The Sixth Gun Deluxe Omnibus Library crowdfunding project is underway. Actually it’s barreling along like a locomotive as of this writing. It’s debuting four deluxe hardcover volumes collecting the totality of the weird western series from Oni Press. The project’s also paving the way for all-new The Sixth Gun tales.
The Sixth Gun series has been around for almost 15-years. It’s Oni’s most successful creator-owned series ever. Comicosity called it: “Wildly entertaining… Filled with magic, mysticism, horror, and a great sense of adventure that has been built masterfully over several years.”
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The ombnibus includes all 50 issues of the comic’s initial run plus The Sixth Gun: Sons Of The Gun #1-5, The Sixth Gun: Days Of The Dead #1-5, The Sixth Gun: Dust To Dust #1-3, and The Sixth Gun: Valley Of Death #1-3 series, alongside the standalone spin-off series, Shadow Roads #1-10.
Set in the 1880s, The Sixth Gun saga focuses on six pistols. Each is imbued with dark powers. When a pair of protagonists set out to collect all six, the wild and roaring adventure unfolds.
Created by writer Cullen Bunn (X-Men: Blue) and illustrator Brian Hurtt (Hard Times), the series has thrilled fans, and the crowdfunding campaign will be debuting the first look ahead at the return of The Sixth Gun – slated for release in 2025. That coincides with the series’ 15th anniversary. Three, all-new prelude stories are unlocking or have unlocked at campaign milestones. Eventually these will be packaged as self-contained, 24-page issues in standard comic book format to accompany The Sixth Gun Deluxe Omnibus Library multiple hardcover volumes.
With this event unfolding, and the anniversary on the horizon, Wicked Horror posed a few questions for Cullen and Brian.
Wicked Horror: What do you remember first and foremost about the creation of The Sixth Gun? Where did the spark first occur, or when the first hammer come down?
Cullen: The Sixth Gun went through many different variations and approaches, actually. The initial seed of an idea took shape as a potential storyline for the other book Brian and I had been working on, The Damned. The idea was there, but I just couldn’t make it work the way I wanted in the confines of the story. Then, I tried a modern approach to the tale, but I still wasn’t happy with how it turned out. Even once I landed on the idea of doing a weird western, the story was quite different initially. It was darker, much more of a horror story, and it was only intended to run for 6 issues. After lots and lots of tinkering, it became the epic Weird Western that we have today.
Wicked Horror: The notion of objects imbued with unique powers seems familiar in the fantasy universe, but transplanting that trope to the western genre’s inspired, and that’s drawn a lot of praise. Were there fantasy influences along the way?
Cullen: For sure. I think the biggest influence I have for the book–the influence I really had in mind while writing the series initially–would be Michael Moorcock’s Elric and Corum books. That dark, weird fantasy. Those powerful, strange magical items. Another fantasy influence that didn’t dawn on me at the time but struck me later, would be Fred Saberhagen’s Book Of Swords series, which had all those wild magical swords in it.
Wicked Horror: What were your horror influences?
Cullen: There’s a long list here. In prose, [Joe R.] Lansdale, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Robert E. Howard, Clive Barker. In film, the list goes on and on and on, with The Thing and Alien taking top marks. I read and watch a lot of horror, and all of it has some influence. Even the bad stuff leaves a mark. Beyond that, it’s not hard to find horrific influences. I think a lot of dark thoughts. The world around me frightens me on a daily basis.
Wicked Horror: What about favorite westerns? Books, movies? What was in your great pool of imagination as you set about writing the first arc of The Sixth Gun?
Cullen: In terms of movies, Tombstone and The Outlaw Josey Wales compete for the top position of my favorite Westerns, but there are many, many others that I love dearly. With books, it’s True Grit and Lonesome Dove. Weird westerns, though… that’s a different beast. Joe Lansdale’s Dead In The West and The Magic Wagon are a couple of weird westerns that turned me into a fan of the genre.
Wicked Horror: What was the early creative process like? How much back-and-forth did you and Brian have in shaping the world and The Sixth Gun universe?
Cullen: There was a lot of back and forth. Brian and I used to meet at my office for hours, throwing out ideas, writing them on a white board. That was part of what made The Sixth Gun so much fun for me, just throwing out ideas and seeing what would stick.
Wicked Horror: Were there aspects of Brian’s art that sparked directions you hadn’t expected at the outset?
Cullen: Oh, yeah. Brian would often design a character that would inspire pages and pages of story for me. Sometimes, he’d show me pages from his sketchbook that would create new characters or story directions. I’d see a dragon in his sketchbook and think to myself, “You know what this Weird Western needs? A dragon!”
Wicked Horror: Give us a hint of what’s coming in the new arc in 2025 or what’s going to be unveiled in the Kickstarter.
Cullen: I can’t! It’s top secret! All I can say is that we will be bringing the stories of The Sixth Gun and Shadow Roads together in a big, big way. If you read those two series, the hints are there. You just have to find them!
Wicked Horror: How did you feel when the idea of a dark fantasy western took shape. Had you ever thought: “Hey, I’d really love to draw cowboys?”
Brian: I don’t think the idea of doing a western had crossed my mind until just before The Sixth Gun came along. I must have been on a western film kick and I had been trying to come up with a different twist on a western myself. It was just a thought exercise at the time, but it ended up bearing no fruit. So I was pretty jealous when–within a week or two–Cullen called and told me about this idea called The Sixth Gun.
He wasn’t even pitching it to me as a collaboration as we both knew I was already knee-deep in another project. He was just sharing this cool idea he had. I remember being immediately taken with it and was sad that I wasn’t going to be able to work on it! It stuck in my head so much that I even did some sketches that I shared with him, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to draw the book. Fortunately for all of us, twists and turns in the road eventually had our schedules lining up–to my great, great relief–and the rest is history!
Wicked Horror: Were there any challenges in taking a western idea and making it work for comics? There have been western comics probably since the beginning of comic books, but before The Sixth Gun, it wasn’t what might have been called a hot genre for comics.
Brian: Cullen and I have a tendency to gravitate towards the hottest and most lucrative sub-genres: Prohibition gangster/horror (The Damned) and dark fantasy/weird western (The Sixth Gun). I kid, but I think there’s probably something in us that appreciates a challenge or is drawn to neglected, uncrowded genres. And we love a genre mash-up!
The only challenge I find in bringing a western to comics still remains the bias a lot of folks feel towards reading a western. A common refrain we still get is, “I don’t normally like westerns, but…”. When we can break through those biases and get a reader to pick up the book they are always hooked. For western fans and non-fans, this series is unpredictable and goes against all expectations and I think that is ultimately the secret to its success.
Wicked Horror: Do you have favorite comics artists who inspired you?
Brian: Oh boy. I mean, I have been inspired by scores of artists and I’m still discovering artists that inspire me. I have a harder time speaking to the artists that influenced my work the most. I think that’s for others to say–I don’t have a subjective enough view of my own work.
As a teenager, I was a big fan of Walt Simonson, Marc Silvestri, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, to name just a few off the top of my head!
As I got older–late teens, early twenties–some of my favorite comic artists were Chris Bachalo, Paul Pope, Moebius, and too many others to name! DC’s Vertigo imprint was at its height and indie comics were thriving—I was discovering such eclectic talent and approaches to comics. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself looking back at artists like Toth and Canniff and I’m also inspired by some of the great, contemporary European comics artists like Blutch, Christophe Blain, Gipi, and Kerascoet. Like a lot of comic artists, my tastes are all over the place!
Wicked Horror: With a new arc coming and some surprises planned on Kickstarter, it’s kind of a new Sixth Gun era. Are you doing anything different art-wise than you did in the beginning?
Brian: I’m constantly trying to improve as an artist so there will inevitably be adjustments and slightly different approaches I’ll be taking. I try not to talk too specifically about what I’m doing on the page because I don’t want to draw attention to it. My goal is always to serve the story first and drawing too much attention to what I’m doing on the page can only be a disservice to the story.
In short, I’m hoping I’ve learned something in the last several years and my art is incrementally better!
Wicked Horror: Are there any challenges in taking a story with a long history forward into a new beginning almost?
Brian: Yes! Absolutely. It’s early days still, but creating something that feels fresh and new while also honoring what has come before is a challenge that Cullen and I are both well aware of. Fortunately, it’s in those challenges that creativity thrives so I’m looking forward to it!
Wicked Horror threw a few questions at both crators too.
Wicked Horror: Did you have any favorite western comics from your reading days? The original Ghost Rider? Jonah Hex?
Cullen: I was definitely a Jonah Hex fan, especially the blatantly supernatural mini-series that Joe R. Lansdale did.
Brian: Cullen stole my answer. When I think of western comics, it’s the Jonah Hex comics of Lansdale and Truman.
Wicked Horror: What’s your creative process like? How closely do you interact?
Brian: I’d say we work very closely, up to a point. There are a lot of conversations as we’re building the world or trying to get our arms around the broad strokes of a story. But, when it comes time to write the script and draw the comic we both retreat to our separate corners and do the work.
Cullen: There’s a lot of meetings, either in-person, on Zoom, or over the phone. We talk about the story in big, sweeping terms, throwing out ideas about what we want to see, what story elements would be fun for us. Sometimes, we have to talk each other off the ledge of some ridiculous concept. In the end, it’s a lot like two friends just riffing on a universe that they love. Once those initial discussions are done, I write a script. Usually, I try to surprise Brian with something in the script, something he might not be expecting based on our previous conversations. Then, Brian draws the issue. There might be a few calls while he’s drawing the book. After the issue is drawn, we talk again to make sure the dialogue still tracks with the art that has been put on the page.
Wicked Horror: Were you surprised by The Sixth Gun’s popularity? Did you expect to be working on it more than 10-years later?
Brian: I expect I’ll be creating something in this sandbox in another 10 years time. And in 20 years! The Sixth Gun has done everything we’d hoped it would–it’s resonated and entertained readers in the same way it has us! It was our goal to make a comic that we’d love to read month-to-month and the feedback we’ve received from the beginning has told us that we’ve achieved that! To say it’s been gratifying is an understatement!
Cullen: I don’t know that I’d say I’m surprised. We’ve always said that if people give the book a chance, they’ll love it. I’m thrilled, though, that it resonates with readers. And Brian and I have been kicking around new ideas for The Sixth Gun since we ended the series. I knew it was just a matter of time before we landed on a story that we absolutely had to tell.
Fans looking to get on board the Kickstarter and pick up some extras can check it out here.