Ulster comic book writer braced for backlash in US as 'kill God' plot TV show set to shoot
A comic book writer from Northern Ireland is to have his story turned into a TV show that is being tipped as the next Walking Dead.
Garth Ennis' graphic novel Preacher has been picked up by Sony, which will produce a pilot episode for US channel AMC - home to Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
The Co Down writer's show will be directed by Seth Rogen and Adam Goldberg, the duo behind The Interview. The satire about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was initially withdrawn from cinemas last month after the dictator threatened "merciless" action against the US if it was shown.
Also involved is Breaking Bad writer Sam Catlin, who penned the pilot show's script.
Preacher is poised to court controversy with its story of Texan preacher Jesse Custer and his friend Cassidy - an Irish vampire who took part in the Easter Rising - who plot to kill God.
Ennis is no stranger to difficult subject matter, with his irreverence for organised religion, violent stories and disrespect for conventional comic book heroes.
The 44-year-old Holywood man got on the wrong side of evangelical groups with his graphic novel True Faith, which described God as a "blockage in the world's toilet". His publisher was forced to withdraw it.
The former Sullivan Upper pupil t came to prominence in 1989 with Troubled Souls, the dark story of a Protestant man manipulated into planting a bomb by an IRA man.
Ennis has said that he views religion "as an outsider with disdain but also with an odd fascination that I just can't kick". He claims not to take the Bible any more seriously than Lord Of The Rings or The Chronicles Of Narnia. "To me it's all fantasy," he said.
The massively popular Preacher series ran from 1995 to 2000 and was co-created with English artist Steve Dillon. Ennis describes the character of Cassidy as the "classic Irish rogue". "He's the Irish immigrant who never gives up being Irish," he told The Sunday Times.
Irish comic publisher Rob Curley, who runs Dublin-based Atomic Diner, said he was looking forward to seeing how the Christian right in America will handle its themes.
"The show could have a tough time, especially given the world we're in right now," he said.
Variety magazine's Cynthia Littleton said: "The graphic novel is a cult favourite. AMC is seeing this as potentially another Walking Dead."
Story in brief
A pilot episode of Preacher, co-produced by Co Down comic book writer Garth Ennis and English artist Stephen Dillon, will go into production this summer. Tipped as the new Walking Dead, the show's being directed by Seth Rogen and Adam Goldberg - directors of controversial film The Interview. The show will air on AMC, home of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.