Tagged: Preacher

Martha Thomases: The Importance of Fleeting Contact


The casual serendipity of random intimacy is one of the wonders of adulthood. I don’t mean the kind of groping that hides in crowds so that its perpetrators can perform a criminal act. I mean the temporary companionship we discover with people we don’t know when circumstances cause us to spend a few hours together.

When I first moved to New York I’d talk to strangers on the bus, surprised at how easy and pleasant it was. I made friends for life (whom I haven’t seen in 30 years) when my son was born prematurely, and I spent a few weeks in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit with parents of other premies. At the playground, I enjoyed getting tips from other parents and caregivers.

So it is with comic book conventions.

It tends to be my role at these events to staff the booth and make sure the talent is comfortable and free to interact with the fans who have paid to be there. I fetch water and snacks, if possible. I stand a lot because fans are more comfortable when they can talk with me eye-to-eye. I keep a smile on my face even though I’ve been asked the same question a couple hundred times, because it’s the first time for the person who is asking.

Just as at the playground, the conversation is both deep and fleeting, subject to easy distractions and the call of duty. We’ll talk about good places to eat, the future of the industry, and which bathrooms have the shortest lines. We’ll get judge-y about cosplayers. We’ll gossip. We’ll speculate with no basis in fact.

For the six to eight hours each day, my booth mates are my best friends ever. It doesn’t matter where they come from, what kind of work they do, or what political views they hold. We have a lived through the fires of hell together, and we all deserve to go the a bar for a drink.

This is why I am so sad about the loss of Steve Dillon. I don’t claim that I knew him well. I never met his family, or even saw a picture of his home. I only spoke with him a few times away from a convention, and one of those times, I interrupted him with a phone call at a pub when there was an important football game happening.

There were hours and hours when I stood behind him at the DC booth as he signed one autograph after another. Sometimes, he’d doodle a little profile of Jesse Custer of Preacher, the book most fans wanted him to sign. I must have watched him draw that image hundreds of times. He could do it with just a few lines, and each sketch had the emotional intensity he brought to so much of his work.

My first comics editor, Larry Hama, would tell me that one of the advantages of working in the graphic story medium was that we had an unlimited special effects budget. It cost just as much to create a page with an intergalactic battle as a page of two people talking in a coffee shop. His point was that I should consider taking advantage of this freedom to write stories that would be incredibly expensive to film. He wasn’t saying that scenes with people talking were bad, but rather that I should have really good reasons for writing them that way.

Steve Dillon could make scenes of people talking in a diner the most intense, emotionally involving possible story-telling choice. When I read his work, I projected deep and volatile emotions into the faces of the characters. Maybe it was his pacing. Maybe it was the way he laid out the panels. Maybe I just had an affinity for his work.

I hadn’t seen Steve in more than 15 years when I heard that he died. My first thought was to wonder what Garth Ennis would do, which is more than a little bit ridiculous. Both of them had other collaborators, and both of them did magnificent work on those projects.

To me, though, they will always be sitting side by side, signing work, making snarky remarks, and otherwise making their fans feel special.

Marc Alan Fishman: “God, Where Are You Anyway?”


Prior to it appearing on AMC (home of Meth!), I’d never been indoctrinated into the seminal comic book series Preacher. I long knew of its quality – nary a person within the geek-menagerie of every comic shop I’d lived in was without someone constantly droning on the merits of the Garth Ennis road-trip-opus. But much like many series of my middle-youth (Transmetropolitan, Fables, Sandman, etc.) I was far too much of a commercial whore to appreciate the boundary stretching sequential fiction that didn’t plaster its protagonists in capes and cowls. Luckily, I grew up.

We live in a gilded age of comic-to-mainstream-media. Even just listing the current crop of comic-based bounty choking our airspace right now could be an article unto itself. That Seth Rogan and his production team would tackle a show as complex as Preacher due to their love of the source meant good things. And let’s be honest: AMC rarely puts out less-than-stellar work. With a cast anchored by the formerly young Howard Stark – Dominic Cooper – and a commitment to not barrel into the world of Preacher without care produced a well-paced epic dramedy that soon moved from DVR fodder to appointment TV in my house.

For those not in-the-know, Preacher concerns itself with one Jesse Custer. Jesse is a bad man trying to make good. He’s joined by his long-standing love (and ball-busting, rocket launcher building, frozen vegetable cooking) Tulip, and the Irish vampire Cassidy. In the comic, we’re immediately in media res with the odd trio as they take to road trip to find (and pummel?) the Lord almighty. Instant hook, no? Well then what balls Rogen had with his team to spend the entirety of the recently completed first season to take a step back to do a bit of world building.

Most other critics (and my good friends throughout the social media spheres) felt that this choice – with a Southern-slow-as-molasses plot – was a yawn that lasted for plenty of episodes before the pace quickened. In my mind, this deliberate plodding helped create what many decent-but-not-great TV shows have been lacking as of late: an original tone. Look only to stalwart standbys like Arrow, or Agents of SHIELD for one-note (but still very entertaining) story telling. Here, Preacher professes to build the town of Annville, Texas one sad life story at a time. And we’re better for having to been made to soak it all in before the season finale.

Spoiler Alert. Turn back now, in case you’re shy.

By the time Jessie, Tulip, and Cassidy take off on their mission to find God (insert Blues Brothers reference here), Annville is a crater of ashes – a searing cloud of fart fumes and death. To have started out the series on this explosion would have been a lurid choice. By making us live in the town first, Preacher sets us up for so much more pain in the pending future seasons. That the town itself ignited amidst a miles-wide pandemic of sin merely served as the icing on a deliciously sadistic cake.

And all of this is beset by methodical and memorable characterization and astounding plot beats. Obviously owing the debt to the comics crew for the source material to draw upon, Preacher was a bold experiment in the boundaries of shows directed towards the semi-masses. Unlike the immediately engrossing Breaking Bad, here Preacher introduces the insane concept of Genesis straight away. While it would take us several episodes to get the full explanation, knowing that I can now tell a curious stranger about the show where the spawn of an angel and demon inhabits a criminal man of God, granting him the angelic/demonic power to bend a persons will to his words? Well, you don’t run across that much on TV. Join that to the notion that vampires are real, Heaven’s angels are inept hitmen, and God has gone missing? That all adds up to a striking series that I will egregiously wait for enthusiastically watch when the second season comes a’callin’.

All this and I haven’t even touched on Arseface.

Preacher gives me faith that our beloved comics will continue to permeate the masses in the best ways possible. So long as those responsible are beholden to the original creators? We can all say a little prayer that this golden era never ends.

Martha Thomases: The Preacher Feature


A little over twenty years ago, Vertigo began to publish the Preacher series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. It was my job to promote it to mainstream (i.e. non-comic book trade) media. I was already a huge fan of Garth’s run on Hellblazer and almost got a blurb for it from Sting until the corporate types told me that wasn’t allowed.

I loved every issue of Preacher. It was funny and scary and emotional and philosophical and brilliant. It simultaneously evoked John Ford westerns and Harvey Kurtzman slapstick. It had a character named Arseface, for crying out loud. I did some of my best work promoting that book, because I believed I was bringing happiness to millions.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out there was going to be a television show based on the comics (or “graphic novels” as it says in the opening credits). Unlike many, I wasn’t worried about the involvement of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg because I loved This Is the End, both because it promised the right tone for Preacher and because it’s so damn funny.

I wanted to refresh my memory of the comics and reread the whole run in my collection of trade paperbacks. Alas, I can’t find them, so I went into the television show only slightly better prepared than a Preacher virgin.

Preacher is about Jesse Custer, a minister with a shady past who is suddenly able to compel people to do whatever he tells them to do. He lives in the small town in Texas where he grew up, perhaps hiding, perhaps trying to find himself. There are people (or beings who look like people) trying to find him and take away his special abilities.

The show begins before the comic book stories do, and seem to take major liberties with the plot. I don’t really care. Comic books are not television series, and can’t be precisely reproduced. And more than twenty years have passed since the comic began. A character like Tulip, who is pretty much just a love interest in the comic, is a fully fleshed out character in the television show, with her own problems and passions and sense of herself. More than a few critics think she’s the most compelling character, at least in the four episodes that have aired as of this writing.

A lot of these critics have compared the television show to a Coen Brothers movie, and I understand that. There are a lot of terrific faces in this series, faces that aren’t symmetrical or conventionally beautiful. The cinematography gives the exterior shots a golden glow that can be warm or bleak, and the interior shots can be exalted or claustrophobic or in-between.

Here’s what I remember most about the series: Steve Dillon would draw page after page of the three main characters (Jesse, the titular preacher, Cassidy, the vampire, and Tulip, the girl), and even though that’s supposed to be the most boring thing one can do in comics, I was mesmerized. A lot of that was Garth’s writing, but it was also the way Steve could convey so much information in a facial expression. There are actors that do this, at least for me (Claire Danes, Denzel Washington, Bette Davis), but very few artists in any medium.

The show doesn’t look exactly like Dillon’s art, but it feels like Dillon’s art, just like the Hughes Brothers’ movie From Hell felt like Eddie Campbell’s art without actually looking like his line work. Similarly, Dominic Cooper and Joe Gilgun feel like Custer and Cassidy without actually looking like them. Ruth Negga isn’t cute and blonde like the Tulip in the comics but, as noted above, she’s way better.

Garth and Steve both have their names on the television series as executive producers, and I hope this means the checks clear. I also hope I keep enjoying the vibe the show shares with the series. In the meantime, I’m having way more fun with this than the last few seasons of The Walking Dead.

Martha Thomases: Waiting For The Right Part

archangel gibson guice

I’ve had computer issues for the last day and a half. Nothing major, but I needed a part, thought I ordered it from a place that would deliver in two hours, and, after my order was processed, I found out it would be two days, not two hours.

So this is late to my editor. And also, I thought I had a “Get Out of Writing My Column Free” card since I couldn’t use my computer, so I haven’t been thinking much about comics or pop culture. At least, not any more than normal.

So, here’s some thoughts at random.

  • Maybe I’m not reading the right sites, but I don’t recall any fuss about a woman of color playing Tulip on the television series, Preacher, despite the comic book character being a blonde, blue-eyed white woman. Have we grown up, or have too few people read the original story?
  • Or perhaps all the trolls are so busy trying to sabotage the new Ghostbusters that they don’t have any time for cable television.
  • On a related note, let’s all make sure to see Ghostbusters on opening weekend so those misogynist assholes don’t think they have any power. You know, like we did with Star Wars.
  • What’s with all the two-hour season finales of television shows? If they’re not any good, I stay rooted to my seat, afraid that if I change the channel, I’ll miss the cliff-hanger at the end. And if they are good, I stay rooted to my seat, engrossed in the story but still unable to go to the bathroom. Thank you, DVR and pause buttons.
  • The best new comic I’ve read recently in the category of “I Had No Idea This Was Going to Be Published” is Archangel from IDW, written by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith, with art by Butch Guice. I confess that I was nervous about whether or not Gibson could write for comics as well as he writes fiction (I love his fiction), but I think he pulls it off. Cool twist on time-travel, interesting and diverse characters, and, unlike so many new series, I think I’ll be able to follow this without getting too confused. Pay attention, Ta-Nehisi Coates!
  • This Monday is Memorial Day. Thank a veteran, and do what you can to stop any more of them from getting killed.