Preacher‘s final season is underway, and Arseface (aka Eugene) may be one of the best changes that the show made to the comics. The gloriously dark adaptation of the Preacher comic has made a lot of changes from the start; some storylines have been dropped, others have been expanded, and Annville went from being a footnote to the setting for the entire first season. This isn’t surprising, of course, as most comic adaptations have to tweak some things in order to get from the page to the screen, but it’s something that Preacher does extremely well, cutting out the unnecessary and honing in on the characters that truly matter.
One of the biggest (and most surprising) changes, however, was that of Areseface – or, as he is known in the Preacher TV series, Eugene. Although the character in both the comic and TV show versions has the same facial deformity, that’s essentially where the resemblance ends. And thankfully, the changes that the Preacher show made turned him from being a joke into a wonderfully fleshed out character who serves a much-needed lightness to this very dark cast.
In the comics, Arseface is the son of Sheriff Root, the man who is trying to track down the Saint of Killers (and Jesse) for mass murder. After his father’s death, he ends up on the road with Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, who take him to New Orleans – where he ends up singing on stage, and becoming a pop sensation. It’s a bizarre storyline, one that sees him become a huge hit despite his face (or because of it), before losing all his money to his unscrupulous agent, and then moving to a small town where he falls in love with a one-eyed girl.
In the Preacher TV show show, however, Arseface is living in Annville, and Jesse accidentally sends him to Hell (literally) in a moment of anger. From there, he ends up befriending Hitler, bringing him back to Earth, and getting hunted down by the Saint of Killers; he’s now wandering Earth with the Saint in a kind of odd buddy comedy. Even his origin story is different – in the comics, he was a depressed teen who shot himself after Kurt Cobain’s death, whereas in the show, he shot himself in a panic after the girl he loved did the same.
This is actually a vast improvement on the Arseface of the comics, and it develops Eugene in a much more interesting way. The comic version is a joke – hideous and naive – who doesn’t understand that his fame is a warped reaction to his face, and who essentially Forrest Gumps his way through life to true love. He’s one of many side characters who serves as little more than a gross-out punchline, and although he’s also used to make a point about naivete and acceptance, the comics could easily exist without him.
In the TV series, Arseface is a much more complex character – and while he is still naive, he’s not stupid. His conversations with the Saint and with Hitler show that it’s not dumb naivety that drives him, but a real faith in the goodness of the world; it’s something that adds to the series, because it provides a contrast to all the other people who are debauched, terrible, and twisted characters. Arseface also develops this over the course of the show, through his experiences and mistakes, in a way that the original Arseface doesn’t. This change also draws him more thoroughly into the story, making him a main character rather than a side note.
Finally, it also sets up something more interesting for later in Preacher – when Jesse will presumably come face-to-face with Eugene in the end, when he will have to deal with the Saint’s form of revenge (a swift and painful death) vs Eugene’s (a sincere apology). In Eugene, Preacher has taken a gag about a deformed person and turned him into an incredible (and important) part of the story, one that gives the audience more to think about when it comes to bloody vengeance and the idea of human goodness – something that the original comic could do with more of.
Next: Amazon’s The Boys Learns From Preacher’s Season 1 Problems