Weird West

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Scene from The Wild Wild West
television series

Weird West (aka Weird Western) is a term used, often collectively, for the hybrid genres of fantasy Western, horror Western and science fiction Western.[1] The term originated with DC's Weird Western Tales in 1972, but the idea is older as the genres have been blended since the 1930s, possibly earlier, in B-movie Westerns, comic books, movie serials and pulp magazines.[1] Individually, the hybrid genres combine elements of the Western genre with those of fantasy, horror and science fiction respectively.[2]

Media[edit]

Literature[edit]

Two early examples of Western fantasy are the short story "The Horror from the Mound" by Robert E. Howard, published in the May 1932 issue of the pulp magazine Weird Tales,[3] and the novelette "Spud and Cochise" by anthropologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oliver La Farge, published in the non-genre magazine The Forum in January 1936.[4]

One of the earliest novels to introduce fantasy into a Western setting was The Circus of Dr. Lao (1935), by Charles G. Finney, which won a National Book Award for the Most Original Book of 1935.[5] The novel concerns the visit to a fictional Arizona town by a magical circus featuring legendary creatures from mythology. It was later adapted into the film version 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1963).[6]

Later novels include those by Joe R. Lansdale, who has written mostly horror Westerns, many featuring his hero the Reverend Jebediah Mercer. Lansdale has often mixed splatterpunk with alternate history Western.[7][8] An example is Dead in the West (1983), in which zombies rise after an unjustly lynched Indian shaman has cursed the town of Mud Creek, Texas.[9][10] The prolific Western author Louis L'Amour sometimes ventured into science fiction, as with The Haunted Mesa (1987) which is set amid the ruins of the Anasazi.[11] Horror author Jack Ketchum's work includes The Crossings (2004), an occult novel set in 1848 Arizona.[12]

Comics[edit]

Space Western number 44, Charlton Comics, June 1952. Artist: Stan Campbell.

From the 1940s, many Western comics published stories in which heroes would sometimes encounter monsters, aliens, supervillains, etc. Marvel Comics featured Kid Colt, the longest-running Western character in American comic books, from 1948 to 1979. He became a time traveller and, ultimately, a mutant.[13] The Rawhide Kid, another time traveller, debuted for Marvel in a 16-issue series from March 1955 to September 1957 from Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics.[14]

DC Comics added a horror element to their Western stories by introducing Weird Western Tales in 1972. The title of this series gave rise to the term Weird West. It ran for eight years and 59 issues. The main character was Jonah Hex, whose popularity secured his own eponymous series.[15][16]

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Desperadoes by Jeff Mariotte, from Image Comics/WildStorm Productions returned Weird Western comics to the stands at a time when none of the major publishers had Western comics in their line-ups.[17]

Preacher Special: Saint of Killers, a 4-issue mini-series, was a spin-off from Preacher by Garth Ennis. While the origin of the Saint of Killers in the Old West is the only true western element in the comic book Preacher, the series has been described as a "Splatterpunk Western" or a mix of the Western with the Gothic.[18]

Films[edit]

In films, The Phantom Empire (1935) is sometimes considered the first fantasy Western. Gene Autry, in his first starring role as a singing cowboy, ventures down a mineshaft and discovers a futuristic lost kingdom of the type depicted in Flash Gordon.[19] Horror Westerns began in the 1950s with the vampire western Curse of the Undead, and continued in the 1960s with films like Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966), which depicted the real-life outlaw fighting against the fictional vampire,[20][1] and The Valley of Gwangi (1969) in which Ray Harryhausen's special effects were used to pit cowboys against dinosaurs.[19][1] Other Westerns with elements of fantasy, horror or science fiction are 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964),[6] Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), High Plains Drifter (1973),[21] The White Buffalo (1977),[22] Pale Rider (1985),[21] Ghost Town (1988),[20] Wild Wild West (1999), [23][24] Purgatory (1999), Jonah Hex (2010),[25] and Bone Tomahawk (2015).[26]

Television series[edit]

In the 1960s, the television series The Wild Wild West brought elements of pulp espionage and science fiction to its Old West setting.[27][28] The animated adventures of The Lone Ranger followed suit with the famous Western hero encountering mad scientists and other villains not often found in the Western genre.[29] Additionally, Rod Serling's supernatural anthology series The Twilight Zone featured a handful of Western episodes such as Showdown with Rance McGrew.[30] Later series are The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993–1994), which featured steampunk elements;[31] Wynonna Earp (2016), a horror Western about a present-day woman with a magic Colt Buntline revolver who fights reincarnations of outlaws killed by her ancestor, Wyatt Earp[32] and Preacher (2016) based on the comic book series Preacher.

Games[edit]

Deadlands, first published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group in 1996, originated as a role-playing game which combines the Western and horror genres with steampunk elements. It is set in an alternate 1870s America and 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.[33]

Undead Nightmare (2010), an expansion to Red Dead Redemption (2010), is a horror Western video game. It tells the tale of an undead outbreak that has spread across the frontier. Other fantasy elements are new weapons such as holy water, and new mythical mounts, which include a unicorn and the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. Its sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2, features a number of minor Easter eggs which the player may discover, such as UFOs and the remains of a giant hominid.[34]

Variants[edit]

Less common hybrid genres may include the acid WesternThe Shooting, released in 1966, has been cited as the first film of this kind.[35] The horror Western essentially depicts the supernatural in an Old West setting and Kim Newman comments upon the "Indian Curse cycle" and the Gothic Western – featuring vampires, zombies and the like – as the two main types.[20] An example of the Indian Curse movie is The Ghost Dance (1982) in which a Native American shaman is possessed by an evil spirit.[36][20] A Gothic Western example is Ghost Town (1988), about the quest of a sheriff to defeat a zombie gunfighter by using his star-shaped badge of office as a shuriken.[20]

The steampunk Western, a variant of the science fiction Western, typically depicts an alternative history of the Old West but emphasises society's reliance on steam power, as in The Wild Wild West, a 1960s TV series.[23][24] Another variant of the science fiction Western is the Space Western, which applies Western themes to a science-fiction frontier setting. As such, these works are usually set on other worlds but sometimes the action takes place in the Old West, as in Cowboys & Aliens (2011) with an alien spacecraft landing in 1870s Arizona.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bogutskaya, Anna (March 27, 2020). "Where to begin with the Weird West". British Film Institute (BFI). Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  2. ^ Newman 1990, pp. 176–189.
  3. ^ "The Horror from the Mound". gutenberg.net.au. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  4. ^ Spud and Cochise title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  5. ^ "Books and Authors". The New York Times. April 12, 1936. p. BR12.
  6. ^ a b Thompson, Howard (July 23, 1964). "The 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1963)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Salov, Marc (August 22, 1997). "Interview with Joe R. Lansdale". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  8. ^ Slater, Maggie (May 7, 2013). "Interview with Joe R. Lansdale". Apex Magazine. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  9. ^ "Dead in the West". Goodreads, Inc. August 1, 2005. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  10. ^ "Dead in the West". Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  11. ^ Barron, James (June 13, 1988). "Louis L'Amour, Writer, Is Dead; Famed Chronicler of West Was 80". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Thorpe, Valarie (2003). "Hanging Out in the Weird West with Jack Ketchum". Studies in Modern Horror. 1 (1): 22–31.
  13. ^ Markstein, Do. "Kid Colt, Outlaw". Toonopedia. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  14. ^ Markstein, Don. "The Rawhide Kid". Toonopedia. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  15. ^ Weird Western Tales at the Grand Comics Database
  16. ^ Overstreet, Robert M. (2019). Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (49 ed.). Timonium, Maryland: Gemstone Publishing. p. 1148. ISBN 978-16-03602-33-4.
  17. ^ Furey, Emmett (October 30, 2006). "How the West was Weird: Mariotte talks "Desperadoes" Return". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  18. ^ Kitson, Niall (2007). "Rebel Yells: Genre Hybridity and Irishness in Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon's Preacher". Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. 2.
  19. ^ a b Newman 1990, p. 186.
  20. ^ a b c d e Newman 1990, p. 177.
  21. ^ a b Newman 1990, p. 179.
  22. ^ Brenner, Paul (2008). "The White Buffalo". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on June 1, 2008. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Newman 1990, p. 187.
  24. ^ a b "The Wild Wild West TV Show". Steampunkary. May 26, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  25. ^ "Jonah Hex". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  26. ^ "Film of the week: Bone Tomahawk". BFI. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  27. ^ "The Wild Wild West (1969)". TV.com. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  28. ^ Magers, Boyd. "The Wild Wild West". Western Clippings. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  29. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 369–370. ISBN 978-15-38103-73-9.
  30. ^ Amory, C. (January 15–21, 1966). "Review: The Loner". TV Guide: 2. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  31. ^ Klaw, Rick (2008). "The Steam-Driven Time Machine: A Pop Culture Survey". In VanderMeer, Ann & VanderMeer, Jeff (eds.). Steampunk. San Francisco, CA: Tachyon Publications. p. 352. ISBN 978-18-92391-75-9.
  32. ^ Logan, Megan (June 3, 2016). "This is How You Carry A Show: Melanie Scrofano Dominates As Wynonna Earp". Inverse. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  33. ^ "Review: Deadlands". Shadis. Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) (30). 1996.
  34. ^ Steimer, Kristine (October 27, 2010). "Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Review". IGN. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  35. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (June 26, 1996). "Acid Western: Dead Man". Chicago Reader. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  36. ^ Sykes, Brad (2018). Terror in the Desert: Dark Cinema of the American Southwest. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 136. ISBN 978-14-76631-32-5.
  37. ^ "Cowboys & Aliens". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 3, 2021.

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Green, Paul (October 2009). Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns: Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4390-1.