Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games

By Merlock, Ray | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), June 2012 | Go to article overview

Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games


Merlock, Ray, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games Paul Green. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009.

If you ever wondered "Did any stories set in the West or the Old West ever appear in the comic book Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen}" the answer is "Yes." Actually, there were at least three: "The Fastest Gun in the West" (January-February 1955), "The Feats of Chief Super-Duper" (August 1956), and "The Gunsmoke Kid" (fune 1960). Or "What Italian gothic horror spaghetti western influenced Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter and Pale Rideri" According to Paul Green, it was Django il Bastardo (directed by Sergio Garrone, 1969).

In the extraordinarily useful and detailed Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns, Green identifies horrific and supernatural departures and twists over the last 150 years of the Western. There are "weird Westerns," which incorporate horror, supernatural, or fantasy elements; and there are "weird menace Westerns," which resemble "weird Westerns" but conclude with rational explanations like the 1930s Westerns or serials and pulp fiction. There are "science fiction Westerns," which feature technology and extra-terrestrials; and there are "space Westerns," which are often little more than "cowboys with ray guns" stories. There are "Steampunk Westerns," which are set in the Old West but which incorporate Victorian technology and are philosophically similar to Cyberpunk's sensibility with regard to the transforming (and corrupting) aspects of technological intrusion; and there are "weird Western romances," which seem to boil down to "I love you, Tex, but what are we going to do about the ghost/spirit guide/demon/ vampire/guardian angel?"

While the boundaries between these different categories often blur, and the categories themselves often merge into hybrids, they nonetheless form the foundation for Green to offer short, compact entries and numerous illustrations (photos, comics panels, covers), beginning with an entry on "Abraham" (the 1999 Italian comic book character Abraham Van Helsing, demon and vampire hunter in the Old West of the 1880s) and ending with an entry on the 1939 Republic Pictures 12chapter serial Zorro's Fighting Legion (starring Reid Hadley as Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro). …

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