Following on the success of "Dust" with fashion illustrator and role-playing games designer Paulo Parente, the writer and director known as mink will soon be releasing the fantasy Western "13 Chambers," a 48-page showdown set in a skewed version of American history and published by 12 Gauge and Image Comics with financial assistance from Danielle Vasinova. Italian artist Denis Medri provides the visuals, while mink's "Dust" collaborator Parente handles the covers. CBR News spoke with mink about "13 Chambers" and the high concept of Fantasy-Western.
mink, whose given name is Christopher Wingfield, is perhaps best known as a director of music videos for Snoop Dogg and Slum Village and the feature film "Mortal Kombat: Devastation," and tends to employ a cutting edge aesthetic. He brings that sensibility to the story of "13 Chambers," which is set in an alternate U.S. history; a place where futuristic high tech meets old school justice. "The story is about the legend of the 13 Marshals and their equally legendary 13-chambered gyroscope peace keeper pistols," mink told CBR News. In the book the marshals represented "the intimidation factor that kept law and order across the country until the late 1860s, when they were disbanded by a rogue president who felt they were overkill. If you actually hold up today's modern dollar bill you can see the story right there in the lettering and art and this story will explain that as the man who designed that bill also engraved all the peacekeeper pistols."
The story focuses on the thirteenth marshal, who has been charged with collecting and decommissioning the 13-chambered pistols. Other major characters include the marshal's love interest, Belle, who mink describes as "half sex pot, half Annie Oakley" and a silver mining baron named York, who is after the pistols "so he can start his own army and take over his territory through fear and death from above."
York, though, is not the only adversary-after all, we can't expect the marshals to willingly lay down their arms. "The twelfth takes a key roll in the first issue. He is the reason for the thirteenth's troubles," mink said. "As the series rolls on we learn the identity of all 13, where they came from and who they were. The 13 Marshals were a very secret organization, designed that way purposefully. They never met each other nor did anyone know the marshals' names or true identities."
As with any series set in an alternate history-what mink calls a "twistory"-is recognizing the familiar in an altered context, and seeing the different ways things might have developed. In "13 Chambers," mink uses the sci-fi aspect to show advanced uses of electricity in the Wild West period, which manifests as "pretty good telephones and some other amenities including high velocity bullets." Then there are the men who made history, re-imagined for the action-adventure comic. "In the story, the new president that comes in after Lincoln's death is President Jackson," mink said. "He was known as a gambler and a bit of a hustler, so I have some fun with that. Jackson is a bit nervous so he wants the possible threat of these pistols-which are the most lethal weapon of the 13 era-removed from operation in case they fall into the hands of the wrong person. So, in a pre-emptive strike, he orders the thirteenth marshal to ride across the country and collect these weapons and bring them back to Washington, DC, for disposal."
The country itself also looks slightly different. "The map of the U.S. is broken into 13 territories. The book is far more multi-cultural for its actual time as far as cast," mink said. "One of my favorites is a tribe of Skull Island like Cannibal Conquistadors that cause all sorts of problems."
mink continued, "The themes are sweeping action adventure in the spirit of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' 'Legend of Zorro,' and 'Indiana Jones.' It is fun, thought-provoking, light-hearted action adventure with stunning art and the right blend of ass kickery. It also has some overtones of some recent political and historical landscape."
"13 Chambers" comes amidst a resurgence in the Western genre, possibly initiated by HBO's "Deadwood" and picked up in comics by series such as "Jonah Hex," "Loveless," and others. Notably, this rebirth has led to an expansion of the Western type into other genres, as seen in Joss Whedon's "Firefly" and "Serenity." mink's Fantasy-Western will also explore the complimentary aspects of two genres. "I describe '13 Chambers' as Fantasy Western because the story is set in a place and world we have never seen," he said. It has common grounding but it is rooted in fantasy in regards to tone, attitude, color, technology and scope. Yellow skies, red sand stone, twisted western architecture with Moulin Rouge-style detailing, 100-story marble structures, 13-chambered sniper pistols, and lots of action all drawn from the classic western films of John Ford or Peckinpaw. Most of all, 'the 13 Chambers' West is a little brighter and little more open to all audiences while retaining an edge. It's a lot of fun."
In addition to "13 Chambers," mink has a few other high profile books dropping soon, including "Shinjuku" with Yoshitaka Amano ("Vampire Hunter D," "The Sandman: Dream Hunters") which will be published by Dark Horse. "'Shinjuku' is chugging along. Look for some sample pages and or posters at [San Diego] Comic Con this summer as Dark Horse begins to roll it out," mink said. "It is an extraordinary process for me working with [Amano]. He is a hero of mine and I can now call him my friend. I really think this is going to be a historic book just on physical size alone and also Amano is drawing the book in the style of 'Gatchaman,' which he made famous in the e'80s. Think along the lines of his Coffin Book for the 'Vampire Hunter D' series or the other collections of his art. I couldn't be happier or prouder of this project. I know the fans new and old are going to cherish this piece."
Other projects include "Jake," which the writer describes as "the 'A-Team' meets 'National Treasure' with a lot of global puzzle solving," and a trade paperback of the first "Dust" series in June with a follow-up four-issue miniseries beginning late this summer from Image. mink promises the next "Dust" will have "tons more robots, hot girls, and ass kickery."
"13 Chambers" will be offered in a standard edition as well as a limited numbered collectors' edition bound in saddle leather. No release date has yet been announced, but fans can find the latest information on mink's projects at his MySpace profile.
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.
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