This September, 12 Gauge Comics will launch its alternate history Western "13 Chambers," from the mind of writer/music video director mink and illustrated by Italian artist Denis Medri. CBR spoke with mink about the 48-page showdown back in February, and now that it's nearing High Noon, we've caught up with Medri for a quick chat about the comic and American Westerns in Europe.
mink, whose given name is Christopher Wingfield, had described "13 Chambers" as a "twistory," a story set in an alternate history in which several important aspects have been changed. In this case, thirteen U.S. marshals, each carrying a high-tech 13-chambered pistol, had been enforcing the law of the land until a new president deemed the weapons too dangerous. Medri is more concise, focusing on the resonant aspect: "I can describe it with the number. 13--we have 13 marshals, with 13 special guns, that have 13 bullets every gun. Our hero is the 13th Marshal," the artist said.
Asked how he became involved in the series, Medri pointed to a recent convention experience. "Last November at Lucca Comics, the most important comic convention in Italy, my friend Davide Fabbri introduced me to Paolo Parente," he said. "He took a look at my book and asked me if I was interested in doing a miniseries for the US market with his friend mink." Parente was the artist of mink's previous graphic novel, "Dust," and will be providing covers for "13 Chambers."
Given that the Western is a distinctly American genre, one might wonder why a European artist would look to tackle this type of story, but Medri is far from the first to do so. "American Westerns have always had a really good appeal in Europe," he told CBR. "For example, in Italy one of the most famous Italian comics in history is 'Tex,' a Western comic released the first time in 1948 and still published now. Or in France another famous comic is 'Blueberry,' a masterpiece western saga. And don't forget the fantastic 'Spaghetti Western' movies of Sergio Leone, I loved his movies. So for my progress in '13 Chambers,' yes, I read a lot of old comics and have seen some Leone's movies."
"13 Chambers" is a period piece, which comes with challenges for both writer and artist to get the setting just right. But with the introduction of thirteen-chambered guns and certain other idiosyncratic tech, there is the added task of envisioning something that did not exist and yet presenting such things in such a way that they could. "When you draw something of fantasy or sci-fi you can feel free to draw what you want, create original and strange things without problems," Medri said. "It is different when you have to draw something real, like a story setting from the past, so you need to have a lot of reference materials and stay close as much you can to it. But it's not really sci-fi technology in the story--the special weapon is a gun with 13 bullets in his cylinder , 6 more internal, 7 external, for long shooting. The barrel moves up and down with a gyroscope mechanism to be in line with the bullets. I have tried to take all the reference possible from photos of guns of the period, etc., and try to find a logical solution and a mechanism to make the gun work."
Medri's other recent projects have included a story in "Giant Size Avengers Special" #1, Marvel Illustrated's "Last of the Mohicans" adaptation, and "X-Campus," an X-Men miniseries that will be published first in France by Panini before coming to the States. Asked about the differences in European and American comics, the artist said that from his perspective he wasn't much concerned. "I don't think there is much differences in the two markets," Medri said. "Maybe it is more usual in the French market for a page to have more panels than in US market, and the format is different." European comics are produced as hardcover "albums," which have larger pages than American graphic novels.
"I have changed my style a bit for '13 Chambers,'" Medri said. "mink asked me to be more realistic than my usual style in the French market. I think an artist has to be able to change and modify his style when is requested or when he feels that it's the right way to interpret a story. I think my style is still changing and I hope to involve and improve more and more."
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