What is Preacher (an introduction)?

Okay, maybe you’re first hearing about this thing/show/story called Preacher, and you want some information about this. So this little article is here to help you out.

What is preacher?5-16-2016 10-10-59 PM

Typically a preacher is a synonym for a church minister aka one who preaches or delivers a sermon during church service. In American society this typically means someone who is a member of a Protestant Christian church, and typically the use of this term is attributed to the southern states.

Okay, but what is Preacher?

Preacher is a comic book/graphic novel series written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon. The series was published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics, which was created a few years before to put all of the horror/mature audience titles under a single banner. The comic debuted in 1995 and ended in 2000.

Okay, but what is Preacher?

Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher who lives in west Texas. Jesse merges with an entity known as Genesis, who escaped from heaven and is the offspring of an angel and a devil. Genesis grants Jesse the power of God, specifically the Word of God that forces people do do as he commands. Jesse and his friends, his girlfriend Tulip and good friend Cassidy the vampire, seek out God to answer for why he left the kingdom of heaven. They do this while on the run from the Saint of the Killers, and confronting the all powerful organization known as The Grail.preacher32

So, basically it was a mash-up story, along the lines of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino who became expert filmmakers who never lost their love of b-movies.  Preacher is in that vein, mixing John Wayne westerns with vampires and gangster movies with a heavy dash of religious irreverence and alternative sexual lifestyles.

Okay, but what Is Preacher?

In the 1990s, there was a renewed push for more mature comics with adult themes to be published at a national level. Preacher fit the very mold of an R-rated adult comic book, as it contained themes, memes, and images that were very taboo in the Comics Code world: alcohol and drug use, bad language, ultra-violence, nudity, strong sexual themes, anti-religion, anti-authority, scatalogical humor, etc.

In addition, there was a strong sense of the early 90s of a new wave of creators taking over across all mediums. In movies this was seen in the works of Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher,and others. In comics, you saw this with Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, and others.

Ennis and Dillon’s vision of Preacher was very unique and different compared with what had been published before. As such, it became very a very popular comic book among (mostly male, I’m guessing) readers especially in that 16-25 demographic. For them it is a part of their childhood, one of those things that shaped their young adulthood in the same way that maybe True Romance or Superunknown did.

And the publishing aspect of Preacher can’t be discounted either. Titles like Sandman and Watchmen had paved the way for publishers to collect issues of comic books in a bound edition, known as graphic novels or trade paperback. Vertigo was one of the first publishers/imprints to consistently collect issues of their popular series. At the same time, the influx of mega-bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders suddenly became a fixture in strip malls all over the country. These stores all had graphic novel sections, and Preacher trade paperbacks were constant fixtures on their shelves.

Okay, but what is Preacher?

In the 90s, comic books became cool, or at least cooler than they had been. Major general entertainment magazines (Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and the like) started reviewing graphic novels. Spider-man and X-Men became successful movie franchises, along with other titles such as The Crow, Blade, and The Mask.

Preacher has been one of those series that fans have constantly brought up as one they wanted to see on “The Big Screen.” Adaptation of Preacher has been discussed for many years since it’s final publication in 2000, but it has never seemed too likely due to it’s ultra violence and subject manner.

However, with the success of The Walking Dead on AMC, there has been renewed interest in turning comic book series into serialized television shows. In November of 2013, it was announced that Steh Rogen and Evan Goldberg would be developing a series for AMC based on the Preacher comic book. It is currently scheduled to begin on May 22nd, 2016.



Preacher56Preacher was one of my personal favorite comic book series of the 1990s that, in my mind, has become slightly overrated by its fans through the passage of time, who remember a time when naked breasts, gratuitous violence, anti-authority messages, rude language, and “telling it like it is” seemed innovative. It had very real and tender moments between the main characters, including one moment (and it’s not the one most people think of) that made me gasp and tear up at the same time. Mainly, the story is about a guy in his 20s trying to determine what it me
ans to be a man through the different roles of his life: friend, lover, son, leader, adversary, soldier, citizen, good guy, asshole, and preacher.

In between this journey and the tender moments, the creators assembled a cornucopia of violent images, female nudity, sadistic images, caricatures of dispicable human beings, and language and images that project (to a modern reader) homophobia, sexism, and racism. And while there is a glee in authoritative despicable hypocrites getting their comeuppance in disgusting ways, there is just enough delight by the creators to make the title seem (for lack of a better term) juvenile to my eyes, despite loving it 20 years ago.

All that being said, I am intensely curious about the series on AMC. Can the creators of the series mine the comic book for all of the really strong plots, capture the true messages of the series, and retain enough of the irreverent material to work in 2016? It’s very hard to say, but I am curious nonetheless, and I’m in for the ride.

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