Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokely (covers by Ramón Pérez)
Colors: André May
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Content: Six-Gun Gorilla #1-6
Published: June 2014
This is the story of a corpse and a ghost, but there is no body —just an idea. It’s the story of a bizarre creation from more than half a century back, returning to the present through the creative will of an author, Simon Spurrier. The writer takes a walk outside Plato’s cave to enter that world inhabited only by ideas, past, present and future, and decides to bring back a weird concept: the Six-Gun Gorilla, creator unknown, first published by Wizard magazine in the late ’30s.
When Spurrier, through an archivist friend, was able to access a catalog of characters from pulp magazines, he showed a particular interest in those included under the label of "Creator Unknown”. All these characters had just become copyright-free, so literally any author could use them without worrying about paying for the rights. What better time to take the most absurd concept he could find and turn it into something fresh, surprising and spectacular on several levels? The running theme adopted by Spurrier, inside and outside the story itself, is brilliantly simple (and a constant in his work): everything a story needs, so that all its significant parts remain meaningful, is an end.
“Creator unknown. Creator unknown. Creator unknown.”
Thus, from a wacky concept, a sci-fi western tale arises in Six-Gun Gorilla: in a not too distant future, war is raging on a scorching, barren planet known as the Blister, with the peculiarity that the atmosphere does not allow any type of combustion or electricity; therefore, the means of warfare swing between steampunk and the Wild West. This idea would be, in itself, attractive to any
geek full person, but Spurrier provides us with (yet) a(nother) twist.
Apart from the two sides, the Settlers and the Rebels, a new type of “soldier” joins the army of the first: the Blues, convicts or volunteers who chose to go to
the Wall to war in exchange of significant financial gain for the people of their choice.The catch? To be grafted with a "psychic tumor" which, through their eye, allows them to record their military eventful journeys (and, primarily, their own brutal deaths…) while being broadcasted live on Earth, where war’s been turned into a mass spectacle and the planet’s most successful TV show.
“I’m a librarian. All I want’s to get back to the lines so’s I can die right.”
Our protagonist is Blue-3425, a former librarian (action hero indeed!) who, after losing his job, his home and even his wife, enlists to die in the Blister. In the heat of the battle, trying to take shelter behind a mound, he’s met with the imposing figure of a talking gorilla carrying a clinteastwoodesque poncho, a cigar and a couple of handguns (although, again, there can be no combustions on this planet).
Back in the open, disoriented and blaming external reasons for the vision, he will encounter a
wild bunch of rebels… who will be pulverized by the big-ass shots of the aforementioned gorilla. Is nothing what it seems? Where is the difference between fiction and reality? Does it have something to do with the Blister being a “sensitive” planet, affected by the feelings of its inhabitants?
“Sir? You’re basically a gorilla, aren’t you?”
That last detail, the sensitive self-adaptation of this world, becomes an accurate allegory of the book itself, adapting to the feelings of the protagonist and, by extension, of the reader, who is inevitably driven by the vital portrait of the unlikely hero. So, we share Blue’s emotions, his travels through this hostile environment and, at all times, we know solely what he knows, discovering the twists and wonders of the story at the same time as he does.
Nevertheless, the main contribution to that sense of wonder, of experiencing a strange and appealing world we would like to know better, to explore it, to map it and fully catalog it in order to exploit its visual and conceptual capabilities… the main contribution, as I was saying, is an art section as different as it is brilliant, thanks to a plethoric, expressive and unbound Jeff Stokely (who, in fact, hoards 2 of the 3 Harvey Award nominations for 6GG) together with the colors of André May, which swing between the orange and warm tones of the Blister (in contrast to the meaningful blue) and the multicolored but decadent excess of Earth.
“It’s like lies made of thought and joy and art.”
And if you feel that the scenario adapting to the feelings of what is being told is not enough meta-fictional, read this: our Blue was in charge of the pulp characters section at the library, with a great fascination for characters labelled “Creator Unknown”. However, it is certain that Blue’s a lover of fiction as a medium and as an end, an enthusiast of the narrative act itself, of the creation of worlds and characters from nowhere, giving them a life that remains evergreen within the story.
Evidently, this factor will play an important role in the book, but what is clear is that, as another tic of the writer, our Blue is the obvious alter ego of Simon Spurrier in many ways. This tends to grant a plus of emotional involvement, of giving his all to make the protagonist a character worth valueing, worth remembering, worth becoming an unforgettable figure. And everyone involved in this comic delivers, indeed. Of course, they give us the oh-so-idealized conclusion, an end of the story that allows for emotional closure, providing all the answers and, finally, moving towards the horizon, never to look back.
“Only thing a story needs […] is an end.”
Few are my reviews that give a perfect score, which does not mean that the work reviewed is perfect, far from it to be liked by everyone. I understand that we live in the Age of Hype, and that a review like this one is risky, because it creates such high expectations that they will rarely be met. But giving a lower score to a book that has left me spellbound in front of a page, a book that made me laugh out loud upong reading a conversation, and a book that has brought me to tears in public (on a bus, to make matters worse), deserves no less. Otherwise, I would be betraying myself.
Six-Gun Gorilla is certainly one of the most fun, enthralling and emotional comics of the year, one of those contemporary masterpieces that will likely be paid infinitely less attention than what it deserves. I hope this review (and, at least, a couple of Harveys, maybe?) helps to the acknowledgement of this great work.
Simon Spurrier. Jeff Stokely. André May.
Thanks for the ride.
Ander Luque (@AnderLuque)
Review originally published in Spanish in Zona Zhero.
Thanks so much, guys! It really means a lot to see the book hit home with people the way it did for you. A wonderful review!