Over the course of five years (1995-2000) we were introduced to a group of outsiders in a story that’s earned a lot of respect among comic readers. Written by Garth Ennis with art by Steve Dillon, this story proved as unforgettable as it was enjoyable. Preacher as a comic series was unpredictable, and Ennis challenged the industry to go to some fairly uncomfortable places during the main series’ 66 issue run (75 in total if you count one shots and a miniseries). I’m writing today to predict that this show’s upcoming television adaptation is going to generate a lot of talk when it debuts for an initial ten-episode run in mid-2016. It’s being developed by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, and Sam Catlin for AMC and, if they remain true to the original story, this series will challenge viewers in ways The Walking Dead and even Breaking Bad haven’t been willing to touch.
This series features the story of Jesse Custer (a small town preacher), Tulip O’Hare (a gun-toting ex of Custer), and Cassidy (an Irish vampire who also happens to be Custer’s closest friend). While serving the good people of Annville, TX, Custer finds himself accidentally possessed by a force known as Genesis. Genesis is the result of… well… “relations” between individuals from both Heaven and Hell. This possession destroys Custer’s church and kills his entire congregation. Custer then finds himself on a cross-country quest to, quite literally, find God and have a conversation with him and the state of things.
I’m excited to see the series find its new home at AMC after years of false starts. Ennis worked with Miramax initially in the late 90s for a feature film, but it went into development hell due to financing and the religiously controversial source material. It returned in 2006 when HBO commissioned a television pilot and, impressed with the script, even created a series bible for the first season. They planned to turn each issue of the comic series into an episode going page to screen. Sadly, a change in studio execs in 2008 led to the project being abandoned, once again due to the source material. Columbia pictures entered the game in 2008 purchasing the rights, but that too was sidelined despite Sam Mendes being tapped to direct. To say the least, it’s been a long road for Preacher and its fans.
Since this series is being proposed to match up alongside AMC’s other comic book juggernaut, The Walking Dead, let’s do a little character comparison to get you up to speed. If you are a WD fan, do not think Gabriel Stokes when you think about Jessie Custer. This preacher has an edge and moral code about him that will not bend. He’s Rick as a leader mashed up with Abraham’s no-nonsense style added into a solid dose of Michonne’s life or death sensibilities. This is a true southern preacher who has had his faith tested in the worst way only to find himself with the ability to command others through his spoken word. His powers evolve to rival the almighty who walked away from Heaven the moment Genesis was born.
This, my dear readers is the easy part of this tale to explain. Here, both the sacred and the profane align to stop Custer’s mission to have words with God. He and his friends cut their way through life with a sense of mayhem as they explore our fair country. All this and we haven’t even gotten to Cassidy and Tulip, who, for me, are two of the more intriguing side characters in comics. What happens to these three along the way, and the final story resolution takes this tale in directions that must be read (and soon be watched) to be appreciated. The comics are, without a doubt, not for the faint of heart and are at times shocking. That said, those who wish to consider the broader meaning of life and have their beliefs toyed with, if not outright challenged, may find a lot of fun in the source material for the new series. You will not forget the name Garth Ennis once you read these comics. This I promise you.
Summing things up, prepare yourselves! Given the characters being cast in early notes on this series, I uttered to myself, “Oh, they are actually going for it.” Once Herr Starr, the Saint of Killers, Marie L’Angell, T.C., and Arseface join the show this is going to be one heck of a ride, and I can almost guarantee protesting views and controversy will follow in its wake. Saddle up… This is going to be interesting!