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Weird West is used to describe a combination of the Western with another genre[1], usually horror, occult, or fantasy. It was coined to describe the Deadlands role-playing game[1], and the specific phrase "Weird West" is trademarked by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. However, the weird Western has earlier roots and the phrase is now used more widely to describe the setting of such tales.

DC's Weird Western Tales appeared in the early 1970s and the weird Western was further popularised by Joe R. Lansdale who "is best known for his tales of the 'weird west,' a genre mixing splatterpunk with alternate history Western almost entirely defined by the author in the early nineties. His work reads a little like the sort of folklore in which Mark Twain dabbled (or the gothic in which Flannery O'Connor was involved), but with zombies and gore." [2]

Examples of these cross-genres include Deadlands (Western/horror)[1], The Wild Wild West and its later film adaptation (Western/steampunk)[1], Jonah Hex (Western/superhero), Firefly (Western/space opera)[1], BraveStarr (Western/science fiction) and many others.



Cowboys and gunfighters are iconic American heroes and using them as heroes in other milieus was only natural. The Western uses themes that are compatible with the themes found in other genres. Like science fiction stories set on distant planets, Westerns use the themes of unknown wilderness and the survival of pioneers. Westerns also offer stories of struggles to maintain social order in a lawless environment.

This leads naturally into the science fiction Western where anachronistic science is injected into a Western setting usually in a steampunk manner. Given that space is the final frontier it is also unsurprising that the themes that originated in Westerns re-appear in science fiction too, resulting in the space Western.

The supernatural menaces of horror fiction are easy to inject into this setting, creating the horror Western. Writer G.W. Thomas [3] 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.'" [4]

The superhero Western grew out of the horror Western as Jonah Hex first made an appearance in Weird Western Tales before getting his eponymous own series which went very weird in the hands of leading Weird West author Joe R. Lansdale. Hex has appeared alongside more obvious superheroes and has inspired other stories in which the JLA are shown in the wild west (in the animated series and in the Elseworlds outting Justice Riders). Recently, Marvel have introduced their own Western superhero in the shape of Vegas.

The Weird West also accommodates less easily classified genres including alternate history, speculative fiction and more fantastical elements.

If anything, the Weird West genre is becoming more popular. It shows the potential to inject new life at a time when few authors are working with traditional Western stories. Jeff Mariotte's comic book series Desperadoes has been running, off and on, for a decade now and he still remains bullish about the genre: [5]

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 hey day 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 pulps Adventure and 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 only the Reverend Jebediah Mercer can save the inhabitants.

Examples include:


In the 1960s, the television series The Wild Wild West brought elements of spy stories and science fiction to the Old West. 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 Western stories. Rod Serling was fond of Westerns and often used them as settings for his Twilight Zone stories, such as "Showdown with Rance McGrew". Kung Fu, which followed the adventures of a fugitive Shaolin monk armed only with the show title's eponymous martial art skill, is another famous example of an unorthodox Western. But arguably one of the earliest minor examples on the small screen was the anachronistic appearance of the WWII-vintage Jeep "Nellybelle" in the supposedly 19th century adventures of Roy Rogers during his eponymous 1950's television series.

Examples include:

Jonah Hex, Vol.1 #1, 1977. Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, artist.


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.

The Amalgam Comics crossover between DC and Marvel produced only one Weird West title, a one-shot Generation Hex: "Humanity's Last Stand" (Jonah Hex crossed with Generation X - mutants in the Old West) but as well as actual titles they also created wider fictional backstories to set them in. So in this case they suggested Amalgam had a whole genre line called "Malformed West" which had been popular and seen a resurgence of interest in the nineties with (fictional) titles including Weird Western Mutant Tales. [13] [14]

Another example worthy of note is Preacher. While it is the origin of the Saint of Killers, as shown in his eponymous series, that is the only part set in the Old West, the whole series is an example of an interesting genre fusion. Described as a "Splatterpunk Western", the more subtle cross-genre mixing is a rare one - a mix of the Western with the Gothic. [15]

Examples include:


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 vs. 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 fictional horror character. The Ghoul Goes West was an unproduced Edward D. Wood, Jr. film to star Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the Old West.

Examples include:


One of the most famous examples 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.

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 as an un-dead gunslinger anti-hero from the late 1800s, who rises from his grave (essentially as a zombie) to battle a great 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.

Another well-known weird western is the Wild ARMs series - videogames 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.


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. [56] [57]

Knights of Cydonia is a song by English rock band Muse. The video clip is filmed and edited in the style of a spaghetti Western film with post-apocalyptic themes.

See also

Further reading

  • Green, Paul (October 2009). Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns: Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games. McFarland. pp. 273. ISBN 9780786443901. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i An essential taster of ...The Weird West. Metro. 2 June 2008. 
  2. ^ Bubba Ho-Tep review
  3. ^ Of Men & Monsters
  4. ^ Crossing Horror: Using Horror in Other Genres, by G.W. Thomas
  5. ^ How the West was Weird: Mariotte talks “Desperadoes” Return, Comic Book Resources, October 30, 2006
  6. ^ The Horror from the Mound
  7. ^ Fantastic Fiction entry
  8. ^ Bone Wars
  9. ^ A Fist Full O' Dead Guys, with table of contents
  10. ^ For a Few Dead Guys More, with table of contents
  11. ^ The Good, the Bad, and the Dead, with table of contents
  12. ^ Subterranean Press' Zeppelins West page
  13. ^ a b The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe - Generation Hex
  14. ^ Who's Who: Handbook of the Amalgam Universe - G
  15. ^ Kitson, Niall (2007). "Rebel Yells: Genre Hybridity and Irishness in Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon's Preacher" (subscription required). The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 2. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  16. ^ TWISTORY: mink Talks Fantasy Western "13 Chambers", Comic Book Resources, February 21, 2008
  17. ^ Dark Horse Comics > Profile > Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities TPB
  18. ^ CowboysAndAliens hosted by
  19. ^ Cowboys and Aliens - News @
  20. ^ Cowboys & Aliens at the Internet Movie Database
  21. ^ Bolt City - Daisy Kutter
  22. ^ Story of a Bad, Bad Family: James Kuhoric on 'Dead Irons', Newsarama, October 9, 2008
  23. ^ Jae Lee Darkens “Dead Irons”, Comic Book Resources, November 24, 2008
  24. ^ Alexander Draws Sights on “Dead Irons”, Comic Book Resources, December 1, 2008
  25. ^
  26. ^ Dead West at the Internet Movie Database
  27. ^ Dark Horse Comics > Profile > Dead in the West #1 (of 2)
  28. ^ Talking to Kevin Ferrara about The Deadlander, Newsarama, October 3, 2007
  29. ^ Demon Gun at the Comic Book DB
  30. ^ Mirror Mask, Demon Gun, Whiz Kids, More: Comics2Film wrap for July 16, 2003, Comic Book Resources, July 16, 200
  31. ^ Far West (1999) at the Comic Book DB
  32. ^ Far West (2000) at the Comic Book DB
  33. ^ Denton and Mariotte Go West in "Graveslinger", Comic Book Resources, August 27, 2007
  34. ^ Review of Graveslinger #1, Silver Bullet Comic Books
  35. ^ Jorge Vega: Learning To Play With Guns, Comics Bulletin, March 10, 2008
  36. ^ TenNapel Strikes Gold in "Iron West", Comic Book Resources, May 17, 2006
  37. ^ Dark Horse Comics > Profile > Lone TPB
  38. ^ Western Misadventures with Writer Jay Carvajal, Silver Bullet Comic Books, September 14, 2007
  39. ^ "Zombie Hunting in the 19th Century: Mark Rahner on Rotten". Newsarama. May 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  40. ^ Meeting at the Strangeways, Newsarama, October 13, 2005
  41. ^ Matt Maxwell on Strangeways: Murder Moon, Newsarama, April 4, 2008
  42. ^
  43. ^ Jay Busbee: The Official Site
  44. ^ Tex Arcana
  45. ^ Welcome to the Wicked West
  46. ^ THE WICKED WEST 2: ABOMINATION AND OTHER TALES, Newsarama preview, June 18, 2006
  47. ^ Western Tales of Terror
  48. ^ Review of Western Tales of Terror #1
  49. ^ Review of Western Tales of Terror #2
  50. ^ Review of Western Tales of Terror #3
  51. ^ Riders of the Whistling Skull at the Internet Movie Database
  52. ^ Teenage Monster at the Internet Movie Database
  53. ^ Curse of the Undead at the Internet Movie Database
  54. ^ Alien Outlaw at the Internet Movie Database
  55. ^ Michael Fleming (2008-03-10). "Marshall to direct Rogue's 'Sacrilege'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  56. ^ Really Scary: Interview with Ghoultown
  57. ^ Ghoultown Comic Book

External links


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