The 6th Gun Interview with Brian Hurtt & Cullen Bunn

By: Kevin Watkins

The 6th Gun is a new on-going series by the creative team of Brian Hurtt and Cullen Bunn, published by Oni Press. Hurtt and Bunn previously collaborated on two other series, The Damned and The Damned: Prodigal Sons.

The 6th Gun is a weird-west tale that focuses on “The Six,” which are a set of wicked, powerful pistols that popped up around the Cival War. The 6th Gun, the billy-bad ass of the lot, disappeared at the end of the Civil War, but has now resurfaced in the possession of an innocent girl.

Issue 1FOn Free Comic Day, May 1, 2010, Oni Press will be releasing the entire first issue of The 6th Gun.

How long we’re you guys sitting on The 6th Gun story? Did it start to take shape during The Damned runs?

CULLEN: I’m not exactly sure when I started thinking about The Sixth Gun, but it definitely started to build steam in my head while I worked on The Damned. I remember telling Brian about it for the first time during Free Comic Book Day a couple of years ago. Maybe it’s fate that the first issue is going to hit during FCBD this year!

What was the western appeal? Any of you guys ever ride a horse?

CULLEN: When I was a boy, we had this horse who only had two speeds: “stop” (when no one was riding him) and “hell-bent-for-leather” (when anyone was in the saddle). I was convinced that I could break that horse in some sort of horse-whisperer fashion. My efforts were met with a harrowing ride down a stretch of dirt road and a flight into the welcoming cushion of a tobacco field. I grew up on and around farms, and we had horses until I was around 18. But that wild horse who threw me into a ‘baccy field has a special place in my heart.

As for the love of westerns, I think the genre just appeals to the kid in me, you know? The legendary Old West, as most people think of it, has a magical quality. It’s history as we wish it could have been. Outlaws, train robberies, six-guns, white and black hats … what’s not to love?

BRIAN: Look, commie—who doesn’t love a good western? I don’t know man, it just seems like that kind of thing that every comic artist and filmmaker wants to tackle at some point in their careers. There’s the challenge of both paying homage to what’s come before and trying to figure out what you can bring to it that is new. And who doesn’t want to draw horses? I mean, seriously, everyone complains about how hard horses are to draw–and they are–but the only thing harder than drawing a horse is drawing a car.

And, yes, I’ve been on a horse before. Twice. The first time I was about 9 years old and it was part of this summer camp day outing. I still remember the horses name—Pepsi. I remember it because Pepsi thought it’d be cool to get in a fight with the horse behind her and she started kicking at it. In my mind she was bucking wildly and I was doing everything to stay on for my 9 seconds. She didn’t throw me but I also didn’t get back on a horse for about 10 years. A much less memorable experience. It was one of those really sad eyed trail horses and we just moseyed along for about half an hour. Needless to say, I survived.

How long is the story?

BRIAN: Why, you got somewhere you have to be? THE SIXTH GUN is an ongoing monthly series but we do have an end in mind. I wouldn’t want to put an issue count on it (mainly ‘cuz I don’t want you to hold me to it) but in the end it will be a pretty hefty story—several story arcs. That vague enough?

CULLEN: Yeah, we have an idea of where the story is going, and every issue and story arc will help build towards that ultimate conclusion. The nice thing about having the overall story in mind is that the indivial issues will not wander too far off track.

What did you guys do for researching the eras you are working in? Any influences?

CULLEN: Does anyone remember that great Time-Life book series on the Old West? I know Brian remembers them. Each volume was bound in brown leather. There were twenty-something volumes in the series. I read through those things over and over when I was growing up. Now, I rely on my memory of those books, tons of movies, and lots of western paperbacks. When I’m brainstorming, I tend to have a notebook in hand and a movie on the TV. While dreaming up stories for The Sixth Gun, I watched lots of flicks like THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, UNFORGIVEN, TRUE GRIT, 3:10 TO YUMA, and even MAVERICK. To get my juices flowing for the stranger aspects of the story, I turned to movies like DEAD MAN and DEAD BIRDS. I also made sure to watch a bunch of great old shows like HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL, DEADWOOD, THE RIFLEMAN, and WILD, WILD WEST.

BRIAN: I took several days leading up to the start of this to sit down and watch a bunch of movies and documentaries with my remote handy so I could pause and sketch. As I was getting started at the drawing table I also had on the first two seasons of Deadwood to get into the mood and also to look at for inspiration. Add several trips to the library carrying Time-Life book back and forth. Time-Life are the best for this sort of project because of the abundance of visual reference.

Issue 1 (Specifically for Brian) So…all the artwork (pencil, ink, and color) and not to mention the lettering, why the James Cameron route?

BRIAN: Because I’m a megalomaniac. Honestly, it all just kind of fell in place. It goes without saying that I would do the pencils and inks—I can’t see myself ever just penciling a book at this point. And I did the letters for THE DAMNED, and it really takes no time at all, that I just decided I’d do them for this project as well. Also, on THE DAMNED, I did all the grey tones—which were pretty extensive—it was really more like coloring with grey as opposed to just using a couple shades and doing spot work. So when it became apparent that this project would be in color I asked Oni Press if they would let me take a shot at it. I knew that, at some point in my career, I wanted to have complete control over the colors in one of my books and, honestly, I thought this might be one of my only shots. So I did some test pages, just to see if it was something I could handle, and everyone gave me the thumbs up to do the first arc. Now, there’s no way that I could maintain this workload on monthly basis so, after issue 6, someone else will be brought in to be the series colorist. I don’t plan on doing my own colors again—mainly because I would rather be spending that time drawing—but, I am still really excited to be able to hold that first book in my hands and know that, for good or bad, all the art in it is mine.

(Specifically for Cullen) Not that I don’t think the artwork is amazing, but why are you letting Brian go the James Cameron route with this project? You still want to want him coherent for your next project, right?

CULLEN: Hey, that guy does this to himself! “Oh, look at me! Look at me!” he chimes. “I’m a big-shot comic book artist and I can draw anything! I can color, too, and I stay inside the lines and everything!”

Actually, I couldn’t be happier that Brian was so excited about the book that he wanted to tackle all of these chores. I mean, we all know that it’s difficult to convince a crazy person of anything. Trying to convince a crazy, creative person is ten times is nigh impossible. But that kind of craziness is good for the soul, I think. It inspires me to a degree.

Is there a tour planned for The 6th Gun?

BRIAN: No tour, per se, but we will be showing up at a series of stores over the next several months. Cullen and I will both have schedules up on our respective blogs.

CULLEN: There are definitely a lot of plans for spreading the word on the book. One of the things I’d love to try at some point is a virtual book tour. Hell, I don’t even know how such a thing works, but I’d still love to try it!

The Damned was optioned by Dreamworks, how’s that coming along? Anyone sniffing at The 6th Gun?

CULLEN: The wheels in Hollywood turn slowly and movie producers work in mysterious ways. See? Brian’s not the only person who can be vague.

This is your third major project together, any more? Are you still having fun?

BRIAN: Oh man, between THE SIXTH GUN and THE DAMNED Cullen and I have plenty to keep us busy for quite a while. That said, I think that we work so well together that once we finish some of these other projects we will definitely find something new to work on. I don’t think we’ll be able to help ourselves.

Issue 2Now for the THE LIGHTNING POP-CULTURE ROUND (for the comic geek in us all)
Quick answers please, you may elaborate some.

Favorite western?

CULLEN: This is hard for me, and it changes from day to day. If you’re talking movies, I’ll go with THE SHOOTIST (or maybe THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES). For books I’ll say Joew R. Lansdale’s DEAD IN THE WEST. For comics, I’ll go with DC’s old WEIRD WESTERN TALES.

BRIAN: Hmm…I have a lot of favorites but if I had to pick one it’d be Howard Hawk’s RIO BRAVO. I’m not saying it’s by any means the “best” but it is probably my favorite. Or maybe STAGECOACH. Or RED RIVER. Ugh–hard question!

Eastwood or Wayne?

CULLEN: As much as I like Eastwood, I’m going with John Wayne. He reminds me of my dad.

BRIAN: If you’d asked me five years ago I’d have said Eastwood but in the past few years I’ve kind of discovered John Wayne. I’d always assumed that I didn’t like Wayne and that he was too old school for me. Then I saw RIO BRAVO and it was like a wake-up call.

Favorite horror movie?

BRIAN: I’m cheating again and picking more than one. In fact, I’m gonna pick three because I can’t play favorites with this bunch. Here we go: AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE SHINING, and John Carpenter’s THE THING.

CULLEN: Since Brian picked three, I’m doing the same. I’ll go with ALIEN, THE THING, and the 2002 remake of THE RING.

Decade of horror?

BRIAN: Can I cheat and say 75-85?

CULLEN: Brian really picked the best time overall, but I’ll say the 80s.

In a fight, Drake or Eddie?

BRIAN: I don’t know, man…Drake might shoot straighter but then Eddie’s got that whole “not dying” thing. Eddie is probably a dirtier fighter but Drake has better “hardware”. Is it a cop out to say it’s draw? It is? Oh well…

CULLEN: While I think they’d probably team up to pull off some sort of scam, I’d give the edge in a fight to Drake. Now … if Eddie had backup from his brother, Morgan, it might be another story …

In a fight, Brian or Cullen?

BRIAN: Cullen. Because he will fight dirty. Just look at him—he looks like the kind of guy who carries a blackjack and brass knuckles.

CULLEN: Brian’s right … he’d rather sandpaper a wildcat’s ass than fight me … Except I don’t have a blackjack. I carry a dirty sock full of oranges. Less bruising that way.

Check out your local comic shop on Free Comic Book Day, May 1, 2010, and pick up the first issue of The 6th Gun for free. The retail version of issue #1 (which sports a snazzy new cover) and issue#2 will be simultaneously released in July. Order it in the May 2010 issue of Previews, pages 320-321.

You can read my full review of the first issue here.

And you can check out a 7-Page preview of the first issue here.

For more information on the creators check out their websites:

Brian Hurtt

Cullen Bunn