DC's Weird Western Tales appeared in the early 1970s and the weird Western was further popularized by Joe R. Lansdale who is perhaps best known for his tales of the 'weird west,' a genre mixing splatterpunk with alternate history Western.
Examples of these cross-genres include Deadlands (Western/horror), The Wild Wild West and its later film adaptation (Western/steampunk), Jonah Hex (Western/supernatural), BraveStarr (Western/science fiction), The Goodbye Family (Western/macabre comedy), and many others.
When supernatural menaces of horror fiction are injected into a Western setting, it creates the horror Western. Writer G.W. Thomas 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.'"
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 heyday 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. Around that same time, 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 him. His adventures appeared in the British story paper The 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 not even the Reverend Jebediah Mercer can save the inhabitants.
In the 1960s, the television series The Wild Wild West brought elements of pulp espionage and science fiction to its Old West setting, and 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 the Western genre. Additionally, Rod Serling's supernatural anthology series The Twilight Zone featured a handful of Western episodes such as "Showdown with Rance McGrew" and "Mr. Denton on Doomsday."
Other examples include:
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, pushed further in three mini-series from Vertigo written by Joe R. Lansdale. 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.
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.
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 Versus 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 famous horror character. The Ghoul Goes West was an unproduced Ed Wood film to star Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the Old West.
An example 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. Another example is the White Wolf Game Studio production, Werewolf: The Wild West, in which players play werewolf characters (called garou) who are charged with fighting a force of spiritual corruption called the Storm-Eater.
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.
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.
The PC first-person shooter title, Blood, is an occult-horror-comedy hybrid, and sets the player avatar "Caleb" in approximately 1920 (retroactively dated as 1928 in the game's sequel) as an un-dead gunslinger anti-hero from the late 19th century, who rises from his grave to battle a widespread cult by which he was betrayed and killed when he was a member. Gun play, the undead, horror, the occult, and the underworld are strong elements of the game. The game spawned a sequel, Blood II: The Chosen, although it was much less influenced by the main character's western back-story. One level of its expansion pack, however, is set in a western frontier town.
Another weird western is the Wild ARMs series – video games that mix together high-fantasy magic and science-fiction technology with Old-West-style gunslinging. Each game changes leads and alters settings (though the world's name, Filgaia, remains throughout), but always at the core are the ideas of "drifting" and of one's personalized sense of justice among outlaws.
Red Dead Redemption, a Western-themed video game, enters into the genre of Weird West with its Undead Nightmare add-on. The story revolves around 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.
Fallout: New Vegas, a post-apocalyptic game set in the Mojave Desert has an additional perk at the beginning of the game named "Wild Wasteland" that adds various strange occurrences to the game. The game itself could also be considered a Weird West game due to its mixing of Western, Horror, Survival, and Science Fiction styles.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II includes a map for its Zombies mode called Buried. The map takes place in a subterranean ghost town complete with saloon and general store that is located in Angola due to tectonic plate shifting. Naturally, the zombies are the reanimated town folk, dressed in period attire.
Hard West, turn-based tactical game. The game follows standards of the Western genre, like bank robberies, lynching and the gold rush, but with the addition of supernatural elements, such as demons, shamans, satanic cults.
West of Loathing, a single-player comedy/adventure RPG, takes place about twenty years after "The Cows Came Home", a mysterious cataclysmic event that caused all cows to transform into demonic monsters, devastating the west. The player character must help with the completion of a transcontinental railroad that will make travel faster and safer for would-be settlers. This involves navigating a variety of obstacles including the aforementioned demonic cows, as well as giant snakes, necromantic cultists, literal ghost towns, murderous rodeo clowns, goblins, malfunctioning robots left behind by a long-dead civilization, and occasionally ordinary bandits.
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.
The 2015 music video for the Brandon Flowers song "Can't Deny My Love" transposes Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1835 story Young Goodman Brown to a Western frontier setting. Flowers plays an unnamed protagonist who leaves his young wife (played by Evan Rachel Wood) for some unknown errand in the desert, despite her pleas that he stay with her "tonight of all nights." On his journey he meets a man with a black staff (played by Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs), and later he discovers a group of townspeople carrying out witchcraft-like ceremonies — his wife among them. The protagonist tries to flee when the townspeople notice him, but as they approach the scene instantly vanishes and the man awakes uncertain whether the previous night's events were real or a dream.
Billy the Kid Versus Dracula is a 1966 American low-budget horror-Western film directed by William Beaudine. It was released theatrically as part of a double feature along with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. Both films were shot in eight days at Corriganville Movie Ranch and at Paramount Studios in mid-1965; both were the final feature films of director William Beaudine. The film revolves around Billy the Kid (played by stuntman Chuck Courtney) trying to save his fiancée from Dracula (John Carradine) (though the name "Dracula" is never mentioned in this film). The films were produced by television producer Carroll Case for Joseph E. Levine.Curse of the Undead
Curse of the Undead is a 1959 American Western horror film from Universal-International Pictures, directed by Edward Dein and starring Eric Fleming, Michael Pate and Kathleen Crowley.Deadlands
Deadlands is a genre-mixing alternate history role-playing game which combines the Western and horror genres, with some steampunk elements. It was written by Shane Lacy Hensley and published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group.
The eight-times Origins Award-winning setting has been converted to many other systems over the years and is available in the original Classic Rules, the revised Classic Rules, d20 System, GURPS, as well as a Savage Worlds version called Deadlands: Reloaded.El Diablo (comics)
El Diablo is a name shared by several fictional characters published by DC Comics: Lazarus Lane, Rafael Sandoval, Chato Santana.El Topo
El Topo (English: "The Mole") is a 1970 Mexican acid Western film written, scored, directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky. Characterized by its bizarre characters and occurrences, use of maimed and dwarf performers, and heavy doses of Christian symbolism and Eastern philosophy, the film is about the eponymous character – a violent, black-clad gunfighter – and his quest for enlightenment.High Moon
High Moon is a werewolf western webcomic series, developed in 2004 with a debut in 2007 as a part of Zuda, DC Comics' webcomic imprint. The first season concluded on July 8, 2008. Season two ran from August 16 to November 25, 2008. Season three began its run on February 9, 2009. Season four began its run on October 3, 2009. Serialization ended when Zuda Comics shut down in 2010. On February 10, 2017, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Papercutz would re-release HIGH MOON in a new collection, consisting of three volumes for their Super Genius imprint.High Plains Drifter
High Plains Drifter is a 1973 American Western film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, written by Ernest Tidyman, and produced by Robert Daley for Malpaso Company and Universal Pictures. Eastwood plays a mysterious, prepotent stranger, meting out justice in a corrupt frontier mining town. The film was influenced by the work of Eastwood's two major collaborators, film directors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.The film was shot on location on the shores of Mono Lake, California. Dee Barton wrote the film score. The film was critically acclaimed at the time of its initial release and remains popular today, holding a score of 96% at the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.High Plains Invaders
High Plains Invaders is a 2009 science fiction television film that aired on the Syfy Channel. It is the 21st film of the Maneater Series. The film stars James Marsters.Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter is a low-budget western/horror hybrid film released in 1966, in which a fictionalized version of the real-life western outlaw Jesse James encounters the fictional granddaughter (the film's title notwithstanding) of the famous Dr. Frankenstein. The film was originally released as part of a double feature along with Billy the Kid Versus Dracula in 1966. Both films were shot in eight days at Corriganville Movie Ranch and at Paramount Studios in mid-1965; both were the final feature films of director William Beaudine. The films were produced by television producer Carroll Case for Joseph E. Levine.Jonah Hex (film)
Jonah Hex is a 2010 American western superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Directed by Jimmy Hayward at his live-action directorial debut and written by Neveldine/Taylor, the film stars Josh Brolin in the title role, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon and Wes Bentley.
Produced by Legendary Pictures, Andrew Lazar's Mad Chance Productions and Akiva Goldsman's Weed Road Pictures, the film was released on June 18, 2010 by Warner Bros. Pictures and was a major critical and commercial failure, grossing only $10 million against a budget of $47 million.Left for Dead (2007 Western film)
Left for Dead is a 2007 American-Argentine horror western film directed by Albert Pyun and starring Victoria Maurette.Rango (2011 film)
Rango is a 2011 American computer-animated Western action comedy film co-produced (with Graham King and John B. Carls) and directed by Gore Verbinski as his first animated film from a screenplay by John Logan. Starring the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Root and Ned Beatty, the film centers on Rango, a chameleon who accidentally ends up in the town of Dirt, an outpost that is in desperate need of a new sheriff. The film was produced by Nickelodeon Movies, Verbinski's Blind Wink Productions, King's GK Films and Industrial Light & Magic as its first animated film.Rango premiered at Westwood on February 14, 2011 and was released in the United States on March 4, 2011 by Paramount Pictures. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing $245.7 million against a budget of $135 million. The film won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it the first non-Disney or Pixar film to win that award since 2006's Happy Feet, and it was the last one to win until 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.Riders of the Whistling Skull
Riders of the Whistling Skull is a 1937 "Three Mesquiteers" Western B-movie of the weird western genre starring Bob Livingston, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and ventriloquist Max Terhune with his dummy Elmer. It was directed by Mack V. Wright, produced by Nat Levine and released by Republic Pictures. The film is based on the 1934 novel by William Colt MacDonald.Silent Tongue
Silent Tongue is a 1994 American western horror film written and directed by Sam Shepard. It was filmed in the spring of 1992, but not released until 1994. It was filmed near Roswell, New Mexico and features Richard Harris, Sheila Tousey, Alan Bates, Dermot Mulroney and River Phoenix.The Beast of Hollow Mountain
The Beast of Hollow Mountain is a 1956 Weird West horror film about an American cowboy living in Mexico who discovers his missing cattle are being preyed upon by dinosaurs.
The first film to show dinosaurs and cowboys in the same picture, it is notable for being based on a story idea by special effects innovator Willis O'Brien. O'Brien was also to have originally done the special effects for this movie, but this did not happen for reasons unknown. Jack Rabin, Henry Sharp and Louis de Witt ended up doing the effects, probably based on O'Brien's storyboards. This film was one of the few American/Mexican co-productions of the 50s. It was made in color and filmed in CinemaScope. It starred Guy Madison and Patricia Medina, and was produced/ co-directed by Edward Nassour.The White Buffalo
The White Buffalo is a 1977 western film directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Charles Bronson, Kim Novak, Jack Warden, Slim Pickens and Will Sampson.Western comics
Western comics is a comics genre usually depicting the American Old West frontier (usually anywhere west of the Mississippi River) and typically set during the late nineteenth century. The term is generally associated with an American comic books genre published from the late 1940s through the 1950s (though the genre had continuing popularity in Europe, and persists in limited form in American comics today). Western comics of the period typically featured dramatic scripts about cowboys, gunfighters, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, and Native Americans. Accompanying artwork depicted a rural America populated with such iconic images as guns, cowboy hats, vests, horses, saloons, ranches, and deserts, contemporaneous with the setting.Wild Wild West
Wild Wild West is a 1999 American steampunk western action comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Loosely based on The Wild Wild West 1960s TV series created by Michael Garrison, the film stars Will Smith and Kevin Kline as two Secret Service agents who protect President Ulysses S. Grant. The supporting cast features Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Ted Levine, M. Emmet Walsh and Bai Ling as well as featuring extensive visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic.
The film was released worldwide on June 30, 1999 by Warner Bros. and was a critical and commercial disappointment, earning only $222.1 million worldwide against a $170 million budget.
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