While following AMC’s adaptation of the cult comic series Preacher, it can be hard to keep atop of all the characters and themes its madcap storyline has to offer. There’s religion, satire, violence, angel-demon copulation, mobsters, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, , , Heaven, Hell, saints, killers and . It goes without saying then, that it can be easy to forget that the title of the series refers to just the one guy: Jesse Custer.
While the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg helmed reimagining differs slightly from the comic books, most of the plotlines run on a parallel. However, when it comes to our Preacher’s origin story it’s only readers of the comic book series who’ll know how Jesse ended up in Annville in the first place.
So, pour yourself a straight one, because the backstory of our Preacher is perhaps the most harrowing of them all.
First Up, A blow-By-Blow Account Of His Childhood:
His mother, Christina, had run away from her mother’s clan, the L’Angelles, a group of preachers and soldiers who relegated their women to the role of “brood mare” used to birth their next generation. Not wanting to have any part in this, she fled to Texas and it was there she met Jesse’s father, Private John Custer.
Born out of wedlock in 1969 to John and Christina, Jesse spent his childhood watching John Wayne movies, learning phrases like, “God dammit,” “Son of a bitch,” and “Pilgrim” by the age of four — curses that would come back to literally curse him later on.
All was peaceful until Marie L’Angell, Christina’s mother, came looking for her. Marie sent two henchmen, Jody and T.C. to bring her home. A fight broke out between Jody and John, which John was winning until T.C. pointed a gun to the back of his head and if Jesse had not referred to John as “Dad,” he would have been killed on the spot.
Instead, all three were taken back to the L’Angell plantation, Angelville, where John and Christina were forced to marry. Jesse would be raised as a man of God and if any of them tried to escape, John would be killed.
Fast forward one year and Jesse was awoken by his father in the middle of the night and instructed to pack his things. Two miles into their bid for freedom, the trio were caught and — true to their word — John was shot dead before young Jesse’s eyes.
Before he died, he left his son with the following important words:
“You gotta be a good guy, Jesse. You gotta be like John Wayne: you don’t take no shit off fools, an’ you judge people by what’s in ’em, not how they look. An’ you do the right thing. You gotta be one of the good guys, son, ’cause there’s way too many of the bad.”
This was the last time Jesse Custer cried.
Life After Death
Although Christina tried to raise the boy to the best of her abilities, Marie — his grandmother — was always stepping in, rendering his mother helpless to object. He was forced to study the Bible and continue the L’Angell tradition of becoming a preacher, until one fateful day.
Remember the John Wayne phrases he learned as a boy? It’s here his hero’s words returned to bite him in the ass — he was caught swearing by his grandmother and sentenced to a week of torture in “The Coffin” — an airtight coffin with an air hose preventing his death. When his mother, Christina, tried to protect him, she was dragged away, never to be seen again.
Now parentless, Jesse was left to fend for himself under the venomous gaze of his grandmother with only one person he could call a friend: a neighbor and deformed result of inbreeding, Billy-Bob Bobbs. But even that friendship didn’t last long.
T.C. — the thug we met before who was holding a gun to John Custer’s head — slit Billy-Bob’s throat, leaving him to bleed out, all because the thought the boy had been spying on him while having sexual relations with a chicken.
Lashing out at T.C. following his friend’s death, Jesse was again sentenced to time in The Coffin — this time two weeks, and with a broken arm to boot. When he emerged, he sought out Billy-Bob’s family to send his condolences, but when he was met with indifference, he finally got the gumption to run away from Angelville for good. Or so he thought.
The Past Catches Up
The only benefits to come out his time spent in Angelville were the handy traits he picked up along the way. Jesse was now able to fight, shoot, and was a dab hand at a multitude of manual labor tasks — the latter of which enabled him to make money as he hopped from town to town. It was while working one of these jobs that he met Tulip O’Hare.
He walked into a bar with his girlfriend Zoe, and left with Tulip. Within hours they were in bed together and knew that this was it, forever.
Together, with Amy Grinderbinder, Tulip’s best friend, the team journeyed across the Southwest, stealing cars, grabbing cash, avoiding death and generally creating chaos. They were having the time of their lives but, as became somewhat of a template in Jesse’s life, this wasn’t to last. Shortly after Amy went her own way, and as Tulip and he headed toward California, Jody and T.C. caught up with him once again.
After the two mob-men threatened to kill Tulip if he didn’t leave with them, Jesse returned to Angelville; spending two months in The Coffin, emerging a broken man. He became the preacher he was unfairly destined to be and his grandmother placed him in a small town called — yup, you guessed it — Annville, Texas.
Are you a fan of the Preacher comic series?
Staff Writer at MP. Lover of bad puns, nostalgic feels and all things Winona.