Will AMC's germinating Preacher adaptation stick close to its source material, or will it pull a Walking Dead and go its own way? That, perhaps, is the most pressing question for the fledgling series as writers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen mull over their scripting decisions in the press. Over the past month or so, conflicting reports from both Superbad authors have rolled in, making the ultimate shape that Preacher will take on television tricky to nail down. At times they've pledged to stay true to the comic, at others, less so.
Nobody ever said that transitioning anything from page to screen is easy, much less a serial as celebrated as Garth Ennis' graphic tale of honor, duty, manhood, and faith. ("Graphic" in the literal sense. Preacher isn't for the squeamish or easily offended.) So the clashing statements made by Goldberg and Rogen can be forgiven, if not completely understood. But it seems that the pair has finally picked a direction for interpreting Ennis' work under the AMC brand, and that they'll be willfully diverging from it.
How substantially remains to be seen for now, of course, but this comes secondhand from the horse's mouth. Rogen, in a recent interview with Collider, talked a bit about his and Goldberg's macro approach to writing the pilot, and how they're trying to move narrative pieces into place before putting pen to paper; more importantly, he specifically touched on the fruitlessness of making a truly faithful adaptation of comic books. Here's the full quote from Rogen:
"It’s pointless just to make a literal interpretation of the comics, if you want that experience you can go read the comics, so we’ve had to do a lot more work than I expected before we could actually start writing the pilot, honestly. We kind of have to shape the whole series in a weird way and think like, ‘Oh, what season would this character come in? When would you first introduce his guy? Where does this go? Why is this guy here?’ So that’s kind of what we’re doing now is shaping almost the whole series.”
At face value, all of this makes sense; the ebb and flow of visual mediums like film and television is completely different from that of a book or a comic. That's a fancy way of saying that transplanting the latter into the former requires a good deal of logistical maneuvering for best results. This is a lesson most recently learned in the Game of Thrones, which has already split one of George R.R. Martin's novel across two seasons, but which also cropped up in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, which reconfigured the story's timeline in big ways just to make everything fit into three films.
But there's a downside to tinkering with a beloved property's parts for the sake of adaptation - you risk either alienating or flat-out ticking off said property's fans. Then again, maybe not; Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have both proven that companies like HBO and AMC can get away with taking a sharp turn off the beaten path, so much so that they're capable of taking their readers off guard. (And sometimes even the people at the helm.)
It could be that Rogen and Goldberg are just responding to the most recent trend in modern literary adaptations, or it could just be that they want to make Preacher their own. Either way, it sounds like they're working toward a personalized vision of Ennis' world of ceaseless cussing, harsh violence, vampires, angels, demons, serial killers, God, and more, and right now, that seems very much like it could be a good thing.
AMC's Preacher TV series in currently in development.