In May 2010, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt introduced us to the world of the Sixth Gun, a weird western adventure. The series ran for 6 years, chronicling the battle for the word and six supernatural weapons. The series wrapped with issue #50, but not before bringing us one of the coolest creator owned worlds in modern comics. Earlier this year, Cullen and Brian announced they were returning to that world at Oni Press with artist A.C. Zamudio in the new series Shadow Roads. The first two issues have already hit the stands, and we sat down with Cullen, Brian and A.C. to talk about the series and what we can look forward to!
Hey guys, thank you for taking some time to talk to us! So what’s the elevator pitch for Shadow Roads?
CULLEN: Shadow Roads is a globetrotting supernatural adventure. An eclectic group of characters from around the Old West—a trick-shot, a bounty hunter who sees ghosts, a man who can take the shape of a monstrous dire bear, the son of the world’s greatest shaman, etc.—come together to challenge magical threats around the world.
So Shadow Roads is set in the world of The Sixth Gun. Brian, Cullen, what made the two of you want to return to that world?
BRIAN: That’s simple, we never wanted to leave! Over the course of The Sixth Gun we had an abundance of “roads not taken”–so many characters and ideas that we just didn’t have the time to explore. It was clear to us from the very beginning that this world was a giant sandbox with unending opportunities for fun stories that live outside the mythos of “The Six”. Shadow Roads gives us the opportunity to tell some of those stories and to open the world up even more. There will be a lot of globetrotting in the series and introductions to other magical and supernatural parties and realms that we never even touched on in The Sixth Gun.
CULLEN: Yeah, while the story of The Sixth Gun ended, we still wanted to play around in this world. While working on the original series, we would stumble onto fun ideas that just would not work within the scope of what we were trying to do. This book isn’t a sequel and is only connected to The Sixth Gun in minor ways, so we have the chance to tell those stories and, really, go anywhere we want.
In the timeline of the world, where does this story pick up?
BRIAN: We aren’t overly specific about this but I will say it is very soon after the events at the end of The Sixth Gun. Anywhere from several days to a year or so.
How far into the story do you have planned?
BRIAN: Unlike The Sixth Gun, we do not have long-term story plans for this series. With the previous series we knew the story we were going to tell and we knew what the major road markers were along the way. Then we riffed on that. With Shadow Roads we are purposefully taking it one or two arcs at a time. Right now, the first arc is completely done and the second arc is plotted and half written. We have ideas for what will happen in the third arc but we are also leaving ourselves open to inspiration–we don’t want to lock ourselves in to any one idea or story this far out.
Being set in the same world as The Sixth Gun, fans are going to be expecting some crossover. What can existing fans expect to see?
CULLEN: Right now, I don’t think we have any plans for a major crossover of any kind. We have a couple of characters who existed in both stories, but that’s about it. The story of The Sixth Gun is over, and I don’t think we really want to open that can of worms back up. The good news is I think these characters and their adventures stand on their own pretty well.
Can you tell us about some of the characters that are important to the story?
CULLEN: Well, there are many characters in the book, and they each bring something different and important to the story, but I’ll try to run through them briefly.
Henry is a young man who has just discovered he has an important lineage and destiny. He has been living in England, but he now knows that he is the son of one of the most powerful shamans who ever lived—Screaming Crow, who played a big role in The Sixth Gun.
Abigail Redmayne also appeared in The Sixth Gun. She is a bit of a mystery here. She is the calm, cool “leader” of the group, but she has some dark secrets of her own.
Kalfu (who readers of The Sixth Gun might know as Gord Cantrell) is the guardian of the mystical crossroads that allows our heroes to move quickly through our world… and other worlds.
Ghost Eyes is a bounty hunter who can see the dead.
Izzy (Isabella) is a former medicine show sharpshooter who has a connection to the monstrous villain of our first story.
Anton Karloff also appeared (briefly) in The Sixth Gun but he didn’t play a big role. Here, though, he is a member of the secretive Black Stars, a group of Marshalls tasked with dealing with the supernatural.
This is such a unique book since worlds like this often are not revisited. What is your goal in returning to this weird west?
CULLEN: The end of The Sixth Gun gave us a unique opportunity to revisit the setting. I’ve always loved weird westerns. The first piece of fiction I ever sold was a weird western. If I wasn’t writing one for Shadow Roads, I’d be writing one somewhere.
What do you all feel is greatest strength on art for the book?
BRIAN: A.C. and Carlos are an amazing art team to work with. A.C. is such a natural storyteller and such a great fit for the series and her line art is just stunning. I honestly believe she is one
of the top comic artists working right now. Then, with Carlos’ colors the art and the world really come to life in vibrant and evocative ways. Carlos’ colors create a slightly more heightened reality than The Sixth Gun which works amazingly well for the supernatural, globe-trotting, swashbuckling tone of this book. Together, their art both honors The Sixth Gun while also creating a specific, and unique, voice for this series.
A.C.: Geez, I don’t know what to say after that!! Well, seeing Carlos’ colors never fail to make me feel like I’m reading the comic for the first time. He puts a lot of attention to detail into every scene and makes every moment the most it can be. I will say that one of the strengths of our team is that we are married and have learned to collaborate as closely as we have.
A.C., how did you feel stepping into this world?
A.C.: I know it sounds cliché, but it’s an adventure for me. I love to travel and peek into other cultures. Not to mention, unfamiliar cultures are even farther removed from us when we look at them through a historical lens, so just about every setting is a new, enriching experience. I want to transport the reader as much as I feel the story transports me.
What’s your creative process when designing the look of the series?
A.C.: In order to immerse the reader, I try to be very background-heavy when I can. I try to give most things either a Mobius-like ruggedness or a streamlined, stylish Victorian flair. It depends on what culture I’m trying to depict, so I try to tweak my style to best flatter the individual cultures and the characters that embody them.
What does your day to day process look like for working on the book?
A.C.: I sit at my desk in my PJs nearly all day long and have my laptop at hand for reference and for something to listen to while I work. I probably shouldn’t have two cups of coffee every day, but I do. What work I do depends on the stage of the process I’m in. I draw the roughs in Photoshop, print the blue lines on 11×17” bristol, ink that traditionally with pens, scan them in, and take the pages back to Photoshop to make edits and polish them up.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to draw so far?
A.C.: Nothing’s been too difficult, I suppose. That’s one of the great things about westerns—there’s either a lot of outdoors or buildings brimming with personality, so most of the environments are organic and don’t require a lot of precision. Maybe the hardest thing I had to draw in the first few issues was the train fight scene in issue #1. The action took place in an extremely narrow hallway, so staging the scene and angling the “camera” to show the action effectively were real challenges.
What’s been your favorite thing to draw so far?
A.C.: That’s a tough question! The guys have given me a ton of things to draw that inspire me. I suppose I’m always happy to draw Abigail since she’s easy and relaxing for me, though I think I had the most fun with Ghost Eyes’ early scenes. Sauntering up into this quirky, shabby little town, then having an emotional moment with Isabella… It’s everything I love. Just thinking of his wrinkly hands as he rummages through his old leather saddlebag makes me smile. We also have some scenes in later issues where the backgrounds have been some of my favorites, and you’ll know what I mean when you see them.
Do any of you have any specific influences on the characters?
CULLEN: I think each of us brought something different to each of the characters. We all have our favorites. Abigail is my hands-down favorite, but of the new characters I love Izzy and Ghost Eyes. One of the new characters, Anton Karloff of the Black Stars, was inspired by a good friend of mine, Anton Kromoff.
A.C.: I didn’t know that about Anton! Interesting! And I have to agree with Cullen that we all brought something to each character. I think I put most of myself into Abigail and Isabella. I have a little bit of a goth in me, so I wanted to take charge of Abigail’s appearance. And I think of myself as a masculine woman, so I’ve been happy to portray Izzy in a way that rings true to me.
What sorts of things do you want to tease us with?
CULLEN: This is an ensemble piece and we love all these characters, but that doesn’t mean they’ll all make it through this story unscathed. Really, I wouldn’t assume that anyone is safe.
In two words, what’s the biggest surprise you’d like to give us?
CULLEN: Abigail Redmayne.
A.C.: Enough said!
Thanks for sitting down with me today!