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No "Preacher" for you.
August 27, 2008 6:57 PM   Subscribe

No "Preacher" for you. Many of you did not think a "Preacher" miniseries would end well. Would fans prefer to be disappointed by the aborted attempt at an adaptation than disappointed at its not meeting viewers' expectations?
posted by Four-Eyed Girl (83 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Not this fan. I think Preacher could be made into a satisfying miniseries, but certainly not by the creative team that brought Daredevil and Ghost Rider to the screen.

Disclaimer: I've seen neither DD nor GR, but I've never heard a good word about either.
posted by lekvar at 7:04 PM on August 27, 2008


Yeah, that would be like if the guy who made 300 directed Watchm...oh, wait.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:08 PM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


"It's a lot like Grumpy Old Men in feel and I'm having a blast,"

I like the idea of a comedy where Kristen Bell acts like a crotchety Walter Matthau. Especially if it was being promoted as the official adaptation of Preacher.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:09 PM on August 27, 2008


It would have been great to see it on screen, especially if it was a faithful adaptation, and I'm still hopeful. I'm not a fan of Johnson's films, but I do give him credit for refusing to compromise on the series's controversial and dark elements.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 7:19 PM on August 27, 2008


"But the new head of HBO felt it was just too dark and too violent and too controversial."

So I guess this is the new euphemism for "thought it sucked"?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:21 PM on August 27, 2008


So I guess this is the new euphemism for "thought it sucked"?

Um... Not saying that's not a possible explanation, but have you ever read Preacher? If so, this is pretty telling:

"It was a very faithful adaptation of the first few books, nearly word for word."

Somehow I'm not too surprised that HBO passed on a story that features, for example, a geriatric Nazi boning a meat zombie (pun intended?). A truly "faithful adaptation" of Preacher would make HBO's other "adult" miniseries look like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
posted by spiderwire at 7:33 PM on August 27, 2008


I sure hope you're right, kittens for breakfast. Because the alternative is that the time of HBO being a label that means good, dark, violent and controversial, will be over.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:35 PM on August 27, 2008


Thank God The Saint of Killers.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:43 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I saw Ghost Rider this weekend. I only ever read one of the comics and that was about 32 years ago. It was a fun movie. Maybe if I was more familiar with the comics I'd have a different reaction. But I am not. So I don't.
posted by substrate at 7:57 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I liked Daredevil. And I'm a huge fan of Frank Miller & Brian Michael Bendis' work on the title.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:07 PM on August 27, 2008


Should have gotten the folks who did 'Carnivale' on board. I'd have watched that. And trusted it.
posted by LucretiusJones at 8:17 PM on August 27, 2008


I don't think it would make a good series/movie. What can live action add to the story? Nothing but potentially bad visuals, acting and writing. Best case is the live action adaptatio is as good as the source material. The comic stands on it's own - in fact I think the medium helped it work.

Ditto the watchmen.

Generally, I don't really get why good/popular written work needs to be put on film, besides their ability to sell tickets.
posted by askmehow at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Should have gotten the folks who did 'Carnivale' on board.

Don't get me started on the premature execution of that series. I'm still bitter.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2008


Preacher could probably be a decent television miniseries if it wasn't such a shitty comic book.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:55 PM on August 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


I really hated Preacher. I found its social conservativism extremely off-putting.
posted by painquale at 9:11 PM on August 27, 2008


a geriatric Nazi boning a meat zombie

Quincannon wasn't a Nazi. That was his lawyer, Miss Oatlash.
posted by painquale at 9:21 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I did not enjoy Preacher, the comic, and yet wierdly enough, I was looking forward to the mini-series.
posted by empath at 9:43 PM on August 27, 2008


Generally, I don't really get why good/popular written work needs to be put on film

Unfortunately, some consumers and critics (e.g. Ebert) still see comics as storyboards waiting for a director rather than a genuine, grownup medium. It probably worries Hollywood that comics are, like MP3s, riding the boom of internet distribution while films are still distributed in little darkened rooms full of strangers. (The internet is the ultimate dark room full of strangers, I submit.) So their play is like that of any other business goliath - let others innovate, then strategically acquire their labors, and extend them into more traditional markets.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:50 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I forgot my hopeful thesis, that all of this will somehow backfire and make comics more popular than film. After all, isn't Japan ahead of the curve?
posted by kid ichorous at 9:52 PM on August 27, 2008


I enjoyed Preacher a lot despite its social conservatism. I'm glad I'm not the only person who noticed that, I tend to think that almost all of Garth Ennis' work is full of conservatism and homophobia, but when I bring it up, lots of people look at me like I'm crazy.

But Preacher had a pretty good idea and story. I think maybe toning down some of the sillier, more over the top stuff (that had little purpose in the story, it was just there to show more horrible damage to people's heads, and probably get certain demographics to like it more) for TV would make it a better story. There are interesting, mature themes in the story, but they tend to drown in the gore and gay sex jokes a lot.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:25 PM on August 27, 2008


Well, I'm glad that I didn't know about the proposed miniseries until now when I know it won't be happening...that way my hopes don't get crushed.

I really liked Preacher. It can wait for the right person.
posted by schyler523 at 10:27 PM on August 27, 2008


Yeah, that would be like if the guy who made 300 directed Watchm...oh, wait.

The guy who made an incredibly faithful film adaptation of a comic book, recognizing and appreciating the style of the original and how best to portray that on a screen?

300 might have sucked, but that's because the comic sucked. It was amazingly well-directed, and was an excellent adaptation.
posted by kafziel at 11:02 PM on August 27, 2008


Preacher didn't quite do it for me. I'm still waiting for a Happy Noodle Boy movie.
posted by homunculus at 11:09 PM on August 27, 2008


Yeah, never got into Preacher myself. It always bugged me that Dillon drew everyone with horse faces (no, not arse faces).
posted by benzenedream at 12:46 AM on August 28, 2008


So I guess this is the new euphemism for "thought it sucked"?

A lot of the story behind this is really the story behind HBO. Chris Albrecht, who had been the head of HBO from 2002 to 2007, was the one who optioned Preacher. This is a guy who is best known for picking up shows like Deadwood, Sopranos, Band of Brothers and Entourage (as well as assaulting his girlfriend in Las Vegas).

After some of his legal trouble, he was replaced with Sue Naegle. Part of her mandate had been to rebrand HBO which had been flagging as of late, losing out to Showtime with their recent string of hits (Weeds, Tudors, Dexter). So, Ms. Naegle's decision has been to go with less of the edgy, boy's club shows and to instead focus on character driven shows.

This is why she picked up In Treatment, Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency and True Blood.

So the story goes that Albrecht optioned Preacher looking for the next intense, water cooler show but when it came time to actually pick up the show and Naegle was in charge, she wanted the show to be tweaked to better fit in with the network's new feel. Mark Steven Johnson, who was developing the show said he'd rather let the project die then make any changes.

As for what we the viewers actually missed out on? I actually thinking that focusing on the strong characters of Preacher and less on the extreme over-the-top situations might have actually helped the story. Also, as a fan of Garth Ennis (Hitman is one of my all-time top books) I am thankful that the man who brought us Daredevil and Ghost Rider is not going to have anything to do with Preacher.
posted by jaybeans at 1:11 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Preacher a lot despite its social conservatism. I'm glad I'm not the only person who noticed that, I tend to think that almost all of Garth Ennis' work is full of conservatism and homophobia, but when I bring it up, lots of people look at me like I'm crazy.

You're not alone, although the backlash by Ennis fans makes most critics keep their opinions to themselves.

Preacher is a good series, at times a great series, lumbered with many faults. Apart from plot longuers (let's do a Vietnam war story! let's do an Irish episode! let's talk about how great Bill Hicks was!), there's a constant stream of cruelty and sadism. It's not enough for enemies to be defeated - they have to be humiliated, mutilated and shown to be dysfunctional perverts. (And often European, intellectual, or an urbanite.) Indeed, the very universe is against Jesse's enemies, such that their efforts are simply humorous. From the start, Jesse is destined to prevail. The only worthy enemy he has is himself.

In the comic, you can let these problems flow by you. On TV, a faithful adaptation would have exposed the paucity of Preacher's thesis for what it is.
posted by outlier at 1:33 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know, over the last couple days I've been reading a lot of Garth Ennis's Punisher comics and thinking to myself that his take on Frank Castle will probably never make it to the screen intact. And I was fine with it. Some stories are just better suited for comics. Preacher is an example of this. So's Watchmen.

Way back before Frank Miller went all Hollywood on us and Sin City was just starting out, he printed a fan letter in the back of an issue of That Yellow Bastard, where he was asked when we could expect to see a Sin City film. His response was an incredulous, "What, you don't like the way I draw it?" Guess he changed his mind a year or so before he started wearing that stupid damn fedora everywhere.

I disagree with just about everything Mark Steven Johnson did to Daredevil, but I'm pleased to hear of his unwillingness to water down Preacher. Let it remain a comic - it's plenty entertaining as it is. If it stays unfilmed, then we'll never have to read any condescending reviews of it by television or movie critics who know sweet fuck-all about comics.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:51 AM on August 28, 2008


I don't there's anyway that Preacher could appear on screen without been severely gutted in this current climate, esp in the USA. But it's probably a good thing; whilst I though it was pretty good in parts, Preacher had, for me, many lapses and yeah longuers, and I though the ending was terrible.

Of course I never learn and I've started reading The Boys which covers much the same ground... And goes even more over the top with the homophobia, it's almost like Ennis doth protest too much...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:56 AM on August 28, 2008


If you want to see what Preacher would look like if the Carnivale team produced it, just watch Carnivale with a printout of Goatse stuck to the screen. The experience would be about the same.

I read The Boys last week and see it more as a childish, two-dimensional version of Planetary while Preacher seems to be the result of power fantasies Garth developed while working on Hellblazer. At least in Preacher there are some genuinely interesting and cool bits to balance out his constant stream of rape fantasies.

D'you think he's ever successfully had sex with a woman? Would it be like being with the Tobias Funke of comic writers? Does he keep a miniature Captain America shield taped to his ass, ever vigilant of invasion?
posted by bunnytricks at 4:18 AM on August 28, 2008


I recently reread all of Preacher and was struck by how much it didn't hold up. When it first came out, it was groundbreaking, innovative. It was so groundbreaking that it inspired a whole lot of comics that came after it, comics that were able to capture a lot of what was awesome about Preacher without its myriad of flaws*.

But that's the problem with going back to the big comics of the past 30 years. The big ones are so notable that they've influenced a lot of what's come after making the progenitors seem old hat in comparison. When one of these Big Deal comics tries to make the jump off the page and onto screens, the problem is magnified by the non-comic spiritual inheritors of what the hell the comic was getting at. There cannot be an Invisibles in a post-The Matrix world. Watchmen cannot be seen the same way through the lens of big-budget comic book movie summer blockbusters.

This is not to say that comics can't make great TV or movies. 100 Bullets, Walking Dead, or Powers as an HBO series? Yes, please. Invincible would make a fine summer blockbuster and Grendel could open in the fall. Bone as done by Pixar. Scud, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and Nextwave all have places for them on Adult Swim. I am surprised every week when I find myself tuning in to ABC Family for The Middleman.

With the right people at the helm, even some of the problems of comic-to-screen could be avoided (or at least outweighed) by the fresh perspective collaborators bring. This worked well for del Toro's Hellboy and especially his Blade II which gave the character a far better movie than a guy who was first seen in Tomb of Dracula deserved. The most recent example here being Nolan's Batman. But could you imagine what JJ Abrams would do with Rex Mundi? Or what Tom Fantana could do with Alias or Powers? I would love to see Gendy Tartakovsky take on Kirby's Fourth World. Or if the people behind The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack got their dirty mitts on The Goon.

Of course, no matter who is at the helm or what the comic is, if the studio wants to meddle in ways that do not jibe with the direction the director or comic want to go, then the resulting product will be either a huge mess or a fleeting shot at awesomeness stifled in a wave of crap. So, yeah, I am glad Preacher was thrown out of a helicopter. There was a lot of good in the comic series, more than there was bad, but when you toss in a director with a dubious history of comic adaptations, a network that changed direction through development, and a base text that has not aged well, I think the scales tip away from quality.

* My main problem with Preacher is with its pacing. It feels like its running out the clock starting about halfway through. I feel the same about Invisibles. I was fine with the violence - Preacher came to us in the days of Natural Born Killers, after all.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:03 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I couldn't stomach Ennis after Hellblazer: Son of Man. I couldn't figure if it was a satire on heterosexual insecurity, or just plain anti-gay.

But I'm convinced that a chunk of the problem with bringing comic book lit. to the screen is that American fanboys have much stricter ideas about what qualifies as a good "adaptation" than has ever existed for other literary works. The kinds of narrative devices that work great in print, can be bad decisions when brought to the silver screen.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:23 AM on August 28, 2008


I wouldn't hire the talentless hack Mark Stephen Johnson to videotape my wedding, so why would an HBO exec with half a brain give him anything at all to direct, much less something as potentially good as Preacher.

I don't understand all the kneejerk reactions to upcoming adaptations/reboots, etc.: "No! They can't make that! They'll screw it up!" It all comes down to writers and directors, people. There's at least a dozen directors out there who would do a bangup job with Preacher. Of course, there's a lot more who would, in fact, fuck things up, but can you all hold off the bitching until you take two seconds to see who's making the thing?
posted by zardoz at 5:34 AM on August 28, 2008


La Haine's director Mathieu Kassovitz, had much to say about Fox's studio interference on Babylon A.D. (an adaption of Babylon Babies) which is a huge shame since he's been trying to bring that to the screen for about 5 years now.
posted by longbaugh at 6:03 AM on August 28, 2008


As for what we the viewers actually missed out on? I actually thinking that focusing on the strong characters of Preacher and less on the extreme over-the-top situations might have actually helped the story.

I have to agree -- I think a "literal" translation of this comic would make for a pretty bad TV show, frankly. A lot of the dialogue (for instance) was once very funny, but it's stuff that's better on the page than it would be coming out of someone's mouth...and plus, it's now 2008, we've had a decade and a half of Tarantino knockoffs since this book's debut, and (for instance!) something like the sheriff's long, n-word-infused rant in the first issue would now more likely elicit groans and facepalms than anything like laughter. Re: the "extreme" situations, people getting their jaws blown off for laughs can be very funny when you're looking at a drawing of said atrocity (e.g., Metalocalypse), but when it's real people...? Well, let's just say I think a live action South Park would never have caught on. And really, rape jokes kinda aren't funny in any medium, so that's like a third of the "humor" after about issue #15 gone right there....

(And, sadly, Arseface doesn't work in any story not set in the mid-1990s. Or anyway, I can't see how.)

Amidst all the puerile bullshit, there is a strong story here (up to a point...I'd have to say the whole thing goes horribly awry about halfway through, and never fully recovers), or at least a strong premise, but it doesn't have much to do with what the book actually has a rep for. So yeah, I'd agree: cutting the Xtreeeeem stuff would only improve it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2008


Chalk me up as another Ennis fan who thinks that Preacher hasn't aged well. He's repeated a lot of the tropes in other titles, and even within Preacher itself, the "Salvation" arc was pretty unnecessary--it merely recapitulated the main characters of the title in a small-town situation. The Da Vinci Code's appropriation of Holy Blood, Holy Grail would take a lot of the power out of Ennis' appropriation of same. It's actually sort of embarrassing now to look at the covers and see how Glenn Fabry started drawing Jesse Custer as Johnny Depp, because Depp was interested in the role at one point.

The real deal-killer for me, though, is Ennis' use of John Wayne as Custer's spirit guide. Read the first chapter of Glenn Greenwald's Great American Hypocrites for an explication of how John Wayne, in his personal life, was pretty much the exact opposite of all of the values that he portrayed on screen--he was a draft-dodging, pill popping adulterer--and that Jesse Custer lived by.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:32 AM on August 28, 2008


posted by robocop is bleeding:
Watchmen cannot be seen the same way through the lens of big-budget comic book movie summer blockbusters.

I think the glut of superhero movies over the last 15 years could work in Watchmen-the-movie's favor. The original comic came along at the tail end of forty years of superhero comics, and commented on them in the same way that hopefully the Watchmen movie will comment on superhero films. I honestly don't think that this movie would've worked a decade or so ago, since it plays very much on reader/audience expectations based on past exposure to superhero narratives. But thanks to mainstream hits like Spider-man and Batman, non-fanboy audiences will have a celluloid basis for understanding the characters of Watchmen

posted by Halloween Jack:
The real deal-killer for me, though, is Ennis' use of John Wayne as Custer's spirit guide. Read the first chapter of Glenn Greenwald's Great American Hypocrites for an explication of how John Wayne, in his personal life, was pretty much the exact opposite of all of the values that he portrayed on screen--he was a draft-dodging, pill popping adulterer--and that Jesse Custer lived by.

Granted, I didn't get past the first three volumes of Preacher for many of the reasons that other MeFites stated above. All the same, I was under the impression that Jesse wasn't seeing the real John Wayne, alive or in spirit, but rather his own idea -- the Platonic ideal, if you will -- of John Wayne, based on his film roles.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:03 AM on August 28, 2008


The real deal-killer for me, though, is Ennis' use of John Wayne as Custer's spirit guide.

It seems to me that this sort of misses the point. The John Wayne who appears to Jesse in the book isn't supposed to be the literal spirit of John Wayne: he's a hallucination -- probably representing Genesis but at the very least something entirely in Jesse's head -- who takes the form of the idealized cowboy character Jesse watched on TV while growing up. To have that character adopt the persona of the actor John Wayne would be inconsistent.
posted by spiderwire at 8:06 AM on August 28, 2008


Oh no! Will this comic book ever find a visual medium to be presented in?
posted by Legomancer at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


The first Ennis I ever read was Preacher. I adored it. When you think you're reading one story that happens to have that much glorified machismo in it, you think that's alright. It's fun, right? That's what it's all about. Awesome. The quote on the back of the TPB from Kevin Smith was dead on: "more fun than an action movie."

Then I read his run on Hellblazer. Then I read The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank. Just recently (inspired by the excellent fpp, like many others here I assume) I picked up Punisher Max and read it through to the end of his run.

There comes a point, I think, where you stop seeing one-off fun machismo and start seeing the work of a man so deeply uncomfortable with his own homosexuality that he simply cannot help but glorify gigantic muscled manly men while simultaneously making many of his villains openly gay or bisexual. The best I can figure is that Ennis craves cock. Desperately. He hates that he wants it, denies it to himself that he really does as much as possible, but in the end he can't change the fact that all he wants to do is write stories about tough handsome guys who can only be satisfied by women who are as manly as they are and who together go and kill openly gay men. I almost feel bad for him, honestly, and now I find it harder and harder to like his stuff, just because it doesn't seem like he's just writing a fun action comic anymore. It seems like's writing some twisted Gary Stu fanfic where one idealized version of himself has sex with another idealized version of himself before they rush off to go kill the part of himself he doesn't want to admit exists in reality.
posted by shmegegge at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


shmegegge: Yes, that's what turned me off to him after Son of Man which was all about cock: John getting punched in the cock, the neighbor flashing his cock, what the gangster does with his cock, the lesbian who needs cock, more of the neighbor flashing his cock, the fear of being raped by a young boy's cock, and then finally, fear of a big black cock and death by cock.

Which could have been funny if it were not for the way in which the gay characters in the narrative are treated so badly, not just by narrative forces, but by the writer. When John breaks the 4th wall to crow, "I'm shagging a lesbian!" to the reader, it's both tacky and a break with previously established character traits.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:27 AM on August 28, 2008


When John breaks the 4th wall to crow, "I'm shagging a lesbian!" to the reader, it's both tacky and a break with previously established character traits.

What was particularly bizarre about Constantine in the whole entire arc was not that he was wildly out of character, but that he was wildly out of character as Ennis had himself written him previously. I'm still not sure whether "Son of Man" was a big fuck-you to fans of the book or Ennis somehow thinking he was actually improving on what he'd done the first time around. Maybe he was just too burned out on the character to do anything better.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:44 AM on August 28, 2008


I like to imagine that Constantine was talking to Morrison's Animal Man.

AM: "I can see you!"
JC: "And I'm shagging a lesbian!"

It really brings a new interpretation to Buddy's expression there.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:56 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Heh. I’m guessing I’m the only one that liked the Alfie-esque take on the character in Son Of Man?

I even liked the “I’m shagging a lesbian line”, FWIW.

Pint of Guinness, anyone?
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on August 28, 2008


Deadwood, Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Entourage

Vs.

In Treatment, Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency and True Blood.

Wow.
posted by Artw at 10:16 AM on August 28, 2008


...John Wayne...

FUCK COMMUNISM
posted by Artw at 10:18 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


BTW, I assume Chris Albrecht was behind Six Feet Under and Big Love as well? becuase, well, that's quite a comparison.
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on August 28, 2008


This doesn't bode well for HBO's option to adapt George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire". Oh well, the budget to do that right would have been astronomical. Still, feeling the collective gasp across the HBO universe when Jaimie Lannister boots Bran out of the window after saying to his sister "The things I do for love" would have been worth it. And dammit, Peter Dinklage would have totally kicked ass as Tyrion.
posted by Ber at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2008


Actually it looks like Sue Naegle was pretty heavily involved with Six Feet Under, so props to her. "True Blood" still sounds like a bucket of arse though.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on August 28, 2008


This doesn't bode well for HBO's option to adapt George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire". Oh well, the budget to do that right would have been astronomical.

The budget has been my worry about that project all along (it's what killed "Rome," and an adaptation of Martin's books would have to be at least as elaborate).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2008


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was shown on the BBC at Easter, I think it was fairly well perceived, and got a lot of publicity (sadly much of due to the recent death of its director, Anthony Minghella) but it was hardly on a level of the best HBO stuff I've seen ...

Deadwood, Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Entourage

Vs.

In Treatment, Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency and True Blood.


Would Boyzone Vs Girlzone be two simplistic an analysis here?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:22 PM on August 28, 2008


Would Boyzone Vs Girlzone be two simplistic an analysis here?

I think it's more about trying to have a response to the market. When HBO was launching Sopranos and the like, they were taking advantage of what could be done on premium cable versus basic cable. However, times have changed. After all, AMC's Breaking Bad is a show about a family man turned meth maker who at one point dissolves a body in acid. So if pushing the envelope isn't enough anymore, they decided to try and focus on character instead.

We shall see whether or not it will ultimately work, but I think they had the right idea that they couldn't just keep making xerox copies of their past success.
posted by jaybeans at 1:43 PM on August 28, 2008


I know the whole Ennis' homophobia thing is turning into a derail, but it's interesting as hell, because I've sort of deliberately never thought about it, at least until the most recent Boys collection 'Get Some.' Preacher's sadism and extremely un-PC semi-homophobia at least provoked a visceral reaction. It always felt like Ennis was trying to just shit all over everything humanly possible and see what came out. But 'Get Some' wasn't funny, it wasn't interesting, it was just dumb and mean. And looking back at Preacher, it got me wondering.

I think when Ennis gets re-evaluated decades from now it'll be all about Hitman. Working with DC universe constraints, he created the funniest, most touching, most kick-ass comic I've ever read. There's next to nothing about homosexuality in it, there's a prevalent anti-racist, anti-sexist theme, and most of the sadism is in service of the theme. There's a dip in quality in the home-stretch, but the last couple story-lines are immaculate. It's pathetic that they're not all out in trade.
posted by Football Bat at 2:01 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well part of it comes from broad sexual humour being part of his shtick, as well as playing off stereotypes and the macho stuff, but yeah, it get’s a bit much sometimes.

Not sure I’d call him a conservative though – I’d always assumed he was a bit of a lefty, like all good British comics writers. You couldn’t exactly call the Guernica sequence in Condors right-leaning.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on August 28, 2008


Oh, and there’s also the rather uncomfortable “gays are alright really” stories, like the last Kev or that one in Midnighter. Not really completely sure what to make of those.
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on August 28, 2008


Football Bat - Bueno, bueno...
posted by Artw at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2008


LOL. In Mark Steven Johnson's hands it would have been shit. Now it's safe.

But I saw a preview of 'True Blood'. Now THAT  looks good.
posted by vhsiv at 9:39 PM on August 28, 2008


The interface on the comic book preview seems to simulate prising apart the pages of a comic with a pair of tweasers.
posted by Artw at 10:14 PM on August 28, 2008


But 'Get Some' wasn't funny, it wasn't interesting, it was just dumb and mean.

That's pretty much The Boys all over. Without rehashing my points(My claim that Ennis has lost it could do with some retractin', though) from the FPP linked to at the top, it, along with the Nick Fury miniseries and Son of Man are probably the worst things he's written, far too much facile provocation and not nearly enough of the heart and wit that he does so well when he puts the effort in.

Buuut, I'm surprised to see so many folks accusing Ennis of conservatism/homophobia/misogyny, there is such a strong anti-authoritarian, humanist vibe from his best work. If Tulip O'Hare and Kit Ryan,* both characters who often took the piss out of the tough-guy protagonists of their respective series are the products of a one-note misogynist, I'll eat my hat.

I think shmegegge's bit is way off the mark, too. For all I know Ennis could be gay, but accusing him of being a tortured and self-loathing closet-case who sublimates his sexuality by vilifying queers and glorifying machismo seems absurd since he riffed on that very idea in the first arc of Preacher, with the Dirty Harry-esque badass supercop who turns out to be a masochist, a theme that's echoed in the development of Starr. His Punisher MAX run has some warped gay antagonists, but it also has some warped hetero villains, too, and it's telling that no one's mentioned the sub-plot with Officers Miller and Parker in the 'Slavers' storyarc. Kev spouts off what is clearly supposed to be stupid homophobic bits in his eponymous series, and each time gets the shit kicked out of him for it before finally growing up.

It's weird that everyone agrees that Ennis is a provocateur, yet so many folks seem to think it's unconscious or malicious when he depicts a irredeemably evil homosexual villain, as opposed to the good clean fun of a fish/chicken/dog-fucking good old boy Southerner or a drooling and senile God who can't stop jerking off. Black, Irish, gay, religious, Protestant, rich, French, fat, male, almost every group you can imagine, basically, gets the boots put to them in Ennis' oeuvre, but it also contains many positive depictions of those groups.

Excluding the religious, I suppose. I'm surprised no one's mentioned Dicks, but then I guess this isn't the crowd to get riled up over the Holy Trinity having a four-way with a hooker.

He does hit false notes when dealing with and puncturing what many people still consider to be delicate subjects, but quite often those false notes appear in works that are sub-par as a whole, that fail because they're poorly written in general. But it's better he should fail occasionally than audiences be denied some of the more vivid and fun mainstream comics of the last long while.

*Seriously, read Heartland if you haven't yet, it's a wonderful book, possibly Ennis' best and head and shoulders over overrated dross like Hitman, which is mostly bowdlerized fanservice.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:48 PM on August 28, 2008


But Hitman has Dog Welder!
posted by Artw at 11:15 PM on August 28, 2008


Dogwelder in action with Section 8. Ah, how I've missed them...
posted by Artw at 11:20 PM on August 28, 2008


I think shmegegge's bit is way off the mark, too.

entirely possible. I'm guessing based on having read less than half his total work.

Black, Irish, gay, religious, Protestant, rich, French, fat, male, almost every group you can imagine, basically, gets the boots put to them in Ennis' oeuvre, but it also contains many positive depictions of those groups.

Of course. I never said he was a simple minded bigot, or that his (possible) repressed homosexuality resulted in maniacally one-track stories. To be totally clear, it's entirely possible that I'm way off about this. but here's the thing: The Punisher is basically Jesse Custer, but grimmer because Ennis didn't create him and he's always been grim. They're both guys who see the world in black and white (and props to Ennis for pointing out that this is not necessarily the best way to be), act macho at all times, shrug off pain, fuck incredibly well (always hot chicks) who are seemingly only attracted to butch powerful women who talk about sex the way men typically do: with total candor and vulgarity. His books are books where weak willed or spineless men virtually always pay for it in violence done to their person, and they never get laid. Hell, one of them even had his balls literally cut off. The ultimate insult in his books seems to be faggot, unless the person is actually gay in which case they will be killed. (obviously, you already pointed out an exception to this. as i said, he is not a mindless machine. I'm just pointing out trends.)

The point is this: He writes the same characters, with only the most minor and essential variations. More importantly, he seems to be writing Gary Stu characters. So, if I accept that this is true (and you don't have to, obviously), I start wondering well what does it say about him? To my mind, it reads like a classic case of of someone who represses their own latent homosexuality. The obsession over manliness, the constant references to how well the punisher must fuck, the idealized sex life of Jesse Custer, the butch tomboys they both only ever sleep with, the homoerotic tension between custer and that irish vampire (sorry, it's been a while since I read the books.). I mean, when a guy constantly writes these same characters over and over again, it reads like obsession, and in this case it reads like obsession with macho cock and masculinity. armchair-psychologically speaking, it reads like latent homosexuality. add in the fact that these limited run books have more openly homosexual villains than any other book in history (admittedly, that I'm aware of) and really, it seems likely to me. but hey, that's just my $.02.

fwiw, by the way, I always figured that dirty harry-esque supercop to be an example in favor of my hypothesis. he was a bad guy, after all, and he got his.
posted by shmegegge at 8:53 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Punisher is basically Jesse Custer, but grimmer because Ennis didn't create him

That's pretty far off the mark, IMHO. Castle isn't just grim, he's practocally inhuman, whereas Custer remains very, very human (to the point where, though Ennis has given him a super power, Ennis then pretty much goes on to forget it for big stretches of the story).
posted by Artw at 9:06 AM on August 29, 2008


That's pretty far off the mark, IMHO. Castle isn't just grim, he's practocally inhuman, whereas Custer remains very, very human (to the point where, though Ennis has given him a super power, Ennis then pretty much goes on to forget it for big stretches of the story).

In fairness, he (Ennis) kind of has to, being that Jesse's superpower could effectively bring any conflict to an end within a single panel.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:45 AM on August 29, 2008


I've been reading Ennis' work for years. They're meant to be offensive. It's like reading Viz but with more colour and an occasional piece of social commentary, usually Northern Irish or Northern English.

~Matt

p.s. I never liked Preacher that much.
posted by mdoar at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2008


That's pretty far off the mark, IMHO. Castle isn't just grim, he's practocally inhuman, whereas Custer remains very, very human

Well, there's certainly room to disagree on this one, but for what it's worth I think they're more similar than you give them credit for. They're both very black and white morality types, and they respond to instances of villainy with direct, short tempered, unmediated and often unprovoked violence. the principle difference in that regard is that custer doesn't usually use a gun. (does he ever? my recollection there is dim.) they're both very much john wayne types, they speak softly and carry a right hook to the jaw, in other words. I think Ennis tried hard to find the humanity in an essentially inhuman character with the Punisher, reflecting often on Castle's continued torment from 'Nam and the death of his family, rather than simply letting it be back story for cruelty the way some writers have.

To draw a comparison to Custer's own inhumanity for the flip side, consider that sherriff that was after him for so long in the beginning of the story, Arse Face's dad. Custer made him eat his pistol, if I recall correctly (or did he shove it up his ass? I forget) and the sherriff later shot himself. the suicide isn't directly custer's doing, but the torture and humiliation that lead up to it certainly are. or that government agent that he made count the sand on a beach. he essentially condemned him to slow starvation, exhaustion and heat stroke while attempting an impossible task. I seem to remember him being saved somehow, but not clearly.
posted by shmegegge at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2008


Custer does that because he’s pissed off and doesn’t really know what he’s doing. IIRC He reflects on that later and concludes that it was a bad thing to do. Castle, on the other hand, is for the most part an emotionally dead zombie who kills people who fit certain criteria, and never, ever shows any remorse for it. Castle doesn’t have a hint of a John Wayne swagger, and Custer isn’t an invincible tank. Ennis certainly does tend to default to a stock male tough-guy characteristics, but really as examples of why his characters are all the same I think that’s a particularly bad one.
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2008


…and the moment in Slavers that Ennis has Castle feeling a dim hint of emotion when tracking some particularly vile criminals, and he realizes that it’s hate? That’s just jawdropping.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Custer isn’t an invincible tank.

I hear what you're saying, and there's a lot of truth to it, but I used to wonder about this particular thing when I was reading Preacher. As I remember it, only God Himself ever hurt Jesse Custer. He's survived explosions and heavy gunfire unharmed, escaped from the world's most secret of secret bases unscratched although the Irish vampire got shot to hell by a mafioso. He was sherriff of a small town, kidnapped by his family, attacked by mafia, foreign military and US intelligence, but the worst that ever happens to him is a bruise or two until he finally and literally meets his maker. then he loses an eye. Maybe he's not an invicible tank, but the punisher has had broken ribs, scars, internal bleeding and has even been hospitalized by Barracuda. As I said, there's a lot of truth to what you say, but i sometimes wonder if our perceptions of these characters aren't colored by our expectations rather than the way Ennis writes them.
posted by shmegegge at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2008


That's narrative invincibility though, not shot-to-bits-and-keeps-on-going invincibility.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on August 29, 2008


ok, but then are we saying the characters are different because custer avoids getting shot, but the punisher just takes the hit? that's getting a little too deep into ballistic minutia, to my mind. originally what I was getting at is that the two characters have extraordinarily similar mindsets insofar as Ennis was able to write them that way. That the punisher is so much less emotional and sympathetic is the result, as I mentioned, of him not being Ennis' character and therefore Ennis couldn't turn him into the smart aleck John Wayne that so many others of his seem to be. I mean, I may have overstated their similarities, sure, but I didn't think we were ever talking about the particulars of their fighting style so much as we were (or I was) talking about their sexual identity.
posted by shmegegge at 12:52 PM on August 29, 2008


They kind of differ an awful lot there as well (occasional grim battlefield sex with random strangers Vs. love affair that's one of the core pillars of the book).

Sorry, I don’t realy buy the premise that Ennis would turn Catsle, or Judge Dredd, or any other character that he was writing that was fundamentally not like Jesse Custer into Jesse Custer given the opportunity.

He would, however, make John Constantine drink Guinness, which is just fucking wrong.
posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on August 29, 2008


that's cool, I certainly wouldn't have tried to develop a doctoral thesis on it, either. They just strike me as very similar, and I'm more than willing to chalk that up to my own personal quirks.

but hot shit are you right about constantine. every time I read moore's stories that involved him, I then think "this is the same guy from the ennis books?!"
posted by shmegegge at 1:08 PM on August 29, 2008


It doesn’t irritate me nearly as much as some of the stuff in the Delano stories, TBH. Fear Machine has some great material, but Constantine is all over the place in it.
posted by Artw at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2008


Does Ennis' Punisher go down the pub a lot? Because that would be damning.

Oh and I could weep blood over how Constantine has been treated over the years... and not just by Ennis
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:25 PM on August 29, 2008


Almost never, and he doesn't drink alcohol.

...until the new writer, who has him go straight into a bar and order a bourbon.
posted by Artw at 1:31 PM on August 29, 2008


/thinks back to Constantine-as-hippy
/shudders
/decides to forget it
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2008


well, he was in a bar when he noticed that psycho mafioso pissing on his family's grave on the news. not sure if he was on other business, though.
posted by shmegegge at 1:38 PM on August 29, 2008


Has any writer ever remembered that Constantine is in fact from Liverpool?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:45 PM on August 29, 2008


scouser, cockney, all the same...

Fuck, I just remembered Aborigonal Dreamtime Constantine.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on August 29, 2008


Hellblazer was never the same after John Ridgway left. In, like, issue #9 or something. I wish I could tell you I was really kidding, but I'm really not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:58 PM on August 29, 2008


You know, come to think of it, there's a hell of a lot in common between Castle and The Saint of Killers, backsory and everything.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2008


Yeah, it's made pretty explicit in the Born miniseries, particularly in how the white text on black background caption boxes, which in the regular Punisher series provide the protagonist's narration, are used to present a voice which is emphatically not Captain Frank Castle's.

fwiw, by the way, I always figured that dirty harry-esque supercop to be an example in favor of my hypothesis. he was a bad guy, after all, and he got his.


Not to keep flogging a dead horse, but while the supercop is an asshole, he's there mostly to throw readers off of the identity of the serial killer and to serve as comic relief when contrasted against his fuck-up partner (Another Ennis trope, but he's gotten some good material out of it). After he's discovered all leathered up, he tearfully confesses that he thinks he's gay, and then goes on to what I assumed was a fulfilling career as a gimp.

Regarding the Sheriff and Starr's assistant, Custer is confronted by what he did to both men, and, at the risk of sounding like a life coach, grows as a result. The weight of responsibilities and consequences is almost always present in Ennis' longer works like Preacher, Hellblazer, Hitman, Kev, and Punisher. It's not a unique theme and he isn't always subtle, but Ennis is still very good at spinning yarns out of it.

While the recent spate of Batman/Watchmen stuff here on the Blue had me feeling a little bit burnt out, there are few other places on the internet where I enjoy discussing funnybooks more.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:43 PM on August 30, 2008


One thing that bothered me about Preacher was the way that Starr turned from a vicious, ruthless, bad-ass killer into a ridiculous joke. By the end of the series, he was like something out of an X-rated version of Keystone Kops, and I think that substantially weakened the overall quality of the story.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:41 PM on August 30, 2008


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