15 May 2010

son of a preacher man

Confession: I love comics.


I am more of a fan of the graphic novel though, since they take up less space than boxes and boxes full of bag and board, which I would invariably have, and, I dunno; I'm a book lover.  I like my magazines just fine, but if I'm going to read or follow a "story", I prefer it to be in book form.  I'm just weird that way.

Like most people my age, I grew up on a steady diet of Sunday funnies and Archie Comics and hour upon hour of Saturday morning cartoons.  To this day, I still love animated films and various comic strips and lament the loss of some of the greats (I miss you Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes).  Despite all of this, as I got older, I clung desperately to the stereotype that all people who liked comic books were socially retarded losers who spent all of their time debating things like who would win in a fight - Spider Man or Batman.  I was a snob, I admit it.  Even though some of my closest friends were hardcore into comics, I still mocked them.

And then I read "The Crow".  I won't say it changed my life, but it certainly changed the way I looked at comics.  They weren't all just cheesy superheroes with cheesy dialogue.  They were gritty and dark and had an element of realism to them that was actually really cool.  But I still wasn't convinced.

Time went on and some of my most favourite movies turned out to be based on comics, and I still wasn't convinced.  Comics were for the dorks who sat pimply-faced in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons.  A friend did a presentation in high school about comics being legitimate forms of literature, and I thought, "Wow, some people are really passionate about this sort of thing", and he made valid points, but I wasn't going to be won over that easily.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I had become friends with a cartoonist from Australia who I totally blame for my conversion.  He sent me copies of the Death trade paperbacks, (Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life) and that was it.  I mean, how could I not love a perky goth gal who was not only the end of life, but a guardian of souls?  It had reminded me a lot of The Crow, but with a vagina. Granted, at the time, I was all about the goth aspect, but there was something about the way this story was written that had me jonesing for more.

I fell into the world of comics fast and furious.  I was soliciting advice from my comic loving friends as to what I should read/buy next.  I read exclusively "indie" lines - Lenore, Johnny The Homocidal Maniac, My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, The Adventures of Sock Monkey, and so on.  But I never read anything as amazing as Preacher.

 "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)

Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher (get it?) from a small town in Texas who was "accidentally" possessed by the supernatural creature named Genesis in an incident which killed his entire congregation and flattened his church. Genesis was the product of the coupling of an angel and a demon and being made up of both pure goodness and pure evil, it might have enough power to rival that of God himself. In other words, Jesse Custer, (aka "J.C.:") may have become the most powerful being in the whole of living existence.

Custer, driven by a strong sense of right and wrong, goes on a journey attempting to (literally) find God, who abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis was born. He also begins to discover the truth about his new powers, which allow him to command the obedience of those who hear his words. He is joined by his old girlfriend Tulip, as well as a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy.  (I know, right.  But wait - it gets better.)

My personal favourite character in the whole series would have to be Arseface.  Yeah, you read that right.    After a severe beating by his father, and learning of Kurt Cobain's suicide, Arseface makes a suicide pact with his best friend, who puts a shotgun in his mouth and successfully kills himself, while Arseface places the shotgun under his chin, which severely deforms his face instead of killing him. During his father’s investigation in the J.C. case, the boy stows away in his father's car. During a confrontation with Jesse and the Saint of Killers, Cassidy remarks that the boy’s face looked like an arse.  Hence, "Arseface".

I'm also a big fan of Tulip, who, unlike most literary girlfriends, does not play the victim.  Hell, after her mom died in childbirth, her father raised her like the son he never had, introducing her to firearms, hunting, fishing, and war stories, so you know she's gonna kick yer ass. She takes no shit from anyone and totally calls Jesse on his sexist bullshit whenever he tries to pull the old, "Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" excuse for abandoning her many times throughout the series. She may be named after a flower, but she will eff you up.

I know it all seems like too much, but seriously, it's probably the best thing I've read in a long time. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of violence in Preacher. A LOT.  Some of it funny, cartoonish violence, some of it graphic, some of it richly deserved and a lot of it senseless. Heads are blown off in gory detail, people are punched so hard that they lose half their teeth. Blood is splattered against walls and viscera is ejected across the landscape.  No punches are pulled. No cut away shots to avoid the awful gory glory of violence. It's there and it's in your face and there's nothing you can do about it.  (Ok, you could not read the books, but then you'd be missing out)
And for this reason, and many others, I think it's why people are often surprised to hear that not only do I enjoy comics, but I enjoy violent comics. Not as a rule or anything, but something about this series really got to me.  I may never know why.  All I know is Preacher = Best. Comic. Ever.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read a comic book since I was a boy. If you were to suggest one to start what would it be?


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