Deadlands: Dead Man’s Hand from Visionary Comics and IDW is on sale NOW! Enjoy these behind the scenes interviews with creators and previews of EACH story collected in this “All-Star Western” volume.
Devil’s Six Gun
by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis
The Harvey-Award winning duo from High Moon brought us the Faustian story of inventor Copernicus Blackburne, who risks even his immortal soul to build ‘The Devil’s Six-Gun!’ The dynamic duo gives us a little insight into their process.
DAVID: Steve and I both game, so when we were approached by Visionary to work on the project, it seemed like something that would fit in our wheelhouse. The world of Deadlands is so incredibly robust that it’s hard not to get excited about it.
STEVE: It was an opportunity to tell an interesting western story that would fit into the world of our series HIGH MOON, but would still be uniquely its own thing.
DAVID: We were sent a huge document to help us brush up on the timeline and the mythology. I gravitated to telling a story about a Mad Scientist-type. They are a very particular class of people who have the unnatural ability to build almost anything.
STEVE: But the consequences are severe.
DAVID: The basic set-up became this story about an inventor named
Copernicus Blackburne, who as a child, developed this insatiable
hunger and unending curiosity for knowledge. He’s one of those kids
you hated in school, that kid who ruined the grading curve. He was
THAT kid. And this is a story about him and his ambition …
STEVE: It’s a story that I think resonates with a lot of creative
people, who are driven beyond their limits to create even at their own expense. He comes to America and the Old West with big hopes and bigger ideas.
DAVID: In addition to re-reading the DEADLANDS material, Steve and I researched several other famous inventors and gunsmiths like Samuel Colt, Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson.
STEVE: The story became very biographical, but more insidious. It’s
more like a stage play, really.
DAVID: Or a History Channel documentary, as narrated by the Devil.
STEVE: We took a lot of care making sure it worked within the confines of the universe while expanding in our own way. For the gamers out there, this story is the origin of a powerful magic item which was included in the game stats in the back, which was pretty awesome. But for readers who aren’t gamers it’s a standalone story that needs no more introduction than, well… this.
Massacre at Redwing
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Lee Moder, and Michael Atiyeh
Visionary’s CCO C. Edward Sellner shares some behind the scenes:
When we were planning to launch Deadlands, we spent a good bit of time strategizing before bringing in any creators. We wanted to make sure that when we did start looking for the right folks, we knew “why” they were the right folks, and what we were expecting of them. We had a few core goals we needed to meet.
We had to make sure each book shouted DEADLANDS and by that I mean was not just any western-horror-steampunk story dressed in a Deadlands logo, but was through and through part of that world.
We also knew we wanted to show the richness and diversity of that world, hit each of those genres strongly and in a way that gave each room to breathe. But at the same time, we knew this was a first foray, so, we had to prove ourselves, and introduce the world to a wider range of readers than just the players of the game.
And of course, us being us, we wanted to give our creators plenty of freedom in telling the kind of story they wanted, and to be a lot of fun for everyone involved.
Teams came together pretty easy, since we had Ron Marz heading up the effort. One of the most obvious writing teams were Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the guys who had done so much to re-define and expand on one of the best western characters in comics, namely Jonah Hex from DC.
They signed on, along with the other teams, and we were surprised at how easily everyone ended up gravitating to one of the key elements. Jimmy and Justin wanted a strong female lead, and wanted to do a tale of vengeance, with an Indian Shamaness.
Once we knew that, the artist choice also was pretty obvious.
Lee Moder is one of the best in the business, and his gift at drawing strong, fierce, but beautiful women is one of his trademarks.
Once the ideas started flowing it was a lot of fun and excitement, and then Jimmy and Justin dropped a MAJOR revelation they wanted to add to the story. Our first reaction, my first reaction personally, was “Holy, that’s BRILLIANT!” But I then thought, “And no way in HECK we can do it!” It was a twist that plugged the story right to the core of the Deadlands universe and a fairly major revelation about one of the key players in that world.
But, then it got approved and that was when we knew that yeah, these books, unlike a lot of other game licenses, wouldn’t just tell stories ‘set’ in the world, but ones that helped shape it, and that, was pretty cool. -C. Edward Sellner
Death Was Silent
by Ron Marz, Bart Sears, and Michael Atiyeh
Welcome back for round three of our Creator spotlights as we turn our focus on Death Was Silent! Our third outing was definitely one of the darker tales we spun in this wave of one-shots. Written by Ron Marz, with lavish illustration work from Bart Sears and haunting colors from Michael Atiyeh, Death Was Silent was a pulpy tale or murder and mayhem. Ron, who edited the first wave of books, jumped on board to write this issue. Bart is also returning to Deadlands for an extended engagement on our next volume: The Cackler, which got formally announced the same day this interview went live! I checked in with Ron and Bart for a quick reflection on DWS and then asked Bart about his next deal in the Deadlands!
Gents, tell us about your one-shot!
Ron Marz: This was the first real Western I had the chance to write, and I certainly hope it’s not the last. Bart and I absolutely loved working on ‘Death Was Silent,’ delving into Western archetypes and then subverting them with the supernatural aspects of ‘Deadlands’ universe.
Bart Sears: I was familiar with Deadlands as a role-playing game from way back, and I thought the concept was intriguing and I love to work with Ron… so anytime I have the chance, I take it. But beyond that, it was a western; I’d never had the chance to do a western before and really never thought I would. Making that even better, was the mix of cowboy and sorcery, giving Deadlands a kind of sword and sorcery feel, which I love.
Ron Marz: I honestly think the silent protagonist and his magical chalkboard is one of the cooler concepts I’ve come up with, and I have no idea where it came from. It was just one of those ideas that appeared out of nowhere.
Bart, your style for DWS was pretty distinct (and awesome), and not like a lot of your other work, can you tell us what you were going for there, or what your approach is in deciding the look for each project?
Bart Sears: I felt the look needed to be gritty for a western story… add horror and supernatural and, well, slick and clean just didn’t seem right to me. I’ve always felt that each project needed to be approached individually… not always, that isn’t quite true, when I first started drawing comics I was much more concerned with just drawing well, doing a good job. As the years passed, and I became more proficient and confident, the way the story was told, layout, feel and the finishing style for each project became much more of a focus.
So, now you’re doing The Cackler, one of the most mysterious characters in Deadlands lore. What attracted you to this gig? How is it similar or different from previous and what is standing out to you the most?
Bart Sears: I was pleased and excited to get the chance to revisit Deadlands. I very much enjoyed drawing Death Was Silent, and jumped at the chance to do the Cackler. It’s interesting to get to travel and create in the Deadlands milieu again, explore more of that strange world and bring to visual life such an interesting character as the Cackler. Bottom line… it’s fun to draw this stuff.
What’s it like working with Shane Hensley, creator of Deadlands, for this book?
Bart Sears: I’ve been enjoying our collaboration immensely; Shane brings an energy and excitement that is addictive. His vision for the Cackler’s story is fresh, and I think turns out to be quite a shocker. I just hope I can do his story justice.
Any thoughts on the return engagement with Visionary Comics?
Bart Sears: Chuck and everyone at Visionary have always been great to work with. It’s not often you find a company to work with that is as supportive, helpful and creative as this bunch. I’m happy to have the chance to work with them again.
Are you a big fans of Westerns and if so, which is your favorite?
As a kid, I loved Zorro and the Lone Ranger – both the TV shows and the comics… couldn’t get enough of them. The Wild, Wild West, Bonanza, the Rifleman, Gunsmoke, The Mavericks, so many western shows I grew up with. So many great movies… The John Wayne classics, the spaghetti westerns… a favorite? I don’t think I can pick just one…
Any parting shots (so to speak)?
The Cackler is a great story – I think anyone who loves the Deadlands RPG will love how we’ve brought the Cackler and the world of Deadlands to life( I hope they do, anyway!)… more than that, anyone who loves a good yarn will really dig this look at a truly great Deadlands character.
by Jeff Mariotte, Brook Turner, and C. Edward Sellner
Deadlands: Black Water is the first time writer Jeff Mariotte and artist Brook Turner have worked together – though not the first time they’ve been associated with the same Weird Western project. More on that below, as we ask them a few questions about how Deadlands: Black Water came about—and then some.
Brook, how did you get involved in Black Water? Were you familiar with the Deadlands universe before that?
BT: I had been working on a comic for Image called Golly! with Phil Hester and we were in between stories so I had some downtime. Shannon Eric Denton asked if I would draw a couple short stories for the old west character Graveslinger that he and Jeff created. It was a western with horror/weird elements and I am all over that.
So I did a couple stories and at some point in there Phil told me that Ron Marz was editing some mini series that was a horror western and he was looking for an artist for a story. As it happened I had just completed 20 pages of a horror western so I forwarded those along and got the gig. It was a blast to draw, and I really loved Jeff’s script. It offered a lot of opportunities to draw everything from exploding steamships and sea monsters to more subtle, dramatic scenes. The entire Deadlands universe was new to me, but I loved it. I hope I get to do more in that world someday.
How about you, Jeff? You have a longer history with Weird Westerns, and with Deadlands in particular.
JM: Yes, I’ve been writing Weird Westerns since I created Desperadoes back in 1996-97. Deadlands was being born around the same time—I guess Weird Westerns were in the atmosphere, even though there weren’t any going in comics or games (that I know of) at the time. Desperadoes was published then by the Homage Comics imprint of WildStorm Productions/Image Comics. Later story arcs were published by WildStorm Productions/DC Comics, then by IDW Publishing.
As Brook mentioned, considerably later on I created Graveslinger with my pal Shannon Eric Denton. Back in those early days, Shane Hensley put together some anthologies of Deadlands short stories, and invited me to play, so that was my first experience writing anything for Deadlands. A few years ago, I was asked to write more Deadlands short fiction, for a Visionary Comics project that didn’t quite come together for a variety of reasons.
But through that experience—and then through writing Black Water—I got to know Chuck and Charlie, and having a lot of publishing experience (I think we can capitalize that: A LOT of publishing experience), I started informally advising them on some stuff. That eventually turned into a two-year quest to expand Visionary’s Deadlands license into the novel realm.
We found just the right publishing partner with Tor Books, and got a three-book deal put together. Mine (Thunder Moon Rising) is already written, as is Jonathan Maberry’s (Ghostwalkers). Jonathan’s will come out first, in 2015, then mine, then Seanan McGuire’s. Yes, we lined up some fantastic writers for these books.
Now I’m officially on the Visionary Comics masthead as a publishing consultant, and couldn’t work with a more creative, innovative—and yes, visionary—team.
Another question for Brook. We’ve been told that horses and cowboy hats are the hardest parts of drawing western stories. Was that true for you, or was something else more challenging?
BT: That is indeed true, but I always enjoy a drawing challenge. I find that drawing sexy women to be more of a challenge, at least to do it well, but everything has its challenges. I’ve always found that if I can round up enough great reference material I can draw anything.
Fortunately, I had just been drawing horses and cowboy hats so it was on my brain. I also had the great fortune to work in a studio right next door to the great comic artist Ron Wagner. He graciously let me borrow all of his Moebius Blueberry trades (the ones Marvel/Epic put out back in the 80’s).
Wow. Such amazing art (obviously!), but it was a bonus for me because Moebius drew EVERYTHING with such clarity and detail that I didn’t need to seek out any more reference. It’s all in those books! I offer this advice to any artist who may ever have to draw a western, seek out those Moebius Blueberry stories. You won’t be sorry. He has already drawn everything for you that you would ever need to draw in a western.
It made me realize that all of his amazing Sci-fi work must have been a piece of cake for him, compared to all the period details he had to get right in Blueberry. Especially in the days before Google image search. Making stuff up is way easier than drawing a dozen different gunslingers, all wearing completely different clothing, riding horses alongside a speeding train through a desert valley. Crazy and so inspiring.
Moebius is indeed one of the masters, and Blueberry is brilliant stuff. Jeff, can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of the Black Water story?
JM: It really all gelled from one horrific image, which I’m not going to spoil, but which you’ll see near the end of the story. Once that little bit of creepiness was wedged into my brain, I just had to figure out how things got to that point. Working in the Deadlands universe was, of course, hugely inspirational—it was particularly fun to spend some time exploring the Maze. And Brook pulled it all off beautifully.
What are you both working on now?
BT: Lately I have been working on various projects, some non-comic related. Mostly trying to develop my painting skills and seeking out some illustration work. I’ve done a couple of small comic projects for some friends, and hope to get more comic work soon. Working on the Deadlands: Black Water story was a lot of fun. Everybody at Visionary was great to work with, and I hope to do more for them someday.
JM: My latest novel, Empty Rooms, just came out, so I’m busy promoting that. It’s a very dark thriller—no cowboys, but plenty of chills. In addition to that, I have a bunch of short story work going with my writing partner, Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell, and we’re putting together a novel that we’re about to start pitching. So busy, busy, busy.