It seems that Garth Ennis and his particular brand of anti-hero superhero stories are having a moment on the small screen - and The Pro should be the next Ennis comic to get a TV adaptation. Preacher, an adaptation of one of his best-known offerings, is coming to an end this September after four seasons, while The Boys has just launched its first season on Amazon Prime. And while Preacher wasn't quite the huge hit that may have been expected, The Boys has certainly been turning heads - within days of release, it already became one of Amazon's most-watched shows, and a second season was ordered before the first even dropped.
It's not hard to see why these shows are so popular, either. They take some of the best bits of comic books (fascinating super-powers, massive battles, occasional romance), but sidestep the cartoonish separation of good and bad. Instead of being pure heroes and villains, the characters that Ennis has created are complex and deeply flawed; murderers and criminals may be the good guys, while 'heroes' are twisted and corrupt.
Of course, no one in these shows is truly 'good', but that's the point. Preacher and The Boys aren't about good vs evil, but about the questions of morality that arise with incredible power in a messed-up world. All of which means that there may be more Ennis adaptations on the way, and the next best candidate may well be The Pro.
What Is The Pro?
The Pro isn't anywhere near as well-known a comic as Preacher or The Boys, but it carries that Ennis stamp of slightly bitter, extremely graphic superheroism... that doesn't feel like superheroism. The Pro was created by Garth Ennis, drawn and lettered by Amanda Conner and with Jimmy Palmiotti inking. Published in 2002, this one-shot has a fairly simple premise: that a street prostitute is granted superpowers.
These powers come courtesy of an alien being known as the Viewer, who (reminiscent of a whole lot of '90s teen movies) bets that he can turn anyone into a true hero, even a miserable woman who has been thoroughly beaten down by life. So, courtesy of the Viewer, our Pro wakes up one day with the standard super-powers - flight, strength, speed. She's then recruited by the League of Honor, a parody of the Justice League, who are happy to have a new hero... but significantly less happy about the fact that she is crude, violent, foul-mouthed, and generally nothing like their clean-cut image. In the end, though, she proves that she is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice - and that heroes don't have to look (or act) like Clark Kent, proving the Viewer's point.
The Pro has a lot in common with Preacher and The Boys - it satirizes superheroes, it is filled with sex and violence (generally gratuitous), and there are no clear heroes or villains. So why make it the next live action series, if these things are already provided by Preacher and The Boys?
The Future Is Female-Focused
There are two main reasons that The Pro is worth making into a live-action series, even if it is incredibly similar to Preacher and The Boys; its main character is a woman, and its main character is a sex worker. While there are plenty of female superheroes in tv and film, it's no secret that female-led series or movies are few and far between. This is (thankfully) starting to change, as films such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel prove that fans are definitely happy to watch women kicking some super-butt, but there need to be a lot more female-driven shows created before this imbalance starts to really be redressed. Sex workers, too, are rarely portrayed in film or tv as anything but the butt of a joke, or a sad side-story. There is plenty of room here to change things up, and provide more positive, complex, and nuanced representation.
This would be especially interesting in a Garth Ennis adaptation, as his work is often criticized for being far from female-friendly. The female characters in the adaptations of Preacher and The Boys are a significant step up from those in the original comics, it's true (Tulip is a stone-cold badass, rather than a fairly sad sidekick to Jesse, and The Female actually gets a real name and backstory in The Boys), but there is still a lot of room to improve - and a complicated, three-dimensional female character as the star of a new series would be a huge step in the right direction.
How The Pro Would Have To Change
In order to make The Pro a positive (if not necessarily likable) female character, though, a lot would have to change from the comics. The original comic buys into essentially every negative stereotype about sex workers; The Pro is lazy, slovenly, a terrible mother, etc. Like Tulip and The Female, The Pro would need to be seriously updated in order to make her more than a caricature of a hooker. Ideally, an adaptation would introduce multiple female characters in the industry, and also take this series to a place where there are multiple major female characters interacting in every episode.
Some other series have already started to explore how to write more accurate and nuanced characters in the sex industry. How I Met Your Mother's Quinn, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl's Belle, even Bonding's Tiff are all examples of women who are sex workers, without being seen as only sex workers (or as terrible stereotypes). The Pro would be a perfect storyline to include a main character who is a sex worker, and use her and her experiences in a subset of society that isn't treated well to really shine a light on how the less-privileged would react to gaining powers - or to the idea of a hero class. This contrast could take the dynamic of humans v supes in the boys and make it even more compelling.
Problems With Adapting The Pro
As well as the fact that the source material would have to be changed in order to better represent women and sex workers, there are a few other issues with potentially adapting The Pro for the small screen. Obviously this is a comic for mature readers, which would usually limit its ability to be adapted. Thankfully, though, with streaming services able to create original content without the old network restrictions, The Pro could remain the same gloriously adult concept that it is on the page. Even without losing the shock value, though, there would be a fine line to walk with this one - it would be easy to fall into stereotyping the Pro (who would also need an actual name), or to go too far with a lead who is far from naive, making her bitter and twisted.
Having a sex worker lead is also something of a gamble - although shows like Bonding prove that it can be done, this is far from the norm, and a superhero escort may just be too niche for the show to become a real hit. In addition, the comic is a one-shot, and fleshing that out into a full series may be too difficult. However, a one-season show (a la Good Omens) could be a fantastic way to do it.
The biggest issue, though, would be with the rights to the series - as they currently belong to Paramount Pictures, who have been toying with the possibility of turning the comic into a film. In 2017, it was announced that a film version was in development, with Zoe McCarthy writing the screenplay. At this point in time, nothing further has come of that idea, but it may mean that development hell has claimed this one, and will keep it from ever joining The Boys and Preacher on the small screen.