Screamin' regulars know by know that I'm a fan of monster mash, genre mixing goofiness. Godzilla versus Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD? You've got my interest. You've got masked Mexican wrestlers pile-driving Dracula? Sign me up! Your latest project pits Frankenstein and the Wolf Man against a gang of 1950s G-men determined to deliver a magic pair of women's undergarments to J. Edgar Hoover. I'm there! One of my favorite sub-categories of sub-genre (you don't get any more sub than that) is the cowboy versus monster mash up. I'm not sure why blending these two genres works so well. Perhaps it is because they are both such stylized and mythic genres. The trappings of both the traditional horror flick and the traditional Western have been so perfected and polished through reuse that they can be meshed and reworked without losing much resolution. Like Dracula, the outlaw gunslinger is such an iconic figure that he retains his meaning no matter the context. Perhaps it is simply a product of the various elements of each genre being so damn cool. Six-shooters are nifty. The labs of mad scientists are always nice to see. Combine these things and you're doubling the cool factor. Whatever the reason, when a cowboys and monsters mash up works, I'll tell you what: you've got yourself a grade-A slice of prime entertainment.
And Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities, by Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz, works.
The plot is straight-up pulp and played strictly for thrills. Billy the Kid, presumed dead and now in hiding, is recognized by the ring-leader of an eccentric band of sideshow performers. The various freaks – including, among others, a woman with tattoos that predict the future, a Creature from the Black Lagoon inspired alligator man, and a tequila swilling dog-faced boy – agree to keep Billy's survival a secret if he'll help them recover a mystical artifact known as the Golem's Heart. Before you can sing a line of "Don't Take Your Guns to Town, Bill," the Kid and his freak posse are off to Europe to recover the artifact from Dr. Frankenstein, who has gone from standard mad scientist to full on Lovecraftian black magician. It is flying lead 'gainst eldritch dread from then on out.
The story is fun and well-told, if not particularly deep. The characters are somewhat stock, by they are lovingly written and perform all their functions perfectly. Frankenstein is really the only clunker here. The character so little resembles the Shelly/Universal archetype that one almost wonders why he needs to be Frankenstein. That said, it doesn't distract from the fun and can be overlooked. The art fits the story beautifully. It is a sort of cartoony, but wonderfully expressive sort of caricature that is equally suited to comedic effects and grisly horror.
Things have been a bit dry on the horror comic front lately, and Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities was a cool drink of water.
SCREAMIN' TEAM-UPS: If you're curious to check out one of the stranger ideas to ever come out of Marvel, you can hunt down the Godzilla versus Nick Fury issues of Marvel's short lived Godzilla: King of Monsters series. They are re-printed – along with Godzilla going toe-to-toe with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers – in the Marvel Essentials anthology of Godzilla. Eagle-eyed readers may have also noticed Godzilla's appearance in a recent issue of The Mighty Avengers