AMC’s decision to adapt Garth Ennis’s Vertigo comic, Preacher came as a huge surprise. Stuck in development for nearly two decades, the show finally moved forward with a surprising creative team behind it – namely, the duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as executive producers, and Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad) as writer/showrunner. Dominic Cooper (Peggy Carter) stars as the eponymous Preacher Jesse Custer, joined by his avenging ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and the Irish vampire Cassidy, played by Joe Gilgun. Together they set off on a journey to find God. Literally.
Despite sharing a channel with another comic book adaptation, the most popular zombie show currently airing on television, Preacher is very much a different animal than The Walking Dead. An outrageously dark view on religion, and a grungy pulp take on the western, Preacher is heavy with supernatural themes, religious mythology, and a healthy dose of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll for good measure. Bringing Preacher to television was no small undertaking, and the creative team did so successfully by deviating quite a bit from the original comics in a way that newcomers and comic fans might both be watching a new and unfamiliar show. With that in mind, here’s a handy list of things to keep track of to get the most out of AMC’s Preacher.
If you decide to read the comics after watching the Preacher pilot you might be surprised by how different the characters in the show are from their comic counterparts. The show wisely streamlines a lot of the characterization, introducing Jesse Custer as he just arrives back to his hometown to take over the previous preacher’s (his father) congregation. More a wayward soul than the antihero seen in the comics, AMC’s Custer cuts a far more sympathetic figure than when the comic first introduces Custer. The show is intent on showing us just how troubled and lost Custer is in his attempt to tend a good church. This is a far better approach that adds nuance to a character who feels a bit dated in the comics.
Far and away the best move by AMC is to introduce Tulip as a fully formed badass. While in the comics, it takes some time for Tulip to find her strength, the show’s version is ready to leave a path of destruction to get revenge. This adds some interesting twists to her introduction in the premiere, as it throws her origin story in a bit of limbo. She might genuinely not be the same Tulip we know from the comics, and it makes Ruth Negga’s Tulip the most fascinating character to keep an eye on going forward.
The Irish vampire on the other hand seems to be pretty much the same from the comics. Hard-drinking, tough-fighting Cassidy is on the run from an international cabal of vampire hunters before he finds himself in the same little Texas town as Custer and Tulip. The show certainly doesn’t want to keep the whole vampire thing a secret, but the slower pace of the show might enjoy teasing out the big reveal for a little longer. Still, it looks like most of the supernatural violence will be doled out by Cassidy, at least in the beginning.
The comics had a pretty “heavy metal” depiction of Heaven and the angels. With its vibrant colors and geometric construction, it was a very “90s” way of looking at the religiously supernatural. The plot device that sets off the angels coming to Earth in the first place is the escape of Genesis, a half-angel, half-demon baby. Genesis travels Earth looking for a host before settling on living inside our protagonist, Jesse Custer. Don’t expect the Genesis to look the same in the show, but you should recognize it when you see it nonetheless. Along with putting a bounty on Custer’s head by all of Heaven, Genesis gives Custer…
The Word of God
After being struck by the Genesis, Jesse realizes that he’s gained the power to command people to do his bidding, as long as the person is able to listen and comprehend the words coming out of his mouth. The Word of God is almost like the monkey’s paw in some respects in that Custer’s words are often interpreted literally. This can cause some problems for Custer’s good intentions as he’ll need to phrase his commands properly lest he invite an unfortunate interpretation to his sermon.
DeBlanc and Fiore
While not explicitly told, the two mysterious strangers following the trail of mayhem left behind by the Genesis’ travels on Earth is almost certainly DeBlanc and Fiore, two Adelphi angels sent to return Genesis back to its prison in Heaven. Expect the pair to act as bumbling Heaven police as they try desperately to find Genesis before it destroys Earth a bit more.
In the comics, Arseface (because of his face) gets the way he is because he tried to emulate his hero, Kurt Cobain. The show looks to be adding more layers to the unfortunately nicknamed teenager, keeping the reason for his face and the motive behind it shrouded in mystery.
The show seems to be taking a rational approach to a lot of the supernatural elements in the comics. The changes are by far mostly aesthetic so that the supernatural bits are more digestible for new viewers. The one thing that remains true is that God is certainly missing from Heaven and has gone corporeal on Earth. His existence in the world is hinted at in the conversation between Custer and Arseface if you take a specific moment literally, which knowing the source material, is probably a good call.