Left to Right: Deathface Ginny, Death and Death.

Pale Riders: Mythological Westerns and Image Comics

Issue 1 of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios‘  Pretty Deadly was published in January 2013. It’s a revenge-driven, magical realist western about the personification of Death who falls in love with a woman and, together, they have a child.

Also published by Image Comics is East of West, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, The first issue was released March 2013 and it’s a revenge-driven, sci-fi western about the personification of Death who falls in love with a woman and, together, they have a child. Sound familiar?

In spite of their parallels, the similarities between these stories ends there. East of West follows Death as he rebels against the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse and enacts revenge on the religious order that would bring about the end of the world. Pretty Deadly focuses on the blind gunman, Mason and the daughter of the reaper, Deathface Ginny, who walk the world as she waits for her opportunity to kill him.

What is interesting to me about this is that Image saw the potential in each of these stories and, rather than choose one given their similarity, chose to publish both. If these were two superhero comics launching a few months apart then no one would think anything of it; these are the bread and butter of the industry. However, revenge-driven fantasy westerns about mythological entities aren’t a huge genre in comics (however much I may wish they were).

It’s a testament to the unique approach Image takes, an approach that has them consistently producing some of the best comics on the market. Traditional marketing logic would never have allowed this, arguing that two titles in such a similar genre would only eat into each others sales.

Image believed in both of these stories. They believed they should be told and that people would read them. They were right.

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