Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's ongoing series, "The Sixth Gun," published by Oni Press, is set in a genre-mashing world of civil-war era gunslingers, magic six-shooters, undead armies and a cursed general who just won't give up the ghost. On February 20, 2013, Oni will release the first issue of the miniseries, "Sixth Gun: Sons of a Gun," written by Bunn and Hurtt, and featuring art by Brian Churilla, as announced today at Oni's panel at New York Comic Con.
A prelude to "The Sixth Gun" ongoing series, the miniseries focuses on the four henchmen of the villainous General Hume, and follows their misdeeds in the time period between Hume's death and "The Sixth Gun" #1 Comic Book Resources spoke with Bunn, Hurtt and Churilla about the book, and the joy of reading, and writing, the bad guys.
"Ever since the first arc of 'The Sixth Gun,' readers have wanted to know more about the general's four lieutenants," Bunn told CBR News. "They haven't had much of a presence in the series, considering that they were all dead by the end of our sixth issue -- Each of the first four issues [of the miniseries] focuses on one of the horsemen: 'Bloodthirsty' Bill Sumter, 'Filthy' Ben Kinney, Will Arcane, and Silas 'Bitter Ridge' Hedgepeth, respectively. After the General dies, the group of ne'er-do-wells disbands. These stories show what they were up to, how the cursed guns they possessed affected them, and how they ended up getting the band back together."
"The characters of the Horsemen seem to have resonated with readers of the Sixth Gun and they were also favorites of ours but, to serve the story, they had to bite it," added Hurtt. "With each issue focusing on a separate character we are able to flesh them out more. I'd even go so far as to say we 'humanize' them. But make no mistake, these are all bad dudes. Each has ended up in the same place but the series will highlight their individual journeys, motivations, and circumstances that brought them to where they are when we meet them in 'The Sixth Gun.'"
While the events of "Sons of a Gun" may not filter directly into the currently storyline in "The Sixth Gun," Bunn views the miniseries as adding depth to the world of the series. The henchmen are, at the time of the story, each carrying one of the six cursed pistols for which the series is named. The miniseries focuses on the characters and relationships between Hume's henchmen, and at the burden of wielding power.
"I see this series as building the mythos of 'The Sixth Gun,'" said Bunn. "While we're spending some time highlighting these four characters, we're also building the world in which they live. I think readers who follow this story will have a greater appreciation of General Hume's gang. They'll also have a better understanding of what a terrible burden the Six can be. These pistols are cursed, and they have lasting effects on those who wield them."
Hurtt illustrates the monthly "Sixth Gun" ongoing, but for "Sons of a Gun" he's stepped out of his usual role to serve as co-writer with Bunn. This shift of roles allowed Bunn and Hurtt to bring some additional talent onto the "Sons of a Gun" team to handle the art duties. After some quick brainstorming, the two sought out Brian Churilla, fresh off of the success of his own Oni Press miniseries, "The Secret History of DB Cooper."
"Man, it's been awesome to watch these pages come in," said Hurtt of his experience with Churilla. "He has this wonderful blend of cartoony and macabre that lends itself perfectly to the world of 'The Sixth Gun' and, specifically, to these characters. His art has a real weight to it and brings this wonderful sense of doom and darkness to the book while still being accessible."
"I've been a fan of Churilla's work for a long while," added Bunn. "He may not remember this, but years ago, maybe even before the first issue of 'The Damned' was published, I sent him a blind e-mail asking about possibly collaborating on a project. He was busy working on another project (or he was just nice enough to let me down easy) but I've always thought his artistic style suited my storytelling sensibilities quite well."
"On top of all that, it turns out that he is a super great guy and a real pro to work with -- just don't tell him I said that," joked Hurtt.
Churilla, for his part, is eager to rise to the challenge of "Sons of a Gun," shooting for a dark and moody aesthetic that reflects the themes of loss, retribution and damnation.
"It's very refreshing to have someone else stress over all the minutiae involved with the production of a series," said Churilla. "Cullen and Brian have been very cool to work with, and have been very open to my ideas and suggestions. It's been a bit of adjustment to interpreting someone else's vision, but it's a nice break -- Brian and Cullen have a very specific vision and I want to respect that. I don't think they'd appreciate the 'cartoonist run amok' approach that I had with 'DB Cooper.' They probably wouldn't be too crazy about me drawing a vaginal prolapse monster like there was in 'Secret History.'"
As for Hurtt, he's enjoying his new role as co-writer. While he's been involved in crafting the storyline of "The Sixth Gun" with Bunn from the outset, he said it was always fairly limited and over-arching.
"I might say 'I think there should be two of these bad guys instead of one,' or 'wouldn't it be cool if this character does this in the story?'" said Hurtt. "I never had to weave together the story and the character in a logical and meaningful way to get from point A to point B."
"Sons of a Gun" has allowed Hurtt the perfect opportunity to transition into the role of writer, something he's wanted to do for a long time.
"Working from a basic outline that Cullen put together I am able to write my share of the series knowing that I am, in essence, working with a net," said Hurtt. "He's there to make sure that I don't make a fool of myself and to offer guidance. In some ways it feels like an apprenticeship and it's been pretty great so far."
While Hurtt may describe himself as slowly inching into the water with "Sons of a Gun," Bunn has another take:
"Brian's got writing chops, for sure, but you know what he doesn't have? Mercy," said Bunn. "I've often been accused of treating my collaborators cruelly in terms of the things I ask them to draw. Brian, though, has no qualms whatsoever with challenging an artist."
"The Sixth Gun: Sons of a Gun" #1 goes on sale February 20, 2013.