Punk Rock Meets Gangster Samurai in Rubio & Shum's "4 Gun Conclusion"

Most of Bobby Rubio's art work has been for kids, or at least, it's been produced with kids in mind. As a Pixar story artist, he's had to refrain from drawing things like spurting fountains of blood. Or gang members getting decapitated. Or a hitman trying to entertain a small child with a severed head. For instance.

However, in the world of independent comics, you can do pretty much whatever you want, and along with writer Howard Shum, Rubio has recently completed the first issue of "4 Gun Conclusion," a comic filled with guns and death. Make no mistake, though -- this isn't some grim 'n gritty "comics aren't for kids anymore" type of book. "4 Gun Conclusion" is weird and colorful, and a lot of whimsy and humor is mixed in with all of the spurting gore. It's a cartoony mix of '70s and '80s crime movies, grindhouse cinema, and miscellaneous weird stuff. In other words, it's the kind of book you might expect from a Pixar guy if he didn't have to worry about warping kids' brains with odious doses of comical carnage.

Rubio and Shum spoke with CBR News about the book, offering readers a glimpse inside the brains of its creators, along with a look inside its covers. "4 Gun Conclusion" will be available during Comic-Con International at booth #1943, in a limited edition run of 500 copies.

CBR News: How would you sum up "4 Gun Conclusion" in your own words? 

Bobby Rubio: Well, Howard wrote the logline: "4 Gun Conclusion" is an action-comedy comic book about two hitmen who have to rescue their boss' daughter from an island populated with various vicious gangs.

And together we wrote the synopsis that goes like this: 

Guinness "The Punk Rock Samurai" is a brash and homicidal maniac. Bronson "The South Beach Assassin" is a composed (comparatively) and stylish rouge. They are both partners and adversaries. The two are the deadliest hitmen in the Metzger Crime Family. They are sent on a mission to rescue Madeline, the young, innocent and very naive daughter of their ruthless crime boss, Viktor Metzger...

"4 Gun Conclusion" is influenced by the blockbuster R-rated action movies of the 1980s! The story has adult language and over the top action that showcases gun play, martial arts, incredible stunt work, bloody consequences and collateral damage! The comic fuses the independent and aggressive attitude of punk rock and the sampling and mash-up sensibilities of hip-hop!

Howard Shum: If you like fun big-budget action movies or violent adventure video games or the comedy of Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, "4 Gun Conclusion" is the book for you.

Where do the characters of Bronson and Guinness come from? Are they images or types that you've been kicking around for a while?

Rubio: When I first came up with the story for "4 Gun Conclusion," I was imagining a world where hitmen were the rock stars in the criminal underworld. They were sought after by crime lords and were paid insane amounts of money. In turn, they became somewhat like celebrities within their own world. Going off the rock star theme, I decided to make one of the hitmen, Bronson, look like a hip hop megastar, similar to Jay Z and Kanye West. I dressed him in very expensive outfits and bright and shiny jewelry. I gave him tattoos that looked like tiger stripes, and I took it another step forward by making his vest have tiger stripes as well. For his vest, I was inspired by Al Pacino's Scarface's Cadillac interior with the tiger stripes. Michelle Pfeiffer said, "It looks like somebody's nightmare." But, like Scarface, I thought it looked cool. 

To offset the hip-hop, I decided to make the other hitman, Guinness, more punk rock. I liked the image of a punk with a mohawk holding a samurai sword. It was an interesting image to me, because one is about anarchy and rebellion and the other is about service and moral principles. Originally, he had a trench coat and I was told by a friend that he looked too "Matrix-y." So I opted for a punk rock biker jacket with a Samurai shoulder armor and the Union Jack spray painted on it.

The designs came fairly quickly because I knew that I was going for a hip-hop megastar assassin and a punk rock samurai.

Shum: Bobby created some interesting characters. I did my best to bring out their personalities through dialogue. Watching loads of British TV has finally paid off in writing Guinness' character.

In the first issue the main characters get in a bloody fight with moped-riding hipster furries. What other sorts of antagonists do you envision?

Rubio: We already introduced a Moroccan nightclub party themed gang. There will be an all female gang and a Parkour themed gang, of course done in my mash-up style. 

How was creating something full of graphic violence and swear words different from your other work? Was it liberating? Stressful? Weird?

Rubio: It was all of the above, for me. It was liberating, in that most of my work has been predominantly family entertainment. I, at last, was drawing something for adults and it wasn't going to be censored by anyone. It helps knowing that my target audience was not children, so I was free to go all-out with the action and the humor. And I told Howard he should do the same for the script. We did not want to do a watered down PG-13 comic. Some movies can get away with that, and I think that if we had to, we could have made it PG-13. But we are in a situation where the book is totally independent, so why not go all-out? We have no concessions. This is the book we intended to make for adults, not for children.

It is a bit stressful and weird, in that I am out of comfort zone being a rated-R book. That is why it was helpful to have Howard on board, to push the book there. I still feel a bit uncomfortable about some of the things we did in the book, but I have to admit, it is funny. Also, at face value, the book has an animated style and appeal. The Furrious Biker Gang looks friendly but we play against type and we make the biker gang very deadly and full of intent of protecting their territory and willing to take lethal measures. And I like that aspect of it. It may look cute, friendly, and silly with the bright colors and wide-eyed happy faces, but we go against the expectation and bring you something deadly; more raw and aggressive.

At one point, Bronson and Guinness argue about the greatest martial arts movie of all time. Guinness is a fan of the "Karate Kid" remake, and Bronson likes "Enter the Dragon." It's a bit of dialogue that very much sets the tone for the series. What is, in fact, the greatest martial arts movie of all time?

Rubio: My favorite Jackie Chan movie is "Police Story" and that has some great martial arts in it. But I guess that it is more known for its stunts. And I love "The Matrix" which has kung fu in it, but might be more of a sci-fi/action movie. So, I have to agree with Howard and Bronson that "Enter the Dragon" is the best martial arts movie of all time. It definitely has the best martial artist of all time: Bruce Lee!

Shum: Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master II" is the greatest martial arts film of all time. Everyone who fights in that film has obvious skills and mastery. Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon" is the best Hollywood-produced martial arts film, and Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle" is the funniest martial arts film. 

What are your plans for the future of "4 Gun Conclusion?"

Rubio: Howard and I already started on the second book and I have an idea plotted out for the first story arc. I can see this story as a six issue mini-series. And the story doesn't end there, because there are other characters in this world and I would like to tell their stories as well. I really like the Marvel movie approach of introducing a character, like Iron Man first. Then add other characters, Captain America and Thor, which then lead to the Avengers. My plan for "4 Gun Conclusion"is following that model. I just want to introduce this world and these two hitmen, which will eventually lead to more characters and stories that intertwine to create one great big story.

Shum: The action is going to intensify, and there will be even more laughs.

"4 Gun Conclusion" will be available at SDCC at booth #1943, in a limited edition run of 500 copies.

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