Episode 43: Arseface

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This week on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks show I’ll be continuing my Preacher series with a character with one of the most unique looks and names in the entire series. Now there are some pretty far out characters in Preacher, but Eugene Root, or better known by Arseface definitely has one of the most interesting looks and backstories in the comic. So who is Eugene Root and how did he go from a handsome young stoner to Arseface, let’s get into it.
Arseface made his first appearance in Vertigo’s Preacher comic, created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, in issue #2 titled “ And Hell Followed Him” and he appears in 35 of the 66 issue run. Now in issue #2 we do get a quick one page summary of the characters backstory as told by a police sheriff, but it’s pretty quick and there is so much more to it than that. So how do I know that there’s more? Well the creators of Preacher not only made an incredible series, but they also did a number of one-shots that highlighted many of the main characters that really fleshed out their origins, and Arseface’s is just awesome. So let’s start there and then go through his arc in the comics and then how the character has been portrayed on the AMC show. Remember to check out the site because I’ve added tons of pages from Preacher and the one-shot along with clips from the show on AMC
Eugene’s origin takes place in the one-shot special, “The Story of You Know How” which was written by Garth Ennis and drawn by one of my favorite artists Richard Case. Riches art just really suits the period that the story takes place. Eugene’ origin takes place in 1994, the time of grunge rock at the height of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. When we first meet Eugene, the first thing that hits you is how good looking the kid is. Great features, shoulder length hair, good looking all the way around. Eugene grew up in Annville, Texas where the comic really kicks into high gear.

He’s a typical kid for that time, he likes rap and grunge music, he likes to hang out with his friend Pupe, smoke the occasional joint and have the occasional beer. Unfortunately the kid has a father and mother that do not make his life easy, and that’s an understatement. Arseface’s dad is the local sheriff and for all intents and purposes a horrible human being. Sheriff Root is very disappointed with his son. He feels he’s lazy and listens to the wrong music and makes no bones about how he feels constantly telling him what a loser he is and how much of a waste he is. The man doesn’t just mentally abuse the boy, but he also beats Eugene on a regular basis whenever he feels Eugene has especially let him down, or really whenever he’s had to much to drink and he drinks a lot especially at night.
He comes home, beats on Eugene, grabs a few bottles of bourbon sits in his lawn chair in the yard with his shotgun screaming and shooting into the air at and I quote, N-Martians. Yep, all that other stuff and a pretty ardent racist to boot. Where is his mother when all this is happening, she has crawled into a bottle just tunes it all out. She tries to get help from the church but they just tell her to grin and bear it, it’s all God’s will. So she does.

Now I mentioned Eugene’s friend Pupe, yep, that’s his nickname. So these too are really an island to themselves in the small Texas town. They love rap and especially the music of Kurt Cobain. So they get bullied a lot at school by the jocks. So here’s a kid that has no mother to speak of, a father who beats him and doesn’t love him, no other friends and no break from the misery at school, it’s no wonder he ends up going to the path that makes him who he is when we see him in Preacher #2.
After taking an especially bad beating from his father Eugene makes the decision to move out and live with Pupe. That lasts about an hour before his dad breaks down the door and drags him out by his hair and just beats the tar out of him when he gets him home. The next day or so he gets a call from Pupe who tells him that Kurt Cobain has killed himself by shooting himself in the head. They are devastated by this and it sets everything in motion. Pupe tell Eugene to steal his dad’s shotgun after he passes out so they can just end it all and go out like their idol, and he does. The two are drinking in the park and while they are talking Pupe just yells, “I’m coming Kurt, I’m coming”, puts the gun in his mouth and blows his brains out. Eugene then kneels, puts the gun under his chin and pulls the trigger.
But, to his surprise he awakens through a haze of medication and gauze to see his father, Pupe’s sister and a doctor standing over him. His father’s comment, “Shoulda put it in your mouth, you dumb little fuck.” Later he’s asked why they did it and Eugene scribble nobody cares. Pupe’s sister loses it telling him if he could do that, kill himself, then he didn’t care either. This really floors him.

This and the traumatic experience of an attempted suicide has a dramatic change in Eugene’s personality. The next time we see Eugene, ten operations later, he is a changed man. Not a sullen, moody and depressed kid, he’s now a super positive kid who loves his dad and wants nothing but the best for everyone and himself despite his looks. So let’s get into his looks. After the shotgun blast and despite the operations Eugene’s face is severely damaged. He has no hair, a large dent in his forehead and mouth has been rebuilt into a permanent pucker, this is what gets him his nickname Arseface. The other thing that makes the character interesting in the comic is that due to the reconstruction he can’t really talk, it all comes out as a mumble and his words are added in text boxes by the letterer. It’s really a neat trick. So Sheriff Root is at home reading a letter from his wife who has left him when Eugene comes him tells him he’s a new man and things will be different, that that can go to ball games and hang out, ending in a full page splash with Eugene saying, “I’m going to be the best son in the whole world!.” His dream was to build a relationship with his dad and help him fight crime.
It’s amazing how he changed, that it took something so horrible to change the kid, to make him see what life could be like. Don’t get me wrong, like most in the comic things do not go well for him, but he does get a happy ending. Now that we know the characters backstory let’s look at his arc through the comic series.

When we first meet Eugene in Preacher he’s with his dad trying to bond, but the dad won’t even speak to him. When the sheriff gets a call about a mass murder that was just discovered he rides off but doesn’t realize Eugene has stowed away in the back seat of his cruiser. Now this mass murder is one we have talked about in other episodes, the Jesse Custer and Cassidy episodes, it’s when The Saint of Killers shot up the joint. When his dad gets there he tries to arrest Jesse and Tulip and is being he usual warm self when the Saint shows up and trains his gun on him. Now, I would have no problem with Sheriff Root being taken out by the Saint, but just then Eugene bursts out of the cruiser yelling, “Don’t Kill My Dad!” But of course nobody understands him, but it does give Jesse time to use the word and stop the Saint. That is also when in a small inset panel, Cassidy says, “That kid has a face like an arse.” And that’s how he got his name. When all’s said and done the sheriff says he’s leaving but not until Jesse tells him to, “go eff yourself” using the word, and he does just that. The next time we see Root he’s in an ambulance and the EMT is talking to Arseface about his dad’s condition. It’s then Arseface learns that his dad’s going to be fine although can not reattach his penis, they will be able to remove it from his lower intestine. Yep, you do what you are told when Jesse uses the word.

Arseface is upset but is overjoyed when his father calls for him. This is most likely the first time since he shot himself in the face that his dad has talked to him. So he is thrilled. His dad asks Arseface to get him his gun and of course being a good son he gets it. Then Sheriff Root blows his brains out. Later in that issue Eugene swears to kill the man who did this to his father, he swears to kill Jesse Custer.

So Arseface takes his dad’s gun and begins to travel America to find Custer and get some justice for his dad. He finally runs into the group by accident and draws on Jesse. But instead of everyone being scared, they just laugh. In the end, Arseface can’t bring himself to kill someone and lowers his gun. Jesse realizes he’s a good kid, just messed up a bit and maybe in need of a friend, so they take him along on a road trip to New Orleans where the crew are heading. Once there Arseface had a grand time with Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy. They ate gumbo, drank and they even got him laid. Yep, Arseface lost his virginity in the big easy thanks to Jesse, he did it with a bag over his head, but hey. And if that wasn’t enough, Arseface’s life was again changed on a huge scale when the group came upon a band playing. They saw him and told him to jump up on the balcony and join them and of course he did. Well, as we know, know one can understand him, it all just sounds like noise, but people love it. The band is overhead by a music executive who was looking for a fresh face and signed Arseface on the spot.
After he’s signed Arseface becomes a household name, he’s rich, and he is a superstar rock God. It’s hilarious. Then the writers throw in a nice twist. Some of Arseface’s millions of fans decide they want to be like their idol and try to commit suicide. Most aren’t lucky and they die. This starts a huge backlash and groups call for Arseface to be held accountable. Seeing what’s coming down the pike, Arseface’s manager and label owner, steals all his money and leaves the country. This leaves him alone and in the same place he started. But in the end he’s still the happy upbeat guy on the planet.

So he kicks around a bit until he finds somewhere to hang his hat and he lands in all places, the town of Salvation, Texas. There comes across a girl being hassled by some bullies and he comes to her aid. It’s then he meets Lorie Bobbs, who through more than likely a bit of inbreeding has only one eye. But it doesn’t matter to Eugene, he is instantly smitten with her and she with him. You’re saying, but wow, how does she overlook that face. Here’s the thing, she has a disorder due to the one eye thing, visual information is retranslated before it gets to her brain so she sees things differently. When she looks at Arseface she sees an incredibly handsome blond man. She sees Eugene. So in the end, Arseface finds the love and happiness he deserves.

Now how does the comic origin compare to the origin on AMC’s show. It’s pretty different. In the show, Eugene, played by Ian Colletti, does not try to commit suicide over his homelife and Cobain, since it’s not the 90s on the show, he does it over a girl. In the first season Jesse informs us that Eugene was in love with a girl who spurned him and in the end he shot her and then shot himself but survived. We meet the girl, who also lived but is in a vegetative state in season one. Now I had a problem with this. I did not like they made Eugene into someone who would shoot his girlfriend. It just didn’t sit right. But this season we learn something new while Eugene is living out his worst day in hell. Why is he in hell. In an outburst of anger Jesse uses the word accidentally and tells him to, “Go to hell”, and he does. Take a look over on the site for some great video clips.

And yep, it’s that fateful day. But here we learn the truth. Eugene goes to Tracey’s house because she has told him she plans on killing herself because her boyfriend dumped her. Eugene talks her out of it and she puts her head on his shoulder, but Eugene mistakes this for something it’s not and he kisses her. This, for some reason upsets her enough to decide to go through with her suicide attempt and she shoots herself. At this point Tracey’s mom is beating on the door, Eugene, not see anyway out, he knows he’ll be blamed for this, puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Now a lot of his life is still the same, his dad’s a racist prick, but not as bad as the comic version. But I don’t know if I buy this new telling of Eugene’s origin. People hate him in town, why. He tried to stop her. My only guess is that he was always an odd bird and people just don’t believe that miss popular would kill herself. But since there was no proof he was let go, but the people just don’t trust him and hate him for what they think he did. It’s pretty sad but I hope he ends up happy like he did in the comic.