It’s been a long, long time coming but Preacher has finally been adapted. The seminal graphic series (emphasis on “graphic”) will debut as a television series on AMC, the network that has redefined cable with the likes of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Fans are eager for the show, but there’s been some trepidation from certain sects of fandom because of how different the show seems to be from the source material.
That kind of anxiety is understandable to an extent. Fans don’t want to see their beloved properties mutilated or sanitized for a wider audience, but that’s not the case with Preacher. The tone, spirit, and attitude of the comic are all present in the pilot episode but it’s the finer details that have been rearranged. Preacher is not a Sin City-esque replication of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic book.
And that’s great. While direct adaptations like the DC Animated Universe films certainly have their audience, those will always be much more niche and impenetrable to those who have never picked up a comic book in their life. Preacher is a show that obviously wants to do right by its fans, but it also wants to grab an audience that is experiencing this story for the very first time.
That means that a lot of the material from the books will have to be altered in one way or another. Something fans are worried about is if the show will water down a lot of the shock value that the comic is infamous for. I can guarantee you that that isn’t the case, but it’s also important to remember that what audiences find shocking changes over time. Intense violence isn’t quite the gut-punch it used to be in a post-The Walking Dead world, so the showrunners behind Preacher have to find new and surprising ways to make their audience cringe and gasp with horror. With Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg helping to steer the ship (along with Breaking Bad‘s Sam Catlin), I have no doubt that they’ll be able to succeed in that arena. Their incredible fantasy/comedy This Is the End is the best audition for Preacher you could hope for.
I mentioned the idea of surprising the viewers and that’s another reason why fans should be pumped for Preacher: they don’t know what’s going to happen. If fans really want the comfortable familiarity of the Preacher story they know and love, they should absolutely go read the comic series again. It’s my favorite comic book of all time and I will assuredly be reading it again and again throughout my lifetime, but I don’t want that to be how I experience the Preacher television show. I want there to be twists and turns that I’ll never see coming, but peppered with characters and moments that spark my knowledge of the comic book. If the show was just the comic translated verbatim to the screen, it’d be a waste of everyone’s time because everyone would know what was coming around every corner.
The last thing I unfortunately, have to mention is the casting of Ruth Negga as Tulip. As we’ve seen with instances like Johnny Storm in the recent Fantastic Four film or James Olsen in Supergirl, there’s a contingency of fans who balk at the idea of casting a person of color in a role that was originally written as a white character. To these people, I can only say this: shut up. All that matters is that the actor in the role is a good actor and Ruth Negga kills as Tulip. She’s got all the spunk, strength, heart and humor that the Tulip O’Hare of the comics is known for. Her skin color has less than nothing to do with how enjoyable of a character she is. If this is a change that riles your feathers, maybe you didn’t actually read Preacher and see how much it hates that kind of racism.
Preacher is the exact kind of adaptation we need more of: it stays true to the soul of its source material while carving out its own unique path. Fealty to a source can be detrimental at times. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is a great example of this; it crams in as much material from the book as it can, but the style and tone of the movie is in direct conflict with the style and tone of the story. That’s not the case with Preacher. The television show feels like what Preacher would have been if Garth Ennis wrote it today instead of in 1995. If you are a fan of the comic, then the changes in the television show will have you all the more excited.
Preacher premieres on AMC on May 22 at 10/9c. Get ready to have a hell of a good time.