Marvel has announced a new series, 1872, coming out this May, that will reimagine some of their most famous characters in a an American Wild West setting. Though it isn’t clear at this point how much classic superhero elements like science fiction or fantasy will play into this new series, mixing genres with classic Western settings and themes is nothing new (we still remember Cowboys and Aliens, right?). In the late 1960s and 1970s major comics companies started mixing things up to revive interest in the Western genre. Since then there have been multiple successes in this realm, like Jonah Hex who was popular well into the ’80s and the well-known Preacher series from the ’90s. So if you’re interested in the ‘weird west’ but don’t want to wait until May, there’s some great stuff you can check out in the mean time.
Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios is an absolutely gorgeous trip through the American Old West. The story follows a number of characters – from a strange little girl in a vulture cloak to the gunslinging daughter of Death himself – through a rich mix of western, fantasy, and folklore. The Eisner nominated art, by Emma Rios, manages to be breathtaking while staying true to the gritty, ramshackle aesthetic of classic westerns. The story has completed it’s first arc and is currently on break – but Deconnick has promised there is more to come. This is a particularly great pick if you are one of the many readers concerned by the total absence of female characters mentioned in the press for 1872.
Manifest Destiny by Chris Dingess and Sean Macikiewicz is more frontier than Wild West, following Lewis and Clark on their famous trip across uncharted parts of America. In this version of the story, though, the adventurers stumble on a settlement that has been infected by a mysterious fungus-like entity. There’s something absolutely delightful about imagining that the history taught to us in school is all just a cover for something far more sinister, and the series takes full advantage of that. Added bonus: a totally badass Sacagawea.
American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquerque visits the old west in its first volume, alternating between several points in history. The series has been running since 2010 and has won several Eisner awards in its time. One of the central characters, Skinner Sweet, is the first of a new sub-species of vampires born in the American West. Skinner Sweet’s origins are told in two stories written by Stephen King and set in 1880. Sweet is a deliciously villanous outlaw from the darker corners of the wild west tradition, and all the period backdrops of the series make reading it rich and immersive.
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