this to have a real relationship to the live-action series and to make it feel like a part of that world.
So, I think it'd be super cool to see it happen. But I love what's going on with them now, and I imagine that after all this happens, the Nubians and Ground Hawk are just gonna go get a beer.
The Boys Presents: Diabolical is streaming on Prime Video.