I remember the time a colleague at my former organization saw me with a few comics.
“You’re reading comics?” he said. The “how-old-are-you?” bit remained unsaid but it was there, hanging in the air, much like a puff of pseudo-intellectual smoke I wanted to blow right back in the philistine’s face.
Time warp: A Western set in post-Civil War America.
The thing about comics—much like the thing about many others—is that some people just don’t get it.
The people who write comics take the genre very seriously. In a recent interview Brain Azzarello, who has authored some Batman and Hellblazer books, and is the creator of the long-running 100 Bullets series, described his new series Loveless as a “noir spaghetti Western.” He explained it further by saying that the series tried to merge “two different sets of sensibilities. A Western is about wide open spaces and possibility, a frontier, where the character can reinvent himself. It’s about change. A noir is claustrophobic, more about mistakes and what characters are doomed to become.”
There have been some attempts at creating noir spaghetti Westerns. Readers may recall Walter Hill’s Last Man Standing (starring Bruce Willis in what is, arguably, his greatest performance ever), which tells the story of a stranger who wanders into a town ruled by two rival gangs and sells his services to both, thereby paving the way for lots of violence of the John Woo kind. Most people may not have noticed this, but the way your typical Hollywood type holds a gun changed after Woo’s arrival on the scene—all guns are now held horizontally, with the palm of the hand holding them facing the ground.
Last Man Standing could be a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which inspired Sergei Leonne’s 1964 movie A Fistful of Dollars (starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name). There’s also a school of thought that believes Hill’s movie is based on Dashiel Hammet’s book, Red Harvest.
Azzarello’s story isn’t about playing two sides against the middle, although it could well turn out to be that. It’s a Western set in post-Civil War America that eschews all the clichés Westerns are known for: romance, fast draws, and respect for women. Loveless, the story of a man’s return to his home after the war as an outlaw (only to discover that his wife too has become an outlaw) is cold, violent, and extremely politically incorrect.
It isn’t illustrated by Eduardo Risso, Azzarello’s partner in 100 Bullets, but by an equally talented illustrator Marcelo Frusin.
The look of the books—the two of them that I could lay my hands on (the series started only in late 2006)—reminded me of 100 Bullets and I discovered that both have the same colourist, Patricia Mulvihill.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com