Pretty much everything is better when it’s weirder, and HBO is bringing weird westerns back to TV in a big way. Based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, Westworld tells the story of an artificial theme park made to resemble the American west, a plot that perfectly works classic science fiction questions in with the trappings and conventions of the old west. But while this might be fairly new territory for modern television, bending and breaking the western genre is nothing new to comic books.
Cowboys have been slapping leather in the pages of comic books for pretty much as long as there have been comic books. While the traditional western genre is largely diminished compared to the glory days of the ‘40s and ‘50s, its absence has given way to a more flexible genre: weird westerns.
Westerns as a whole — whether in print, television, or any other medium — crashed during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s due in part to their over-exposure, and also in part due to a more critical attitude toward American history thanks to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. The fantasized and whitewashed visions of simplistic cowboys and indians just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. So a new genre and approach emerged that both deconstructed the ideas of the traditional western and mixed it with elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or any other genre that could fit.
So now, with Westworld blowing up the Home Box Office, it seems like the perfect time to look back on some of the weirdest and wildest westerns to have blazed a four-color trail. Did we miss one of your favorites? Walk twenty paces and draw in the comments.