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Comic Book: Preacher

There's a fella's gonna be coming for me. An' you couldn't stop him wi' a hundred've yer scum. You couldn't stop him wi' a thousand guns.
Cassidy, praying for the main character to save him.

Garth Ennis' Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a down-at-heel Texan preacher whose life is turned around when he is cursed with The Word of God, which compels people to do whatever he commands. After finding out that God has abdicated His throne, Jesse sets out on a quest to bring Him to task, joined by Tulip, his ex-girlfriend-turned-hitman, and Cassidy, an Irish vampire.

Their quest takes them across the dark heart of America, from the streets of New York to the Louisiana swamps, and along the way they meet inbred hicks, serial killers, John Wayne's ghost, The Saint of Killers, the retarded descendants of Jesus, an ancient religious conspiracy, a pair of perverted Sexual Investigators, Bill Hicks, the anti-Pope, fallen angels, voodoo children, psycho goths, The Klan and a kid with a face like an arse.

The book enthusiastically denies the Christian concept of a loving God, satirizes various aspects of modern living and throws in a few good fistfights and explosions along the way. It was published by Vertigo Comics. The series lasted for 66 regular issues, running from April, 1995 to October, 2000. There were also a number of specials and a 4-issue mini-series featuring the Saint of Killers.

After over a decade of Development Hell, a TV series adaptation has been announced to air on AMC, with Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad) serving as executive producer and showrunner, and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This Is the End) as executive producers and writers.

This series provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Sheriff Hugo Root is feared and loathed by everyone in Annville, his wife left him and it's heavily implied that even his deputies despise him. Seeing as the man was basically just a thug with a badge, this comes as no surprise. Ironically, the one person who doesn't hate him at the start of the series is his biggest victim: Arseface, his own son, whom he mercilessly abused until the latter's failed suicide attempt.
  • Achilles' Heel: Jesse Custer's Word of God can only affect those who can hear it, so it can be defeated by simply plugging one's ears. It's also necessary to understand what Jesse is saying, and he only speaks English - kind of a problem as The Grail is a global Ancient Conspiracy which can draw on foreign fire support as easily as ordering pizza. Animals ignore it as well. On several occasions he is threatened into silence at gunpoint, though after the first time he figures out a simple counter to that;
    Jesse: MISS!
  • Action Girl: Tulip, although it's clear that Jesse would rather she wasn't.
  • Always Accurate Attack: The guns of The Saint Of Killers-he literally, magically cannot ever miss.
  • Almighty Idiot: Genesis — as its own father describes it, it has power and knowledge, but no will of its own without a host. It's basically a divine battery rather than a sapient being.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Grail.
  • Anything That Moves:
    • T.C. - though, in all honesty, even the "moves" part seems to be negotiable.
    • Jesus DeSade. If it has a hole, he's probably fucked it.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Detective Bridges
  • Artistic License - Biology: Inbreeding exaggerates genetic traits that are already in existence, which can include things like hereditary illnesses. It does not make future generations progressively dumber - to say nothing of turning them into cyclopses...
  • Artistic License - History: In Cassidy's flashback sequence from "Proud Americans", which chronicles the failed 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Patrick Pearse is shown dramatically quoting the famous refrain from William Butler Yeats' poem "Easter 1916"...which was written about the Easter Rising a month after it happened. Yeah.
    • The account of Cassidy being shot by a Hell's Angel at Woodstock and then killing him sounds a lot more like the infamous Altamont concert later that same year.
  • Ass Shove. Jesse told Sheriff Root with the Voice to go fuck himself. So, he did...
  • Attempted Rape: Foiled with a truck through the wall.
  • Author Tract: Ennis is clearly talking through various characters when they get off on tangents about a particular subject.
    • Jesse makes a long tirade against political correctness, with a brief stop against body piercings, before undercutting it by saying that he might just need to get laid.
    • Jesse and Cassidy talk about how the worst thing a man can ever do is hit a woman (instead of serial murder, cannibalism, or betraying loved ones).
  • Back from the Dead: Played straight and literally for the most part, with several characters directly resurrected.
  • Badass Boast: The Saint of Killer just lives off of these:
  • Badass Creed: Jesse Custer learned his from his father, cribbed from John Wayne;
    John Custer: Don't take no shit off fools. Judge a person by what's in 'em, not how they look. An' you do the right thing. Be one of the good guys. 'Cause there's way too many of the bad.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jesse mentions having read every book in the library while in Annville.
  • Badass Family: The Custers.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • The Saint of Killers was pretty old BEFORE he became immortal.
    • The Texas Ranger also falls into this trope.
  • Badass Longcoat:
    • The Saint of Killers.
    • The Texas Ranger
  • Badass Normal: Tulip out of the major three characters. She doesn't have Jesse's word or Cassidy's vampiric powers. She's just an excellent shot.
  • Based on a True Story: Arseface is a combination of two. There was at least one teen who committed suicide upon learning of Kurt Cobain's own; and there was a teen who attempted the same kind of suicide (though unrelated to the death of Cobain) that Arseface did with the same results (lived, but missing most of their face).
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Featherstone increasingly becomes this as Starr becomes more unhinged.
  • Bi the Way: Amy admits to herself that she would like to trade places with either Jesse or Tulip.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The L'Angelles. Jesse remarks that the L'Angelles must have the "Devil's own piss" running in their veins instead of blood. It was something of a miracle that Jesse's own mother turned out as well as she did — which is probably why she fled in the first place.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Even God's a prick.
  • Black Best Friend: "Space" to John Custer, and arguably Cindy to Jesse in Salvation.
  • Blind and the Beast: Subverted by Lorry Bobs and Arseface. Both of them are The Grotesque who will Earn Their Happy Ending.
  • Body Horror: Used as a method of torture - A paralyzed man is distracted by Eisenstein for several minutes until he is allowed to look to the side and sees Eisenstein's bodyguard eating his hand. He gives up the information.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Ambiguous, with Jesus De Sade and Miss Oatlash clearly on the bad side, Herr Starr arguably ambiguous, and on the other hand, the fairly sympathetic treatment of Transparent Closet case Cowboy Cop Paulie, and some of Jesse and Tulip's playing around. Brains and Bondage generally applies, good or bad.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: A major theme in the series is the fact that Jesse is basically a modern cowboy from a Western. In the end, when Tulip asks what he wants to become now, we get a two-page shot of Jesse riding into the sunset, and he says, "Can't you guess?"
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Saint of Killers' revolvers. They were forged by Satan to have their hammers never fall on empty chambers.
  • Broken Pedestal: Subverted with Jody.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Over the course of the series we see the unfortunate genetic result of two sets of inbred families - Billy-Bob's family in "All In The Family" and the handicapped children of Jesus in "Crusaders". Lampshaded by Starr.
    Starr: Son of man or son of God, you can't fuck your sister and expect much good to come of it.
  • Bungled Suicide: Arseface's origin story.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted. When Hoover comes back from counting sand, Jessie does not remember him for a few minutes. When he does recognize him, he acknowledges that he was wrong and helps Hoover forget the worst of the trauma.
  • Butt Monkey: Hoover and Arseface are sympathetic examples, which is interesting since the former is technically an antagonist. Starr, on the other hand, just lives a never-ending Humiliation Conga from one page to the next.
    • Joe the bartender also counts, but he's still an optimist. Mistaken (partially his own fault) for a serial pedophile and medically castrated as a result? Check. Inability to sexually satisfy his wife, leading to divorce? Check. Wife winning all the money he got from the state to compensate for destroying his balls? Check.
    • Detective John Tool, "the unluckiest cop in the world"
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Only it's the Father of all Creation.
  • Cannibal Larder: One psychopath is found out when another character discovers a human head in the fridge.
  • Captured Super Entity: The Grail has a captured angel that they use for information in "Crusaders". It's the angel who fathered Genesis.
  • Car Fu: Cassidy drives a pickup into the Saint in the first volume, to no effect.
    • Tulip does this with a truck in her teen years to scare off a group of gang rapists after her friend.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • This being a Garth Ennis work, one shouldn't be surprised. To quote Sheriff Root: "SON OF A FUCKIN' WHORE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOIN' ON FUCK THIS FUCK"
    • Lampshaded with Saddam Hopper, because he's fucking lousy at it (Even using the Seven Dirty Words).
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Jesse loves his Groin Attacks.
    • Starr's response to a sadistic hand to hand combat instructor demanding to know how Starr would defeat him in unarmed combat? Starr shoots him in the leg and responds that he never intends to be unarmed. Subverted in that over the course of the series, he frequently does find himself unarmed, and in big trouble - it would have been far more pragmatic to learn how deal with such a situation, which is why militaries still teach unarmed combat.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting:
    • The Saint looks identical to the late Lee Marvin.
    • The Texas Ranger Tom Pickett seems to resemble Tom Skerritt.
    • Saddam Hopper resembles Saddam Hussein (Duh).
    • And Cassidy is pretty clearly Shane Mc Gowan from The Pogues.
    • There seems to be a resemblance between Jesse Custer and Jim Morrison of The Doors.
  • Compelling Voice: Jesse, due to the Word of God. Any command he gives can't be disobeyed. However, there are limits to the power. Among them, Jesse has to be able to speak, the target has to understand Jesse, and they have to be able to hear him. So, it doesn't work on animals, anyone who doesn't understand English, or - in one case - anyone who plugs their ears and shouts at the top of their lungs.
  • Compensating for Something: Starr loves his big gun. Or as he calls it, muttering "Doomcock. Doomcock." Of course, he thought he was just practicing, saying cock then he cocked it and DOOM when he fired it.
  • Cool Chair: The Throne of Paradise. Even the Saint of Killers can't do anything to someone sitting on it.
    • Nor, it turns out, can God.
  • Cool Shades: Cassidy
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Jesse initially resists using his powers for his own gain...then decides to just say hell with it. By the end of the series, though, he learns some hard lessons about the unintended consequences of rash action.
  • Corrupt Church: The Grail
  • Corrupt Hick: Odin Quincannon in "Salvation". Also known as the Meat King, he is a corrupt hick who operates an inhumane meat plant, orders the death of a local sheriff, is a card-carrying member of The Klan, tries to blow up a nearby village with napalm, employs a Hitler fetishist as his PA and repeatedly has sex with a giant female figure made out of sides of ham. Seriously. He was so corrupt his fellow Klansmen started wondering if he was taking the whole racism thing a bit too far.
    • The L'Angelles are a Big Screwed-Up Family like you would not believe.
    • Sheriff Hugo Root, who's an alcoholic racist as well as an abusive father.
    • Jody and T.C. T.C. in particular will screw anything whether it moves or not, including dogs, chickens, and a birthday cake (he claims the cake was just asking for it with that frosting).
  • Council of Angels: In "Gone to Texas"
  • Covers Always Lie: If you're new to the series, the cover of the very first issue might give you the impression that Jesse is the antagonist of the series, or possibly a Villain Protagonist, rather than The Hero. Hell, the first issue's cover is the page image for Sinister Minister!
  • Cowboy Cop:
    • Cal Hicks tries to be this, but he seems to embrace the stereotypes of Private Detective more. He has a fancy car (repossessed because he can't afford it on a police salary), hot girlfriend (leaving him, probably because he's a virgin with a ridiculously ludicrous idea of what sex is like), on suspension (you can only get away with this if you have a massively perfect arrest record and he doesn't), has a canine sidekick (Doofus, leaves after T.C. spends the night with the dog), and has a drinking problem (probably brought on by hard-drinkin' detectives on TV). Tries to fly a copter and crashes it. Tries to take charge and it's clear Jody has him outclassed. Talks tough and Jody feeds him to a gator. Really, one of the more inept wannabes.
    • Jesse becomes this in Salvation. Awesomeness ensues. No doubt inspired by:
    • Tom Pickett, the Texas Ranger Jesse and Tulip met when they were younger.
    • Detective Bridges is one (he once got a confession out of a guy by shoving his face into a gaping shotgun wound).
  • Cursed with Awesome: Cassidy's view of being a vampire.
  • Cuteness Proximity: The Saint gets a couple of moments of this with the girl he later marries, and then with their child, though of course it's largely played for contrast. Also, to his surprise, Tulip's Rated M for Manly dad (though it helps that she just burped).
    Aw, so you're a girl. That needn't be so bad.
  • Dark Action Girl: That one chick. You know the one. With the action. And the dark.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • A whole lot of people. But Jesse and his family gets a special mention.
    • Cassidy's is so bad that it might qualify as a deconstruction of how artificially dramatic this trope usually is.note 
    • Herr Starr's Starrt Of Darkness.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Starr is the outstanding case, but Featherstone does her best, and most others have their moments.
  • Death Is the Only Option: Jesse Custer's plan near the end is to die so that God himself will return to Heaven thinking it now safe, only to find the Saint of Killers occupying the celestial throne. Jesse returns from the dead but comments that still being alive is an empty victory, like using a cheat code in a video game.
  • Deep South: Where a lot of the story takes place.
  • Depraved Bisexual:
    • Jesus De Sade. Actually, he's a depraved everything.
    • Bill, Cassidy's old heroin supplier. When Cassidy can no longer get the money for his habits, he says that Cassidy or his girlfriend can give him a blowjob instead: "I'm not particular".
  • Depraved Homosexual: All the queer characters in the series are more or less depraved.
  • Devil but No God: Inverted: The Devil is shot in the face by the Saint of Killers sometime in the 19th century but God is still running around (until he's shot by the Saint of Killers).
  • Determinator: Many, but special mention needs to be given to Herr Starr after his escape from the desert.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Saint of Killers shoots God dead.
  • Dirty Communists: Subverted. They're not longer Communists, but the Russians are still depicted as hard, crazy bastards anyway. Not to mention Jesse's father's famous "Fuck Communism" lighter.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Hoover, who is made by the Word of God to count sand. Even Jesse later admits that this crossed the line.
    • Jesse's grandmother catches him cursing at Jody after he nails his dog to the fence. She responds by nailing him into a weighted box and dropping him in the river for a week with just an air hose to keep him from suffocating. Of course, that was probably more to tighten her control over him and "toughen him up" than anything else.
  • Eagleland: Somehow subverted. Warts and all - and they are very big warts - this series reads like Garth Ennis' love letter to America.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: By halfway through the series, the Saint of Killers is completely unstoppable and nothing can survive his guns. By the end of the series, he kills God. The fact that Cassidy is only mildly inconvenienced by being shot by the Saint is probably related to the fact that it happens in the first volume.
    • To a lesser degree, the Reaver-Cleaver storyline that makes up the second arc, which introduces an antagonist and a bunch of supporting characters — one of them even acts as narrator! — that never recur or have much effect on the rest of the storyline. It reads like a self-contained adventure in an ongoing comic.
  • Earth Is Young: Straight Type C: The Bible is literal truth, and the reason we have reason to believe otherwise is that God is desperate to be loved: If our lives are Hell on Earth and we don't have any reason to believe that God even exists but still love him anyway, then our love is such a sweet ego-boost in His eyes.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Genesis is described as such by the angels, including its own father.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: As cited on the trope page:
    "Gets ya to fuckin' love him and then stabz ya inna back. Love him so much ya don't believe he did it. Blood all over ya. Big fuckin' knife in ya back. An' ya don't believe he did it. Maybe hez sick. Maybe it wasn't him. Just looked like him. Maybe he made a mistake."
  • Eyepatch of Power: Jesse.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Though you may feel no need to congratulate either Jody or D'Aronique for their selection.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Odin Quincannon: So monomaniacally racist, other KKK members think he's exaggerating.
    • Arguably Starr, who is disgusted by D'Aronique to the point he considers seeking to usurp him as the Allfather of the Grail as the right thing to do.
    • The "Sexual Investigators" appear to be prostitutes, rapists and hired killers, yet they're both disturbed by our heroes trapping a cat in a toilet.
  • Evil Matriarch: Marie L'Angelle really takes this trope to a whole new dimension.
  • Evil Uncle: Jesse's grandmother Marie L'Angelle was Allfather D'Aronique's aunt.
  • Evil Versus Evil: In The Good Old Boys, Jody and T.C. take on a bunch of goons and their leader, a No Celebrities Were Harmed rendition of Saddam Hussein.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Cassidy.
  • Face Heel Revolving Door: Cassidy. Made more complicated by the shades of gray in his ongoing characterization.
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: Inverted. Genesis is the offspring of a male angel and a female demon.
  • Forgot About His Powers:
    • After the first quarter of the series or so, Jesse stops using the Word of God almost completely. He at first rationalizes it as not wanting to use it for petty or selfish reasons, then states that he just doesn't want to rely on it, given that its Achilles' Heel makes it useless against prepared opponents. As a result, he often neglects to use it when he and his friends' lives are in danger, preferring instead to just fight it out and hope for the best. He even admits that he totally forgot about his power during one dicey situation.
      Jesse: Wouldn't do to get too reliant on a thing like that, Cass. Like I found out to my cost a while back.
    • Cassidy is so hard-up for smack that he's reduced to sucking dick for hits. Surely someone with his superhuman abilities could think of a less humiliating way to get cash.
  • French Jerk: Napoleon Vichy. "I 'ave come to eat your horses". So absurd that in any other series it would qualify as a parody of the trope.
  • Funetik Aksent:
    • Arseface (Indecipherable)
    • Sexual Investigators' Bob Glover.
    • Cassidy's Irish lilt is most notably expressed when he says "Jaysis!" and "Eejit!"
  • Gilligan Cut: When Hoover starts getting worried about Starr's behavior, Featherstone reassures him that he's as stable and rational as ever. Cut to Starr throwing a computer through a high-rise window, with a scream of "FUCKING COMPUTERS!"
  • God Is Evil: While arguably not as bad as God in Spawn, God, as depicted here, is a selfish, love-obsessed malicious prick who deliberately engineers suffering and mayhem because people loving him despite all the sadistic tortures he inflicts fills him with joy.
  • God Is Flawed: It is eventually revealed that all of the world's problems are caused by being created by a guy who grew up in total solitude (because there wasn't any universe yet!) and thus developed what could be considered a narcissistic personality disorder as well as any number of related mental problems.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Rare male example: Jesse is enslaved in "Salvation" and dressed in a Nazi outfit. And is then rescued by his black deputy.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs
  • Good People Have Good Sex: And evil people have weird, fucked-up, unmentionable sex that sometimes barely seems to qualify as sex...
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Herr Starr's scar is evil, especially since it makes him into a walking Gag Penis. His "star for Starr" scar is what turned him into a bald, gruff voiced calculating killer in the first place.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Cassidy is a magnet for grievous injuries. He takes mortal wounds within moments of meeting several people, revealing his true nature. It's implied that he simply never had the need to learn how to protect himself. Various characters also take advantage of the fact that he can heal to do more damage to him than they otherwise would.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Rare throughout the series.
    • Billy-Bob's fatal wounding in "How I learned to love the Lord" in the second volume.
    • The very last death of the comic, though perhaps that's just for artistic nuance.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Saint, as well as the previous Angel of Death.
  • Groin Attack: Oh so very many. Male genitalia is destroyed in pretty much every possible fashion.
  • The Grotesque: Arseface and Lorry. Noteworthy in that they are some of the only legitimately morally centered characters and get the most overtly happy ending, in contrast with the rest of the cast, who are all pretty much jerkasses and sick fucks (even our heroes). In Preacher, everyone is a grotesque freak, except the guy with an arse for a face and the one-eyed girl.
  • Guns Akimbo: It's not enough that the Saint's gun could kill in one perfectly accurate shot; he just has to have a pair of them too.
  • The Gunslinger: Tulip
  • Hand Cannon: Herr Starr's enormously oversized revolver fits the traditional model. Utterly overshadowed by a a certain pair of Walker Colt revolvers.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Arseface tried to kill himself because he was sad and lonely, and his idol and his only friend had both just killed themselves. After the failed suicide attempt, he does all he can to turn his life around, but can never get away from his face being horribly disfigured by the shotgun blast that so fortunately missed his brain. This may be inspired by the real-life botched shotgun suicide of James Vance after hearing a subliminal message in a Judas Priest song.
  • Have You Seen My God?: The key plot element.
  • Heel-Face Turn: The Saint Of Killers. It certainly says something about the series that that character's decision to kill God Almighty marks his Heel-Face Turn.
    • To a lesser but no less profound degree, Hoover and Featherstone.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Discussed, with the main characters taking a very negative stand on this kind of behavior and certain villains being homophobic along with racist.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The series' portrayal of Patrick Pearse, the Irish revolutionary responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising, is unflattering, to say the least. Naturally, reader opinions will differ on how accurate this portrayal is. And that's all that needs to be said on the matter.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: God created and then alienated beings more powerful than himself. Satan, too, as he had a hand in making the saint of killers.
  • Homage: The character and backstory of the Saint of Killers are an homage to the characters of William Munny in Unforgiven and the unnamed gunfighter in High Plains Drifter.
  • Humiliation Conga: Starr's whole life from the first page of the series on.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Jesse quoting King Lear in a thunderstorm.
  • Idealized Sex: Sexual perversion is a major theme in the series, so anything that strays a bit from the norm is ratcheted Up to Eleven and made into a characteristic of a psychotic villain.
    • Pretty much every sadomasochist in the series is psychotic. Even when our heroes use a pair of handcuffs in their lovemaking, it turns out to actually be a way for Tulip to get revenge on Jesse and punish him (although after she releases him and they talk things out, she offers the handcuffs to him again, and though we don't see whether or not he accepts, his expression clearly indicates he's game).
    • Homosexuality is always associated with mental illness, rape, exploitation or depravity. There are no healthy homosexuals.
  • Identical Panel Gag: Starr looking at his new (literal) dick head in the mirror for nine identical panels. Later repeated with only his hat changing.
  • Idiot Ball: given that they supposedly have the resources of every government on Earth at their fingertips, you'd think the Grail could come up with some more subtle way of dealing with Jesse than sending guys with guns at him. At the very least, you'd think they'd give the guys with guns some earplugs...
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Sally is implied to be the beautiful blonde girl in the picture she gave to Jessie.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: Featherstone to Herr Starr.
  • Implacable Man: The Saint is thwarted once in the whole series and only because he didn't know that Jesse's Word of God could affect him, and even then, he very nearly makes Jesse repeat himself; he stops pulling his gun halfway, but doesn't put it back in the holster as ordered, at first. He makes it very clear in his next appearance that it will not work again.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: The Angel of Death's sword, which is melted down and reforged into a pair of Colt Walker revolvers which: cannot miss, cannot be empty, and cannot fail to kill their target. Hence why they can kill the Devil and God.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Tulip versus Amy. They look exactly alike but with different hair colors.
  • In Medias Res: Issue 8 begins this way.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Usually played straight (especially with the Saint of Killers, specifically mentioned to have a gun of instant-death - his bullets are shown to tear people in half at some points), but subverted at least thrice. Cassidy survives one, but only because of a Canon Discontinuity. Their instant death is crucial to killing God.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Averted by The Story Of You-Know-Who, which was meant to mention Arseface, being his backstory and all.
  • The Juggernaut: The Saint of Killers. A pickup truck to the face won't stop him, an entire base full of soldiers won't stop him, a battalion of tanks won't stop him, a direct nuclear strike won't stop him. All this is overshadowed by the entire angelic host of Heaven being mobilized against him, which of course fails to stop him.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • After all of the skeletons in his closet are revealed at how much a monster he is, Cassidy pulls it off making a deal with God to capture Genesis. The last pages show him alive, with his curse removed.
    • The Saint of Killers, too, gets off more or less scot-free despite murdering, what, thousands of people? Granted, lots of those people had it coming, but many were just unlucky bastards in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    • Amy mentions to Tulip that if she tried to press charges to the men who tried to rape her, they'd just get their rich dads to bribe off everyone, and she'd be told she was asking for it. As it is, all they get is a hole in their wall (and pissing himself in the case of one of them.)
  • Knights Templar: The Grail as the outstanding case.
  • Laughably Evil: As the series progresses, Starr is increasingly played for laughs.
  • Laser Sight: One shows up on Jesse's side to show Klansmen that he's got them covered.
  • The Last DJ: Colonel Holden provides the page quote, and Jesse qualifies too, considering how much easier his own life would be if he sold out his integrity.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: In the Salvation arc, Toby and never-seen girlfriend Turleen aren't even thinking of having a baby (Or much else, for that matter) when he tells Jodie that he thought she was pregnant because she'd missed her period. They're not worried, because it happened once before, last month. God, these two are such idiots.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Subverted in "Salvation". When Odin Quincannon fires a gun that's way too large for him, the recoil breaks his wrist. Also a cute subversion with a very young Tulip driven backwards into a snowbank, with only mittens and boots left visible.
  • Light Is Not Good: Angels are all jerks, and God is the villain of the series. Even the mother and father of Genesis, implied at first to be freethinking lovers, are revealed to have been unwilling participants and just as bad as their brethren.
  • Like a Badass out of Hell: The Saint of Killers, stopping only just long enough on the way out to shoot Satan in the face for insulting him.
  • Literal Genie: Jesse's choice of words with the Word of God sometimes has... unfortunate consequences. Like the time he told Arseface's father to "go fuck yourself", which resulted in him tearing off his own penis and sodomizing himself with it.
  • Love at First Sight:
    • Tulip and Jesse. While Jesse was on a date with another girl.
    • In a non-romantic sense, all of Tulip's father's apprehension about raising a daughter alone vanished the moment he saw his baby girl's face.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mother, in this case.
  • Made of Plasticine: Human beings are ludicrously fragile in this series. Every bone broken will immediately sprout forth from the skin- even breaking someone's finger does this. Kicks to the chin can pop eyes out, punches to the throat are fatal, blood spurts from every single wound, etc.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • "DOOM cock, DOOM cock"
    • "Smear the cheese, smear the cheese... Pluck the hairs, pluck the hairs... Say the name, say the name..."
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The rules of the Voice of God.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Jesse Custer, apart from the meaningful initials, is also a dual references to frontier legends Jesse James and George Armstrong Custer.
    • Napoleon Vichy's name is a dual reference to Napoleon Bonaparte and the puppet government of Nazi-occupied France.
    • Jesus DeSade's name indicates his high opinion of himself and his sexual perversity.
  • Mighty Glacier: Jody. Jesse's mother lampshades it before taking advantage of it.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Marseille.
  • Mondegreen: When Jessie, Tulip, and Cass sing along to "What a Feeling" by Irene Cara in "Dixie Fried," they sing the line "got me reelin'" instead of "bein's believin'"
  • Moral Dissonance: Neither Jesse nor anyone else ever seems to consider that, for example, after his "bank robbery" the teller who gave him the money probably went to prison. For that matter, Jesse's supposedly high moral standards seem to clash with his constant criminality. And at no point does anyone criticize him for his Violence Really Is the Answer solution to everything. Cindy eventually calls him out on this by pointing out that the sheriff really ought to observe the law a little more often.
  • More Dakka: Starr has a tank unload its shells directly into the Saint. And when that doesn't work, well, he's got a backup plan too...
  • Motive Decay: Demonstrated by Herr Starr.
  • Neck Lift: Cassidy does this during a Bar Brawl.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Cassidy tries to attack the Saint of Killers by ramming him with a pickup truck. The Saint doesn't even flinch, the truck crumples like paper, Cass gets flung through the windshield, past Hugo Root, to land practically on his head next to Jesse. He clearly thought that plan through... (His repeated tendency to not plan ahead or thoroughly is the main reason why he gets in so much trouble).
  • N.G.O. Superpower: the Grail
  • Nigh Invulnerable: The Saint of Killers, to a degree that's extreme even by comic book standards. Nothing anyone does to him so much as scratches him. He takes the "nigh" out of the trope.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Jesse Custer, the two-fisted, cigarette-chomping, stubble-chinned preacher with a grudge against God. While he has a certain code of honor, he's certainly no choir-boy and is often forced to admit his moral failings.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Duke and The King
  • No Dead Body Poops: Averted on two separate occasions, after hangings.
  • Not Using the Z Word: They curse, they kill, they blaspheme; but, despite the fact that one of the characters is undead and drinks blood, nobody says the word "vampire" even once. Cassidy does describe himself as "the V word", though...
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't
  • Odd Job Saints: The Saint of Killers, the Angel of Death's replacement. Whenever you're about to kill someone, pray to him, he's the one pulling the trigger.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Saint of Killers takes on the entire Heavenly Host. We only see the aftermath.
  • One-Man Army: The Saint.
  • One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: Cassidy, soon after arriving in the US.
  • Only Sane Man: Played with - Starr, for all his own issues, is fairly clearly this relative to the Grail in general.
    • Jesse is this in relation to everyone else in the book, except maybe Tulip. Word of God says this is why he's the hero of the piece.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Starr notices that Cassidy's accent is slipping while he's impersonating Jesse.
    • Meta, with Ennis' dialogue for the mostly American cast. While he tries to be authentic with southern accents, Americanisms and such, his Irish roots in certain turns of phrase and syntax are noticable.
  • Our Angels Are Useless: As a Take That, the only angels we meet are either pricks or weak-willed slobs.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Cassidy has all the urges and appetites of a human. He needs to drink blood to stay alive, but not all that much, and he has no fangs. He lacks all typical vampire weaknesses except direct sunlight, which sets him on fire. He has superhuman strength and speed, regenerates just about any damage over a period of days and weeks, but lacks any other supernatural abilities. Lampshaded in a story where Cassidy meets another vampire, who tries to act according to cliches of vampire fiction, because he feels this is expected of him.
  • Out of the Inferno: The Saint takes a direct hit from an atomic bomb. Several scenes later, we cut to him standing amidst the nuclear fire, his perfectly undamaged duster still flapping in the breeze, with a contemptuous look on his face.
    Saint of Killers: "Not enough gun."
  • Papa Wolf: John Custer, who would have won against Jody. Seriously, John hit him like a train!
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: The first volume has Cassidy attempt Car Fu on The Saint of Killers. It doesn't work.
  • Period Piece: The series is seemingly inexorably tied to the time of its publication, with the (for most of the series) looming year of 2000 being a major plot point, Kurt Cobain's death to Arseface's origin, Jesse's father serving in Vietnam...if the series were to be adapated for a movie or a series, one wonders what kind of headaches it would be if they decided to update it to current events.
  • Perma Stubble
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The Saint of Killers, which was realized far too late by an unfortunate tank battalion. How dangerous could a guy who looks like he walked out of a Western set be?
  • The Power of Legacy: Deconstructed, then averted. When Jesse is hanging on to Cassidy from a plane, he tells Cassidy to tell Tulip he loves her, then orders him to let go. Cassidy then reveals himself by telling Tulip that Jessie didn't say anything. But at the very end, Cassidy's goodbye letter explains to Tulip what Jesse had really told him.
  • Precision F-Strike: Considering that this book uses at least one F-word to describe an adorable baby kitten, it's pretty amazing that they still manage to pull this trope off:
    Hoover: Motherfucker. You evil, soulless, motherfucker.
    • And let's not forget the one that is visible from space.
  • Pretender Diss: Cassidy to ''Les enfants du sang'' and various Bad Ass characters to Heroic Wannabes.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Highly averted, perhaps excessively.
  • Pure Is Not Good: The Grail is filled with this. Whether they realize it or not. (Honestly, they look at their captive lineage of Jesus's badly atavistic descendants, and they still think that because the line has never had new blood, it's automatically good?!)
  • Purple Prose: In the one-shot "Blood and Whiskey", the vampire Eccarius speaks this way. It's revealed that he's a self-important poseur dimwit who just followed what was in the books and movies on vampires without question.
  • Quick Draw: The Saint of Killers can draw his guns faster than a man can see. He uses this to shut down Jesse's Word the second time they meet.
    Saint of Killers: "I'm bettin' I can clear holster 'fore your words hit the breeze, preacher. First twitch I see...that's what I'm gonna do."
  • Rage Against the Heavens
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Herr Starr's rape by "sexual investigator" happens entirely off-panel.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Starr is raped by the Sexual Investigators in "Hunters".
    • In Ancient History, the crooked bayou fight promoter, with a baseball bat.
      • And in the Salvation story arc, when Jesse locks up some of Quincannon's unruly workers.
  • Rated M for Manly: Jesse, Jesse's dad, the Saint, Tulip's dad, Jody...
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jesse delivers a couple of these, including to Cassidy.
    • Right after his Happily Failed Suicide, Arseface’s best friend’s sister asked him why he and her brother were Driven to Suicide. Arseface answers (writes) ''Nobody cared''. To the only person who cared enough to visit him in the hospital. She angrily screams before leaving in tears:
    What do you mean, nobody cared? You mean nobody coddled you and wiped your asses for you? Your lives didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to? Well, FUCK YOU, you and my asshole brother both! You self-obsessed whining little shits, I bet you never gave a good goddamn about the pain you’d cause! You say nobody cared about you, but I’ll tell you one thing: If you´re enough of a prick to take a guy and try to blow your own head off… YOU DIDN´T FUCKING CARE EITHER!
  • Redemption Failure: Since he's something of an Expy of Clint Eastwood's characters, Saint of Killers' gets a backstory about his life as a retired outlaw and gunslinger. Things rapidly go awry in fashion very similar to what befalls Eastwood's character in Unforgiven.
  • Retired Gunfighter: The Saint, back when he was a man...
  • Retired Monster: Gunther Hahn, the Angel of Death and, at the end of the story, the Saint of Killers.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Herr Starr got his scar, voice, and baldness from a childhood incident where a gang of schoolboys cut his eye out with a piece of glass. They ended up dead before his tenth birthday. This incident got him the job as the Chief Executioner of the Grail.
  • Running Gag: Featherstone snarling, "Motherfucker!" and a shocked Hoover chastising her, "Featherstone!"
  • Say Your Prayers: One of the outlaws who kept the Saint from reaching his family with medicine does this when he sees that the Saint is Back from the Dead.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: Cassidy does this. (And no, it doesn't hurt him, either).
  • Scope Snipe: Eisenstein's bodyguard almost kills a sniper this way. It's not a scope snipe because the bodyguard's bullet hits the sniper in the center of the sniper's forehead, not the sniper's eye. In a preceding panel the sniper is looking through his scope at the bodyguard- there was no reason for the sniper, seeing the bodyguard aiming at him, to stop looking through the scope and raise his (the sniper's) rifle to where the scope would have been pointing above his eye level.
  • Secret Identity: Subverted in "Naked City".
  • Selective Obliviousness: Cassidy does this repeatedly, causing much grievous harm to other people. When Jesse calls him out repeatedly, Cassidy gets self-righteous.
  • Serial Escalation: The Saint's accomplishments keep getting more impressive.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: Herr Starr is given the task of murdering a man in an insane asylum in such a way that the authorities do not investigate his death too deeply. Being a pragmatic man, Starr simply blows up the entire asylum, so that investigators will have several hundred potential targets to sort through. Rather than a serial killing, it's a mass murder, but the intent is the same.
  • Serial Prostheses: Starr.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Jesse's spiritual guide "the Duke" is obviously John Wayne.
    • The beginning of the Saint of Killer's origin story references a grab bag of classic Westerns: The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Shootist, Lonesome Dove, The Searchers and Unforgiven
    • Jesus DeSade quotes and name-drops Oscar Wilde, which is apparently supposed to add to his Depraved Homosexual characterization, though of course Wilde himself was not depraved.
    • Comedian Bill Hicks is discussed and even makes an appearance in a flashback.
    • Cassidy name-drops a variety of famous people he's known. He also described the ending of a film that summarizes his motivation at that moment.
    • In Arseface's special, his teacher has "The Decline of Western Civilization" written on the chalkboard. This is the name of a very famous documentary about the LA punk scene in 1979/80.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming:
    • All Cassidy's old drinking buddies in New York are from 'The Irish Rover'.
    • Saddam Hopper looks like Hussein but acts like Dennis Hopper.
  • Significant Anagram: Jesse Custer = Secret Jesus. (also, Uses Rejects.)
  • Significant Monogram: Jesse Custer = J.C. = Jesus Christ. Lampshaded by Tulip toward the end.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Happens with Amy in the past, and it's strongly implied it could have happened to Tulip as well had she chosen an open bottle.
  • Smoking Is Cool: The heroes are constantly lighting up. Jesse proudly bears his father's lighter, which is emblazoned with the message, "Fuck Communism."
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: One of the reasons why the L'Angelles are so fucked up, passing on the increasingly psychotic tendencies to succeeding generations. Also, why Billy-Bob and Lori come from an increasingly inbred family.
    • Undoubtedly the L'Angelles' Grail connections (Allfather D'Aronique, the most powerful man in the world, was Marie's nephew) kept their multitude of crimes - such as kidnapping John Custer and his family, his murder and all the other crap that Jody and T.C. pulled - from being investigated.
  • Spirit Advisor: Jesse is guided on the path to become a Real Man by John Wayne.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Rich girl Amy is the first person to befriend Tulip, who was pretty lonely at this point.
  • Start of Darkness: For the Saint, though not very straightforwardly.
    • Also, "A star for Starr"
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Probably the key source of conflict between Jesse and Tulip.
    • Played straight by Sheriff Root on his wife.
  • Storybreaker Power: As if the Saint of Killers wasn't bad enough, he wields a pair of walker colt revolvers forged with the steel of the sword of the Angel of Death. They fire bullets that are completely impossible to avoid or survive. Even worse is that they never run out of ammunition and never misfire.
  • Straw Feminist: Lampshaded, with Martha Moore. Subverted with Jesse.
  • Strawman Political: Ulysses Gett, a hilariously offensive conservative who is openly critical of the feminists and liberals.
  • Suicide By Sunlight
  • The Svengali: Gene Sergeant, Arseface's manager
  • Take That:
    • One long trainride of it against Christianity.
    • Plus a generous helping of it for certain historical Irishmen. Michael Collins for one is given a good hard kick, and Cassidy expresses a very poor opinion of Padraig Pearse.
    • A character who is clearly meant to be Neil Gaiman has a sheaf of rolled-up poetry forced down his throat by Cassidy. Later in the same arc, he is mentioned as having achieved great success as a writer by "blending genres".
    • One of the "sexual investigators" has a trophy for blowing the "entire English rugby team," as well as winning the Navy...blowing championship 3 years in a row.
    • Cassidy states that Red Hot Chili Peppers is a crappy band.
    • There are more than a few shots taken at the music industry, media commentators, media watchdogs, political correctness, psychiatrists and psychology buzzwords, liberal and conservative extremists, Goths, Anne Rice, racists, child molesters, self-loathing homophobes, and hypocrites of every variety. In fact, it's hard to think of anyone who wasn't told to stick it where the sun doesn't shine at least once during this series. Except John Wayne.
  • Tank Goodness: Subverted epically in the "War in the Sun" arc.
  • Tell Me About My Father
  • The Sheriff: Hugo Root is massively the Corrupt Hick variety of this trope, as well as a supreme Jerkass. Jim Bewley of Salvation is also a Corrupt Hick, but a nicer one. Jesse becomes the Cowboy Cop version of this in Salvation.
  • The Starscream: Starr, to d'Aronique, who thinks being Genre Savvy about this will make using him anyway less risky.
  • The Unfair Sex: Cassidy is a horrible person for confessing to Tulip that he's in love with her, but in a flashback issue, Amy openly acknowledges her feelings for Jesse, but he is understanding and they decide not to do anything about it because they both "love her (Tulip) too much". Eventually, some shadier details about Cassidy's past begin to surface to justify this sentiment, but not until after Cassidy has been vilified.
  • The Western: Oh, so many examples.
  • There Are No Therapists: The option is mentioned, but disregarded because "Shrinks are for assholes". Jesse also goes into an amusing rant about the overuse of the word "insecure" and other pop-psych buzzwords and phrases in conversations.
  • Third-Person Person: Odin Quincannon.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Featuring Nightmare Fuel on legs Jody, and Squick on legs T.C.
    • Also, Quincannon's two subordinates.
      • Played with with the sexual investigators, who are just too Butt Monkey to ever really qualify as bad guys no matter how much sleazy shit they're mixed up in.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: In Salvation, this leads to a rather intense case of Mood Whiplash. Jesse somehow draws the eye of Ms. Oatlash, a would-be neo-Nazi Baronessnote  who wants to do all kinds of squishy things with him involving leather and chains. He ends up leaving the nutcase chained to her own bed, but is forced to exit the building and speak to his black deputy while fully dressed in a decades-old yet perfectly preserved Nazi uniform.
    • Then, of course, immediately subverted with Gunther.
  • Token Motivational Nemesis: Grandma Marie L'Angelle. Also Jody, who claims to have been doing this intentionally ("Try'na toughen you up, boy").
  • The Dog Bites Back: Featherstone turns on Starr when she realizes how far gone he is. He just shoots her. This causes the same reaction from Hoover, with the same result. Lot of room in that stairwell
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After being a Butt Monkey for most of the series, Arseface finds a place he can call home, a job, and a new love.
  • To Hell and Back: The Saint's empowerment.
  • Trampoline Tummy: Disgustingly subverted. The handicapped kid who is the last surviving descendant of Jesus apparently amuses himself by taking flying leaps into the copious fat-rolls of the evil Cardinal who rules The Grail. Rather than just bouncing hilariously off of it, however, it also makes the cardinal puke by the bucketload, which suits him fine since he's bulimic...
  • Uh-Oh Eyes: Cassidy looks to be a pretty average man in his mid twenties. The only hint of his condition is the horribly bloodshot state of his eyes.
  • Undying Loyalty: The closest thing to a redeeming feature Jody ever displays. He is genuinely upset that Miss Marie will die of old age soon and hates Jesse for giving her trouble. He even has a kind of truly sick loyalty to Jesse in his dogged determination to be the father figure from hell.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Jesse's dad iced his racist, sadistic commanding officer during the Vietnam War.
  • The Unintelligible: Arseface
    • One of Quincannon's subordinates becomes this after Jesse breaks some of his teeth up.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Cassidy.
  • Urban Legend: Quite a few show up, whether just for fun or Ennis' not knowing their falsehoods.
    • For instance, Jesse's dad meets his mother when she spits on him in his Marine uniform after he returns from Vietnam (she had recently fallen in with some radical hippies); while this was a popular story told about the disrespect towards the military in this era, there's no recorded incident of this ever happening.
    • His take on the south in general. Incest is no more rampant there than any other part of the country, nor was it ever, statistically. The Klu Klux Klan in modern times is an incredibly marginalized extremist group that rarely shows its face in public (even in the south) anymore, much less has any real power in local politics/communities.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Herr Starr
  • Villainous Breakdown: Experienced by Starr near the end.
    Grail Elder: This is about mankind's salvation.
    Starr: This is about my genitals.
  • Volleying Insults: Happens whenever Martha Moore and Ulysses Gett appear. Sometimes happens with other people.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: "Improper use of inverted commas, Hoover!"
  • War Is Hell / Hate The War, Love The Soldier: Billy Baker, AKA "Space", a Vietnam Veteran who owes Jesse's father his life. He shows up in "Texas and the Spaceman" and "The Land of Bad Things" - both times he waxes poetic on the horrors of war and the humanity of solders. His closing words as he stands before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial simultaneously make you want to donate a million bucks to the VA and spit on every armchair general in existence.
    (sadly) So tell me somethin'. How come you shitheads never write?
  • Watering Down: Custer starts off his massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the whole town by telling the bartender he can almost taste the beer through all the water.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Jesse is weak relative to Cassidy, but the more skilled fighter. Cassidy never had to learn how to fight, because he can punch a man's head clean off his shoulders. Jesse was raised (read: repeatedly brutalised) by a bunch of psychopaths, and so had to learn how to hold his own in a fight. Inverted when he catches a punch that Cassidy throws, calmly orders him to fuck right off, and then equally calmly asks to be taken to the emergency room as he "just broke every bone in my god-damned hand..."
  • We Have Reserves: How the Grail attempted to deal with the Saint.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Subverted to hell and back with Jody's attempts to cast himself as this to Jesse. Even when he's a hallucination he pulls this: "Git on about yore vision, boy"
  • Wham Episode: War In The Sun.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never explained what happened to Genesis after it's forced out of Custer's mind at the end. Nor what happened to the Angel of Death, the Saint's predecessor.
  • What Have I Become?: Cassidy's reaction to becoming a vampire is actually pretty upbeat.
    • It's implied near the end that the Saint of Killers is disgusted, if not outright horrified, at the atrocities he has committed since becoming who he is.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Frequent. When Jesse rashly or irresponsibly uses the Word, it often comes back to bite him in the ass. A big part of his Character Development comes from realizing that he can't just throw his weight around whenever he wants to.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?:
    • "So I got kind of a question. 'Proinsias'?"
    • Also, for that matter, Tulip?
    • Kind-of-lampshaded for Jody, by Jody, while chatting up Tommi.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Jesse and Cindy. The story dances around the possibility of their coupling for some time. Keep in mind that at this point Tulip thinks Jesse is dead and Jesse thinks she's moved on to a relationship with Cassidy and is not sure that dropping in on her life again is fair.
  • World of Badass
  • The Worf Effect: Jody gets beaten up by every member of the Custer family to show how tough they all are.
  • Written Sound Effect: Mostly averted.
  • Artistic License - Pharmacology: When Tulip goes to a bar, she speaks to a barman who claims he was wrongfully chemically castrated (his name sounded similar to that of a pedophile). The thing is, he claims his testicles were rendered useless as if he was literally castrated. This does not work as one needs to be constantly chemically re-castrated in order for the effects to last. Given that this was written in the mid 90s, one could forgive Garth Ennis for not knowing this.
  • Younger Than They Look: Eisenstein has "looked over a hundred" since he was 12.
  • Your Head Asplode: Oh, so many examples, usually involving the Saint or Tulip.
  • Your Vampires Suck: Directed against the Ricean tradition.
  • Zen Survivor: Played with (not for laughs) in the case of Sally, and subverted all sorts of ways for Cassidy. Also the Saint, temporarily.
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alternative title(s): Preacher
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