Garth Ennis Adaptations: "Preacher" Out, "The Boys" In

preacher.jpgWith his witty dialogue, ultraviolent action and perverse black humor like some kind of Irish Quentin Tarantino with a poetic streak, many of Garth Ennis' works are just ripe to have movies made out of them. Although he didn't create the characters, the 2004 Punisher movie, the upcoming Punisher: War Zone, and Constantine were all heavily based/influenced by his writing. One that wouldn't see the light of day, however, is the adaptation of his creator-owned title Preacher.

The 60+ issue comic series told the story of a young Texas preacher who embarks on a journey to find God—who has abandoned His duties—so he can give God a good spanking, with the help of his hitman girlfriend and their vampire best friend, all the while staying one step ahead of a Church who wants to replace the actual retarded descendant of Jesus Christ with a more capable Messiah. Yes, it's a f--king awesome comic.

Considered by many to be Ennis' masterpiece, Preacher was optioned by HBO as a TV series, to be exec produced by Mark Steven Johnson (Ghost Rider, Daredevil). Several who's-who were mentioned to possibly direct episodes of the show, from Robert Rodriguez to Kevin Smith (did you know, Dogma was very obviously inspired by Preacher?). Garth Ennis was even involved in creating new stories for the TV show, so that fans of the comic would see something new, as well. HBO was all gung-ho about letting Johnson do whatever he wanted... until they had a change in management back in April when Sue Naegle was named the new head of HBO's original programming.

"We were budgeting and everything and it was getting really close to going," Johnson told The Continuum. "But 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!

"It was a very faithful adaptation of the first few books, nearly word for word. They offered me the chance to redevelop it but I refused. I've learned my lesson on that front and I won't do it again. So I'm afraid it's dead at HBO."

I think Johnson was referring to his Daredevil experience there. Fox took final cut away from him and forced a shorter, tamer PG-13 cut (what a surprise, huh?). Johnson also had to shoot additional love scenes between Daredevil and Elektra at the last minute, making it more marketable in relation to its Valentine's Day release.

He says that Preacher might end up as a feature film, but I think HBO really dropped the ball here. One of Naegle's incentives when she was named President is to develop another hit show worthy of succeeding The Sopranos' legacy, which recent HBO dramas had been unable to do. With them playing to the genre crowd now with True Blood, you'd think that Preacher would have far more potential and is more appropriate for HBO's rep of pushing boundaries, even with Johnson's less-than-stellar track record.

Another disappointing news for Ennis is Columbia Pictures developing a movie based on his anti-superhero comic The Boys. Why disappointing? Because despite its solid potential, the movie adaptation is being written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay, better known as the guys who brought you Aeon Flux and The Tuxedo.

The premise of The Boys is almost ready-made for a movie, especially considering the current Hollywood climate. "The Boys" is the informal nickname of a team of CIA ops whose job is to keep tabs on the superhero community, which in this universe isn't as wholesome as the DC/Marvel variety and more akin to hedonistic celebs. The Boys monitor, blackmail, and sometimes assassinate these "capes" to keep them in line.

The obvious question is: will Simon Pegg play Wee Hughie? The Boys artist Darick Robertson made no attempt to hide the fact that he used Pegg as a visual reference, a gesture that flattered the real Pegg enough to write an intro for the book's trade paperback collection. Taking the character's personality into account, fans have embraced Hughie as the Simon Pegg stand-in. If someone else ends up playing him, I can imagine them not taking it too well at first, though what fan would want Pegg to be associated with a bad comic book adaptation?

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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