This article contains major spoilers for the Preacher comics and probably the TV series, too. It’s also completely unsuitable for younger or more sensitive readers.
In the world of Preacher, horror is the eleventh commandment.
TV fans are now in on what countless DC Comics and Vertigo fans have known for years, that when it comes to shocking moments, no comic on the planet can hold a candle to Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher. When Preacher began in 1995, from the very first page, it was clear that this was a comic that knew no boundaries, a comic that pushed the envelope on good taste and social taboos while testing the limits of the comic book medium. But make no mistake, underneath those gorgeous Glenn Fabry covers beat a huge heart, because as offensive and nasty as Preacher usually got, the comic book epic also delivered a very human and often moving story of love, hope, and friendship.
But we’re not here to talk about that sappy stuff. We’re here to talk about the exit wounds, flayings, contusions, atrocities, sexual deviancy, depraved rednecks, incest, murders, mayhem, chaos, compound fractures, buggerings, cranial trauma, mass killings, food sex, regular sex, animal sex, fish sex, sheep sex, S&M, and decapitations that Preacher delivered on a regular basis.
An entire church burns to death, and that’s just the start.
Ennis and Dillon’s Preacher opens with a church full of parishioners horribly burning to death. In the opening pages, before fans met Cassidy, Tulip, Arseface, the Saint of Killers, Herr Starr, or any of the major players of Vertigo’s magnum opus, they bore witness to Jesse Custer becoming possessed by Genesis, a metaphysical entity with the powers of God. Genesis gives Jesse the power to compel people with his voice (think a way more dashing and less creepy version of Jessica Jones’ Killgrave). And when the powerful entity possesses Custer, the joining kills everyone currently listening to a sermon in Custer’s church.
This moment of horrific blasphemous atrocity set the tone for Preacher, and it was seared into the minds of Vertigo’s faithful.
TC Buggers a Live Chicken
TC and his pal Jody were Jesse Custer’s childhood tormentors. They worked for Jesse’s evil Grandma Custer and kept order on her sprawling estate. TC was a clearly inbred redneck whose sexual proclivities were just as disturbing as his ghoul like face. TC and Jody made young Jesse’s life miserable as they enforced grandma’s rule with iron handed efficiency, administering beatings to Jesse on the regular.
Things took an even more twisted turn when, one day, TC decided he was going to fuck a live chicken. Yes, Preacher went there. Sadly, Jesse’s best friend witnessed TC choking his chicken and was killed by the enraged poultry violator. This childhood trauma was one of the main reasons Jesse walked his path of righteousness and when Custer ran into Jody and the chicken-violating TC years later, all hell was coming for the animal buggerer and his evil pal.
There’s a Kid Whose Face Looks Like a Puckered Ass
Ah, poor Arseface. Ennis and Dillon introduced a hapless soul who botched a suicide attempt and ended up blowing off most of his face. But he lived, and the results aren’t pretty.
Preacher fans will never forget the reveal of the abused boy who would come to be known as Arseface. Dillon really went to town rendering the ruined visage of this poor soul, but despite the most horrific wounds, somehow, the boy’s eyes still shined with a total innocence. The always cheeky Cassidy the vampire dubbed the boy Arseface and the character was mostly played for laughs as the series progressed. Ennis had a blast telling Aresface’s side story as Preacher rolled on. Most of this tale was slide splitting as the poor earnest butt face tried to survive and thrive in a world that would collectively puke at the sight of his poor ruined face. But it was the first reveal of Arseface that balances that perfect blend of horror and humor fans came to expect from Preacher.
Early in Preacher’s run, fans were introduced to Si Coltrane, an old pal of Cassidy’s. Cassidy met Coltrane at Woodstock and the two became fast friends. Coltrane became an investigative reporter who, when readers first met him, was on the trail of a serial killer known as the Reaver-Cleaver.
When Ennis and Dillon first introduced the Reaver-Cleaver, the killer was hard at work on one of his victims. The moment was an instance of absolute terror as readers were forced to witness the Reaver slowly slice off a man’s face and then nail the removed skin mask upside down to the still living victim. It was a masterful splatterpunk moment of pure body atrocity as Preacher proved to fans that it would not pull punches when it comes to a liberal application of gore and violence.
The character of Jesus DeSade probably epitomizes the Preacher experience. DeSade is an unforgettable character who leads a cult called the Gomorrah People, a group famous for throwing legendary sex parties where nothing is taboo. What starts out as a humorous romp through fetishism and strange eroticism soon takes a truly dark turn.
After Cassidy’s girlfriend overdoses on heroin, the vampire, Custer, and Tulip try to find out who sold the poor girl the drug. Their investigation takes them to one of DeSade’s famed parties and what the trio finds would make the Overlook Hotel blush. The whole building now, not just the weird Nazi bartender and the guy in the teddy bear costume. Every room in DeSade’s crib was brimming with titillation and depravity, from guys buggering sheep, to whippings, floggings, and BDSM of every shape and size.
Anyway, everything was erotic and a little strange (well, really strange if you’re the sheep), but nothing horrific. Until Jesse stumbles into a room where De Sade is filming…well, we’re not going to spoil it here. But this is where the mastery of Ennis and Dillon comes into play. Just a few panels before this reveal, the book was a laugh a minute parody of eroticism, but in an eye blink, Ennis and Dillon took readers to the darkest of places. What has been a very funny scene got very real, very quickly. It’s terrifying stuff.
Poor Herr Starr. Starr is Preacher’s main antagonist, the leader of the Holy Order of the Grail, an ancient religious society meant to keep the blood of Jesus Christ pure (more on that in a bit). Starr is a master strategist and needs Jesse Custer to complete the Order’s domination of the world. Starr pursues Custer all over the US and what begins as a classic tale of good versus evil, ends up an X-Rated Road Runner cartoon for poor, poor Starr.
At one point, Starr is horribly injured and left for dead in a desert. Fortunately for Starr, he is rescued by the Chunt Brothers. Unfortunately for Starr, the Chunt Brothers are a family of inbred cannibals. By the way, inbred villains are kind of a motif in Preacher. The Chunts plan to nurse Starr back to health in order to fry him real nice and have themselves a Herr Starr banquet.
The youngest Chunt, Cyrus, has issues (see what happens after generations of inbreeding?) and keeps uttering “Wub” whenever he sees Starr. One day, Cyrus comes to Starr alone holding a gun and a roll of toilet paper. It turns out “Wub” means “Wipe,” because no one has wubbed Cyrus in a long time. So Starr has to get in there and clean Cyrus’ neglected Sarlaac Pit in order to distract the dirty bottomed young man so Custer’s arch nemesis could grab the gun and free himself.
Now, let’s dissect this. Cyrus is a cannibal with a butt that hasn’t been wubbed in perhaps months. So basically, Starr is forced to wub little bits of human remains from Cyrus’ nether regions. Have fun with this one AMC! wub.
The Descendant of Jesus Christ
Guys, I’m going to try and explain this one without offending anyone, but it’s going to be hard. As I said, the Order of the Grail’s aim was to keep Christ’s bloodline pure, so they inbred the descendants of Jesus so as not to taint the blood of the savior. Well, science tells us what happens when people keep it in the family, and all that happened as the modern day descendant of the son of God liked to pee on things (a lot) while saying things like “Suffer the little children! humperdumper-doo.”
There Was a Villain that Fucked Meat
Smack dab in the middle of Ennis and Dillon’s Preacher run, Jesse Custer ran afoul of a corrupt meat packing industrialist named Odin Quincannon. During Custer’s quest to find God, the upright preacher loses faith and ends up in the small down of Salvation, Texas. Salvation is, in Ennis’ words, “the kind of place you ain’t left by the time you’re twenty-five, you’re stuck.”
It was in this atmosphere of hopelessness that gave rise to Odin Quincannon, a cruel, corrupt, hateful billionaire that ran Salvation with an iron fist. Odin was a creepy little man that allowed his meat packers to run rampant on Salvation, raping, pillaging and murdering whenever they felt the urge. Jesse took up the badge and became sheriff of Salvation and opposed Odin. Odin tried to kill Custer by sending the KKK after Custer, but our preacher stood tall and a titanic struggle for the soul of Salvation began.
Now, all that is riveting, but where does the disturbing come in? Well, I’m about to tell you and if you had plans to go to a steak house or deli today, you might want to start considering some vegetarian alternatives.
Odin would frequently go into his shed to relax. From there, readers would hear Odin saying things like “Spread the cheese” and other disturbing utterances. When all Hell came a callin’ for Odin, Custer found the man in his shed making love to a woman…made of meat. She had big turkey breasts, and a giant ham head, and sausage fingers and yeah, Odin Quincannon was screwing a meat woman.
The image was Steve Dillon’s most twisted visual in his entire run on Preacher. The page is haunting as a drooling, pathetic Odin Quincannon finds one last moment of solace by inserting his pecker into a woman made of meat. Pot roast pounding, veal-sturbation, turkey tumbling, ground beef insertion, sausage fondling, steak humping, pork porking…
The Saint of Killers
OK, imagine Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and WWE’s Undertaker coalesced into a Voltron-like murder machine and you have the Saint of Killers. The Saint was once a frontiersman and former soldier who happily lived off the land with his family. When his beloved kin were felled by a fever, the future Saint went to get them the medicine they needed to survive. The soldier’s quest was fraught with peril and he was delayed. When he returned home, he found that it wasn’t the fever that killed his family; it was a group of roaming bandits. Swearing vengeance, the soldier gunned down all the bandits save the leader. The lead owlhoot grabbed a young girl as a hostage and the future Saint, so filled with vengeance, shot her through the head. His gun jammed and the bandit killed the soldier, leaving his vengeance incomplete.
The soldier may have died that day, but the Saint of Killers was born. He went down to Hell, but the killing didn’t stop. He gunned down every demon and devil he saw. The Saint was sent to heaven, but the killing still didn’t stop, he gunned down every angel he saw. The afterlife sent him to Earth and made the soldier the Patron Saint of All Killers. And the killing didn’t stop.
This brings the Saint into Jesse Custer’s story. The Saint is charged with tracking Custer and…well. It leads to a moment that is the essence of the sheer blasphemous gall of Preacher, a series where not even the Almighty is safe from a vengeance driven cowboy.
Read and download the Den of Geek SDCC 2019 Special Edition Magazine right here!