Sunday, July 31, 2011

Highest Grossing Western Movies

I recently stumbled upon an interesting list of the highest grossing Westerns since 1979.  The list is out the same week that Cowboys and Aliens premiered, so I expect the numbers will change over the next month.  The top ten include some great films, like Dances with Wolves, True Grit, Unforgiven, Brokeback Mountain, and Open Range.  It’s interesting to see that Jonah Hex made less than the Legend of the Lone Ranger and American Outlaws, two dismal films.  Even ticket price inflation couldn’t help that terrible movie.  I was also surprised to see that Rustler’s Rhapsody made only $6 million.  Eventually I will write about that great film.  It runs periodically on Showtime, and is well worth your time.  See the rest of the list here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comics Roundup- Second Shots

By strange coincidence the second issues of three western comics that I read and reviewed in the last few months were at my local comics shop this week.  To my great delight, all of them topped their first issues.

After a disappointing first issue of Deadlands, the second one-shot turns out to be a hit.  Written by Jonah Hex scribes Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey, Deadlands- Massacre at Red Wing tells a nice little tale of magic and revenge, as a woman who may or may not be a native American (personally I think she’s Welsh of the Magog tribe) travels to a town with Deadwood levels of decadence with a mission of mercy that goes bad.  Unlike the first Deadlands one-shot, this one felt true to the game and to the Deadlands world.

Having enjoyed the first issue of Zeke Deadwood, Zombie Lawman, I was left uncertain as to whether there was going to be a second issue, or if this was a one shot.  Luckily the creator found my very favorable review and let me know that a second issue was forthcoming.  Hooray!  I read that second issue this week, and it was great.  In a lot ways this felt like a first issue rather than a second.  The character was better fleshed out (which is a hard task when you are a zombie!) and the world in which he roamed felt more developed.  It also reads like it is the last of the series which is very disappointing.  Hopefully there will be more of Zeke in the future.

And then there’s Reed Gunther, or as I like to call it MY FAVORITE COMIC BOOK ON THE STANDS TODAY.  This second issue builds on the all ages fun of the first issue and keeps getting better.  Funny, action packed, and with supernatural mystery, Reed Gunther is everything I could want in 20 minutes of harmless entertainment.  Well, mostly, but to add the other stuff I want would keep it from being an all ages comic.  Any story that has a cowboy riding a lovable grizzly bear is doing good in my book.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comments, Anyone?

Nearly 10,000 views over 87 post but only 23 comments?  Not sure how that math adds up.  It has come to this…

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are Defining the Comics Western

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are defining the comics western… and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  By this I don’t mean that Palmiotti and Gray are doing a bad job with their westerns.  Far from it.  As I have raved in several past posts, I have been a fan of their Jonah Hex series since the first issue came out.  They have managed to write tight, single issue stories for almost the entire run, and have kept the comics character driven, not action driven.  This is a rare thing in comics.  I would have taken the story from any one of their comics over what I saw in the Jonah Hex movie.  Palmiotti and Gray are very much at home writing western stories of crime, revenge, and redemption, and these kinds of stories are put out well month after month.

My concern is that crime and revenge stories are not the only kinds of western stories, but since Palmiotti and Gray are by far the most prolific western writers this is what we usually see on the comics shelves.  I recently bought their Jonah Hex #69, this week I picked up their time travel western Trailblazer and a Deadlands one-shot, and soon I will be a regular reader of the new All-Star Western, also to be written by Palmiotti and Gray.  Each of these follows in the western crime and revenge motif that works so well in Jonah Hex (Deadlands- Massacre at Red Wing does have a weird western wilderness feel, but is also wrapped around a revenge tale).  There are other westerns out on the market.  I also found the second issues of both Zeke Deadwood and Reed Gunther this week, but lately when you see a western comic it has Palmiotti and Gray on the cover.
Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, and what I believe is Lou Prophet playing poker.  See, there is plenty of room for all sorts in westerns.  I wish I knew who the artist was.

There should be room for weird westerns, pre-civil war westerns, hopeful westerns, wilderness stories, tales of cowboys and pioneers and prospectors.  If there is only a single dominant voice (or in this case a pair of voices) in the genre, then the genre runs the risk of becoming stifled. This is not a suggestion that Palmiotti and Gray make room for other writers.  This is suggesting that if Palmiotti and Gray have a market where they can to turn out three westerns in a single month, then the market for westerns of all sorts is out there. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cowboy Covers- 1970s Brokeback Edition

Who knew there were so many gay westerns paperbacks from the 1970s?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Socialist- Dashiell Hammett and Red Harvest

When the Bruce Willis movie Last Man Standing came out in 1996, astute viewers noticed that the plot was essentially the same as the Sergio Leone classic A Fist Full of Dollars.  That movie, as many know, is itself a remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo.  What is less known is that for his film Kurosawa sought inspiration in the Western, and took his plot almost entirely from the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest.

While best known as the creator of Sam Spade, Hammett’s most frequent character is the Continental Op, who appeared in a number of short stories as well as the novels The Dain Curse and Red Harvest.  The Op is a nameless detective (much like Leone and Eastwood’s later Man with No Name) working for the Continental Agency, a thinly disguised version of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  In Red Harvest, he is hired to investigate a murder in the Prohibition era mining town of Personville, aka “Poisonville”, deep in the Rockies.  The crime is quickly solved, but The Op settles in to dig further into the vice and corruption of this remote town.  Setting one side against the other, feuding gangs and politicians descend on each other in a frenzy, letting The Op cynically observe humanity at its worst.

Hammett had an amazing career, moving from Pinkerton detective to mystery writer to socialist agitator.  Red Harvest is the amalgamation of all those aspects of Hammett.  Red Harvest has been described as a novelization of Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, the work that brought us “life is nasty, brutish, and short” without the rule of law.  Hammett exposes this darkness of the West in this classic.  As the Native American faded and the United States advanced, there was always a borderland of lawlessness that Hammett captures perfectly in Red Harvest.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Redneck Games

A few months ago, blogger and western author Richard Wheeler bemoaned the fact that readers of westerns were trending towards poorer, whiter, and Southern, implying that folks who spend their weekends in white sheets burning crosses are the ones most likely to pick up Longarm 942- Showdown on Hooker Street.  Don’t know how true that is, but it did make me think that I should post a picture from the 15th Annual Redneck Games to make sure I am hitting me entire audience (whoever the heck you people are- leave my a dang comment once in a while!)  See more here.

Santa and a girl in a Star & Bars bikini.  Does life get any better?