Smash Pages Q&A | Cullen Bunn + Brian Hurtt on the return of ‘The Sixth Gun’

The creators of the horror/Western ‘yarn’ talk about returning to their signature creation with a new Kickstarter project.

The 50-issue The Sixth Gun series — along with its several spin-off series — was a hallmark of independent comics publishing from 2010 to 2016. Co-creators Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt not only created a compelling “yarn” of a story that combined horror with the Western genre, but they also did a phenomenal job of creating a world that always seemed ripe for more exploration.

They wrapped up the initial story of Becky Montcrief, Arnold Drake and the battle for control of six mystical guns, and now Oni Press has announced The Sixth Gun Deluxe Omnibus Library, which is currently up on Kickstarter. Not only are they releasing all the issues of The Sixth Gun, plus all the spinoff miniseries, plus the spinoff series Shadow Roads, in this deluxe format, but Bunn and Hurtt are also creating new material for it — three new prelude stories will unlock as the campaign reaches new milestones over the course of its 30-day run. It’s also a precursor to a new The Sixth Gun project coming in 2025 for the comic’s 15th anniversary.

I spoke with both creators about what it’s like to return to The Sixth Gun after all this time, their collaborative process and what to expect from the new material they’re creating.

Why is now the right time to revisit The Sixth Gun?

Cullen: Brian and I have wanted to revisit this world in a big way for a long time, but neither of us wanted to do so unless we had an amazing story to tell. The time was right because we finally stumbled onto a story that we don’t just want to tell, we have to tell! It’s a story that will honor and elevate the material that has come before. It’s much more than an afterthought. It’s our only thought! The only thing we can talk about! We’re excited about telling this story, which means the time is finally right.

Brian: Cullen told me the other day that he’d talked to me more in the past couple weeks than in the past couple years. And it’s not that we don’t talk regularly, it’s just that I’m now calling him a few times a day with thoughts on The Sixth Gun! The last time we shared this kind of creative energy was when we first developed Sixth Gun all those years ago! We’re in a very exciting creative space, and I can’t wait to share what we’re cooking up with everyone!

You pulled off a monumental feat in creating 50 issues (plus all the spinoffs) and completing your story. Did you think you would make it that far, and what’s it like looking back at the body of work in hindsight?

Cullen: I remember when we started out, we knew we would get six issues, but we weren’t sure if we’d get any more. We talked about it! We brainstormed where the story would go after the first arc, what the major events and the ultimate conclusion would look like. After we saw the reaction to the first story arc, we knew we’d be doing more, and the ideas started to cement in our minds. Throughout all those issues, we never lost the excitement and love we had for the series. I’m hyper-critical of most of my work, but I’m damn proud of what we were able to do with The Sixth Gun.

Brian: I was recently looking through an issue of The Sixth Gun to remind myself how a particular scene had played out and I ended up getting pulled into the story. Before I knew it I had read ten issues. I mean, I’ve spent more time staring at these scripts and these pages of art than anyone and, all these years later, I still found myself getting lost in the story! I’ve always been proud of what we accomplished–even at the time, I knew it was a big deal. But seeing it with fresh eyes and recognizing it for the solid, well-told story it is, gave me an immense feeling of pride and an immense sense of duty as we move forward. We’re setting out to create a story that doesn’t just avoid undercutting all the work of the original series but that actually enriches the experience that readers had with that story.

Why do you think the series has resonated so well with readers, and what do you believe sets it apart from other comic book titles?

Brian: I think that readers can sense the amount of fun we had in creating the series. There was nothing calculated about it, no conversations about what the market was looking for or what might look sexy to Hollywood. Cullen and I just set out to create a comic that evoked that sense of fun and adventure we felt as young comic fans. That excitement and wonder that made us fans of comics in the first place. We literally had conversations about achieving that goal–it was our mission statement for ourselves and I like to believe it came through in the work!

Cullen: Brian said it! This was the kind of book we would have wanted to read! And I think it’s a book that surprises readers. If they thought they knew what they were going to get with a Western comic, we startled them straight away! If they thought they knew what a horror comic might be, we dodged out of their sights and jump-scared them from another direction. If they thought they knew what a fantasy comic might bring to the table, we set the table on fire. Readers like the book, because it keeps them guessing and because they can tell that we loved creating it.

What’s it like working together again on new material, and has your process changed at all?

Cullen: I don’t think our process has changed much in all these years. I don’t use any kind of shorthand when working with Brian. I could. I trust his talent and sensibilities. But the process of writing the script keeps me happy. We talk about every issue we’re going to work on together, usually in broad strokes. I always try to hold a little bit back to surprise Brian with once he reads the scripts. Many times, we’ll talk again after he reads the script. And then it’s off to the races!

Brian: If there is a Venn diagram of Cullen and my creative minds there would be a vast area of overlap. That’s where the mind meld happens–the nexus of creative synchronicity. But those areas outside the overlap are filled with vastly different influences and perspectives. So, while we have a shared language of story and creativity, we also bring enough contrast to the process to challenge each other and bring the best out in one another. It’s always been that way and it’s why we’ll continue to find time to come together and tell stories together.

What can fans expect from the Kickstarter — are there any rewards you’re especially excited about?

Brian: For us, everything comes down to telling stories–it’s what keeps me going. So I’m most excited about getting to work on the new short stories and the illustrations for the prose piece! Also, the hip flask is pretty damn cool.

Cullen: I love all the little add-on items you can get while supporting these gorgeous hardcover editions, but I’m probably most excited about the new prose and comic stories we’re offering as stretch goals! These new stories will bridge the stories that have come before and the stories we will start telling in 2025 for The Sixth Gun’s anniversary.

Finally, new material. New Sixth Gun! The previous series had a definite ending, so what can we expect from the new comics you’re creating?

Cullen: Expect a book that fuses The Sixth Gun to Shadow Roads in an exciting way. Expect an epic swashbuckling adventure in the Old West. Expect everything you loved about The Sixth Gun. Which is to say, I would leave your expectations at the door!

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