By Jim Beard
The Old West meets the New West in SIX GUNS, Marvel’s upcoming ode to hot lead. The five-issue limited series—beginning in November—saddled up by the DAREDEVIL: REBORN team of writer Andy Diggle and artist Davide Gianfelice, spotlights modern-day versions of classic Marvel western characters Tarantula, Tex Dawson, the Black Riders, The Two-Gun Kid and Matt Slade.
“Maria Vasquez, alias Tarantula of the Heroes for Hire, has been arrested for a double murder she may or may not have committed,” explains Diggle. “As she's being transported to an arraignment hearing by Texas Ranger ‘Tex’ Dawson, the Black Riders Motorcycle Club makes a spectacular intervention. The second issue sees bounty hunter Matt Slade and the Two-Gun Kid thrown into the mix.
|SIX GUNS preview inks by Davide Gianfelice|
“Tarantula has uncovered a conspiracy in the tiny South American nation of San Diablo, which is where most of the action plays out, and powerful interests want her dead. San Diablo stands on the brink of civil war—Santa Maria to the north, and Sierra Del Diablo to the south—and both sides have hired massive U.S. private military contractors to fight for them. The question is, who's paying for it and why? As our heroes learn the truth, they find an awful lot of guns pointed at them and, well, let's just say they don't talk their way out of it!”
Recognizing the Western as a grand tradition of storytelling, but also realizing the form’s present-day challenges, Diggle conceptualized SIX GUNS as a way to translate the core of the concept into a hard-hitting modern story.
“Old characters are constantly being updated to make them more relevant to the times we live in,” he says. “Tarantula, for example, started out as an Old West character in the 1960’s, before being reinvented as a Spider-Man villain in the 1970’s, and then reinvented again more recently as Maria Vasquez of the Heroes For Hire. So I thought it would be fun to do that with a whole handful of cowboys, reimagining them as modern-day gunslingers—lawmen, vigilantes, bikers and bounty-hunters—and pitting them against each other in a Robert Rodriguez-style action caper. Who wouldn't want to read that?
“SIX GUNS is very much built on the concept of the ‘gun hero,’ which of course is an inherently old-fashioned concept. We don't live on the lawless frontier any more. That's one of the reasons I moved the action down to the fictional nation of San Diablo, where they can really cut loose. These are characters that operate on the outer fringes of legality at the best of times, but once they get down there, anything goes. It's a modern-day Wild West. One of the more pleasing angles for me was these inherently old-fashioned gun heroes going up against a very modern threat: a huge corporate conspiracy. That's a problem you can't fix just by shooting it. Not that it's going to stop them trying...”
|SIX GUNS preview inks by Davide Gianfelice|
The writer also relished the thought of assembling his team of gun-toting heroes, with a watchful eye for diversity and the inner workings that would make them tick.
“Some of the most well-known Marvel cowboys have the word ‘kid’ in their name—Kid Colt, Outlaw Kid and so on,” notes Diggle. “I swore I'd only have one ‘Kid’ in my story, and he was going to be an actual kid, in his early teens. So our Two-Gun Kid is this ambidextrous prodigy who's grown up rocking two-player console shooters and now chooses to swap his toy guns for the real thing. The Black Rider is the leader of the Black Riders Motorcycle Club. He's a badass outlaw with his own code and his own motives, which I don't want to spoil here.
“Matt Slade is a high-end bounty hunter who specializes in hunting down High Value Targets, be they international terrorists or Marvel super-villains. He's in it for the money. Like the rest of the SIX GUNS crew, he has no super-powers, but he makes up for it with an arsenal of high-tech weapons and a souped-up armored Mustang. Tex Dawson is a lawman, a Texas Ranger. So he can't just wade in with all guns blazing; he has a degree of procedure to follow. Although he's the one who looks the most like a traditional cowboy, he's also the most reserved of our characters. Until all hell breaks loose, that is. It's been fun writing him as this very self-controlled pressure-cooker, and gradually turning up the heat under him. You know eventually he's going to cut loose - and when he does, you better not be in his way.”
Diggle’s also singing the praises of his SIX GUNS artist, the talented Davide Gianfelice. From character design to layout to finishes, Gianfelice exhibits range rivaling that of the gunsels who inhabit the series, according to his writer.
“Honestly, I think Davide's work is some of my all-time favorite comic art,” he says. “I requested to work with him on DAREDEVIL: REBORN and again for SIX GUNS, so I feel very lucky. I love working with him; it's always such a pleasure when the pages come in.
“Davide has this beautifully fluid line, tight composition, crisp visual storytelling and an incredible sense of movement and flow to the action. It's hard to get a real sense of momentum to, say, a car chase on paper, but just look at Davide's work on those SIX GUNS preview pages: the sense of weight and movement to those vehicles, flipping and crashing and screeching to a halt. If you want five issues of scowly-eyed anti-heroes with running gunfights, car chases and stuff blowing up, there's no-one better than Davide Gianfelice!”