Welcome back you assorted scoundrels to Haunted Trails, Multiversity’s exclusive behind the scenes look at Oni Press horror western epic The Sixth Gun! This month, the book takes more than a few turns as it reveals the secrets behind some long standing mysteries and plants seeds for some dangerous new ones as Becky continues her quest to rescue Drake from the clutches of the Knights of Solomon.
Once again, Sixth Gun mastermind Cullen Bunn and I peel back the layers of the issue and deliver you some certifiable insight into the ongoing adventures of our motley band of ruffians.
Click on down and find out what you may have missed in Issue #20!
Joshua Mocle: The first few pages of this story are one big gunfight, one of many to take place in the series. As a writer, how do you choreograph these fights in your head? And how do you and Brian work together to turn “a bunch of guys shooting at each other” into a scene with weight, momentum and impact?
Cullen Bunn: I usually see fight scenes playing out in a cinematic fashion, and I script them out panel by panel, trying to give each character a little time on-panel. For me, a fight like this one is all about peaks and valleys, highs and lows. The good guys take some ground… and then they are beaten back. I don’t mind a one-sided fight, but I don’t want to see that time after time.
Even though I script the scene in a good amount of detail, Brian still has the job of pulling it off visually. There are times when we talk after a script has been written and we change things up a bit to give it more impact or to make it work a little better. This scene, I think, ended up pretty close to how I handed it over to Brian.
When I originally wrote this battle, there was a scene where Sister Sister (the woman with the rotting face) went up into the hills and used knives to dispatch some of the bad guys. It was a really, really cool scene, but it ran too long and I couldn’t get to the stuff that was really important in this issue. So it had to go.
JM: At this point in the story, just about every new character our heroes have met on the road have known exactly what The Six could do and how they should be handled. Which is why it was somewhat refreshing as a reader to see that Bunt had no idea that Becky’s gun was anything more than an average six shooter. It was a pretty stark moment of “oh crap, those things are dangerous!”, which hadn’t quite come up in the book in a little while. Was this an intentional choice on your part?
CB: Yes. Our heroes frequently meet those people who are “in the know,” but because of the pacing of the book it might seem like those are the only people they meet. I thought it was a good idea to remind readers that the true nature of the guns is not known to the population at large.
JM: Of all the visually striking characters introduced in this arc, Carlyle wins the cake by far. What made you want to introduce a four armed mutant/man into the story?
CB: I love the look of Carlyle. Since we’ve spent a few issues with the folk around Penance, I knew we needed to have a character with a really bizarre mutation, someone visually stunning. And a gunslinger with four arms? That’s just crazy cool. Carlyle was inspired by a character in Robert R. McCammon’s novel GONE SOUTH.
JM: Page Six brings us the torture room of the Knights of Solomon. Frankly, given the nature of the group, I expected to see more bodies in there. I’m guessing that for a maniacal death cult, they do good house keeping?Continued below
CB: Ha! Maybe they feed the bodies to… something. Stay tuned.
JM: Jesup is clearly another member of the Knights that has a deep history with Drake, however it seems he is being left in the dark as to the Knights’ plans for him. Given that, how tiered is the management of the group? What is the ratio of people that actually know what the plans are versus the people just following orders?
CB: The group is hierarchy-driven. Most of the Knights/Pinkertons we’ve seen are members of the outer circle. They don’t really have all the details of the mission. Some, like Mercer and Faulkner (the Pinkertons assigned to Missy Hume) have a little more information, but they still don’t know exactly what’s happening. Jesup knows enough to start questioning what’s going on around him. The Inner Circle, though, is reserved for those who know the truth.
JM: Jesup claims that as soon as Drake dies, his four guns would belong to Becky. Now, up until now it’s been somewhat understood that ownership of the guns is based on touch to bind the owner to the gun. Which means that as long as Becky kept the guns in the bag, she would remain disconnected from them. Is Jesup misinformed, or does “possession is 9/10 of the law” apply to The Six as well?
CB: Jesup’s making an assumption really. It’s a little misinformation. As long as Becky doesn’t touch the other guns, she wouldn’t be bound to them. But Jesup probably can’t imagine a world where Becky doesn’t want to take the guns as her own.
JM: And finally, page 10 brings us the major “dunn dunnn!” moment of the issue when the villain pompously reveals the evil plan and opens several cans of worms in the process. Starting with Can of Worms #1: a seal? Not the seal, huh? Back in the first arc, when you reveal the seal down in the Maw, it seemed like a pretty damn big deal. Now, that one seems like small potatoes given that the big bads have one inside their damn base. Just how many of these things are out there? And do they all lead to the same place?
CB: There’s definitely more than one. Back in the second arc, Gord stumbled onto the idea that there might be more than one seal… or there was one seal that “crawled” from place to place around the world.
But to answer your other question–yes, they lead to the same place.
And it’s a very, very bad place.
JM: Can of Worms #2: If the Knights bound the people of the dueling Penances to the seal, does that mean all of the prisoners of the Maw were bound to that first seal as well?
CB: The prisoners at the Maw were not “bound” to the first seal in a supernatural sense. They were being held prisoner there, though, and we can assume General Hume built the prison on that location because he needed those prisoners in one place. When the General died, though, the prisoners of the Maw revolted and could have escaped. A bunch of them simply chose not to leave because they thought the General had some great treasure hidden beneath the seal. The people of Penance are bound by the water. The people of the Maw were bound by greed.
JM: Another “dunn dunnn!” on Pages 11 and 12 when once again Drake reveals that he knows more than he lets on. How soon will we know anything more about this Mystery Woman other than the fact that she clearly meant something to Jesup?
CB: We’ll be learning more about her sometime in the next couple of arcs. It’s a story that I think will really polarize people in regards to Drake.
Speaking of “dunn dunn DUNN” moments, next issue has a big one.
JM: Page 13 brings us yet another mysterious and gruesome Knights of Solomon weapon. Prior to now, it seemed like the Knights built up their armory with items that could have conceivably originated on this planet, whereas this little new guy looks distinctly…well, alien. Am I digging a little too deep with that idea?Continued below
CB: You’re probably digging just a little too deeply. Tropical, yes. Alien, not so much.
JM: It looks like Becky has pretty solid control over The Sixth Gun for a second there on Page 16, but by 17 that control is broken at a pretty crucial moment that indicates that the gun’s motives are, for lack of a better term, not very nice. What good does the people of Penance dying do for the gun?
CB: The gun has a will of its own, for sure, and it may see an opportunity for itself if Becky dies. Maybe it wants to be taken in by the Knights. As for the people of Penance. They’re needed for something big in connection to the Six, but I’m not telling what that is just yet.
JM: Given the constant struggle Becky is having to keep control over The Sixth Gun, how is it that Drake appears to have had complete control over his four guns almost automatically. Does this have more to do with Drake’s strength of will or the relative power of those four guns when compared to The Sixth Gun?
CB: It’s interesting that you picked up on that. I don’t everyone has really noticed yet. It could be because The Sixth Gun is more willful than the other guns. Or it could mean something else.
JM: Poor Bunt. The little guy turned from a small hero into a cautionary tale about exactly what happens when someone touches a gun they aren’t bound to. We’ve seen hands and other various limbs burn, but this is the first time we see the full process in action. Not only is their burning happening, but there also appears to be a complete takeover of the body by the gun. Why did you choose to reveal this whole process now as opposed to earlier in the story?
CB: I thought it would have more emotional punch to show this process happen to someone who simply didn’t deserve to die, especially someone who was essentially an innocent. This arc is all about the Sixth Gun starting to show motivations of its own… motivations that don’t mesh with the motivations of the wielder.
JM: The final words coming out of Bunt’s mouth: was that Bunt talking or was it the gun itself? And will we ever know what he/it was saying?
CB: That was Bunt talking… but I had the idea that in those final seconds of his life he had some sort of almost otherworldly insight he wanted to impart to Becky… only it was a message she couldn’t hear.
We will probably hear what Bunt had to say at some point in the future, but it won’t be for a little while.
Once again I want to send a HUGE thank you to Cullen Bunn and to Cory Casoni over at Oni Press! More to come next month as the book’s fourth story arc rockets toward its conclusion and we’ll be right alongside picking it to pieces!