With the upcoming Preacher television show on its way, I thought it would do some good to go into the time machine and review some of the old Preacher stories, to see how they stand up to a modern viewing. I started at the beginning, of course, with Gone to Texas.
Gone to Texas is the first story arc of the Vertigo comic book, Preacher, written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Steve Dillon. The story arc covers the issues 1-4 of the comic book, and introduces us to the main characters of Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Dare, and Cassidy. This story arc is collected in the trade paperback Preacher: Gone to Texas (which is out of print) and in the deluxe trade Preacher: Book One.
It was the time of the preacher in the year of 01
Now the lesson is over and the killin’s begun
It was the time of the preacher in the year of 01
An’ just when you think it’s all over, it’s only begun
“Time of the Preacher” – Willie Nelson
In heaven, an entity known as Genesis, created from the union between an angel and a devil, has escaped from its confines to seek out a human soul on Earth to bond with. An Adelphi angel named DeBlanc, sends Pilo to raise the Saint of the Killers to hunt down Genesis and kill any human it bonds to, if necessary.
In Annville Texas, Jesse Custer is the young preacher of the town who goes to the local bar on a Saturday night, and tells everyone how he is sick of everyone acting churchlike on Sundays, and like savages the other days. When he confronts two brothers about raping a young girl, they hit him on the back of the head with a pool cue. The next day everyone in town comes to church, having heard about Jesse’s antics in the bar. At that moment, Genesis bursts into the church and bonds with Jesse Custer, causing the church and the entire congregation to burn in flames.
Outside of town, Tulip and the vampire Cassidy are resting until nightfall when they see the explosion of the church. They rush to town to see what happened, when Tulip finds her ex-boyfriend, Jesse Custer, unharmed in the wreckage. Later the three of them are recapping what happened, when Sherrif Root and his deputies confront them. Jesse uses the “Word of God” given to him by Genesis to have the police let them go. As the three drive off in a truck, The Saint of the Killers arrives looking for Jesse. When Root and the police confront him, he murders everyone but Sherrif Root.
In a town, Cassidy and Jesse are confronted by some bullies in town, during the fight, Cassidy reveals that he is a vampre by biting a guy who stabbed him in the eye with a knife. After an argument, Jesse calls him an abomination, and Cassidy drives off. Cassidy finds the Saint of the Killers down the road in a bar, where he has murdered police officers and bar patrons. The Saint recognizes Cassidy, and shoots him in the chest after Cassidy punches him in the face, to no effect.
Sherrif Root rushes off to help in the manhunt with his son, who survived his own attempt to commit suicide with a shotgun, hidden in the backseat. Root finds Jesse and Tulip sneaking out of a motel room after Jesse is starting to realize about Genesis. Root has a stand-off with the two of them until The Saint shows up, just before Cassidy attempts to run The Saint over but instead ends up flying out the window after hitting him.
Sherrif Root’s son runs out of the squad car to save his dad from The Saint, and is named Arseface by Cassidy. This gives Jesse enough time to use The Word on both Root and The Saint. Jesse has The Saint call down the Adelphi Deblanc to find out about Genesis and the secret, which is that once Genesis was born God quit and left heaven, leaving the Seraphi (archangels) in charge. Jesse makes a vow to go find God and have him answer His people for abandoning heaven.
Then in the final wrap up of the story arc:
- Jesse uses The Word to tell Sherrif Root to literally fuck himself. Sherrif Root asks his son to hand him his gun, which he uses to kill himself.
- The Seraphi cast DeBlanc and his partner Fiore out of heaven.
- Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy hitch their way to Houston to begin their search for God.
Sermons from Reverend Ennis and Reverend Dillon
Garth Ennis is an Irishman who is infatuated with American cowboy values. So of course, he’s going to have some sermons to be preaching to us. These are some of his sermons from the first arc.
- On vegetarianism: “I’ve got this brilliant recipe for quiche! You make the quiche right, an’ then you cook it, an then you throw the stupid fuckin’ think out the window. Then you grill yourself a t-bone and eat that instead.
- On behavior: “I see you every Sunday, the few of you both to show up, an’ you think you can sing a few goddamn hymns an then act like savages for the rest of the week?”
- On partnership: “I know what I said. Reckon a man kin… change the way he thinks about his pardner”
- On forgiveness: “Abomination… Shit, I never stood in judgement like that on a fella before…”
- No matter what is said or done, you can always change your mind about how you think of a partner/friend.
The rules, myths, and dogma that make up the world that Preacher inhabits.
- Heaven is made up of Adelphi (who are workers/scientists) and Seraphi (who are warriors/archangels).
- The Seraphi were left in charge of heaven when God abdicated
- Genesis is a cross-bred whelp, half angel/half devil, that is seeking a human soul to better understand human concerns and morality. Genesis has the power like God Almighty, and can show a human the secrets of paradise.
- Angels, both Adelphi and Seraphi, can be killed, but seemingly only by other celestial creatures. What happens to them at that point is unknown. Angels can also become intoxicated.
- The Saint of Killers can track people, but apparently has to walk to find them. He also carries antique Colt Revolvers that never run out of bullets.
- The spirit of John Wayne that talks to Jesse has knowledge of The Saint, whether this is information from Genesis or his own knowledge, is not shown.
- The mysterious organization called The Grail are powerful enough to potentially have spies in Heaven.
- According to wikipedia, the phrase, “Gone to Texas” was a phrase used by American
- The title of the first issue, and the song that Jesse sings is a reference to “Time of the Preacher” by Willie Nelson
- In the first issue, Cassidy is singing “Rake at the Gates of Hell” by the Pogues, which is not only a reference to Cassidy’s (and Ellis’s) Irish heritage, but also to the Hellblazer story arc, Rake at the Gates of Hell, which also was written by Warren Ellis.
- Jesse is advised by the spirit of the cowboy that John Wayne portrayed in the movies.
- When confronted by the police helicopter, Cassidy references OJ Simpson, who led the LAPD on a car chase in 1994, the prevous year.
- The tile of the second issue, “And Hell Followed With Him” is a reference to the Book of Revelation 06:08: And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
- Sherrif Root’s son’s favorite singer was Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, who killed himself in April of 1994 due to a self inflicted shotgun blast to the face.
- Cassidy sings “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette when he’s with Tulip shopping for clothes.
- The title of the fourth issue, “Standing Tall” is a reference to the classic John Wayne western of the same name.
The following is a list of plots that I’d like to see the AMC series take a further look at.
- Definitely can see the characters of Pat and Terry Morrow expanded on, who in the comic book raped a hitchhiker girl and whose dad paid off a judge.
- More time can be put into why Tulip was in debt to the point that she had to kill someone to pay it off, and more about who she was supposed to kill.
- Who Sherrif Root actually is, and why he is this way will be interesting on the television screen. He has to be a jerk to help create, Arseface, but can he be a jerk without being a screamingly racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-authority bully.
- More information about DeBlanc and the Adelphi would be an interesting plot point.
JESSE: Always did get sentimental with liquor inside me.
CASSIDY: Right, let’s give it a bit of class and get the Irish into it.
JESSE: It’s his voice that gets me…. That crawling, grinding whisper… Spitting hell and ghosts and cobwebs in your ear.
TULIP: Just out of interest—what would your sermon have been about?
ROOT: Govern-ment and the EFF BEE AYE, they know shit they ain’t tellin’ us. Got a Airforce hanger with a speaceship in it an’ a dead Martian N***er inside, ‘cept they don’t figure we’re ready to know about it yet.
CASSIDY: Curiosity won’t just kill the cat, it’ll bite its head off and stump-fuck the remains ‘til the sun comes up.
CASSIDY: Aye, all right. I could do with some crazy shit in my life.
AGENT DINNINGS: You’ve got him firing thirteen times with two revovlers. I counted. Guess you Texans are fond of your magic bullets.
TULIP: But Genesis, that makes you think more of creation… birth, or the first book of The Bible…
CASSIDY: Or a fuckin’ terrible band.
JOHN WAYNE: Reckon a man kin… change the way he thinks about his pardner.
JESSE: When my mom an’ dad fell in love, they broke the rules, too.
CASSIDY: You’re a right mad bastard, Doctor Cassidy. I’m glad I came to you.
THE SAINT: I’m gonna kill you.
JESSE: Well.. Well maybe some day you will. But not right now.
ARSEFACE: And if I have a face like an arse – So be it! I will become Arseface! (translated)
JESSE: So, just before I reach the diner, John Wayne appears out of nowhere and throws me this big, shit-eating grin… and I turn around and throw it right back.
The whole Preacher series is a combination of really good ideas that are wedged into some very dated material, and this opening trade is no exception. At the core, Jesse custer is a man in his early 20s trying to discover where he can find truth in the world. It turns out that the basic truths that he was taught as a young boy offer more truth than any authority that he comes across. These opening issues of Preacher is like a big ‘screw you’ letter to all self-righteous institutions like religion and law enforcement. And in so doing Ennis and Dillon create an anti-hero in Jesse Custer, who actually follows the values and morals of the ultimate cinematic hero figure in John Wayne.
However, Ennis and Dillon create three really likeable characters in Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, and there are nice mysteries going forward: Why did Jesse leave Tulip in Arizona? Why was Tulip trying to kill someone? Who are the Grail? Who is Gran’ma. The rest of the characters are barely fleshed out archetypes with little or no personaltiy. The plot moves along well and builds the world slowly, and unlike other series you know exactly what the purpose of the book is.