All things considered, the 1980s Satanic panic movement might have had a point, given the uncomfortable number of devil-linked protagonists now running around our screens. Two new series — Lucifer and Preacher — are currently offering new takes on the devil’s henchmen, both taken right out of DC Comics’ archives. (Had the live-action adaptation of fan-favorite Constantine not crashed and burned, there would be three!)
All three shows adapt occult fantasy comic books known for their explicitly dark content. A casual TV-watcher, however, might easily confuse these shows’ dark colors, gritty dialogues, and interchangeably-handsome protagonists. Do the differences even matter? Of course they do! Scroll down for an immediate crash course.
Fox’s new supernatural procedural, Lucifer, takes Neil Gaiman’s Sandman interpretation of the Fallen One a little less seriously than we might prefer. The show finds a bored Lucifer, weary of his dominion over hell, handing the keys to someone else, and joining us mere mortals in search of thrills — a retirement plan that finds him as a freelance informant to the LAPD. It is loosely based on Mike Carey’s Lucifer comic book series, which ran for 75 issues between 2000 to 2006.
AMC, home to The Walking Dead and Into the Badlands, will soon bring us Preacher, an adaptation of Garth Ennis’ supernatural satire that also spanned 75 issues from 1995 until 2000. Preacher follows Jesse Custer, a small town Texas minister on a road trip across America looking for God. Custer harbors unparalleled power after being possessed by a spirit of both pure good and evil, an event that wiped out his entire congregation dead.
The series comes from executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who swear they’re taking it seriously. The series will premiere in May and star Dominic Cooper (aka Howard Stark in Agent Carter) as Jesse.
Unlike Lucifer, whose source material revolved around themes of free will, Preacher is a dark Western that speculates on the idea of a demon and an angel uniting into one. The comic is foul; it is weird; and for the longest time, it was deemed un-adaptable. The premise supposedly came to Ennis during his run on Hellblazer. Speaking of which …
Oh, what could have been. The NBC series was canceled in early 2015 after an unsuccessful grassroots campaign failed to convince execs to renew it for a second season.
For 13 episodes, Constantine found Matt Ryan as a pitch perfect John Constantine, a British con man and “petty dabbler of the dark arts.” Constantine was in many ways a gothic Doctor Who. The chain-smoking antihero traveled across several locales (albeit, mostly shot in Atlanta), taking up “cases” that required an acid-tongued magician.
The series was based on DC’s Hellblazer comics (1988-2013), which saw Preacher scribe Garth Ennis on writing duties throughout the ’90s. Unlike Lucifer and Preacher, the Hellblazer comic was fully anchored in the DC Universe and not above the occasional Justice League crossover appearance.
Fan support for Constantine was strong enough that the producers of Arrow featured Matt Ryan as a guest this season, reprising his role for a single episode. This thusly made Constantine a part of DC’s ever-expanding Arrowverse, which leaves the flimsiest hope alive that we have not seen the last of Matt Ryan’s Constantine.