Unearthly comic converts Col


Columbia has picked up the rights to "Preacher," the popular 1990s Vertigo comic book series, for an adaptation to be directed by Sam Mendes.

Neal Moritz and his Original Films banner are producing with Kickstart Prods.' Jason Netter.

Created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, "Preacher," which ran from 1995-2000, told the story of a down-and-out Texas preacher possessed by Genesis, a supernatural entity conceived by the unnatural coupling of an angel and a demon.

Given immense powers, the preacher teamed with a former girlfriend and a hard-drinking Irish vampire and set out on a journey across America to find God — who apparently had abandoned his duties in heaven — and hold him accountable for his negligence.

Getting a "Preacher" project off the ground has long been a favorite pastime among the comic book literati. The project had been set up as a one-hour series at HBO but was put into turnaround; Mark Steven Howard wrote a pilot that Howard Deutch was attached to direct.

A previous movie version — to have been produced by Kevin Smith's View Askew, among others — got to the casting stage, with James Marsden attached for the title role and a reported budget of $25 million.

The new "Preacher" has no writers on board, though Mendes will lead the search while putting the finishing touches on his drama "Revolutionary Road," the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet starrer that's due Dec. 26.

While comic book movies might seem as common as Joker Halloween costumes, the CAA-repped Mendes directed one of this century's early comic adaptations, 2002's "Road to Perdition."

Moritz and Netter are working on adapting another Ennis comic book, "The Boys," also set up at Columbia. (partialdiff)