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Will AMC’s Preacher Adaptation Live Up to the Graphic Novel?

Written by Jason Wittmer

In a world where a new comic book movie is ostensibly released every other weekend, fans have never before been able to see so many of their favorite characters transition from the page to the screen. The same can now be said about comics on television: DC is in the process of developing a third show (Legends of Tomorrow) to add to their already impressive inter-connected universe on the CW; Marvel’s Daredevil was met with acclaim by both critics and fans alike, and will be followed by three additional series on Netflix; and of course, AMC’s The Walking Dead adaptation continues to score spectacular ratings, having definitively cemented its status as one of the most popular series currently on TV. But, does every comic deserve an adaptation?

Created in 1995 by Garth EnnisPreacher ran for 66 issues (plus 5 one-shots and a 4-issue miniseries), and has since been regarded as one of the most equally celebrated and controversial comic series of all time. Preacher starred Reverend Jesse Custer, who inadvertently becomes possessed by Genesis – a supernatural entity that is the offspring of both angel and demon – at the beginning of the story. Along with his no-nonsense ex-girlfriend Tulip, and their Irish, vampire best friend Cassidy, Jesse tries to discover the true origin of Genesis, as well as why it chose him. Soon enough, Jesse learns that God – yes, that God – has left his post in Heaven, creating a frenzy amongst the angels, and subsequently leaving Jesse feeling betrayed. If that wasn’t enough, the Reverend must also deal with the “Saint of Killers,” the brutal, undead cowboy/hitman who kills in the name of the Lord. With plenty of enemies on his tail, Jesse Custer embarks on a mission to find God – wherever on Earth he may be – and confront him for apparently abandoning mankind.

An amalgam of many genres – elements of Western, Horror, Supernatural, Action, and Comedy are all evident – Preacher is incredibly ambitious. It isn’t just about religion; it’s about America, it’s about friendship, it’s about duty, and it’s about a teenager with a self-inflicted shotgun wound on his face, who goes by the moniker “Arseface.” If you’re offended by now, this comic is definitely not for you. If you’re confused as to how one series can explore all of these concepts and somehow not be a chaotic mess, then go buy this comic now because it will not disappoint. After reading the series, you really feel like you know the characters; it’s an incredibly satisfying read with a ton of twists that will have you excitedly turning the pages, laughing at the absurdity along the way.

A film adaptation had been stuck in development hell for over a decade, until AMC finally gave fans some hope for an adaptation when the network announced in 2013 that they were developing a series based on Ennis’ work. Given the complexity of the subject matter and the plot, the comic definitely lends itself more to an adaptation on TV, rather than film. Furthermore, Seth RogenEvan Goldberg were hired to develop, write, and direct the pilot – along with Breaking Bad veteran, Sam Catlin. With Tony Stark’s father himself, Dominic Cooper, in the lead role, the pilot is currently filming in New Mexico, where AMC’s most critically-acclaimed show had also been filmed. But, is the talent involved capable of pulling it off?

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Rogen & Goldberg have certainly dabbled with religious subject matter before, in the particularly hilarious supernatural-comedy, This is The End; however, has the writer-director team proven its ability to create an entertaining work that isn’t generously peppered with four-letter words? Not exactly. Their PG-13 Green Hornet adaptation, in particular, wasn’t very well received. Preacher obviously deals with much more controversial and contentious subject matter, and the series has no shortage of curse words and other R-rated material; it will be a challenge, though, to see if they are capable of revealing the story and the characters in an engaging way, without it coming off too parodic or nonsensical.

The good news, though, is that Catlin – with plenty of experience writing, directing, and producing for Breaking Bad – will serve as showrunner. And fans have got to appreciate the casting of Cooper as Jesse Custer – he’s got the Stark-type chops to pull off the charisma of a Reverend, while his past villainous roles have shown he can just as equally pull off the anger and betrayal that is so inherent to the character. Though Preacher can be a rather sprawling narrative, the character of Jesse Custer aptly stands as its focus. He changes, he surprises, and he doesn’t take shit from anyone – not his enemies, not his friends, not even from God. It’s a character that is ripe for the small screen and, if it is adapted well, Jesse Custer may soon stand along the likes of Walter White, Tony Soprano, and Don Draper as one of the most flawed, yet captivating characters in what has become known as “The Golden Age of Television.”

What do you think about the upcoming Preacher adaptation? Will the pilot be good? Is Dominic Cooper a good choice for Jesse Custer? And are you, like me, disappointed that The Saint of Killers has not yet been cast? He’s gotta be in the show, right? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Jason Wittmer