Welcome back to Haunted Trails, Multiversity Comics’ column exploring the mythology of Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s The Sixth Gun. Today the third deluxe hardcover collection came out, so Cullen and I will be taking a look at that. (There’s some amazing special features in this one.) We’ll also be talking Boot Hill, the epic final arc of series.
Hi Cullen. It’s been a while since we last talked about The Sixth Gun. Dust to Dust had just wrapped up, and Valley of Death had just begun. Since then, you and Brian Hurtt have been hard at work on Boot Hill, the arc which brings The Sixth Gun to a close. How’s that been going?
Cullen Bunn: It’s been going well! I recently wrapped up the script to the final issue… which will clock in at over 60 pages on its own. It was pretty bittersweet, bringing this story to its conclusion, but it was satisfying, too, reaching this amazing destination. We’ve been moving in this direction from the the very first arc, and we’re finally here. Brian is drawing issue 50 right now, and we’ve been talking pretty frequently as it all comes together.
There’s so much left to cover that I’m glad of the extra pages. It feels like a suitably grand ending for such a grand series. I saw on Twitter that Brian had posted a bunch of blank pages he had to fill. You’re both going all out to make this something special. I believe you’ve been saying since the beginning that this series would run 50 issues. You stuck very neatly to that plan.
CB: Well, I think we bounced around a little in terms of how many issues the series would be. Brian and I discussed all the major story beats, but we left ourselves a little wiggle room. At one point, we thought the series would be 36 issues. At another, we thought it might be 66. Around issue 25 or so, it started to become a lot more clear that we were heading for 50. There’s still lots of story to be told, of course, and those pages Brian posted will be packed!
I can only imagine. Having an over-sized final issue gives you some extra storytelling space, but there’s so much yet to explore. Your leads both have these unspoken histories, and no doubt those will come to the fore when Boot Hill begins in April next year. How has Drake been reincarnated through the ages, his destiny always bound to the Six? And why do spirits fear what Becky really is? These are the sort of questions that cut to the core of the series, and I’m betting the answers will be devastating for our heroes.
CB: Yes, we will definitely explore Drake and Becky’s histories and their destinies. They are intertwined more than anyone really expects, I think. We dive right into this in issue 48… and we put a really fine point on things in issue 49.
Brian’s been teasing a few images on Instagram, no spoilers, just enough to tantalise. It appears as though issue 48 is going to be set in a swamp, which is something that really appeals to me. Maybe it was from watching The Empire Strikes Back and The Neverending Story and reading The Two Towers as a kid, but to me swamps seem inextricably linked to memory, spirits, and death. What is it about this setting that’s right for this final story?
CB: Deep in the woods where I used to play as a kid, there was this swamp. That place seemed to hold a lot of magic and mystery for me. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been drawn to swamps as settings. But, while there are definitely some “swampy” elements to issues 48 and 49, we’re actually exploring a supernatural spin on an altogether different staple of Old West mythology… mixed with some classic Underworld imagery. I don’t want to outright spoil it, but let’s just say that we’re in river county.
I can’t wait! The Sixth Gun: Boot Hill begins next year in April. Here’s the solicitations from Oni Press:Continued below
THE SIXTH GUN #48
On sale April 20, 2016
The Six have been used to break the seals that hold back armageddon. A final confrontation awaits Drake Sinclair, Becky Montcrief on the legendary battleground of Boot Hill. The end is nigh, and the epic conclusion to The Sixth Gun starts here!
THE SIXTH GUN #49
On sale May 18, 2016
A war is brewing between the forces of darkness and light, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance! Drake and Becky face old enemies… and reconnect with friends thought long lost… as they make their way to Boot Hill… the mystic place where the very concept of death was born!
THE SIXTH GUN #50
On sale June 15, 2016
The war for creation and the battle for The Six concludes in this epic, TRIPLE-SIZED finale!
This is the end.
Since the last time we spoke, The Sixth Gun RPG has come out (which is awesome, by the way). You and Brian even wrote a scenario for it: ’Neath the Gallows Tree. This wasn’t exactly something new to you though; you run your own RPG games all the time. So tell me how this came together. I mean, you guys even went as far as putting together new comic pages specifically for this scenario.
This adventure started with me coming up with a title and one-paragraph description of the scenario. Brian and I then got together at a coffee shop to map out the story of the adventure. Even though I’ve put together numerous RPG adventures over the years, we approached this a little differently—as a story we might tell in the comic. We then had RPG writer Scott Woodard help massage the rules systems and make it work really well for a game.
One of the other things Brian and I wanted to do was create a group of comic book characters who would only appear (for now at least) only in association with the game. At GenCon a few months ago, I ran the first official adventure for The Sixth Gun. The characters in the session included a Sawbones, a shaman, and a necromancer among others. Those characters now appear in the prologue comic that appears along with the ’Neath the Gallows Tree adventure.
“For now at least”. I like the sound of that…
Now, there’s a new deluxe hardcover out today, the third in what will eventually be a set of six, I believe.
CB: Yes, I believe that’s right. Six oversized hardcovers to collect the main series as well as the spinoff miniseries such as Sons of the Gun and Days of the Dead. And, in my opinion, the hardcovers keep getting prettier and prettier. Volume 3 is my favorite so far.
This is a cool collection of stories. This is the first appearance of Nidawi, who plays such an important role in the story to come. This is where Nahuel (who gets my vote for biggest badass in the entire series) is first seen. This is Asher Cobb joining our group of heroes. This is Becky traveling the Winding Way and visiting other realities that may or may not come to pass. This is where Griselda the Grey Witch really starts shaking things up!Continued below
It’ll be amazing to read it in the over-sized format, especially those Winding Way scenes.
So, each volume is available in two formats: the standard deluxe hardcover, which contains a heap of special features; and the Gunslinger Edition, which is a direct market exclusive limited to 500 copies. For readers that want to have a detailed look at the latest volume, Oni Press has put together an unboxing video to show it off.
I have to say, I love these books. I have the first two volumes in the Gunslinger format and they’re among the most beautiful books I own. And the special features are fantastic. In the second volume, there’s the entire script for issue 17 with the pages opposite, complete with commentary from Brian Hurtt and yourself. It was a fascinating insight into your process.
CB: I personally love those kind of extras. It’s like DVD special features! I hope other readers like these behind-the-scenes glimpses at how the stories come together as much as I do.
I certainly can’t enough of that sort of thing. I have a bookcase just dedicated to art books. So what special features await in the third volume?
CB: This edition has a cover gallery, a look at Brian’s sketchbook, an interview with color artist Bill Crabtree, and a Christmas-themed comic we did that originally only appeared online. Perhaps my favorite feature this edition is the introduction by Chris Schweizer. Chris is an amazing cartoonist, and he put those skills to the test, discussing the series and the two arcs of this volume in a wonderful comic!
Yeah, I saw him post a teasing preview of that on Twitter. It’s pretty great to have an introduction form a character literally walking through the scenes of the comic. Was that something he came to you with or did you approach him about doing it?
CB: That was all Chris. When we first asked him to do the introduction, I thought he would be writing a traditional foreword. Then, he turned this in, and I was simply amazed! If he had just written his thoughts on the series, I would have been happy with that, but this—seeing Chris himself walk through the world of The Sixth Gun—is something really special.
That it is. Volume 3 also includes the Christmas-themed comic that originally appeared on Robot 6. The version collected in the new hardcover is the first time the story’s been shown in its entirety; the splash page was cropped for the digital version.
Christmas seems to be a recurring theme with these Sixth Gun extra stories. “Them What Ails Ya”, collected in Volume 1, was a merry story about a boy seeking revenge on the cannibals that ate his brother and friend. What is it about the Christmas season that makes you want to fill it with ghosts and cannibals?
CB: Well… you know how the song goes. “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” I think ghost stories are sort of a lost Christmas tradition, and that’s influenced those tales. Of course, the timing of posting had a lot to do with it. “Them What Ails Ya” was posted around the holiday season before the series came out… and the Christmas story was posted around the time the first Gunslinger was coming out. You know… trying to draw in some new eyes.
I really enjoyed the serialised dynamic of that story. And Christmas and horror seem to make for a fun contrast of themes.
My favourite feature in Volume 3 is the interview with Bill Crabtree, conducted by Brian Hurtt and Charlie Chu. And it’s not a slight piece, either; it’s really in depth. Bill Crabtree’s colours are a huge part of these books, and it’s gratifying that you guys set aside space in these collections to explore what he brings to The Sixth Gun.Continued below
CB: Bill’s a crucial part of the book. If you remember, Brian colored the first five issues of the series. And Brian is a harsh critic. When we decided to look for a new colorist, I thought there was no way anyone would meet Brian’s expectations. But Bill simply blew us away. He adds so much to the series, so we definitely wanted to give readers a chance to know more about him.
Well, you certainly did that. It was a great piece.
Before you go, I also wanted to mention Keith Wood, who designed these collections. He did an incredible job, and making each Gunslinger Edition look like the Albrect Krieg volumes was a nice touch.
CB: Keith is an absolute gem, and he’s a big part of what makes The Sixth Gun so special to me. Whenever it comes up in conversations with editors, I always mention his name as a possible designer. He’s a busy dude, so I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot every time I get to work with him.
The Sixth Gun – Volume 3 Deluxe Hardcover and Gungslinger Edition are available today.
The Sixth Gun Volume Three Hardcover, collects issues 24 through 35, featuring both the Winter Wolves and Ghost Dance story arcs of the ongoing series by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree. This oversized collection includes never before seen artwork, design sketches, interviews, cover galleries, and an illustrated introduction by acclaimed cartoonist Chris Schweizer (The Crogan Adventures)!
Limited to only 500 units, this direct market exclusive Gunslinger edition also contains a signed tip-in with all the creators, and is presented in a deluxe slipcase and dust jacket featuring new original artwork.