While "Walking Dead" fans wait for spinoff "Fear the Walking Dead" to arrive later this summer, there's another AMC comic book adaptation that should be on their radar: "Preacher," from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the comic books from writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon.
What "Preacher" lacks in zombies and Daryl Dixon, it makes up for in vampires and Proinsias Cassidy. It's a story about God and the Devil, all the angels and demons in between, and the mere mortals caught in the crossfire, as a tough-talking Texas preacher does his best to use newfound superpowers to put higher powers in their rightful place.
It's also about a man with an arse for a face.
Arseface, as he's called, is one of the many colorful characters encountered in "Preacher," an unintelligible and rebellious teenager who shot and disfigured himself for reasons we won't spoil here. He's played on the show by Ian Colletti, and is seen in this behind-the-scenes image posted on Rogen's Twitter account speaking with Jesse Custer, the preacher at the heart of the tale.
Dominic Cooper, perhaps better known to comic book fans as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Howard Stark, plays Custer, a good ol' boy who preaches in a small town filled with addicts, abusers, cheaters and other assorted forms of sinners. Just when he's pushed past his breaking point, he collides with an almighty power that gives him the power to speak with the word of God — whatever he says goes, in other words.
Custer travels with two companions in the comic books: Tulip, his gunslinging ex-girlfriend, and Cassidy, an Irish vampire whose thirst for blood is only matched by his thirst for Guinness. On the show, Tulip is played by Cooper's fellow Marvel player Ruth Negga, while "Misfits" alum Joe Gilgun takes on Cassidy.
With Cassidy and Tulip at his side, Custer sets off to use his Word of God for good, with one specific greater good in mind: Finding God. Literally. He learns that the almighty has run away from Heaven, and Custer takes it upon himself to seek him out and make him answer for abandoning his post.
That's the setup in the comics, at least. Will it be the setup on the show? Hard to say. There are already some significant departures taking place between the Ennis/Dillon comics and the Rogen/Goldberg show, including new characters like "Weeds" veteran Elizabeth Perkins as Vyla Quinncannon, a familiar surname for comics readers, albeit one that shouldn't show up this early into the story.
In Rogen's BTS picture of Arseface and Custer, we can see posters for several different rockers and bands, including one from a September 2014 Jack White concert — which places AMC's "Preacher" well past the 1990s setting of the comics. It might seem like an arbitrary decision on the surface, but there are some aspects of "Preacher" that are deeply entrenched in the '90s, Arseface's disfigurement especially, that it's perhaps a bigger leap than you'd think.
But "Preacher" wouldn't be the first AMC comic book series to take significant departures from the source material. Look no further than "Walking Dead," which keeps many of the main beats from the books intact — the prison and Alexandria, as two examples — but alters them in significant ways, either by adding new characters or killing off characters still alive in the comics. Yet, even with these deviations, "Walking Dead" the show maintains the spirit and tone of "Walking Dead" the comic.
If that's the case we're looking at with "Preacher," then perhaps fans can breathe a bit easier. But it's a beloved story, one with a longer history than "Walking Dead," and one that's walked a long, hard road spanning years and years of adaptations that never quite took flight. Fans are very protective of "Preacher," in other words, and some are worried that the show might pull its punches on some of the more vulgar and controversial aspects of the comics.
For example, that Quincannon we mentioned? Something unmentionable happens with that character, and we don't expect to see that particular meat-and-greet on an AMC show anytime soon.
Still, it's nothing short of a minor miracle that "Preacher" is actually being made right this very second. Scenes are being shot. Jesse Custer and Arseface are hanging out together. The show still needs to pass the pilot stage, but we're already further along than ever before. Maybe, if we're lucky, we're on the precipice of living in a world where the names Herr Starr and the Governor are equally well known among TV watchers. If nothing else, Rogen's Twitter account should be a fun ride for the foreseeable future.
What do you think of "Preacher" so far?