ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WEIRD WESTERNS by Paul Green (McFarland, publication February 2016) 320 pages-softcover $39.95 www.mcfarlandpub.com .
Ever since seeing PHANTOM EMPIRE (1935, Mascot) on television, I have enjoyed westerns that not your typical gunslinger tale. It seems that I am not alone in my enjoyment of these genre mash ups, as author /comic artist Paul Green has tracked down horror, fantasy, sci fi tales of the Old West (or western tinged tales).
Green casts a wide lasso to hog tie in film, stories, games, and comic books that touch on these hybrid tales.
Some of the titles may raise a few eyebrows for their inclusion (STAR WARS, Fox 1977) as Space Westerns, and a few for their omission (THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN, Principal 1938) though the author clarifies why he feels certain titles don’t fall under the definition “Weird Western”. However, where is GHOST TOWN (Empire,1988)? He lists several other Charles Band produced films so I am surprised he missed this one.
(GHOST TOWN disappeared from the book )
Most fascinating was how far back in literature these oddball oaters went. In 1868, “The Huge Hunter or The Steam Man of the Prairies “by Edward Sylvester Ellis was published, featuring a steam powered robot (true STEAM punk!) . Dime novels, pulps, and magazine serials all spun out tales of when the uncanny went West.
I do recall in the 1960s a lot of comic books have science fantasy and outright horror stories mixed in with the six gun slinging chronicles. Many of these inspired big (and not so big) budget films and tv series such as COWBOYS & ALIENS (Universal ,2011).
There are even several role playing games for those so inclined ,such as DEADLANDS (Pinnacle Entertainment Group,1996 )and it’s follow ups.
Author Green choses some pretty choice illustrations for the comic art, giving small bios on artists like John Severin who did a lot of work in the craft. Likewise, he provides some rare lobby cards and photos from the cinematic world.
All and all, a pretty good research book on this subgenre of sage brush strangeness.
–Kevin G Shinnick–