• Feature: Shadow Roads #1 variant Interviews 

    Haunted Trails: “Shadow Roads” #1

    By | June 29th, 2018
    Posted in Interviews | % Comments

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    Welcome back to Haunted Trails, Multiversity Comics’ column exploring the world Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s “The Sixth Gun” and “Shadow Roads.” This time we’re talking to the creative team behind the newly released “Shadow Roads” #1: writers Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, and artist A.C. Zamudio.

    On May 1, 2010 — Free Comic Book Day, the entire first issue of “The Sixth Gun” came out. Eight years later, you’ve got a spinoff series called “Shadow Roads” coming out, and you decided again to debut the first issue on Free Comic Book Day. Let’s talk about that, because as a reader, I gotta say it’s a lot of fun to get introduced to a new series this way. Was this something Oni suggested or something that you as creators pushed for?

    Cullen Bunn: Was it really that long ago? I guess so… because I remember when we launched “The Sixth Gun,” Brian and I were signing for Free Comic Book Day at Austin Books in Austin Texas, and we decided to stand the entire day because we were hustlers. This year, we’re signing together again, but I’m thinking we’re sitting all day. Not because we don’t respect the hustle… but because we’re so, so tired.

    I’m probably remembering wrong—and Brian can correct me—but I think Oni suggested releasing the first issue of “The Sixth Gun” for Free Comic Book Day. Now, launching a new series in that universe, it just feels right.

    Brian Hurtt: Oni’s marketing department had approached us with the idea to do “The Sixth Gun” as a FCBD release all those years back. I remember that we all loved the idea and the discussion very quickly went from “Should this be a preview issue” (selected pages from the issue along with some sketches and stuff, likely) to “Let’s just put out the entire first issue”. At that point, I was not aware of any other publisher having used FCBD in that way and we were all excited by the prospect. It ended up working out really well for us—I still get people at every show who say that they discovered the series that way. When it came time to launch Shadow Roads, it seemed like a no-brainer—for all involved—that we would take this approach again.

    A.C. Zamudio: Well, I discovered “The Sixth Gun” when it was already on its third or fourth arc, so I didn’t know until later that it had debuted with Free Comic Book Day. When our editor broke the news to us that we were up for Free Comic Book Day as well, I honestly didn’t know what to think of it because I’m still pretty new to the industry. I didn’t know exactly that this was Oni’s show of confidence in the series. Anyway, it’s been extremely flattering. I’m honored, and I’m so glad people like it.

    How long has “Shadow Roads” been in development? And when did A.C. Zamudio join the project?

    Cullen: Officially, I think it’s been in development for at least a couple of years, but it’s been a project Brian and I have talked about doing a project like this for a long while. A.C. was the artist we both wanted on the book, even when we were just kicking the idea around. We certainly had her in mind when she was drawing the ‘Valley of Death’ miniseries.

    A.C.: Yeah, the guys approached me at Heroes Con, I think a couple years ago, to offer me the position. That was an amazing feeling. Admittedly, I’ve been taking my time with the research, and the team has been mercifully patient with me. Of course, this is an ambitious story that immerses you in various cultures from a past time, so it deserves a thorough amount of research. It pays off.

    Yeah, that was something that showed in the final pages. The comic’s world was immediately immersive.

    A.C., you’ve worked with both Cullen Bunn (on “Death Follows”) and Brian Hurtt (on the aforementioned “The Sixth Gun: Valley of Death” miniseries). What’s your experience been like working with them and stepping into the Sixth Gun Universe and carving out a corner of your own in it?

    Continued below

    Cullen: Careful, A.C. Any answer that is not “Cullen is the greatest and Brian is a mere shadow of his awesomeness” is incorrect.

    Brian: Also, keep in mind that your next script is coming from me, A.C. Just saying.

    A.C.: Haha! Oh geez… That’s quite the question to ask a fangirl. I’ll try to go easy on the drooling. In all seriousness, I’m well aware how fortunate I am to have what I have this early in my career. Maybe it’s because I don’t have much experience working with other writers, or maybe it’s because they’ve worked as a team for so long, but I’ve had similarly excellent experiences working with each of them. They’re both great writers and all around cool guys who encourage my artistic vision. To be able to take the reigns of one of my favorite series and join the team is literally a dream come true.

    In addition to all that, they agreed to roping in my choice colorist—my husband Carlos Nicolas Zamudio, so I get to share the whole experience with him. Carlos is not only the colorist for “Death Follows” and “Shadow Roads,” but he also regularly critiques my work and assists me with character and creature designs. In fact, Carlos designed the hounds for “Shadow Roads,” among other things. I couldn’t ask for a better team.

    Even though “Shadow Roads” is set in the same universe as “The Sixth Gun,” it stands alone; you don’t have to read one to read the other. So in establishing “Shadow Roads” were there things you decided this element has to be different or that element has to remain the same? I noticed immediately that the narrator of “The Sixth Gun” seems to have legged it for “Shadow Roads.”

    Cullen: I don’t think we ever discussed the narrator. We just knew that wasn’t the right tone for this book. We absolutely wanted this book to feel very different from “The Sixth Gun,” though. We wanted the cast to be bigger. We wanted the adventures to have a globe-trotting feel. And, yeah, we didn’t want new readers to feel like they were missing something. If someone has read “The Sixth Gun,” they’ll see plenty of nods in this book. If they haven’t, though, maybe this will entice them to backtrack and read the other material!

    A.C.: It’s as Cullen says. It’s a different kind of story. The changes on my part have mostly consisted of how to convey the time progression between the series. You can see how the years have affected familiar faces and the world. Then there are cases like Abigail who hasn’t aged at all.

    Brian: I think we knew right away that we would drop the narrator. As Cullen said, that was a voice that was specific to “The Sixth Gun.” I know that we intentionally set out to do scene transitions differently. Where we rarely called out locations in the original series—especially non-fictional ones—we have made an effort in this series to have it more “grounded” in the geography of the world we know. It felt that we had to put little pins in the map, as it were, to help sell that sense of scale to these globe-trotting adventures.

    After so many issues of Brian’s panel-dense pages of “The Sixth Gun,” I can’t help but naturally associate that density with this world. So when I opened “Shadow Roads” #1 and saw those panel-dense pages, I immediately had that sense of familiarity. Was this a conscious choice?

    Brian: A.C. is a storyteller after my own heart. She never skimps on detail when it is integral to the story. I’ve always considered location to be just as important a character in comic storytelling as any protagonist or villain. Helping the reader to believe that these characters exist in a “place”—that they walk upon and interact with their environment—is so important to breathing life into the characters. A.C. gives the same level of attention to her environments as she does her characters and it really pays off!

    Continued below

    A.C.: Well, I think in such a grand-scale story, the atmosphere of every setting is important, so I can’t help but want to show that off as much as possible. I haven’t seen much of the world, so drawing this story is an adventure that I want to experience too and share. That wasn’t consciously taking after Brian; that was just natural. Though I thought you meant the page layouts, with the strict usage of gutters and such. I did intentionally take that from “The Sixth Gun.” It’s just clean and practical. I saw no need to try to fix what wasn’t broken, and sticking with that style would only harmonize the two series more, so that was a no brainer.

    Cullen: I don’t think any of us can help ourselves but to load as much story and detail as possible, as many panels as possible, into every page. The world of “Shadow Roads” (which is weird for me to say versus “the world of The Sixth Gun”) is bigger than we will ever be able to fully explore, and I think that idea comes across in A.C.’s super rich artwork.

    Let’s talk a little about this new cast of characters. Abigail Redmayne we’ve met before in both “The Sixth Gun” and in the spin-off “Days of the Dead,” but I still feel like we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with her. There’s a lot for “Shadow Roads” to explore.

    Cullen: Abigail’s inception was in one random panel of “The Sixth Gun”, and when I wrote that panel I did not have a plan for her at all. However, Brian and I fell in love with her as a character! And now we have such big, big plans for her.

    A.C.: I didn’t know that that’s how she was invented! I love happy accidents like that. Yeah, I can’t wait to explore her character. She’s mysterious. She’s relaxing to draw, too. I’ve always been a little bit of a goth, so designing her for this new story has been right up my alley. I took some inspiration from her dresses in “Days of the Dead.” I like to keep most of my characters’ eyes black except for those who I think really deserve pale eyes like her, which helps her stand out and look more ethereal.

    Carlos convinced me to make room for some dashes of red and to use a double-breasted jacket button formation on her dress to push her militaristic side. There’s the rose motif. And the lipstick—I think the red lipstick is the addition I’m most proud of. It’s so goth.

    Brian: I love A.C.’s design and take on the character of Abigail! So much so that I just bought a sketch of her from A.C. last week! Abigail has never been drawn better. Her design is excellent and she is beautiful. You can tell that A.C. loves drawing her and through her art alone, she has breathed such life into this mysterious character.

    Abigail’s not the only returning character—there’s also Kalfu (though “The Sixth Gun” readers will know him by another name). It’s interesting to rediscover a familiar character through the eyes of our new lead characters.

    A.C.: Yeah. Designing him for “Shadow Roads” was exciting. Brian’s last design was already great with that killer belt and vest combo and that giant pink bowtie, so all I felt he needed was a few tweaks to his face to make him a real Kalfu. I wanted to strike a balance between showing the trajectory of his new life path and maintaining his humanity.

    Brian: This is one of many examples of A.C.’s influence on the book. She really thinks and cares about every panel and every character. Like any storyteller worth their salt, she is as engaged in the story as much as any of us (sadly, this isn’t always the case). Though the “redesign” on Kalfu is minor, it goes a long way to showing those familiar with his earlier incarnation that he is “changed”, and perhaps, still changing.

    Cullen: We really treat Kalfu as a new character here, not someone that is returning from another series. It’s just another example of how we wanted this to stand apart from the previous series, and if new readers pick this book up, they shouldn’t be lost at all.

    Continued below

    Of course, there’s also characters unique to “Shadow Roads.” The standout character for me was Henry Grey. This issue gives us so much dig into, even from as little as that opening page with that line about “the noble savage.” And so much more is said in his dynamic with Barry, as the two are clearly friends, but there’s an aspect of Henry’s life that’s rendered invisible to Barry. In only a few pages, you’ve set up so much to explore!

    A.C.: Right? I think Cullen and Brian are geniuses for writing Henry the way they have. It’s a window into such a unique person’s life during one of the most racist periods in history. There actually were people who lived like this! It’s incredible! It was so easy to design him as a proper young man with the famous British stiff upper lip. And Barry is a perfect foil. I mean, aren’t most of us kind of like Barry at one time or another—curious and well meaning, yet hopelessly ignorant? I adore those two.

    Cullen: I wish I could take credit for Henry and Barry. They were Brian’s babies. I know he did a ton of research on the times, and that research brought Henry to life.

    Brian: I love Henry and Barry. Barry, though, has quickly become a favorite. He was a last minute addition to the book as I realized that Henry needed a “foil”, as A.C. said. But he’s also become the everyman for the series—the outside observer who is a stand in for all of us. I’ve told A.C. that when I saw the pages come in that I was overjoyed by how great Barry plays in the series. Her cartooning on him has elevated the humor of that character as well as just making him so extra lovable and huggable.

    Filling out the rest of the main cast we have Isabella O’Dooley, “the Wild Flower of Mexico”; and Chesapeake “Chester” Smith, otherwise known as Ghost Eyes. I must say, I warmed to Isabella fast—she reminds me very much of someone I know, not only in terms of her personality, but also her appearance, and how good of a shot she is. It makes a supernatural Western feel very real when characters jump off the page like that.

    Cullen: Isabella, maybe more than anyone aside from Barry, is meant to be a character readers can relate to. She’s the Annie Oakley of the bunch, although I think she’s a little more fun. Ghost Eyes is one of my favorite characters to write. His introduction in issue #1 is the bit I had the most fun with. It’s weird, each and every one of these characters could easily be a favorite of mine, which means we’ve put together a great cast, I think.

    Brian: I have to agree. Even as a writer on the series, I’m constantly left wanting more! I think that we all feel we could easily run with any one of these characters and build a compelling series around them.

    As the series progresses, we will have the opportunity to see these parties in different configurations and watch how they all play off one another. And that’s the fun of a series like this, which—in the parlance of the superhero comics—is essentially a “team book.”

    A.C.: I completely agree with you guys as well. Those two are so different and play off of each other so beautifully, though I suppose that could describe most of the character interactions in this story. It’s kind of funny that Cullen mentions he made Isabella someone readers can relate to because I do. I put a lot of myself into her portrayal that way. And Ghost Eyes… I could draw him all day. He exudes a richness of character that constantly poses a challenge to me. The face we landed on for him is my favorite of the whole cast.

    What should readers expect as we forge ahead into “Shadow Roads” #2?

    Cullen: Well, the cast is not yet complete. There are still a few more major players to be introduced. And we’ll dive more into the otherworldly force that is drawing all of these characters together.

    Continued below

    A.C.: What else can I say? I couldn’t show off all the character designs here!

    Brian: Henry and Barry are going to experience some real culture shock as Abigail introduces them to some allies. Ghost Eyes and Isabella spend some time on the trail getting to know each other. Also, a flashback. Also, some more monsters.

    “Shadow Roads” continues August 8. Be sure to place your pre-order at your local comic book store before the final order cut-off on July 16.

    SHADOW ROADS #2

    Written by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
    Illustrated by A.C. Zamudio
    Colored by Carlos N. Zamudio
    Lettered by Crank!

    Henry and Barry find themselves in the presence of the enigmatic Buzzard Clan, where they meet an unexpected chief who holds secrets to Henry’s past. Meanwhile, Ghost Eyes and Isabelle are tracking the soul-stealing Hunter, but instead they find the mysterious Black Star Rangers!

    And on September 12 “The Sixth Gun – Volume 5” hardcover comes out. Final order cut-off is August 20.

    THE SIXTH GUN – VOLUME 5
    —DELUXE HARDCOVER EDITION—

    Written by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
    Illustrated by Brian Hurtt and Mike Norton
    Colored by Bill Crabtree
    Lettered by Crank!

    328 pages, $59.99, 8.5″ x 13″, full color
    ISBN: 9781620105245
    Diamond Order Code: APR18 1677

    The Sixth Gun Volume Five Deluxe Edition collects issues #42–47 of the story arc “Hell and High Water,” as well as five-issue spin-off miniseries “Days of the Dead,” featuring guest artist Mike Norton. This oversized deluxe collection includes never before seen artwork, design sketches, cover galleries, and more, from the Eisner Award-nominated fantasy western epic.

    THE SIXTH GUN – VOLUME 5
    —GUNSLINGER EDITION—

    Written by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
    Illustrated by Brian Hurtt and Mike Norton
    Colored by Bill Crabtree
    Lettered by Crank!

    328 pages, $79.99, 8.5″ x 13″, full color
    ISBN: 9781620105252
    Diamond Order Code: APR18 1678

    The Sixth Gun Volume Five Deluxe Edition collects issues #42–47 of the story arc “Hell and High Water,” as well as five-issue spin-off miniseries “Days of the Dead,” featuring guest artist Mike Norton. This oversized deluxe collection includes never before seen artwork, design sketches, cover galleries, and more, from the Eisner Award-nominated fantasy western epic.

    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.


    //TAGS | Haunted Trails

    Mark Tweedale

    Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, and The Damned Speakeasy. 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.

    EMAIL | ARTICLES


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