In the 90s, I was a big fan of almost everything Vertigo was publishing and Preacher was at the top of my heap. I’ve always wanted an adaptation. And now it’s finally here as a weekly show on AMC. It actually is not a literal translation of the comics, though. Instead, it’s almost like a prologue or a decompressed version of getting to know the characters before they unite and set off on a quest. That said, there were a lot of hidden references within the pilot to characters and storylines from the comics that hint towards adapting all sorts of key moments from the original story. Let’s take a look. Some of them are a bit obvious but others are really subtle.
In the show, we see some sort of glowing comet appear out of nowhere in “outer space” and inhabit a number of religious men (a congregation in Africa, a satanic cult in Russia, Tom Cruise) that then blow up. Well, in the comics this is an actual entity known as Genesis. It was created by an angel and a demon having relations and giving birth to a powerful entity that was not supposed to exist. In the comics it has a baby’s face. While the show doesn’t go as over the top with the baby face, while it zips through the cosmos, there’s an unmistakable baby’s cry to its sound.
Time of the Preacher
When we first meet Jesse Custer, we hear Willie Nelson’s song “Time of the Preacher.” That was also the title of the very first Preacher story in issue #1 and in fact the lyrics are sung in the first issue.
We see a tattoo on Jesse Custer’s back when he wakes up and we see him the first time. We see that same tattoo when he has flashbacks to someone shooting his father. That is the tattoo of Angelville, a hellish estate owned by the L’Angelle family. Christina L’Angelle is Jesse Custer’s mother. The L’Angelle family eventually finds and abducts the runaway Christina and her son Jesse, kills Jesse’s father, and forces Jesse to become a Preacher.
The Saint of Killers
There are several shots of a whiskey bearing the name Ratwater with a distinctive sillhouette. This is a clear reference to one of Jesse Custer’s main antagonists in Preacher, the Saint of Killers. Without giving away too much, he was a merciless killer during the Civil War who eventually fell in love with a woman and had a daughter. But when they got sick, he had to travel to a town called Ratwater for medicine. He was delayed there by a gang of criminals and when he returned, his family was dead. He went back to Ratwater for revenge and killed an innocent hostage on his path of vengeance. But before he could kill the leader of the gang, his gun jammed, he was killed and went to Hell. There, even Hell couldn’t control his powerful will and a deal was made with the Angel of Death for the Saint of Killers to take his role. God later commanded the Saint of Killers to hunt down and kill Jesse Custer since he was in control of Genesis. The fact that the Saint’s legend exists in this world is a strong hint that he’ll eventually show up.
In the comics, two Adephi angels, Fiore and deBlanc, are sent to Earth to retrieve Genesis. The two unnamed men who are investigated the exploding religious leaders are almost definitely these two. They ultimately are involved with sending Jesse on a quest.
On the show, we meet Eugene Root who is missing much of his mouth and is therefore muffled when he talks. We see subtitles to understand him. In the comics, Cassidy dubs him “Arseface” and it also always subtitled what he said.
No One There
Eugene mentions to Jesse how lately when he prays he feels like no one is listening. Well, in the comics once Genesis is born, which has the power to command anyone to do what is said, God literally abandons his throne.
One of Jesse Custer’s major opponents throughout Preacher is a man called Herr Starr that leads a religious faction known as The Grail. I won’t get into the crazy stuff they do, but they will probably show up at some point because at one point Tulip is examining a map that she appears to have stolen from Grail Industries.
On the TV show, Jamie Anne Allman plays Betsy Schenck, a meek housewife who is abused by her husband. When Jesse Custer tries to intervene, she reveals that she “likes it” which horrifies Jesse. She works at the local meat plant, which we see a sign for in the background – Quincannon. In the comics, Jesse Custer eventually ends up in a town called Salvation and briefly becomes the Sheriff. The local meat plant is corrupt and controls the town but Jesse refuses to cave to them. Odin Quincannon, the owner, has a stern attorney named Miss Oatlash who we eventually learn is into sadomasochism and Nazism. It seems that Betsy Schenck is a tone-down/more grounded variation on that character.
When we’re introduced to Cassidy on the show, he murders a bunch of vampire killers on an airplane and takes their sunglasses. In the comic, he pretty much always wore sunglasses because his eyes were severely bloodshot all the time and would give away his unusual nature. Cassidy then jumps out of an airplane. In the comics, Jesse Custer once fell out of an airplane and survived under mysterious circumstances.
Tulip makes fun of Jesse’s short hair when they reunite on the show. This is probably a subtle reference to the fact that Jesse had longer hair in the comics.