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 The Preacher

  -An Introduction of Sorts

  -The Plot

  -The Cast

  -Stereotypes, Conventions, and Stuff

  -A Short History of Comics (external)




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An Introduction of Sorts

                      "Humor blacker than the smoldering remnants of David Koresh"
                                          (a fan of Preacher at yankthechain.com)
Welcome to the crazy world of Preacher. This comic was released in 1995 by the DC Comics line Vertigo. Right now (February 2000), the series comes closer to its conclusion with Issue #60, as the final storyline nears its end, and the five years that the series has been on the market, it has gathered a huge community of fans.
Since the Preacher is sort of an underground comic (I will not discuss the question whether a big company like DC Comics can publish an "underground comic"), writer Garth Ennis and main artist Steve Dillon have the allowance, maybe even the obligation, to create a sometimes stunningly brutal, sometimes riotously funny, never politically correct, and always controversial graphic novel, which might even be made into a film in the near future.
Let me remind you now that this comic does intentionally violate all standards of decency, and it is suggested that any person having problems with blasphemy and excessive violence for their own sake refrains from deeply exploring the topic.
So now enjoy the ride, and remember that it is never a hundred percent serious.


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The Plot

Sunday church service in the small Texan town of Annville. Reverend Jesse Custer wants to start his sermon, when suddenly something like a ball of fire bursts through the church ceiling, into Jesse Custer, and kills the whole town community in a vast explosion.
The thing that burst out of the sky is in fact the God-like entity Genesis, child of the sexual relationship of a demon and an angel. And the host it chose to reside in is Jesse Custer, who now literally has the Word of God, giving him the ability command those who listen to follow any orders he gives them.
Still buried under the ashes and debris of his church, Jesse is discovered by his ex-girlfriend, Tulip O'Hare, and a rowdy Irishman, who spends the daylight hours sleeping under a blanket on his truck. The trio of heroes is established, but soon hunted by the superhuman Saint of Killers, who has orders to kill Genesis and its host. But the Word enables Jesse to stop the Saint and to summon an angel who explains what has happened: After the birth of Genesis, God has quit his creation and ordered his angels to take care of heaven.
Upon hearing this, Jesse embarks on his quest to find God and have him justify this behavior. His ex-girlfriend Tulip follows him, hoping to find out why he abandoned her years ago in Phoenix, and the vampire Cassidy follows them basically just for fun. And to make matters even more complicated, the Saint of Killers is always one step behind them, though his next appearance will be quite a while later.

The trio then goes to New York, helps to stop a serial killer, and splits up when Cassidy goes to San Francisco to see his girlfriend while Jesse and Tulip are going South.
There, Jesse is forced to face his past when he and Tulip are kidnapped by the men who work for Jesse's evil grandmother. She was the one who forced him to become a preacher, and she wants him to father children in order to continue the line of Preachers in her family. Tulip gets killed, is resurrected by God who wants Jesse off his trail, and Jesse kills his grandmother and her servants.

The story shifts to San Francisco, where the reunited Jesse and Tulip meet with Cassidy, who wants to avenge the death of his OD'ed girlfriend. More important, the mysterious Grail is introduced, a world spanning conspiracy, whose aim is to trigger Armageddon and rule the world with a new Messiah. This new Messiah is The Child, last child in a direct and incestuous bloodline dating back directly to Jesus. But Grail member and conspirator within the organisation, Herr Starr, thinks that Reverend Jesse Custer should be this new Messiah.
Yet since Starr only knows Jesse's name, Cass' is jumping into the breach, and Starr only finds out that he has the wrong person when he is already in the Grail's secret stronghold in France. Jesse follows to rescue his friend, and in a first showdown the forces of the Grail, Jesse, and the Saint of Killers meet. The result is a bloodbath, in which the Allfather of the Grail, the Child, and hundreds of soldiers die.
Yet Starr, Jesse, Cassidy, and the Saint survive.

The stage is set, and from now on the plot heads towards the final confrontation which will come in the end.



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The Cast


Jesse Custer Jesse Custer

Jesse has all the attributes of the conventional Western Hero: He is from Texas, has a strong sense of justice and the will to execute a sentence on the spot (including lynching), a rigid personal code of honor, and an overconfident attitude which he displays especially towards Yankees and Europeans. He is possessed by Genesis, the child of an angel and a demon. This God-like entity gives him the power of "the Word", and enables him to order a person to do anything, even to die or to catch fire.
It is this trait which makes him a comic superhero in the traditional sense, but his general behavior and language ensure that he and the whole series set themselves apart from the classic mainstream superhero comic.
"Jesse drinks too much, smokes too much, and has a peculiar habit of taking advice from John Wayne"

Tulip O'Hare

The girlfriend of the hero, she shows no tendency to act accordingly to any conventions whatsoever. Although just a strong woman of the nineties at a first glance, the character is more rounded than one would think.
She is an extremely good markswoman and a ferocious fighter, who won't be stopped by being killed and resurrected by God. Yet she also has some weaknesses, like an alcohol and drugs problem in times of emotional crisis.

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cass2.jpg (22791 Byte) Cassidy

A character with "bite", Proinsias Cassidy is the rogue in the trio of protagonists. He has a strong affinity for hard liquors, especially Whiskey, and for rude and uninhibited behavior in general. Although he looks younger, he was born at the turn of the last century, but after a short and not so heroic episode as a fighter in the Irish Easter Rising, young Proinsias was bitten by a Vampire when he was already on his way home.
Being a Vampire allows for some superhero traits, like regeneration and therefore a lessened vulnerability to gun wounds, but direct sunlight is a different matter.

Herr Starr

Jesse Custer's main human antagonist.
A former GSG9 member, Starr fights what he perceives as Chaos, and wants to replace it by a rule of order. This has made him join the Grail, which he uses as his instrument in the war. To use his words:
"I am at war. I have been all my life. And I would kill a million little girls to win."
Needless to say, Starr is THE stereotypical German.

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 wayne.jpg (21605 Byte) John Wayne

His true identity remains unclear, but he obviously serves as a kind of guardian spirit for Jesse. No one but Jesse can see or hear him, and Jesse keeps him a secret from all other characters.
He is like a father figure for Jesse, acting as a constant reminder of the values and ideals Jesse should follow. Since he is John Wayne, he does this job in a direct and very outspoken fashion.
"You kin talk the talk, now let's see ya walk the walk"

The Saint of Killers

He is the most tragic character in the whole series. While others make the reader laugh, the Saint is the Angel of Death. Literally.
A living and breathing man once, he lost all that was dear to him, and died when he sought revenge. But his hate was strong enough to freeze hell, so the Angel of Death quit his job and took him as a replacement.
                 The Saint then slaughtered Satan, an entire Texas village, and was reawakened by some angels in order to kill Genesis. So he stalks the earth again, and leaves a trail of blood, and even a thermonuclear explosion will not stop him. It will only make him pause and say: "Not enough gun"

 saint1.jpg (45065 Byte)
arse1.jpg (70497 Byte) Arseface

The comic relief, Arseface embodies all that is not serious in the comic.
After Kurt Cobain had shot himself, the son of a Texan sheriff wanted to do the same, but failed in the attempt. When his father killed himself after a confrontation with Jesse Custer, he took on the name Arseface.
He then goes on a ride to search and kill Jesse Custer and Cassidy, but they have pity for him and even manage to get him a records conract. So Arseface becomes a Star, and an attack on the music business.


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Stereotypes, Conventions, and Stuff

"Three or four years ago I was getting ready to begin writing my own take on
the western.It would be called PREACHER, I'd decided, and though set in
modern-day Texas it would have all the hallmarks of the stories I grew up on.
The hero would stand four-square for what was right and just, the girl would
be beautiful, the sidekick a rogue, the villains a bunch of shits, the comic relief
an annoying little bastard
" (Garth Ennis, writer of the Preacher)

This statement by Garth Ennis says all. The Preacher is a tribute to the classic Western. There is the classic trio of heroes, there is a direct hommage to Clint Eastwood in the Saint of Killers, and there are scenery shots which could be taken out of any John Ford movie.
But it is about more than just the Western, it is a quintessentially American story in general (with biting humor all the way). What else is quintessentially American? First of all, there is a world-spanning conspiracy, which has the president under its control. Then, some of the main villains are Europeans, preferably German.
Being a cynic story, and intending to make fun of all the stereotypes that are available, the Preacher has an enormous amount of law enforcement officers as targets of its ridicule. The first one is the Texan sheriff Hugo Root, who puts the blame for everything on "Niggers from Mars", and many more "men of the law" are to follow. Interestingly enough, fairly late in the series, Jesse becomes a Texan-town sheriff himself.
Also the characters themselves are prone to this stereotyping as well. When Jesse meets a Voodoo priest, he waits for the skulls and the black hat; when he purchases Peyote from a Navajo, he expects him to chant something in order to make the Peyote effective.

Like those mentioned above, there are still many more stereotypes and conventions which are used and made fun of at the same time, and thereby serve as one of the main sources which give power and dark humor to The Preacher. Enjoy.

                                                      Comments are appreciated


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A Short History of Superhero Comics

  Have a look at the history of superhero comics at the page of Captain Comics. Just follow this link.


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For comics in general:    Captain Comics, which has a focus on superhero comics
                                     Comic Art & Grafix Gallery, a virtual museum and encyclopedia

For Preacher:                 Vertigo Comics              The publishers
                                     Oulondo's Sanctuary      One of the major fan sites
                                     Preacher's Divinity          Another fan site
                                     Preacher                         Has a very official look
                                     Preacher Grievous Head-Wound Count  exactly what it sounds like

For Preacher movie news:   Ain't it cool news      THE site on movie news

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