The western is dead. Or is it?
For a couple weeks, I've been revisiting stories I wrote back in high school, rummaging through my figurative trunk (just a stack of file folders piled next to my desk) and giving these early literary attempts some major revisions. I was a big fan of westerns, so I wrote quite a few about an intrepid hero and his verbose sidekick, based loosely on Hopalong Cassidy and his pal, California. In these action-packed tales of the old west, I mocked the genre fondly, poking fun at the hero who always saved the day, refused any reward, and then rode off into the sunset. Clichéd? Most definitely. But if memory serves, I was going for the campy feel of the 1960’s Batman TV show, only in a dustier, grittier setting.
Over the years, my interest in westerns has remained alive and kicking even though the popularity of the genre has steadily declined. Recently though, I finished reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King and came to realize that "weird" westerns are gaining popularity. Case in point: Aaron Polson's serialized run in The Red Penny Papers: "Black Medicine Thunder and the Sons of Chaos", an intriguing, richly detailed addition to the genre. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is Jonah Hex, which tanked at the box office this year and earned a whopping 13% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
So I've decided to throw my hat into the ring by revamping my youthful imaginings to include the occasional witch, zombie, and shape-shifter. My heroes will continue to stand tall and insist that justice be its own reward, but they'll have to realize they're no longer living in the golden days of yesteryear. This is the Weird, Wild West now.
Long live the [undead] western.