Haunted Trails: Returning to the Trails of “The Sixth Gun” [Interview]

By | July 29th, 2014
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A few years back, Multiversity Comics ran a column coinciding with the release of each new issue of The Sixth Gun, talking to Cullen Bunn about the series. With The Sixth Gun entering its penultimate arc and a new spin-off, The Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead, starting next month, now seemed like the perfect time to revive the column.

Last month The Sixth Gun #41 came out, shining a light on Griselda, the Grey Witch. After the the last arc, Not the Bullet, But the Fall, it’s a big change of pace. Certainly a much quieter issue, though hardly a light one. It seems very much like the breath before the final plunge, placing some very key pieces on the board.

How long has Griselda’s back story been kicking around your brain? Is it something that developed early in your concept of The Sixth Gun?

Cullen Bunn: The idea for Griselda actually came along a little later in the series. After General Hume’s demise, the widow Missy Hume fills the role of series “big bad” but I knew that we needed someone or something even more powerful and menacing. So, I came up with the idea for “the Grey Witch,” a creature that somehow existed just outside of reality. She coveted the guns for her masters (at the time of her creation, they were just some shadowy “things man was not meant to know”) but she was forever cursed to that she could not hold them. We’d reveal that the General was her agent and she’d recruit a new underling to help her fulfill her quest. The idea that she was the General’s mother came around a little later. The details of the origin story we featured in issue 41 came together over time, I suppose, but were only solidified as I wrote that script.

That Oliander Hume was Griselda’s biological son was a surprise. With the serpent men and Jesup all referring to her as “mama,” I had assumed Hume had been doing the same thing, that she had become his “mother” at some point in his adult life. But she’d actually given birth to him. It’s interesting too that she had him purely so she could use him as a tool, only trusting her own blood to do the required task.

CB: I actually started having the serpent men call Griselda “mama” after the decision was made that she would be Hume’s actual mother. At some point early on, I started calling her “the grey mother.” I’m honestly not sure if that term or “the grey witch” came first. Either way, the connection between Hume and Griselda is something I thought would add a new level of creepiness to the tale. For Missy Hume, Griselda represents a literal monster-in-law.

Also, how awesome is it to see little Oliander Hume in his dapper clothing?

Yeah, that was pretty cool. He’s just an innocent kid, but already you can see how he’s being twisted, especially on that last page. And he’s the only one Griselda trusted enough to track down the guns for her… However, in Not the Bullet, But the Fall that’s no longer a luxury she can afford. By then she had to entrust the task to Jesup, a former member of a group that most recently stormed her home in an effort to capture her and bind her to this world.

CB: Right. But Jesup has something that (to Griselda, at least) might be stronger than the bond of blood. And that’s hatred. She sees how much Jesup hates Drake, and she figures she can use it to her advantage. Despite all the enchantments and amulets Griselda has loaded Jesup up with, he’s not as loyal as the General. We’ll be seeing that play a role in upcoming issues.

The idea of trusting blood is so human, I feel like Oliander represents that splinter of the Grey Witch that still harbours human feeling. Trusting hate, well, that’s going the other direction.

CB: While Griselda started out as an innocent human girl, her time with the Great Wyrms has completely corrupted her. She’s lived for so long. She’s seen the world die and be remade over and over. She’s done simply ghastly things. She’s pretty much forgotten what it means to be human.

Continued below

I can’t help but feel bad for her, being thrown into the dark with monsters like that.

CB: That was the idea! I wouldn’t want anyone to root for Griselda, but I do believe that the best villains or monsters are the ones you feel at least a little bit of sympathy for.

Speaking of monsters, in this issue story you also introduced the force behind Griselda, the ultimate big bads, the Great Wyrms. We’ve glimpsed them briefly before, in one of the worlds Becky saw on the Winding Path in Ghost Dance, and briefly in Jesup’s vision when he grasped the Sixth Gun at the end of Not the Bullet, But the Fall. The Great Wyrms are older than the guns themselves, and even with the remaking of all of creation, they cannot be unmade. However, with each remaking, they get worn down a little more, and they drift from the world a little more. In fact, it seems that’s why humankind called the Six into existence, so that they could escape the horror of a world ruled by the Great Wyrms.

Am I crazy, or did that sound like the guns are actually doing something good for once? I gotta admit, it’s got me rethinking how the Six could be used, especially since this issue also showed that they weren’t always weapons.

CB: That’s the danger of the Six! It’s easy to think that they could be used for good… and maybe they can to some degree… but the Six are are corrupting force, too.

And now they’re in the hands of Jesup.

You really left the team in a bad way at the end of Not the Bullet, But the Fall. Kirby’s captured. Nahuel’s dead. Gord’s dead. Nidawi’s dead, and her body’s possessed by the spirit of Screaming Crow. Asher’s dead, executed by Drake no less. Geez, you really took an axe to the group!

CB: This arc has been looming before me for a long time. With every issue I wrote, I kept thinking “just 10 more issues before the other shoe drops… Just 7 more issues… just 3 more issues.” It was a tough arc to write, too, because I love all those characters. But I also think that you’re the most cruel to the characters you love the most. That’s why Billjohn died in our first arc. I needed to show that our heroes are in real danger… that no one is safe.

I’ll admit, though, that it’s kind of nice to be able to focus more clearly on Drake and Becky for a while.

I know. I’m a monster.

The Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead #1 will be on sale on the 6th of August with The Sixth Gun #42 on the 27th. Don’t miss ’em, and join us afterwards for more Haunted Trails.

//TAGS | Haunted Trails

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.


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