When we meet pastor Jesse Custer at the beginning of the comics, he's possessed by the heavenly entity Genesis - which gives him the ability to command anyone to do anything he says -, meets his friends, and heads out on a mission to make God answer for all the suffering in the world. The show version - played by Dominic Cooper - favors a slower build, gradually revealing Jesse's origin and his rise and fall in the church while also grappling with the power of Genesis.
No matter where his story starts, Jesse is always brash and chivalrous; as ready to take a punch as he is to put his life on the line for those who can't defend themselves. There are still a few slight differences. Jesse in the comics has an imaginary friend who looks and sounds an awful lot like actor John Wayne that's missing from the show and show Jesse is also a little more eager to use the powers of The Word than he is in the books.
Let's get the obvious part out of the way first: Tulip O'Hare is Black on the show. She's still Jesse's ex-girlfriend who rolls back into town after years apart before joining him on his quest to find God. In the comics, they used to travel the country stealing cars before he was captured and forced into the priesthood by his demented family; on the show, Tulip and Jesse both grew up together in Texas and were separated before they began car-hopping and robbing banks. A betrayal by their boss Carlos and a miscarriage force an attempt to go straight, but Tulip can't resist the call of crime. She and Jesse split and eventually reunite back in Annville, though their relationship takes longer to blossom than it did in the books.
Ruth Negga's Tulip is still as headstrong and excellent with a gun as she is in the books. She also spends a good amount of the second season suffering from PTSD after an encounter with the Saint of Killers, which she overcomes when they bury him in a truck.
A hard-drinking and even harder living Irish vampire who found his way to America and then Texas and joins Jesse and Tulip on their quest. He's impulsive, quick to a joke, and prone to running from his demons quicker than he can down two gallons of blood. In the comics, he's bitten by a "hag" in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1915 and flees to America after his vampiric transformation so his family will believe he's dead. The drug addictions and careless personality he eventually picks up leads him to become both a literal and symbolic vampire. When he's not putting every one of his friend's lives in danger or running out on their lives, he makes himself useful.
Cassidy becomes great friends with Jesse and becomes enamored of Tulip once he arrives in Texas, which sets the trio up for a lot of awkward moments along the way. As portrayed by Joseph Gilgun on the show, his personality and origin are almost exactly the same, except for his relationship to the city of New Orleans, where most of season 2 takes place. In the comics, his carelessness leads to a friend's girlfriend being killed, whereas on the show, he has an elderly French son living in the city who begs Cassidy to make him a vampire.
Arguably one of the more tragic characters on the series, Conor Byrne's life wasn't an easy one. In the comics, his abusive relationship with his father inspired he and his friend to forge a suicide pact based on their love for Kurt Cobain. The friend succeeded, but Eugene merely blew his mouth into itself to the point where it resembled...you can probably guess. Every sentence was incomprehensible, but his attitude became blindingly sunny, to the chagrin of his horrified and numbed police chief father Hugo Root, who begins to ignore him. He meets Jesse, who humiliates Sheriff Hugo to the point of suicide. The newly christened Arseface (Cassidy coined the name) begins a manhunt for Jesse that takes him across the country.
On the show, as portrayed by Ian Colletti, Eugene's story is even sadder. After helping his friend get over a cheating boyfriend and kissing her in the moment, she kills herself at the thought of being with him. When her mother comes banging on the door to see what the matter is, Eugene figures that killing himself would be the easiest way out; but he misses. He's made a pariah by the church and his father and finds solace in Jesse, the only person left who will hear him out. Jesse uses The Word and tells Eugene to "Go to Hell" in a moment of anger and literally banishes Eugene to Hell, where he relives his worst day (i.e. the attempted suicide) on repeat for the rest of eternity. He's made out to be a pariah by his town and his father in both versions of this story, but we get a glimpse at a more sweet-natured boy in the show's flashbacks.
Herr Starr is a sadistic man who is the head of security detail for the religious organization The Grail. In the comics, Starr's eye (we never learn his real name) was scarred and blinded when he was five by schoolyard bullies, who he then killed before he turned 10. His obsession with bringing order to the world eventually led him to Germany's GSG-9 anti-terrorism unit and then The Grail. On the show, he's named Helmut Starr and is shown to be just as ruthless and prone to every kind of deviancy as he was in the books. He becomes interested in Jesse once he learns about The Word and tries to use him to impose The Grail's will on the world, but settles for his death after Jesse carves a scar into his head, making it resemble a penis.
We don't know much else about Starr other than his success at making Jesse the new God and his superhuman levels of determination.
A superpowerful angel devil cowboy sounds cool on paper, but the Saint of Killers goes the extra mile. He's a former Confederate soldier turned bounty hunter killed in a double cross and banished to Hell, only to leave with revolvers that never miss their shot or run out of ammo or require reloading. He escorts the souls of those who die by gun violence to their eternal resting place. God enlists him to help hunt down Jesse Custer and Genesis, who uses The Word to keep him at bay and start a grudge war between the two.
On the show, The Saint is recruited by the angels Fiore and DeBlanc to hunt down Jesse and exterminate Genesis, and after some chasing across seasons, is locked in an armored truck and pushed into a swamp. He returns with the help of Starr and The Grail before being whisked back to Hell when threatened with the prospect of his family joining him down there.
Sometimes, an evil bastard is just an evil bastard. Hugo Root is the sheriff of Annville, TX and the father to Conor/Eugene who is varying degrees of malicious to his son, whether we're talking about the comics or the show. He's an outright racist xenophobic scumbag who abused Conor in the books before being forced to sodomize himself with his own...gun before killing himself. On the show, he bans Eugene from going to church after disfiguring his face. He perished along with the rest of Annville at the end of the first season of the show.
A field hand and friend of the L'Angell family, Jody is the man who killed Jesse's father and raised him to be a fighter through horrible acts of abuse. In the books, he has an almost superhuman resistance to pain that gets him through fights with a now grown Jesse and is protected from the effects of The Word by God's blessing on the family. We haven't been formally introduced to Jody on the show as of yet, but he'll be played by Jeremy Childs and will more likely than not continue to be a son of a bitch.
Odin Quincannon is a businessman with an unhealthy obsession with meat. In the comics, his factory is choking the life out of Salvation, TX before Jesse teams up with his recently undead mother (long story) and the police to take him down. On the show, he's looking to buy Jesse's church before he is willed into becoming a better person by, you guessed it, The Word. Jackie Earle Haley brought a level of quiet menace to the character that played nicely against Quincannon's over-the-top manaical business tycoon in the books.
Yet another one of the L'Angell's henchmen. In the comics, he's a dim-witted yet extremely violent man prone to acts of bestiality. He killed Jesse's best friend when they were teenagers and is eventually taken out once God lifts his blessing from their family and allows Jesse to use The Word again. Colin Cunningham will be playing T.C. on the show and appears to be just as intuitive and sadistic as ever.
Preacher Returns Sunday June 24 at 10/9c on AMC