Horror/Western Hybrid THE SIXTH GUN Rides Again

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There is a lot of stuff going on with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s comic series The Sixth Gun, including a Kickstarter for deluxe hardcover omnibus editions. This is the longest running creator-owned series released by Oni Press, and it mixes horror, fantasy and Westerns into a unique and popular story form. Both Bunn and Hurtt spoke to Cemetery Dance about their Kickstarter campaign, their upcoming Sixth Gun comics, and what it is they like about writing and drawing in the horror genre.

(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)

set of The Sixth Gun omnibusses

CEMETERY DANCE: Congrats on the return of The Sixth Gun! How did this come about?

CULLEN BUNN: To some degree, Brian and I have never let the hope of returning to The Sixth Gun die out. We’ve always talked about a return to that world. We even created a new group of characters to serve as our path into new tales in the weird west setting. That series was Shadow Roads. But, even though there were some connective threads, it was its own thing. We kicked around the idea of returning to The Sixth Gun in a bigger, more definitive way, but we didn’t want to do it unless it mattered, unless it actually honored and even improved the things that have come before. Then, during one of our conversations, we stumbled onto a notion that could combine The Sixth Gun and Shadow Roads into something massive, into something epic, and we haven’t stopped talking about it since!

BRIAN HURTT: Like Cullen said, we never really shut the door on The Sixth Gun. Over the past few years, we would regularly discuss ideas and notions of what we might do or where we might go with this world. We had some fun ideas and directions to take the lore, but nothing we came up with felt necessary or additive to the world of The Sixth Gun. It wasn’t until very recently that a concept for moving forward in a compelling way struck us. And by compelling, I mean that we felt absolutely compelled to do this. We felt that we had a real opportunity to return to this world and tell a story that was not only as engaging as the original series but that would also enrich that original story.

It isn’t too often you find horror fantasy westerns. What do you like about blending these genres?

cover of Dead in the WestCB: I’ve always loved weird westerns. When I was a kid, it was reading old Jonah Hex comics or watching movies like Billy the Kid Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. When I was a little older, someone put copies of Joe R. Lansdale’s Dead in the West and The Magic Wagon in my hand, and that was like a fireball exploding in my brain. The first prose story I ever sold was a weird west homage to Joe’s work. The magazine folded before the story was published, and that might be a good thing. I just love the tropes of a well-known genre like the Western being turned upside down by the unpredictable influence of fantasy and horror. It feels like the Wild West! Anything goes! And I love how we can really surprise readers with where we take these stories.

BH: Prior to The Sixth Gun my only exposure to this kind of horror-western genre were the Joe R. Lansdale Jonah Hex comics of the 90s. But I was a fan of horror. And a fan of westerns. And a fan of fantasy. For me, working on a series that blended all of these genres was a thrilling prospect. I felt like a mad scientist working to mash-up all of these genres that I loved independently and finding a way to do that in a visual way that made it feel seamless and natural.

What sort of goodies are you offering in your Kickstarter?

CB: The Kickstarter is for deluxe hardcover omnibus editions of The Sixth Gun, and they are going to be gorgeous artifact editions that both existing and new fans are going to want on their bookcases. In addition, though, we’re offering new stories, both in comic book and prose form, that will whet your appetite for the epic adventure that will be kicking off in 2025, the fifteenth anniversary of The Sixth Gun. Those are being offered as stretch goals in the campaign. There are also variant edition comics (with a cover by the great Chris Samnee), limited edition versions of the books, pin sets, print portfolios, and much more! I back a lot of Kickstarter campaigns, and this one has all the “crunchy bits” I absolutely love!

Can you give us any information about the upcoming Sixth Gun comics?

an issue of Shadow RoadsCB: I really don’t want to say much. We have a big story in mind, one that will blow your mind, I think. It connects The Sixth Gun and Shadow Roads into something new, honors what has come before, and forges some unexpected paths. The Sixth Gun was full of elements you might never expect. This new series will follow in those footsteps.

BH: We have some big ideas that I think readers old and new are going to love and be surprised by. But just as importantly, I’m looking forward to the moments where we surprise ourselves. I know from our experience on The Sixth Gun that some of the best moments and turns in the comic were not planned far in advance but came as Cullen and I got swept up in our own world. Just as no one who read the first arc of The Sixth Gun could predict where that series would ultimately go, I can comfortably say that no one will be able to anticipate what we have in store for this new iteration. And I hope that is what will keep readers coming back for more!

What do you like best about writing or drawing horror comics?

CB: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Horror is a hopeful genre for me. These awful, terrifying events can fall upon our heroes, and they struggle to overcome. They might fail. They might die horrible deaths. But at least they tried! It makes me think I can face whatever challenge may come my way. I like writing horror because it is so broad. I can tell so many different types of stories –– quiet horror, action horror, comedic horror –– and never get tired of trying to scare readers. And horror fans? They’re among the most kind and welcoming folks in the world.

BH: I wish I could explain that feeling of being drawn to the darkness. But like, in a fun way? I think every horror fan knows that feeling. That “it’s scary or creepy and I love it” feeling. And maybe as an artist there is something about taking control of the horror narrative — delving into that darkness — that gives you power over that darkness. Or maybe I just love drawing monsters!

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

CB: For me, you can always visit cullenbunn.com. From there, you can connect to my news and updates. I’ve also got a weekly newsletter that features news, behind-the-scenes secrets, fiction, and all sorts of fun. You can subscribe to that at cullenbunn.substack.com.

BRIAN: I can mainly be found on instagram as @brihurtt.

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