Comics

“Zeke Deadwood”: Horror-Western-Comedy Mashup

Michael D. Stewart
Wander On, Lonesome Rider: Rather than lure readers in to the world of Zeke the Zombie Lawman with the trappings of horror, creators Boatwright & Rubio rely on comedy.

While other mashup books have attempted to lure readers in with dramatic horror, Zeke Deadwood: Zombie Lawman tickles the funny bone with exquisite comedy.


Zeke Deadwood: Zombie Lawman

Publisher: SLG Publishing
Length: 22 pages
Writer: T.A. Boatwright, Ryan C. Rubio
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-05
Amazon

Westerns like Oni Press’ The Sixth Gun and DC’s Jonah Hex have garnered praise and loyal fans. Horror books like Image’s The Walking Dead and Vertigo’s American Vampire have seen robust sales. In the case of Zeke Deadwood: Zombie Lawman, the book has combined the Western and Horror genres to produce a dramatic mashup of six shooters and ungodly monsters.

Two years ago, SLG Publishing released a comic that did the same, but where The Sixth Gun used the terrifying to lure fans, SLG’s Zeke Deadwood: Zombie Lawman uses comedy. Now re-released in time for the long awaited follow-up, Zeke Deadwood is ready to tickle the funny bones and offend the nostrils of fans looking for a cross genre lampoon.

The best of both worlds. That’s the simple explanation of the mashup phenomenon. The exact explanation is a bit more complicated. Music mashups have existed for a long time. But in 2009, something new appeared on the pop culture scene: the mashup novel, combining classic literature with a popular genre (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter).

The summer of that same year, Zeke Deadwood was originally released. Not remotely a work of classic literature, nor inspired by it, but having the aesthetic qualities of several classic elements of two popular genres, Zeke Deadwood touched upon the popular mashups but excelled more as parody, the type of which only comics (and sketch comedy shows) can produce.

Created by T.A. Boatwright and Ryan C. Rubio, the same creative team behind the Hammer horror film inspired Cemetery Blues, Zeke Deadwood features the exploits of an undead lawman out to clean up a small western town from a villainous band of outlaws. It’s Saturday afternoon Western action combined with B-movie horror, camped up with running gags, crazy scenarios and genre clichés. And it’s charmingly creepy.

If you’re a fan of Eric Powell’s The Goon and Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities, then the tone of this genre mashup is immediately apparent and enticing. Seemingly from a very common place, Zeke Deadwood is just as thematically familiar and well crafted. It is paradoxically both reverential of its roots and discourteous as a lampooning of the style of old-timey radio serials.

The opening panels set the tone, as the story of Zeke Deadwood is presented as the exploits of a radio serial, calling to mind The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. Many early critics of the book mistakenly assumed that crossing time-periods was a mistake by Boatwright and Rubio, but the creators’ intent is to send readers back in time to a re-imagined point in our pop culture history and present a story within a story (the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother uses a similar narrative technique).

The pre- and post-“Zeke” scenes are nothing more than bookended set-up and punch-line for the overall adventure of a zombie lawman. The idea that this in any way distracts from the book’s plot is ridiculous and short-sighted of the overall theme. It’s a zombie cowboy saving the good people of the western frontier--the ridiculousness is built-in.

There’s an air of ugliness to the artwork that is in keeping with the concept, yet at the same time Boatwright and Rubio present clean layouts and pencil lines. The scenes are cartoony without being too comical, as the action presented is certainly comical enough. The inks employed by the two are what really make the pages standout. There is an earnestness to the scenes, translated from the script to the dialogue and artwork that shines through on each page. This is serious business for the creators. They did not create this character and story on a whim, but thought long and hard on how to make the entire concept work. The evidence of that is in vivid black and white; from page one to page twenty-two.

If Zeke Deadwood has any place in the Western genre, it’s certainly cemented by movies like Paint Your Wagon and TV shows like The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. And if it has any place in the Horror genre, it’s made relevant by novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and comics like The Goon. Like those artifacts of pop culture, “Zeke” owes its origin to the influences of several styles. It’s Clint Eastwood undead. Zeke Deadwood: Zombie Lawman is novel, authentic and several other adjectives. It’s Western-Horror-Comedy – can we have more please? Thankfully, yes, we’ll get a second helping soon.

8

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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