Many recent comic book to film adaptations have made it seem as if it were relatively easy to translate their four-color superhero stories to the big screen. But as comics writer Garth Ennis relates, that is not always the case. Ennis has two creator-owned series currently optioned by Hollywood studios, Preacher and The Boys, and he sees that one may be easier to realize in celluloid than the other.
The feature film rights for both Preacher and The Boys rest at Columbia Pictures. Currently director Sam Mendes is developing Preacher with scriptwriter John August. Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi are currently working on a Boys screenplay, though no director has been attached to the project.
“I do see a Boys movie as being more viable than a Preacher one,” he stated at the recent WizardWorld Philadelphia comic book convention. “Because with Preacher, if you start pulling cards out of the structure, it collapses pretty quickly. It’s a 2000 page story and nearly all the elements rely on other elements.”
A fan favorite almost immediately upon the publication of its first issue in 1995, Preacher featured a down and out Texas man of the cloth suffused with the power of the offspiring of an angel and demon on a quest to find God, who has abandoned His creation. Joining him were his ex-girlfriend and an Irish vampire. At times vulgar, darkly funny, insightful and satirical, the series ran for 75 issues, including several one-shot specials and a four-issue miniseries. There have already been a few attempts to adapt the series to live action. Although most of them saw the project as a possible film franchise, the most recent attempt was to mount it as a television series for HBO.
Ennis knows the trouble with adapting his own work, as he and artist Steve Dillon, who co-created Preacher with Ennis, took their own pass at writing a screenplay.
“We did cobble together a script once, trying to weed out all the things that would still hang together,” Dillon, also appearing with Ennis, added.
“But you can’t distill the whole story,” conceded Ennis. “And we were only using the first six issues or so. We were doing it early on, too, before Preacher had become the 70-odd issues that it would become.”
The writer does acknowledge that his newer series, The Boys, which centers on a CIA-sponsored group tasked with policing the world’s superheroes, may be easier to get to big screen despite its oft times extreme nature. Ennis created teh series with artist Darick Robertson.
“With The Boys, you can just isolate those five characters and you can have a very simple story about people who deal with superheroes,” Ennis explains. “You would probably have to lose a lot of the commentary on history, politics and corporate culture that you get in The Boys, but it really is just a story about a team of guys who beat the crap out of superheroes.”
“[The Boys have] got a simple high concep,” Dillon points out. “You’ve just done the Hollywood pitch. You can’t do that with Preacher. When people ask me what Preacher is about, I can’t really explain the whole thing.”
“I’ve actually come up with one,” Ennis counters with a laugh. “[Preacher] is Wild At Heart meets Near Dark and then Unforgiven shows up to kill everyone.”