Preacher Feeds My Addiction

I read comics. This may seem like an obvious statement, but I’m pretty old fashioned about it. It’s not that I read a lot of titles, I don’t read all the comics out there, not by any means. I’m pretty bloody fussy actually, and usually only pick up 3 or 4 titles a week. But that’s the key point here; I’m buying them every month, not every six months in a bloody great book.

When I started reading comics, I don’t ever remember seeing any compilations of the monthlies. The only way to read an entire story was to buy the issues month after month, hoard them and then re-read them once the complete storyline was done. Until I saw Watchmen, I hadn’t even seen a big fat comic compilation like that, I’d only seen monthly comics. When Watchmen was coming out monthly I hadn’t yet discovered my local comic store, so the first I knew of it was that big fat paperback compilation of the entire story, and it was so impressive, I had to have it. Being the voracious reader that I was, I read it in a day and a night without stopping.

That’s how I read a great book — without pause. No eating, no sleeping, no talking, as if doing anything else would be disrespectful to the continuity that’s building. That’s sort of my problem with books; my inability to read in moderation. If I pick up a book (comic or otherwise) and I like it a lot, then it’s nearly impossible to stop reading it. An excellent book can entirely take over my life, and until I’ve finished reading it, I can’t do much else. There’s a part of me that dreads finding a wonderful book, because I know that if I do, I won’t want to work, go out, or talk to anyone until it’s read. If I’m forced to do anything else, then in the back of my mind all I’ll be thinking about is the world inside that book. When I’m with friends, they only have half my attention, because I’ll be thinking “Why am I here when I could be reading and be so much happier?!”. It’s very strange, because I’m not like that about anything else I can think of. Where other people exhibit their addictive behavior through eating, drinking, or smoking, I’ve been able to take or leave those things when I’ve put my mind to it. But a good book… ooooh, that’s me gone. I’m completely captivated and I love it. Learn here about the new study on how pets help in addiction recovery.

I can’t pretend that I don’t enjoy it. Even while I resent (and sometimes even dread) that time when life has to go on hold while I’m reading, I also just adore getting five pages into a book and knowing that it’s a good one and it’s going to sweep me up and fill my head with a whole other world for a while. In the past I’ve purposely read a whole series of mediocre books because I know that they’ll be adequate to keep me busy on the 15 minute train ride to work every day* without taking over my life. But reading a book that isn’t great is a bit sad and dull, it’s hard to remember what’s happening because it doesn’t really involve me, and it feels like a waste of time and attention. It’s dissatisfying.

PreacherSo monthly comic books are perfect. With monthly books I can enjoy the best of both worlds; a great story which engages and enthralls, but because it’s told in segments, I can get on with my life in between each monthly issue. And the if the book is really brilliant, the story lingers in my mind for that month, growing and percolating, waiting for the next installment. In many ways, if a book can sustain my interest over a month it’s the true test of quality, because if I’m waiting for it and running to the store on Wednesday to pick it up, then obviously it’s pretty special. If I forget the story, forget to even buy it, then maybe it wasn’t so bloody good after all? Maybe I need to stop reading the title? It’s a good litmus test for me and it’s worked for a long time.

This is probably why I don’t own many books in collected editions, I really appreciate the monthly format, the integrity of the traditional comic book format. If I like a title, I’m going to buy it each month because reading it month by month, pacing it that way, is an integral part of why I enjoy the medium. Of course I often like the cover art, (which is something that you often don’t get to see in compilations), but mostly it’s about the gradual build, the slow and steady timing of it. As an added practical bonus I like the fact that the individual issues are much more portable — I can put 3 issues in sleeves and cardboard and slip them in my bag to read on the way to work – much lighter than a whole book.

When I read trades, it’s because I purposely avoided buying the title when it first came out monthly. Maybe I had some irrational dislike for it, as I recently found out that I did with Preacher. Since the title came out, friends have been telling me that I’d enjoy it, I don’t know why I was so turned off. Maybe it was the wild west setting, or my fears of the religious implications? Sadly, a chunk of my aversion can be attributed to my ridiculously stubborn contrary nature — I really don’t like being told what I do and don’t like (who does?). For a while now, a couple I know (who are both very different, and yet they both loved the book) have strongly encouraged me to borrow the books from them, and so last week I finally took them up on their offer and borrowed the first three books.

Two days later I was on their doorstep, jonesing for the next volumes. It was a Sunday, and I knew it’d be difficult to fit the reading in around work and life in the coming week, but I’d try. Before I knew it, I’d canceled all of my social plans so that I could read from the moment I got home from work until I fell asleep in the early hours of the morning. This wasn’t enough though. The days were sunny, so I took the books off to a secluded park at lunch time and realized that if I focused, I could read for an entire hour. It took me 3 days to read the remaining five books. During that time everything else I was doing was an afterthought. It felt like the story was more real than my life, clearly I got very swept up by it.

High Plains DrifterSo did I like it? Was it a comic I loved? Obviously yes, otherwise I’d have been able to maintain a life while reading it. Damn… it was like getting hit by a truck. It was so much my kind of thing – the lone warrior going against the laws of society and god, yet staying true to his own strong values no matter what — that’s a motif that I’ll always gravitate towards (very much a High Plains Drifter, Lone Wolf and Cub kind of thing). I loved the one two punch of that great, expressive character art by Steve Dillon, paired with the snappy, harsh writing of Garth Ennis. But now that I’ve zoomed through it, I’m going to need to re-read it at a saner pace. In retrospect, it’s all a bit of a blur and I can’t help wondering if I’d have gotten more out of the story if there’d been time for it to float around my head each month as I waited for each new issue. I’m still grateful for having experienced it at all, but I wish I’d paid attention when it was coming out, since I obviously don’t have the self-control required to create a measured reading experience when reading it in reprints. It’s a wonderful thing to have such a medium available to people who can’t handle those monthly comics, but I can’t help but think that people who only read comics in big, reprinted volumes are missing out on a fundamental aspect of comic book enjoyment.

* For those of you who don’t live in a city with a decent public transport system; reading on the bus or train is essential city survival tactics. First it stops you from remembering that you’re on the way to work, and second, it means that you don’t have to make eye contact with potential nutter’s sitting opposite you.


In between designing stuff, Sonia Harris sits around reading in San Francisco. When she doesn’t have a good book, you can write an entertaining email to her at



  1. i recently read all of preacher as well, i ordered each volume off amazon and it was so much hell waiting for the next one to come in

  2. i recently read all of preacher also. i loved the series so much. it was very good. good article.

  3. Preacher is one of those series I read years ago, and I know I need to read it again. The size of it is daunting, though. I can read a book or two of Y: The Last Man and then wait a month to grab the next TPB, but Preacher isn’t like that. Maybe I should devote my Christmas break to it.
    Great article, as usual.

  4. The title of this article makes me feel uncomfortable.

  5. I generally tend to stay away from anything religious, because they all are nuts. But PREACHER is truly one of the greatest series, ever. The spiritual overtones really give you cause to stop and think. If it wont change your mind on anything, which it probably was intended not to, it will give you meat to think on. But that was just me.

  6. @spongebat – I remember refusing to take Preacher on a plane flight.  I’m nervous about flying as it is…

  7. So, you read all the Preacher trades in 5 days??? Holy shnikeys, I couldn’t do that if I tried. I’m a slow reader as it is, but it took me over 2 years to read through all the Preacher trades. I’m not THAT slow, lol, but I get easily distracted & am always reading a lot of things at one time. Preacher kept getting pushed to the side for me, but I did fly through the last 3 or 4 trades uninterrupted by any other books. It’s one of the best stories I have ever read/seen, in any format comic/movie/novel, anything.

  8. Five days is about how long it took me to reread PREACHER for the show we did.

  9. @ultimatehoratio: so glad you noticed the weirdness of the title 🙂

    @wadewilson: I just couldn’t help myself. I’ll read it again more slowly some day. I also read a lot of stuff concurrently, but this one really took over.

  10. experiencing Preacher for the first time was like being wrapped up in a band for a summer.  I couldn’t get away from it when I first read the book and it was all I talked about but just like the band’s that define certain summers I haven’t listened to and/or read the book again in ages.

    I always wondered why they put Salvation with Jesse as a sheriff in the middle of the action.  I like to think it was God giving him his heart’s desire to cool him off from the hunt but eventually even that won’t stop his drive.

  11. I love Preacher, but haven’t read it since it was coming out in issues (which I no longer have).  I have been itching to re-read it the past couple years, but have been holding out on buying the trades in hopes that there will be given the Absolute treatment.  Does anyone know if that’s gonna happen?  Any rumors out there?  Thanks.

  12. I admit, the last few trades were hard for me to put down & I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to read in issues. The wait between issues must have been a ball breaker, & I guess that’s a compliment to how awesome the story is.

  13. Preacher was my first experience of a shared reading frenzy for me. After iFanboy recommended it I ordered the first trade, read that, then ordered the rest.

    I quickly loaned the first trade to my 2 or 3 close avid comic-reading friends and they devoured it! It became a thing, like when you’re all watching a season of some show… "Did you see that?"… "I can’t believe they did that!"

    I’m a fairly slowish reader, but it was hard keeping up. Every time I’d see them they’d be like "Have you finished the 4th trade yet?". But it was fantastic, we couldn’t get enough, and we’d always have those water cooler discussions about what had just happened.

    And that’s why I love comics, especially a series like Preacher.

  14. I’ve read the series three times, and it gets better with each experience.


    @GrendelRK – I think it’s gonna start getting he Ex Machina HC/Starman HC omnibus treatment at some point within the next year.

  15. preacher is so addictive great article i wish preacher got more acknowledgement

  16. Wow, I had a similar initial resistance to PREACHER — I had the first TPB sitting on my shelf for over a year and literally didn’t even open it to look at the interior art until last week — and a similar reaction once I actually started reading.  I’ve gotten through three trades so far and need to figure out how to get my hands on more.  It’s definitely a good one to read in large portions.