The immortal killing machine from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher graphic novel made his live-action TV debut played by Graham McTavish (Outlander, The Hobbit trilogy) on AMC, and it was appropriately terrifying. Unlike most of Preacher thus far, which has been a black comedy with dark moments underpinned by snark, there was nothing funny about the Saint of Killers. And he’s about to make Jesse Custer’s life a living hell.
Fans of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s epic graphic novel know what awaits with the Saint of Killers, but non-readers may wonder what the fuss is about with some dude in Dark Tower cosplay. So, who is he?
First appearing in Preacher #2 in 1995, the Saint of Killers is an immortal, invulnerable, superhuman gunslinger whom Ennis and Dillon modeled after Clint Eastwood from Unforgiven. He was created by Hell but employed by Heaven as God’s tool of destruction (when needed). Even Heaven’s Angels are terrified of him; when he’s awakened to chase down Jesse Custer, he shoots an Angel in the face as a good morning.
Without spoiling too much (not to mention whatever possible deviations Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have planned), the Saint of Killers was a mortal fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He was the most fearsome and bloodthirsty soldier whose reputation reached mythical levels, but after the war he made a living collecting bounties on Indian scalps. One day, he saves a girl from Apaches and her kind heart shows him there’s more to life than murder. He settles down with her in their own corner of the sprawling west.
Years later, his now-wife and daughter fall ill. On his way to get the cure, the soon-to-be Saint is distracted by a gang led by an outlaw named Gumbo McCready. He arrives too late to save them, and taps into his killer instinct once again. He embarks on a hunting spree for the gang, killing them one by one until he gets to Gumbo, who takes an innocent girl for a shield. The soldier aims at Gumbo but kills the girl, damning his soul (as if it weren’t already), giving time for Gumbo to kill him.
While in hell, the hatred in the soldier’s soul was so resilient it causes hell to freeze. The Angel of Death, seeking retirement, and the Devil decide to make him the new Angel of Death, turning Death’s sword into two Colt .45s. After a few killing sprees, God forces him under his employ, using him when He needs a good killing or two done. That’s how the Angel of Death became the Saint of Killers, and is summoned when Jesse Custer gets a hold of Genesis.
Because of the show’s infancy as well as its restraint to show the epic Heaven and Hell stuff from Ennis and Dillon’s books (things seem pretty grounded in Annville for now), one can only guess where things are going, especially if the Saint is involved. He’s technically not even formally “The Saint of Killers” yet — he’s still mortal, having just left his dying wife and daughter in 1881.
It’s likely they’re only going up to half of what you can find in the first collected volume, which is prior to the serial killer in New York and way before the stuff with the Grail and Allfather D’aronique which the Saint plays a huge part in. But that the show has already introduced one of its most memorably characters shows they’re not messing around. There’s so much that Preacher has in store, it makes you wonder if patience really is a virtue.