Hey Kids… Comic books! (Bowel Disrupters on Stun edition)

Visiting my friendly local comic book store, crossing the road to Cuba Street Cafe, ordering a vege pizza, then spending an hour or so eating pizza, reading comic books and playing pinball was once a Friday morning ritual for me (yes, pizza for breakfast… so??). Two of my favorite comics of this time have recently found their way to a dewey classification near you.

Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan takes the scathing journalistic voice of Hunter S. Thompson and throws it into a twisted sci-fi future. Disenchanted journalist Spider Jerusalem returns to The City for one last obligation filling assignment for his editor, Royce. Aided by his ‘filthy assistants’ Spider’s assignment evolves into a crusade against corrupt presidential frontrunner ‘The Smiler’. The tone of Ellis’s writing can change from issue to issue. Commenting on the plight of The City’s homeless one moment and then having a gag about Spider’s cigarette smoking moggy and a drug dependent household appliance that manufactures its own narcotics the next. If you only read one comic as a result of this post, check out the ultimate futureshock story  “Another Cold Morning” from vol.2 Lust For Life. A 22 page story that enscapulates everything great about Transmetropolitan.

Garth Ennis’s multiple Eisner Award winning series Preacher (already blogged last week by mo-mo, but I haven’t noticed that yet, and this is a comic that deserves two posts anyway) really takes me back to all that Friday morning pizza-filled goodness. Southern preacher Jesse Custer, accompanied by his hitwoman girlfriend, Tulip and whisky sculling Irish vampire, Cassidy are on a mission to track down God (who’s become a bit of a slacker and abandoned his job). Along the way they encounter an unrivalled cast of villians and misfits. From the Patron Saint of Killers and Vatican empowered hitsquads, to Jesse’s backwoods cousins Jody and T.C. (you’ve seen Deliverance right?) and a tragic teenage Kurt Cobain fan. Deeply in debt to the caustic wit of the late Bill Hicks and the cinematic heritage of Johns Ford and Wayne (well, maybe the Ford and Wayne of that parallel reality Earth where Robert Mitchum was president), Preacher will either have you laughing till it hurts or writing angry letters to the mayor demanding it’s removal from our shelves.

Where to next? Try Warren Ellis’s brilliant super-hero parody Nextwave.  Or Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s long running stint on Hellblazer they completed prior to Preacher.

Preaching in the hopes of converting

You know that feeling when you read something so ridiculously good that you want to make everyone you know read it too in the hopes of spreading it like a virus?  In the recent past friends have infected me with Bonk, and Russell Brand, but possibly the most virulent infection I’ve “suffered” in the last year would be the Preacher series of comics.

An English friend of mine mentioned Preacher to me several years ago.  He has a good handle on my taste so I checked to see if we held it at the library (we didn’t) and then promptly forgot about it.  Some time later another friend mentioned that she had the whole run at home and I thought I’d read the first one to see if I liked it.  In the following weeks I was to make frequent trips to her house, grabbing eight to ten issues at a time, lovingly removing them from and returning them to their mylar bags and generally becoming more and more enraptured by the unfolding tale of a preacher named Jesse Custer.

So what’s so great about Preacher?  For a start it’s penned by the irrascible, irreverent, and somewhat foul-mouthed Irishman Garth Ennis (with whom readers of Hellblazer may be familiar).  Believe me when I say that this ain’t a comic for kids or the easily offended.  Ennis’ characters drink, swear, get into fights, shoot their way out of sticky situations, have sex with the wrong people, and so on.  And the main character’s got a beef with God and is on a mission to call him out…John Wayne style.  So yeah, Preacher has attitude aplenty.

The story centres around Jesse Custer, a disillusioned preacher living in the backwater town of Annville who becomes possessed by an “entity” named Genesis that just happens to be the bastard offspring of an angel and a demon (of course).  As you can imagine “havoc ensues”.  Jesse is soon joined on his journey by his angry ex-girlfriend, Tulip O’Hare and an Irish vampire named Cassidy.

If Preacher were a movie (which it might be – Sam Mendes is rumoured to be directing), then it would be part Western, part Road movie, part Tarantino-esque ultra violence, drizzled with a liberal dosing of dark humour and a healthy disrespect for organised religion.

The entire 75 issue series is now available as a series of nine trade paperbacks so start with volume 1, “Gone to Texas” and just see if you don’t become a convert.

Here endeth the sermon.