It’s all relative: breaking barriers and binaries in Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon’s Preacher
Authors: Round, J.
Conference: International Conference on Narrative 2009
Dates: 4-6 June 2009Abstract:
This article demonstrates how the comic book Preacher (Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon) breaks genre barriers and narrative binaries to produce a multi-generic work of serial fiction where norms are unfixed and nothing is absolute. It begins by considering Preacher’s use of various genre models (taken from both literary and cinematic sources and including the quest, the road movie, the western, and the romance) and exploring the ways in which this series represents and subverts these in both thematic and aesthetic terms. It notes Northrop Frye’s mode of Romance as an umbrella term for these genres but argues that the subversion and juxtaposition of all these categories prevents Preacher from being wholly resident in this mode.
It proceeds to identify further subversions that support such an interpretation, discussing Preacher’s use of textual oxymorons and visual paradoxes to invert binary categories such as male/female and human/monster. It extends this argument to the macrocosm of the series, making reference to the flexible narrative position of characters and the comic’s thematic background of illicit love. The article concludes by summarising the ways in which Preacher unfixes expected narrative binaries by denying notions of Manichaean morality and instead demonstrating that these are relative concepts. It argues that the tension between the visual and verbal and the interpretative power allowed to the reader are essential elements in achieving this. It therefore concludes that Preacher’s particular subversions of formulaic narrative patterns and reader expectations are only made possible by the comics medium.
Preferred by: Julia Round