You may have heard that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are finally turning Preacher into a TV series. But if you’re not a comics fan, or just weren’t reading Vertigo between 1995 and 2000, you might have missed the series. So, instead of dropping a few hundred bucks on comic books, here’s a primer on the series and why fans are so excited.
What’s the basic plot of Preacher?
Jesse Custer, his ex-girlfriend and crack marksman Tulip, and his reprobate Irish vampire of a best friend Cassidy are looking for God in America. That’s literal, not figurative: A creature known as Genesis has taken up residence in Jesse’s skull, giving him the power of the Word of God, meaning whatever he tells people to do, they do it. Jesse wants to use that to force God to cough up some answers about why the world is the way it is; God has other ideas.
Needless to say, everybody from secret church conspiracies to the United States government is interested in Jesse and what he can do. And God is oddly nowhere to be found.
Is the comic any good?
Often incredibly so. In 1995, nobody really knew how to take Preacher; it was something completely new and different, and cemented the career of one Garth Ennis, the writer of the entire run. It’s also a rare comic in that the same artists, Steve Dillon and Glenn Fabry, did the interior art and covers, respectively.
I feel like I’ve heard about this comic being nearly made into a movie or a TV show before?
The history of aborted attempts to bring Preacher to the screen could pretty much make up their own post. It’s been in continuous development since 1995, but there have been a lot of near misses.
Why, if it was so popular?
Because Garth Ennis loves going over the top. To say Preacher could be charitably described as gory, violent and blasphemous is a bit like saying the Pope is Catholic; it’s filled with black comedy and drew a lot of Quentin Tarantino comparisons at the time. Part of the reason the book was so enormously shocking at the time was that Ennis went full-bore. And he’s got a lot to say about politics, friendship, and the nature of God.
Add to this the fact that his characters are actually fairly complex. Jesse, for example, is not a studly hero; he’s actually kind of a jackass, something that comes back to hurt him. Everybody’s got more to their story, making it a complex book to sort through, sometimes.
Sometimes, Preacher tries a little too hard to offend. But Preacher is, underneath the meat-woman humping and Arsefaces, a serious story about friendship, morality, and faith. In other words, the book was a damn hard sell in 1995 for a Hollywood that defined comic books as Batman and Robin-esque romps, and only got on TV because we’ve got a lot of cable networks with an appetite for edgier fare.
What arcs of the book do you recommend?
The entire run is available on Comixology, and the collected editions have never gone out of print. Really, though, it’s meant to be read in order. Start with the first book, and if you like what you read, it gets better from there.