While many westerns maintain simple plots, which are boosted by the elevated levels of violence they contain, the plots in weird west novels, however, tend to be complex with lots of action, intrigue and adventure. This combination keeps readers on the edge of their seat, as well as the customary violence from the western influence. Lawless societies continue to dominate, and many stories feature a single lawman endlessly trying to maintain the peace.
The story also often includes running away to begin a new life. This makes a large part of the undertone of a western novel about potential. Here are also many people that refuse traditional roles, such as Calamity Jane, creating the setting for those that stand out rather than fit in. The sub-genre adds to these features often creating elaborate conditions for characters’ growth and development.
In addition to a lawman with a never-ending amount of resilience, the typical western may include gunslingers, damsels in distress, and the occasional outlaw posse. Many authors create other characters to compliment these, or eliminate many of them altogether. The characters may also be based on real people such as Wyatt Earp, in Emma Bull’s Territory.
Guns are a key feature in any western. Stories in the weird west sub-genre enhance them by including futuristic and technological enhancements. Others may eliminate them altogether, and characters will use magical weapons that complement the plot instead.
TV and Film
TV series within the sub-genre have been popular since the 1960s when The Wild Wild West introduced audiences to science fiction in the Old West. Other series, such as The Twilight Zone, occasionally feature weird west episodes.
Films have also paired infamous cowboys with other well-known villains, such as Billy the Kid vs Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter both brought to the big screen in 1966.
Both Marvel and DC Comics published weird west stories. In Marvel Comics western characters, such as Two-Gun Kid, often battled costumed supervillains. DC Comics took a more horror approach to their weird west, with aliens and monsters attacking western towns and civilians.
Jonah Hex is one of the most enduring weird west comic characters. 19th century Hex was raised by a brutal father and then sold into slavery with the Apaches. After being betrayed several times by a brother in the tribe, Hex is branded as punishment and severely scarred for life. He becomes a bounty hunter, mixing his killing instincts with his need for good. All this while living in a world rich with supernatural and mystery.
Both readers and authors are craving new styles of writing, and this subgenre continues to flourish to meet those needs. The bolder the risk, the greater the reward, is a motto many writers have embraced making the weird western an integral part of modern storytelling.