AMC's Preacher is one of the most intriguing new series headed our way. But not much is known by the general TV viewing public about this adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's seminal graphic novel.
So if you're new to the world of Preacher, where do you begin? You begin with this: A crash course that will catch you up to speed before the series premiere.
Buckle up, y'all, 'cause it's about to get weird: angel-demon hybrids, a disgruntled preacher, a kid with an ass for a face, forced self-sodomy, the ghost of John Wayne, an immortal Patron Saint of Murderers and Assassination, vampires, Mardi Gras and drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. And that's just scratching the surface. Ready? Here we go.
The idea for Preacher was conceived during Ennis's run on Hellblazer. Preacher raised the question of what would happen if an angel and a demon ever came together to spawn a child, and that offspring bonded with a mortal human being.
Enter Jesse Custer, a reluctant preacher in the small Texan town of Annville. One Sunday morning, after he's been on a bender, he's preparing to give a sermon in front of his congregation. It's then that he's possessed by the spirit of Genesis, the offspring of an angel and demon. The energy released by their unnatural bonding causes an explosion that levels Jesse's church and kills all 200 people in his congregation.
Jesse then sets off on a trip across the United States to hunt down God, who has abandoned heaven. Adventures both violent and revelatory ensue.
After Jesse is fused with Genesis, he develops the ability to command anyone to do his bidding through the Word of God. After Jesse's bonding with Genesis and the razing of his church, the police show up and he commands all of them to put their guns down, which they do immediately.
Jesse has an unwavering sense of right and wrong, and will not hesitate to hurt or kill those who cross his strict moral code. Also, Jesse's word is so powerful that when it's misinterpreted, it leads to tragic consequences.
The Word of God is the only supernatural power Jesse possesses, but he's also a cunning strategist, skilled in hand-to-hand combat and proficient with firearms.
Jesse Custer is the titular character of the Preacher series—the one who bonded with Genesis and lost his congregation.
Genesis has infinite knowledge of the secrets of heaven and hell, and these truths are filtered to Jesse subconsciously through dreams and hallucinations. Because Jesse grew up watching Western movies, his hallucinations often take the form of John Wayne.
While Jesse is a good man, he's also a vengeful one; his strict adherence to a moral code is his Achilles' heel. He has no qualms about using violence against those he believes have sinned.
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter, Captain America: The First Avenger, Warcraft will portray Jesse.
Tulip O'Hare is a tomboy who was raised by her father, and she is an excellent marksman. She's Jesse's ex-girlfriend at the start of the series, but she becomes his romantic interest again.
She embarks on a brief but ill-fated career as a hit woman. Because of her past and the fact that Jesse broke her heart when he left her without warning, she's a troubled individual, often turning to alcohol and drugs.
Despite this, she is tough as nails and even more savvy than Jesse. She is also incredibly loyal and helps Jesse out time and again, despite all that he's put her through.
Ruth Negga Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., World War Z, Warcraft will portray Tulip.
Cassidy is a morally corrupt Irish vampire, making him an odd companion for Jesse, but nonetheless the two strike up a friendship. He's a former member of the Irish Volunteers — which later became the IRA. He was bitten and turned into a vampire shortly after deserting the army.
He has superhuman strength, speed and healing abilities; the only thing that could kill him is being placed in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. He only drinks blood from humans if he's being threatened. He prefers to survive on booze.
But while Cassidy is not necessarily a bad man, he's a weak one in that his penchant for drug addiction, his alcoholism and his inability to take responsibility for his actions have left a trail of broken people in his wake.
Joseph Gilgun (Misfits, This Is England, The Last Witch Hunter) will portray Cassidy.
Arseface is one of the more tragic characters in the sea of weirdness that is Preacher. The son of Sheriff Root (who we'll get to in a minute), he's grown up in an abusive household and is bulled extensively at school because of his father.
Arseface and his friend Pube obsessively worshipped Kurt Cobain. The two made a suicide pact, but whereas Pube succeeded in killing himself, Arseface bungled the shot and ended up deforming his face.
After this, the boy resolved to be more upbeat and positive, even in the face of his father's abuse. Following a showdown with the Preacher that leads to his father's gruesome self-sodomy, Arseface sets out to hunt down Jesse but instead ends up becoming his friend and traveling companion.
Ian Colletti (Baby Mama, Rake, Jimmy) will portray Arseface in the series. At some point, I expect we'll see him in full facial prosthetics.
Sheriff Hugo Root is a mean-spirited asshole, through and through. Racist, alcoholic and violent, the sheriff of Annville rides through life abusing his power and making the lives of those around him miserable — especially his son.
Case in point: when Root's son tries to commit suicide and disfigures his own face, Root's only words to his son are, "Shoulda put it in your mouth, you dumb little fuck." He's neither loved nor respected by the people of the town that he's sworn to serve and protect. Rather, he's loathed and feared.
After Jesse's bonding with Genesis, his world collides turbulently with Root's.
W. Earl Brown (Deadwood, True Detective, American Crime) will portray Hugo Root in the series.
Fans of the comic books have understandably been wondering where the Saint of Killers is in the confirmed character list for the upcoming series.
The Patron Saint of Murderers and Assassination is an immortal former Confederate Army soldier with an insatiable bloodlust. He now wanders the Earth with a pair of Walker Colt revolvers that can kill anything. He's hellbent on tracking down Jesse in order to return Genesis to heaven.
He's impervious to all physical harm, supernaturally quick, and those aforementioned dual revolvers have the power to kill even God and the Devil. Anyone who holds one of them can see all the ghosts of the people the Saint of Killers has executed over the centuries, and they are legion.
He's far too important a part of the Preacher mythos to omit, so we can assume that the showrunners are holding him back for a second season.
Herr Starr is another important villain we haven't seen cast. His part in the story is broader than that of Sheriff Root, who is shaping up to be the main villain of Season 1.
Herr Starr is a former German anti-terror operative who rises to the rank of Sacred Executioner in The Grail, a shadowy global organization bent on protecting the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Starr is also after Jesse Custer for his own reasons.
He's ruthless and unhinged, and as the story progresses, he devolves even further into sexual perversion and insanity — situation normal for the characters of the world of Preacher.
Speaking to /Film in an earlier interview, writer-producer Seth Rogen confirmed that while he and his cowriting cohorts Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin had stayed true to the spirit of the comic series, they did have to change some things for television:
"Me and Evan are writing it [right] now with the help of Sam Catlin and we’ve come up with a lot of incredibly crazy ideas. [Laughs] It’s a fun thing to riff on and talk about. We’re definitely trying to expand on some of the ideas in the comic and make it that…we love most of the main cornerstones of the comic but we’re trying to make it that even if you’ve read the comic you should not know exactly what to expect from the TV show."
Still, one has to assume that, much like [The Walking Dead](tag:201193), some of the content would have to be watered down from the source material to be fit for consumption on television. Preacher is controversial and, depending on your sensitivities, offensive from top to bottom. It's also brilliant and vast.
Preacher's sodomy (both self-inflicted and otherwise), dismemberment, drugs, cannibalism and mass murder, to name just a few shocking themes, might be cause for blanket outrage, unfortunately.
Beyond that, Preacher never gave a single, solitary fuck about how blasphemous it got, and that's part of what made the comics so brilliant. Jesus never died on the cross in Preacher, but went on to have children, the latest descendant of which comes from a bloodline so inbred that he's mentally deficient.
And God has it even worse in Preacher, with shades of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy at play. He is depicted not as a powerful and merciful deity, but as selfish, cowardly, weak-willed, petulant and narcissistic. In fact, it's the rampantly controversial religious aspect of the story that killed the movie adaptation being kicked around in the late '90s.
But if anyone were to shun convention and the safety of a watered-down story, it's the combo of Rogen and Goldberg. Add Catlin, who, with his Breaking Badpedigree, is no stranger to creating stories about bad people doing even worse things, and the adaptation is in good hands. Even if they can't cross the line with the Preacher series, you can be sure they'll at least tiptoe right along the edge.
Preacher premieres Sunday, May 22 on AMC.