Au­thor and colum­nist Robert Brock­way says there’s no need for adap­ta­tions to be too faith­ful

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Au­thor Robert Brock­way thinks adap­ta­tions shouldn’t al­ways be faith­ful to source ma­te­rial.

Hey, have you seen that new Preacher tele­vi­sion show? I’m a die-hard fan of the comic and wow – this has to be one of the least faith­ful adap­ta­tions ever. Fol­low­ing that kind of state­ment, you’d ex­pect the rest of this space to be filled with swear words and crude hexes di­rected at the showrun­ner’s more sen­si­tive bits. But no: I ac­tu­ally love the show, and not in spite of, but be­cause of its un­faith­ful­ness. We’re not even talk­ing su­per­fi­cial dif­fer­ences here, like chang­ing a costume or a set­ting: the Preacher TV show com­pletely dis­re­gards the very heart of the book. The Preacher comic was a punk rock epic – not so much a state­ment as a mid­dle fin­ger – com­mit­ted al­most ex­clu­sively to ridi­cul­ing ev­ery­thing that En­nis saw wrong with Amer­ica, and pop cul­ture in gen­eral. The TV show has a few snide re­marks for Amer­ica, and maybe a dis­ap­prov­ing glare for the zeit­geist, but it’s much more philo­soph­i­cal. It’s deeply con­cerned with faith ver­sus free will, and the im­por­tance of one to the seem­ing ex­clu­sion of the other.

In short, Preacher, the TV show, aban­dons nearly ev­ery­thing that I loved about Preacher, the comic book, and yet I still say it’s stronger for it. How can I call my­self a fan of the orig­i­nal and still ap­plaud this to­tal over­haul? Easy! I ac­cept that a work and its adap­ta­tion are en­tirely dif­fer­ent things. It sounds sim­ple, but it’s not some­thing that we, as nerds, of­ten prac­tice. Usu­ally we rant and rave at the slight­est de­vi­a­tion from our pre­cious source ma­te­rial – “They changed what about Su­per­man’s costume?! I hope they re­mem­ber to hy­drate, be­cause I hear it’s warm in hell” – but that doesn’t have to be the case.

The most faith­ful re­cent adap­ta­tion I can re­call was Zack Sny­der’s Watch­men. Upon leav­ing the theatre, all I could think was, “I should’ve saved the money and just reread the comic.” It was okay, but I had seen it all be­fore. By strictly ad­her­ing to what the comic was about – mostly uniquely ’80s con­cerns about mass de­struc­tion – the movie made it­self im­me­di­ately ir­rel­e­vant. The least faith­ful adap­ta­tion I can re­call would be the movie Con­stan­tine. And yes, I am about to say it. God for­give me, but even though they cast Keanu Reeves as a char­ac­ter that’s sup­posed to be an overly-emo­tional blond Brit – the po­lar opposite of a Keanu – Con­stan­tine was still a good flick. Hell­blazer is hands down my favourite comic. I own every sin­gle is­sue. And yet I can still find space in my heart for the film that had the gall to cast Shia LaBeouf as Chas. How do I do it? Try a lit­tle game: watch Con­stan­tine, or the Preacher TV show, or any adap­ta­tion that gets shade for its de­par­ture from the source ma­te­rial, and men­tally reti­tle it. Name the char­ac­ters some­thing else. Keanu is now Jim In­ter­mit­ten­tine. Change the de­tails: Cas­sidy isn’t a vam­pire, but a were­wolf or a rogue mer­man. Does it still en­ter­tain? If so, it’s a good adap­ta­tion. In­stead of send­ing Hol­ly­wood ex­ec­u­tives death threats penned with our own tears of indig­nant rage, we should be thank­ful they cut our favourite artists a fat cheque when they prob­a­bly could’ve cited “fair use”, tweaked the title to Padre, and never paid a dime. The suck­ers.


Robert Brock­way’s lat­est book, The Empty Ones, the se­quel to The Un­no­tice­ables, is out on 30 Au­gust. Visit his site at www.robert­brock­

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