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Saturday, May 10, 2008

What Do You Mean They're Not Superheroes?: Westerns

This is the first of what will probably be a series of articles all about the comics I read that don't feature a single spandex clad superhero in their pages, however instead of talking about individual comics I will first be talking about genres so buckle in for what will be a fun ride.

What is it about men who ride horses, carry six shooters, and wear 10 Gallon hats that fascinates me so? I don't know that I will ever know for certain. It all started when I was very, very young and I started waking up at around 5:30 in the morning to watch the old black and white Lone Ranger television show. There was some sort of instant connection for me and to this day I don't know where it came from. As I grew up I sort of lost my connection to the wild west. Sure I would watch the occasional movie here and there and some became fast favorites for one reason or another. Perhaps it is the ethical and moral ambiguity that the characters live in. Perhaps it is the same reason that I love noir. In essence the truly good westerns and the truly good noir stories are separated only by time and attire. But movies like Unforgiven, Once Upon A Time in the West, and television shows like Deadwood, The Lone Ranger developed in me an appreciation for the wild west. And it was only a matter of time and sufficient exposure that I became as big a fan of western comics.

To be honest I don't know what took me so long. I suppose that since a majority of comics that we are exposed to as an audience are super hero comics that it takes some of us longer to allow our focus to shift to stories that are other than those of capes, spandex, and cowls. But it also has to do with the cyclical being that is the comics market. It has only really been in the last 5 or so years that there has been a consistent readership for westerns. But if you are willing to venture outside your comfort zone and read books that are spandex free then you are in for a treat.

From the immensely dense to the instantly accessable westerns run the same gamut as normal comics. With tales of the weird wild west like Wildstorm's (and later IDW's) Desperadoes by Jeff Marrioette and a slew of really great artists, The Big Book of The Weird Wild West, Zuda Comics' High Moon, Doug Tenapel's Iron West, as well as others striking that chord in all of us that yearns to see Zombies, Werewolves, Robots and what ever else you could imagine to the familiar setting of the American West. The Dark Western tales like Brian Azzarello's Loveless and El Diablo from DC's Vertigo line as well as DC's wonderful anti-hero, penned by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Jonah Hex bring the wonderful ethical ambiguity that is so familiar to Noir and is more akin to the spaghetti westerns of film. And of course the more traditional westerns like The Lone Ranger and Bat Lash that continue the genre that most everyone is already so familiar with.

Westerns are fast becoming a go to genre for the great creators in the world of comics and I think that if you are looking for something great to read that you aren't already reading that perhaps a western is in your future, and if it isn't it probably should be.

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