Weird West

Weird West

Weird West is used to describe a combination of the Western with another genrecitation|title=An essential taster of ...The Weird West|publisher=Metro|date=2 June 2008] , usually horror, occult, or fantasy. It was coined to describe "Deadlands" role-playing game and the specific phrase "Weird West" is trademarked by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. However, the weird Western has earlier roots and the phrase is now used more widely to describe the setting of such tales.

DC's "Weird Western Tales" appeared in the early 1970s and the weird Western was further popularised by Joe R. Lansdale who "is best known for his tales of the 'weird west,' a genre mixing splatterpunk with alternate history Western almost entirely defined by the author in the early nineties. His work reads a little like the sort of folklore in which Mark Twain dabbled (or the gothic in which Flannery O'Connor was involved), but with zombies and gore." [ [ Bubba Ho-Tep review] ]

Examples of these cross-genres include "Deadlands" (Western/horror), "Wild Wild West" (Western/steampunk), "Jonah Hex" (Western/superhero), "Firefly" (Western/space opera), "BraveStarr" (Western/science fiction) and many others.


Cowboys and gunfighters are iconic American heroes and using them as heroes in other milieus was only natural. The Western uses themes that are compatible with the themes found in other genres. Like science fiction stories set on distant planets, Westerns use the themes of unknown wilderness and the survival of pioneers. Westerns also offer stories of struggles to maintain social order in a lawless environment.

This leads naturally into the science fiction Western where anachronistic science is injected into a Western setting usually in a steampunk manner. Given that space is the final frontier it is also unsurprising that the themes that originated in Westerns re-appear in science fiction too, resulting in the space Western.

The supernatural menaces of horror fiction are easy to inject into this setting, creating the horror Western. Writer G.W. Thomas [ [ Of Men & Monsters ] ] has described how the two combine: "Unlike many other cross-genre tales, the weird Western uses both elements but with very little loss of distinction. The Western setting is decidedly 'Western' and the horror elements are obviously 'horror.'" [ [ Crossing Horror: Using Horror in Other Genres] , by G.W. Thomas]

The superhero Western grew out of the horror Western as Jonah Hex first made an appearance in "Weird Western Tales" before getting his eponymous own series which went very weird in the hands of leading Weird West author Joe R. Lansdale. Hex has appeared alongside more obvious superheroes and has inspired other stories in which the JLA are shown in the wild west (in the animated series and in the Elseworlds outting "Justice Riders"). Recently, Marvel have introduced their own Western superhero in the shape of Vegas.

The Weird West also accommodates less easily classified genres including alternate history, speculative fiction and more fantastical elements.

If anything, the Weird West genre is becoming more popular. It shows the potential to inject new life at a time when few authors are working with traditional Western stories. Jeff Mariotte's comic book series "Desperadoes" has been running, of and on, for a decade now and he still remains bullish about the genre: [ [ How the West was Weird: Mariotte talks “Desperadoes” Return] , Comic Book Resources, October 30, 2006]

As far as Mariotte is concerned, the potential for Weird West stories is limitless. “The West was a weird place. There are ghost towns and haunted mines and when you bring Native American beliefs into it, then the possibilities are even greater.”



The term is of recent coinage, but the idea of crossing genres goes back to at least the hey day of pulp magazines. There was at least one series character who could be classified as a Weird West character. Lee Winters was a deputy whose adventures often involved ghosts, sorcery and creatures from Greek mythology. The Winters stories were written by Lon Williams and published in the 1950s. Several years earlier, one of the oddest of all Western characters, Six-Gun Gorilla, appeared. This was an actual gorilla who strapped on a pair of Colts to avenge the death of the kindly prospector who had raised it. His adventures appeared in the pulps "Adventure" and "Wizard".

There have also been various Weird West novels including Joe R. Lansdale's "Dead in the West". In this book an unjustly lynched Indian shaman curses the town of Mud Creek, Texas. After dark the dead rise and only the Reverend Jebediah Mercer can save the inhabitants.

Examples include:

* "The Horror from the Mound" (by Robert E. Howard, in "Weird Tales", 1932) [ [ The Horror from the Mound ] ]
* Stephen King's "Dark Tower" saga (1982-2007)
*"Dead in the West" (by Joe R. Lansdale, 1986, ISBN 0917053044, 1994, ISBN 1892300001, 2005, ISBN 1597800147) [ [ Fantastic Fiction entry] ]
*"The Haunted Mesa" (by Louis L'Amour, 1987, ISBN 0-553-05182-2)
*"Walking Wolf: A Weird Western" (by Nancy A. Collins, 1995, ISBN 0929480422)
*"Mad Amos" (by Alan Dean Foster, 1996, ISBN 0345393627)
*"The Weird, Weird West" (by Johnny Ray Barnes, Strange Matter series, 1997, ISBN 014038460X)
*"Bone Wars" (by Brett Davis, 1998, ISBN 0671878808) [ [ Bone Wars ] ]
*"Two Tiny Claws" (by Brett Davis, 1999, ISBN 0671577859)
*"A Fist Full O' Dead Guys" (anthology, edited by Shane Lacy Hensley, Pinnacle Entertainment, 1999, ISBN 1-889546-65-8) [ [ A Fist Full O' Dead Guys] , with table of contents]
*"For a Few Dead Guys More" (anthology, edited by Shane Lacy Hensley, foreword by Joe R. Lansdale, Pinnacle Entertainment, 1999, ISBN 1-889546-66-6) [ [ For a Few Dead Guys More] , with table of contents]
*"The Good, the Bad, and the Dead" (anthology, edited by Shane Lacy Hensley, foreword by Bruce Campbell, Pinnacle Entertainment, 1999, ISBN 1-889546-67-4) [ [ The Good, the Bad, and the Dead] , with table of contents]
*"Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones" (by Aaron B. Larson, 1999, ISBN 1552461645)
*"Skull Full of Spurs: A Roundup of Weird Westerns" (anthology, 2000, ISBN 0966262913)
*"Zeppelins West" (by Joe R. Lansdale, 2001) [ [ Subterranean Press' "Zeppelins West" page] ]
*The Sundowners series (by James Swallow, 2001)
*"Dead Man's Hand: Five Tales of the Weird West" (by Nancy A. Collins, foreword by Joe R. Lansdale, Two Wolf Press, 2004, ISBN 1588468755)
*"The Two Devils" (by David B. Riley, 2005, ISBN 1885093403)
*"The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl" (by Tim Pratt, 2005, ISBN 0553383388)
*"Weird Trails" (anthology, December 2006, ISBN 0971908109)
*"Territory" (by Emma Bull, 2007, ISBN 0312857357)


In the 1960s, the television series "The Wild Wild West" brought elements of spy stories and science fiction to the Old West. The cartoon adventures of the "Lone Ranger" followed suit by pitting the famous Western hero against mad scientists and other villains not often found in Western stories. Rod Serling was fond of Westerns and often used them as settings for his "Twilight Zone" stories. "Kung Fu", which followed the adventures of a fugitive Shaolin monk armed only with the show title's eponymous martial art skill, is another famous example of an unorthodox Western. But arguably one of the earliest minor examples on the small screen was the anachronistic appearance of the WWII-vintage Jeep "Nellybelle" in the supposedly 19th century adventures of Roy Rogers during his eponymous 1950's television series.

Examples include:

*"The Wild Wild West" (1965-1969)
*"Cliffhangers": "The Secret Empire" (1979)
*"Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs" (1984)
*"The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers" (1986)
*"BraveStarr" (1987)
*"Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa" (1992-1994)
*"The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." (1993-1994)
*"Legend" (1995)
*"Cowboy Bebop" (1998)
*"Trigun" (1998)
*"Firefly" (2002)
*"": "The Once and Future Thing, Part 1: Weird Western Tales" (2005)


In comic books a number of heroes had adventures involving monsters, aliens, and costumed supervillains. Marvel Comics characters such as Kid Colt, Rawhide Kid, and Two-Gun Kid all had such adventures. Where Marvel went in for supervillains, DC Comics added more of a horror element to their stories such as Jonah Hex. The DC character "Tomahawk" could also be termed a hero of the Weird West, though his adventures were set in the colonies during the time of the American Revolution.

The Amalgam Comics crossover between DC and Marvel produced only one Weird West title, a one-shot "Generation Hex": "Humanity's Last Stand" (Jonah Hex crossed with Generation X - mutants in the Old West) but as well as actual titles they also created wider fictional backstories to set them in. So in this case they suggested Amalgam had a whole genre line called "Malformed West" which had been popular and seen a resurgence of interest in the nineties with (fictional) titles including "Weird Western Mutant Tales". [ The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe - Generation Hex] ] [ [ Who's Who: Handbook of the Amalgam Universe - G] ]

Another example worthy of note is "Preacher". While it is the origin of the Saint of Killers, as shown in his eponymous series, that is the only part set in the Old West, the whole series is an example of an interesting genre fusion. Described as a "Splatterpunk Western", the more subtle cross-genre mixing is a rare one - a mix of the Western with the Gothic. [cite journal
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first = Niall
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title = Rebel Yells: Genre Hybridity and Irishness in Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon's "Preacher"
journal = The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies
volume = 2
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date = 2007
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accessdate = 2007-05-28
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Examples include:

*"13 Chambers" by mink and Denis Medri, Image Comics, 2008) [ [ TWISTORY: mink Talks Fantasy Western "13 Chambers"] , Comic Book Resources, February 21, 2008]
*"American Gothic", by Ian Edginton and Mike Collins
*"", anthology from Paradox Press
*"Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities", by Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz (Dark Horse Comics, 2006, ISBN 1-59307-448-4) [ [ Dark Horse Comics > Profile > Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities TPB ] ]
*"Cowboys & Aliens" [ [ CowboysAndAliens hosted by ] ] [ [ Cowboys and Aliens - News @ ] ] [imdb title|0409847|Cowboys & Aliens]
* "Daisy Kutter" by Kazu Kibuishi [ [ Bolt City - Daisy Kutter ] ]
*"Dead Irons" (by James Kuhoric and Jason Shawn Alexander) [ [ Story of a Bad, Bad Family: James Kuhoric on 'Dead Irons'] , Newsarama, October 9, 2008]
*"Dead West" [] [imdb title|0856186|Dead West]
*"Dead in the West", by Joe R. Lansdale and Neal Barrett Jr., with artist Jack Jackson (2-issue mini-series, Dark Horse Comics, 1993, collected in "Atomic Chili") [ [ Dark Horse Comics > Profile > Dead in the West #1 (of 2) ] ]
*"The Deadlander" by Kevin Ferrara (4-issue mini-series, Dark Horse, forthcoming) [ [ Talking to Kevin Ferrara about "The Deadlander"] , Newsarama, October 3, 2007]
*"Demon Gun" by Gary Cohn and Barry Orkin [comicbookdb|type=title|id=11921|title="Demon Gun"] [ [ Mirror Mask, Demon Gun, Whiz Kids, More: Comics2Film wrap for July 16, 2003] , Comic Book Resources, July 16, 200] 3
*"Desperadoes" by Jeff Mariotte
*"El Diablo"
*"Doc Frankenstein"
*"Far West" by Richard Moore [comicbookdb|type=title|id=10004|title="Far West" (1999)] [comicbookdb|type=title|id=10005|title="Far West" (2000)]
*"Generation Hex" by Peter Milligan and Adam Pollina
*"Graveslinger" by Jeff Mariotte and Shannon Eric Denton [ [ Denton and Mariotte Go West in "Graveslinger"] , Comic Book Resources, August 27, 2007] [ [ Review of "Graveslinger" #1] , Silver Bullet Comic Books]
*"Gunplay" by Jorge Vega, with art by Dominic Vivona, Platinum Studios [ [ Jorge Vega: Learning To Play With Guns] , Comics Bulletin, March 10, 2008]
* "High Moon" a werewolf Western webcomic by zuda / DC comics. Created by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis
*"Iron West", by Doug TenNapel [ [ TenNapel Strikes Gold in "Iron West"] , Comic Book Resources, May 17, 2006]
*"Jonah Hex"
* "Justice Riders" (DC Comics Elseworlds) by Chuck Dixon and J.H. Williams III
*"Lobo Annual" #2: "A Fistful of Bastiches"
*"Lone" by Stuart Moore and Jerome Opena [ [ Dark Horse Comics > Profile > Lone TPB ] ]
*"The Misadventures of Clark & Jefferson" [ [ Western Misadventures with Writer Jay Carvajal] , Silver Bullet Comic Books, September 14, 2007]
*"Phantom Rider"
*"Priest" by Hyung Min-woo
*"The Rawhide Kid"
*"Saint of Killers" (4-issue mini-series, "Preacher" spin off, by Garth Ennis)
*"Season of the Reaper", first issue published by Speakeasy Comics before they shut down.
*"Strangeways", solicited by Speakeasy Comics before they closed. Will appear as a graphic novel. [ [ Meeting at the Strangeways] , Newsarama, October 13, 2005] [ [ Matt Maxwell on Strangeways: Murder Moon] , Newsarama, April 4, 2008]
*"", by Arcana Studios [] [ [ Jay Busbee: The Official Site ] ]
*"Tex Arcana" by John Findley [ [ Tex Arcana ] ]
*"Weird Western Tales"
*"The Wild Wild West": The Night of the Iron Tyrants, #1-4 by Mark Ellis and Darryl Banks, Millennium Publications.
*"The Wicked West" [ [ Welcome to the Wicked West ] ] [ [ THE WICKED WEST 2: ABOMINATION AND OTHER TALES] , Newsarama preview, June 18, 2006]
*"Western Tales of Terror" #1-5 (anthology from Hoarse and Buggy) [ [ Western Tales of Terror] ] [ [ Review of Western Tales of Terror #1] ] [ [ Review of Western Tales of Terror #2] ] [ [ Review of Western Tales of Terror #3] ]


In movies, notable Weird West stories include "The Valley of Gwangi" (1969) which used special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen's talents to pit cowboys against dinosaurs. "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" (1966) saw the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid fighting against the notorious vampire. The same year, "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter" paired another famous outlaw with another fictional horror character. "The Ghoul Goes West" was an unproduced Edward D. Wood, Jr. film to star Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the Old West.

Examples include:
*"The Phantom Empire" (serial, 1935)
*"Riders of the Whistling Skull" (1937) [imdb title|id=0029486|title=Riders of the Whistling Skull]
*"The Beast of Hollow Mountain" (1956)
*"Teenage Monster" (1958) [imdb title|id=0051063|title=Teenage Monster]
*"Curse of the Undead" (1959) [imdb title|id=0052718|title=Curse of the Undead]
*"Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" (1966)
*"Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter" (1966)
*"The Valley of Gwangi" (1969)
*"Five Bloody Graves" (1970)
*"Near dark" (1987)
*"High Plains Drifter" (1973)
*"Westworld" (1973)
*"The White Buffalo" (1977)
*"Mad Max 2" 1981)
*"Outland" (1981)
*"" (1982)
*"Pale Rider" (1985)
*"Alien Outlaw" (1985) [imdb title|id=0190229|title=Alien Outlaw]
*"Near Dark" (1987)
*"Ghost Town" (1988)
*"Back to the Future Part III" (1990)
*"Grim Prairie Tales" (1990)
*"" (1991)
*"Mad at the Moon" (1992)
*"Uninvited" (1993)
*"Oblivion" (1994)
*"Cannibal! The Musical" (1996)
*"From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996)
*"Blood Trail" (1997)
*"Purgatory" (1999)
*"Ravenous" (1999)
*"Wild Wild West" (1999)
*"" (2000)
*"The Man with No Eyes" (2001)
*"Legend of the Phantom Rider" (2002)
*"Dead Birds" (2004)
*"" (2004)
*"Serenity" (2005)
*"After Sundown" (2006)
*"Dynamite Warrior" (2006)
*"The Quick and the Undead" (2006)
*"" (2007)
*"" (2007)
*"Ghost Rider" (2007)
*"Cold Harvest"
*"Gallowwalker" (2009)
*"Sacrilege" (2010) [cite web|title=Marshall to direct Rogue's 'Sacrilege'|author=Michael Fleming|publisher=Variety|url=|date=2008-03-10|accessdate=2008-06-11]


One of the most famous examples of the pen-and-paper variety is the horror-hybrid, "Deadlands". Set in an alternate 1870s America, the game draws heavily on gothic horror conventions and old Native American lore to derive its sense of the supernatural. Characters can get involved in situations ranging from banks heists to shoot-outs involving vampires and zombies over the course of their adventures.

Video games also use this same motif, one of the earliest horror-Western games being "SilverLoad" for the PlayStation. The game has a variety of classic horror tropes in it, ranging from werewolves and vampires, to Satanic cults, that the player must contend with nothing more than a trusty six-gun at his hip. In this same vein is the modern PS2/Xbox first-person shooter, "Darkwatch", in which the protagonist is himself a vampire, fighting through the west for either his own redemption, or furthering his own damnation.

A game which is a mix of straight Western with a small amount of horror thrown in is the PS2 game "Red Dead Revolver". It mostly follows a straight path, using many tropes made popular in the films of Sergio Leone for its basis, yet during a couple of levels throws in horror-related adjuncts, such as an evil carnival, or a ghost town where the bosses are implied to have either murdered the townsfolk, or to be dead themselves (such as a gunslinger who was hanged, but appears to fight once more, entering ghostly white and with the remnants of the noose still around his neck).

The PC adventure/puzzle game "Alone in the Dark 3" takes place in a western setting, albeit in the 1920s, and features a number of "weird west" staples, with magic, monsters, the undead, and some anachronistic sci-fi elements such as references to nuclear weaponry.

Examples include:

*"Alone in the Dark 3"
*"God Hand"
*"Red Dead Revolver"
*"Wild Arms"


Ghoultown are a Texan psychobilly band with Spaghetti Western influences. They have released albums like 2001's "Tales from the Dead West" with songs like "Death of Jonah Hex". In turn they produced their own eponymous "vampire-cowboy" comic book, through Bad Moon Studios, which saw an eight page preview in "Texasylum" and the first two issues of a planned four-issue miniseries, before the publisher left the comic field. [ [ Really Scary: Interview with Ghoultown ] ] [ [ Ghoultown Comic Book ] ]

E.J. Wells is another Weird West musician. His music has been described as “Spookabilly” and “Spaghetti Midwestern.” Characterized by high-powered guitar work and narrative lyrics, his music is an amalgam of Americana and roots rock with a Western flavor. Wells’ first CD, “Rhyolite,” was released in 2002. A gothic old-Western pastiche, the album was well received by critics. Fact|date=August 2007 Wells plans to release a new CD in December, 2007.

Knights of Cydonia is a song by English rock band Muse. The video clip is filmed and edited in the style of a spaghetti Western film with post-apocalyptic themes.

ee also

*Cross-genre, of which Weird West is a key example
*List of steampunk works, as a number of the examples veer into this area
*Science fiction Western, a Weird West sub-genre with science-fiction themes in an Old West setting
*Space Western, the application of Western themes to a science-fiction frontier setting which has some crossover with the Weird West genre
*Western genre in other media


External links

* [ The Wild, Weird West, Part One] and [ Part Two] , "Horror-Wood" e-zine, 2002
* [ Steampunk Central - The Home of Western Steampunk]
* [ In Search Of... Cowboy Zombie Zero] , with input from Jess Nevins

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