By Doug Levy
You Gotta Have Faith
Garth Ennis is not a man who's afraid of controversy. Some would even say he actively courts it. Ennis is most well known as the writer of Preacher, a title he created for DC Comics' Vertigo line, which is currently one of the most popular, as well as infamous, books around. Preacher has been getting a lot of conservative-type folks up in arms with it's combination of violence, off-color humor and irreverent portrayal of religion. In fact, the Australian government has recently been stopping shipments of the book in an effort to dissuade retailers from carrying it. The ironic thing is that while Ennis' stories are often over-the-top, they're also some of the best written, most entertaining, thought-provoking tales to come out of the graphic medium since Neil Gaiman's Sandman ended last year.
Part of the reason that Ennis has generated such furor in certain camps is because he dares to raise objections to the established order, and, as with anyone who challenges the beliefs that are fed to the masses, there are those who would just love to shut him up. Think Galileo. Think Darwin. All right, now stop thinking, and pick up True Faith, one of Ennis' earliest works, which has just been re-released by DC Comics in an effort to make the rare book available once more.
True Faith was originally published in 1989, serialized in the British political anthology Crisis, after which it was collected and released as a complete graphic novel. It didn't stay on the shelves long, though. Complaints from church and religious groups led to a decision to pull the book off sale, sparking debates over censorship and effectively giving it the status of a "banned book."
The story centers around Nigel Gibson, a disaffected high-school student surrounded by right-wing faculty and staff, bible-discussion groups and a zombie-like family. He crosses paths with a man called Terry Adair, a former devout Christian who has lost his wife during child-birth and suffered what one might put mildly as a crisis of faith. Adair, a toilet products salesman, has decided that God is a "blockage" in the pipes of humanity and plans to kill Him in order to remove the blockage. Gibson happens upon Adair's schemes, which involve the blowing up of churches, the murder of religious figures and the destruction of anyone else who gets in his way.
Unfortunately, Nigel is caught by Adair, who then offers him the chance to either join him, or be killed. In what follows, Nigel finds himself trapped in a spree of destruction, death and mayhem, which reveals to him in the process the true nature of faith and the way in which it used to manipulate and destroy people.
Don't think that Ennis is any kind of ultra-serious, anti-holy crusader, though. He's also always quick to point out the value of a good beer, the hilarity of raunchy humor and the benefits of being Irish. He emphasizes his mission of being the first person allowed to use the word "c**t" in comics (hell, even we can't use that one). Basically, he's just a guy who hates when other people tell him what he can and can't do, who also just happens to be a great writer with a unique voice.
"Perhaps what we can draw from the True Faith business is a simple truth," says Ennis in his introduction to the book, "Someone, call them the censors, call them the church, call them a bunch of tits with too much time on their hands, I don't know - but someone didn't want you to see this book. And now, thanks to the work of a number of people, you can."
And you should, too.