Gone From Texas

     August 26, 2008

Written by Cal Kemp

The best news I’ve heard all day comes courtesy of Comics Continuum who confirm that HBO has finally pulled the plug on Mark Steven Johnson’s adaptation of Garth Ennis’ “Preacher”. It’s not that I have no faith in HBO; a episodic censor-free series is exactly the right way to go if you’re going to do it and “Preacher” (unlike, say “Watchmen) could be every bit as valid with 24 frames a second. No, it’s Johnson I have a problem with.

Back when “Daredevil” hit the big screen, I’d defend Johnson to my friends. After all, he was a virtual newcomer up against a studio and — while there wasn’t exactly an abundance of talent on display there — the DVD commentary had me convinced that some of the outright awful aspects of “Daredevil” were due to bizarre studio demands. (Like, for instance, the giant, flaming DD). And then “Ghost Rider” hit and — because it made money — Johnson was so, so proud that he achieved his artistic vision.

Now Johnson can have “Ghost Rider” as, quite frankly, I don’t really believe that Ghost Rider’s fans extend much beyond people who like to see a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle. But “Preacher”? We’re talking about my favorite comic series of all time and Johnson can stay the Hell away from it.

The 60-issue comic book series features Texan preacher Jesse Custer who, after bonding with the spawn of a demon and an angel, has the power to force his commands on others. Joined by his ex-girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vampire, Cassidy, Jesse goes on a search for God across America, intent on making him explain to the world why he abandoned his post in heaven.

In Johnson’s words, “…the new head of HBO felt it was just too dark and too violent and too controversial. Which, of course, is kind of the point!”

I don’t know if there’s any truth to that or not, but it certainly sounds like a excuse that you could run with regardless of HBO’s real reasons for canceling the project. But if you’re looking for live-action Jesse Custer, he may still be on the way:

“I’ve heard someone is in the process of getting the rights to turn it into a feature film,” adds Johnson, ” I hope that happens. But I hope it happens as a series of movies as one movie couldn’t do it justice.”

I have to agree with him there. “Preacher” was being developed as a film nearly ten years ago and production art exists that would have had Samuel L. Jackson as the Saint of Killers. (Which is crazy because it absolutely has to be either Clint Eastwood or Lance Henriksen). The real trick, though, is going to be finding a director worthy of the project and not just a Ennis fanboy.

Click here to check out Comics Continuum’s original story.

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