Proinsias Cassidy is a character, an Irish vampire from the comic book Preacher. He was created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. He is featured prominently throughout the Preacher series as a major character.
In Preacher issues 25 and 26 (collected in the graphic novel Preacher: Proud Americans), Cassidy tells some elements of his life story to Jesse Custer. Proinsias Cassidy was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1900. His father was Catholic and his mother Protestant. Cassidy remains unaware of this up until the last day of his human life, simply assuming that his family is Catholic.
Encouraged by a sense of patriotism, Cassidy joins the Irish Volunteers and takes part in the Easter Rising in 1916. Seeing that Cassidy is determined to join up, and correctly predicting that he will be an incompetent soldier, Cassidy's older brother Billy signs up as well, ostensibly to keep an eye on him. Cassidy's older brother is a successful soldier (becoming a marksman/sniper), despite the fact that he does not believe in the politics of the conflict. He keeps Cassidy close to him at all times, and when it becomes apparent that the Easter Rising will fail, and that Patrick Pearse is expending lives in the hope of producing martyrs for his cause, Billy deserts the army (kicking Michael Collins in the groin in the process), and drags the reluctant Proinsias away from the conflict, thus saving his life.
Several hours later, as the two brothers walk alongside a canal a "hag" leaps out of the water and rips open Cassidy's neck, seemingly killing him. The hag is driven off after Cassidy's brother shoots it, but Cassidy's "corpse" falls into the canal and is not recovered.
In truth Cassidy awakes at dawn, still underwater but not having drowned or succumbed to his injuries. He is understandably confused and afraid, since his several attempts to leave the water result in him catching fire in the sunlight, so he waits until nightfall to leave the water. Cassidy soon realizes his new vampiric nature, but, since he knows his brother has seen him "die", and the effect it will have on his family if he comes back to them, he decides to "stay dead". As he frequently runs into former soldiers, who recognize him despite the fact that he is supposed to be dead, he decides to emigrate to America. Cassidy settles into early 20th-century life in New York City with a group of Irish immigrant drinking buddies, which is almost certainly how he develops the drinking habit which persists throughout the remainder of the century for him.
What happens to Cassidy in the intervening period from the 1920s to 1994 is not immediately clear, as there are differences between the stories Cass tells Custer and the truth as it is later revealed. He claims to have been with Dylan Thomas at the time of the latter's death, attended William S. Burroughs' parties and was the base for a character in Junky, and expressed contempt for the hangers-on of Norman Mailer and Brendan Behan. He was also present at Woodstock, where a Hell's Angels member shot him in the face with a shotgun.
At some point during this time Cassidy's vampiric nature becomes visible in the ghastly appearance of his eyes, resulting in his decision to wear sunglasses for the remainder of his vampiric "lifetime".
In Preacher issues 56-57, Cassidy is revealed to have eventually begun experimenting with stronger and stronger drugs becoming hopelessly addicted to heroin, even resorting to prostituting himself for drugs. He drags his various girlfriends into drug addiction as well. During a bout of withdrawal he beats one early girlfriend, and due to his superhuman strength her jaw is nearly torn off. This pattern of addiction and abuse is repeated in Cassidy's subsequent relationships.
After this Cassidy spends long periods of time traveling through the United States. In the one-shot Preacher spin-off, Cassidy: Blood and Whiskey, he travels to New Orleans, where he meets "Eccarius", the only other vampire he's ever known (apart from the hag that bit him). Unlike Cassidy, Eccharius is a poseur obsessed with vampire literature and pseudo-Goth culture, reveling in his new status through gaudy clothing, long-winded colorful speeches, and a host of human followers called "Les Enfants du Sang", whom Eccharius entices with promises of immortality. Cassidy tries to convert him to his way of thinking, introducing him to beer and a more jovial take on life. Eccharius seems to enjoy this for a time, but later reveals to Cassidy that he regularly feasts on human blood from live, unwilling subjects. Cassidy, disgusted by this attitude, subdues Eccharius and nails him to the roof of a church at sunrise, killing him. Later issues of the main series would establish that he'd started going out with a barmaid called Dee and made friends with a voodoo priest named Xavier during his times in New Orleans; he destroyed both relations by sleeping with Xavier's girlfriend while drunk and accidentally destroying Dee's left eye when hitting her.
Many years later (as detailed in Preacher #1), Cassidy meets Tulip O'Hare as she is running away from a botched assassination. They subsequently come across Tulip's former boyfriend Jesse Custer. Jesse and Cassidy have a rocky start to their relationship, especially when Jesse discovers Cassidy's vampirism. A mutual love of various American cultural icons and a shared sense of honor soon lead to a strong friendship forming. Cassidy even poses as Jesse, allowing himself to be kidnapped by Herr Starr and the Grail. When the ruse is discovered Cassidy is horribly tortured, his ability to regenerate used against him. During his ordeal he is visited by God who gives him the second warning to pass along to Jesse. He is later rescued by Jesse and the Grail's fortress in France is destroyed in the process.
Cassidy resumes his heavy drinking, and expresses his love to Tulip, repeatedly and without welcome, even in the face of her constant rejections. Tulip fatefully decides not to reveal these expressions to Jesse, knowing that such information would destroy Jesse's trust. Cassidy makes an attempt to go cold turkey from alcohol without telling Jesse, but this attempt is ruined by Jesse's innocent gift of a bottle of bourbon to his vampire friend.
When Jesse apparently dies after the events of War In The Sun (issues #34-40), Tulip and Cassidy flee together. Tulip, overcome with grief, turns to drugs and alcohol. Cassidy struggles with his sexual desires for Tulip and his appreciation that she was in no condition to think clearly, but eventually succumbs to his lust for Tulip. He supplies her with alcohol and drugs for months, convincing himself that this is a consensual relationship. In a moment of clarity Tulip realizes what Cassidy has done and shoots him in the chest, blowing him through a door and into the sunlight. Cassidy survives by crawling under a truck.
Cassidy tries to meet up with Tulip and finds out that she had been reunited with Jesse. Jesse had been looking into Cassidy's life and discovered his history of drug abuse and beating women. He tells Cassidy to leave and that they are no longer friends, but agrees to meet him one last time in San Antonio, Texas.
In San Antonio Cassidy begs for forgiveness and admits to many terrible things he had done during his life. Jesse is unmoved, stating that Cassidy is responsible for all the pain in his life and for much of the pain in the lives of people he knew. Jesse challenges him to a fist fight outside The Alamo. Cassidy is reluctant to fight Jesse, believing his vampiric strength will allow him to beat Jesse easily. Unfortunately, Cassidy has never really had to learn how to fight effectively. Jesse, on the other hand, uses his considerable skill to hand Cassidy a real beating while avoiding his return blows, and verbally lashing Cassidy for his shortcomings. (Such is his advantage over Cassidy that he is able to pause and light a cigarette in the middle of the fight.)
Unbeknownst to Tulip and Cassidy, Jesse has set himself up to die at the hands of Herr Starr, as part of an elaborate plan to finally succeed in his quest to hold God responsible for the wrongs he had committed. At the conclusion of the fight, Jesse warns Cassidy to go inside before the sun rises. Cassidy refuses, seemingly overcome by the grief of losing his only real friend, and shortly before Jesse is shot dead, Cassidy burst into flames, dying and covering Jesse in ash.
It is revealed shortly afterwards that Cassidy too had a plan. Knowing that Jesse would probably sacrifice himself, or at least risk dying at the hands of Herr Starr, God or the Saint of Killers Cassidy made a deal with God. He would ensure Jesse's death and subsequent release of the entity that made him a threat to The Almighty, and in return God would ensure that both Jesse and Cassidy were resurrected.
In the final issue of Preacher, Cassidy attains some degree of redemption. In letters to Tulip and Jesse he makes amends and reveals to Tulip that which he had previously kept hidden: that when it was thought Jesse was dead his last words had been, "Tell her I love her". He is then shown watching the sunset, looking as he did in 1916 with fully healed eyes, and disposing of the sunglasses he had worn for decades. As part of his resurrection he has been cured of his vampirism and given a chance to lead a normal life.
In the course of Preacher's various story arcs, Cassidy is depicted as two personas: one a loyal, fun-loving, well-meaning Irish rogue, and one a desperate, selfish, weak-willed addict with a violent streak. Cassidy reveals the first persona to Jesse, who then later learns of the second, competing persona from a homeless ex-friend of Cassidy's.
In hindsight, as Cassidy himself pointed out in writing his last note to his friend, Jesse's greatest accomplishment throughout the Preacher storyline might have been fostering Cassidy's redemption: forcing Cassidy to look hard at himself and the choices he made over his prolonged vampire life, and forcing Cassidy to choose the right way.
Powers and abilities
Most of the standard vampire conventions are not followed in Preacher and any mystical or scientific explanation for vampirism is completely ignored. As a vampire, Cassidy can survive any physical wound (including decapitation, a stake through the heart and at one point standing on an exploding grenade), although he feels the pain associated with the injury as a normal human would. Cassidy is also the only being who ever managed to "survive" being shot by the Saint of Killers, presumably because as a vampire he was technically already dead and therefore immune to the Saint's guns. (Garth Ennis did state at one point that if he could, he would have retconned the encounter so that Cassidy was "killed" by a weapon other than the Saint's guns, since the established reality of the series later claims that the Saint's guns can kill anything, including supernatural beings.) He can heal superhumanly fast and regenerate from any wound (his lifestyle/association with Jesse Custer ensures he suffers plenty of these), and drinking blood allows him to accelerate the process. Although Cassidy needs blood to sustain himself, he does not need human or even fresh blood, as he states in a conversation with Eccarius "Nah, blood's blood, isn't it? Doesn't matter if yeh get it from a lamb chop, so long as yeh get yer fill. No need for killin' at all really." Cassidy's reaction to the goblet of blood presented to him by Eccarius suggest that he doesn't particularly like the taste of fresh blood, preferring instead the taste of beer or whiskey. He generally drinks blood from live humans only if they have tried to hurt him first. Cassidy is also superhumanly strong and fast and has greatly enhanced senses. As a vampire, Cassidy burns in direct sunlight. He can only be exposed to it for a short period of time before he starts to disintegrate; he can survive indirect exposure to the sun, although it is highly uncomfortable. From the contents of the series it seems that sunlight, and given the effects of sunlight, possibly fire, is the only thing capable of killing a vampire. Cassidy does not have explicit fangs or any other physical marks that distinguished him as undead other than being extremely pale and having red eyes, the latter of which is caused not by vampirism but by his overindulgence in drugs.