Preaching to the Choir

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It would appear that 14 years after the last issue of Preacher was published, there are some renewed talks of bringing Preacher to the screen. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are reputedly in talks with AMC to do a TV series on the highly controversial Vertigo comics lovingly crafted by Garth Ennis and frequent collaborator Steve Dillon.

AMC is on a roll of late, with critical reception of dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad shooting through the roof. AMC is also no stranger to comic book adaptations, as The Walking Dead would attest to. While I enjoy the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg brand of humour (see my 2013 movie of the year), I remain skeptical as to how the duo would translate the highly regarded comic to the screen without neutering it.

Preacher remains a beloved 90s relic. There are certain aspects of the comics that haven’t aged well, but by and large, Preacher’s off-kilter sense of humour, over-the-top violence, flawed but indomitable heroes and criticism on Christian hypocrisy remain as essential today as it was back in the 90s. Yet, it is these same defining elements that made Preacher next to impossible to adapt for mass consumption.

Nearly two decades have passed since Garth Ennis brought Preacher to life. Since then, over-the-top violence and intense gore have more or less become entrenched in public consciousness, with movies such as Saw and Hostel pushing the limits of good taste. Right after Preacher’s success (limited as it may be), there were a glut of comics that tried to replicate the inane violence of the series. But they were kind of missing the point. While the over-the-top violence is fun to read in a ridiculous-kill-bill-fountain-of-blood way, they were never meant to be taken seriously, unlike the uninspired copycats that are mired in their self-important protrayal of blood and gore.

Moreover, to the unitiated, Preacher’s humour can be difficult to digest at times. One of the funniest subplots involves the devolution of Herr Starr, one of the series’ main antagonists. Initially saddled with a tragic backstory, Starr was a relentless villain who seek to hijack Jesse Custer (the hero or anti-hero of the story)’s power to create a new world order. After many setbacks (involving various bodily mutilations), Starr grew increasingly insane and absurd, leading to character moments like this:

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Fans will of course remember Ennis’ penchant for taking the piss out of various story tropes. His idea of a happy ending involves the union of Arseface (Nirvana fan who tried to follow in Kurt Cobain’s footstep, but failed with disastrous consequences to his face) and a cyclops who perceived Arseface to be the most handsome dude in the world. I have no doubts that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg will be able to preserve the sensibilities of these off-kiltered moments, but the big question remains.

Preacher is a series that that is centered around its relentless criticism of Christian hypocrisies, from its unflattering portrayal of an inbred messiah to the final scene, where the Saints of Killers finally put an end to God for the many injustices and grievances that the latter has wrought upon him. I am still surprised to this date that Ennis somehow managed to pull this off in the 90s, publishing the comic on Vertigo, which is an offshoot of the very mainstream DC Comics, without incurring the wrath of the religiously devoted. No matter, if Rogen and Goldberg pull this off on TV, I will be religiously tuning to the show.

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