The much-beloved Vertigo comics series Preacher concluded its six-year run in 2000, and even before the final issue hit comic book stores, its ardent fans in Hollywood have tried to adapt it for the screen, both big and small. Writers and directors like Kevin Smith and Sam Mendes have been attached to those attempts, but there’s never been much in the way of progress toward actually seeing it happen.
However, over the weekend, news broke via the Alamo Drafthouse-affiliated Badass Digest that AMC ordered a pilot for the Texas-based series, and that a Hollywood clout-heavy Seth Rogen was now attached in some capacity. Preacher centers around Jesse Custer, the reverend of a church in a small West Texas town who finds himself bonded with a supernatural creature from the Old Testament that allows Custer to command anyone to do as he says. As he learns the nature of his gift—which is neither divinely nor devilishly imbued upon him—Custer begins an adventure that leads him to seek to use his gift to confront the Lord Almighty, and get some straight answers about what he’s done with his creation.
Development news of the series has popped up and dissipated before, but a pilot order from AMC, a network that has had major recent success adapting R-rated comic books (as with AMC’s The Walking Dead) and currently has a massive hole in its programming (left by the conclusion of Breaking Bad) is encouraging, if you’re a fan of a story with a lot to say about religion, masculinity, and Texas.
Those broad, polarizing topics don’t necessarily do well on television (even cable), especially if the TV show aims to be as irreverent about them as Preacher is in its comic book form. The series, which plays with Christian mythology in ways that it wouldn’t be unfair to describe as outright blasphemous (case in point: the scene above, where we see the protagonist spit in the face of a vengeful god), might explain why there’s been such difficulty in bringing Preacher to the screen in the past, despite the series’s cinematic appeal
But the series is, in many ways, a full-scale re-examination of the idea of Texas and what it represents, in ways that a lot of the people who might boycott a program like this would probably appreciate. At its core, Preacher is at least as much about the mythology of Texas, as interpreted by its creators (Irish writer Garth Ennis and English illustrator Steve Dillon) from across an ocean and filtered through countless Westerns. (The ghost of John Wayne is a recurring character in the series.)
There’s a bit of evidence that this interpretation of Texas—as a place where straight-talking men and women stand for what’s right—is still a popular idea, and one that resonates well beyond our borders. (Look at the icon that Friday Night Lights has become!) Focusing on Texas as a character could actually be relevant and well-received by AMC’s audience, considering that the state continues to grow and attract people from around the country, and nearly everyone has an opinion and/or pre-conceived notion of the state. The bigger, more prestigious series on television tend to inspire worthwhile conversations, so it’s interesting to imagine the national dialogue that might be kickstarted by a series built on examining the myth of the “cowboy” masculinity of the West—particularly Texas.