Stranger Visitor The Lone Anti Hero
The tradition of the lone anti-hero who rides into town and upsets the status quo with bloodshed and vengeance is one that shines bright in global consciousness. The model purports that one person with steel in hand (regardless of whether it’s a sword or a gun) can march into a town haunted by corruption and put things right with a righteous expenditure of carefully selected violence. Many consider the 1961 film Yojimbo to be the highest expression of this model, which is either inspired by the 1929 novel Red Harvest (itself vaguely adapted into Roadhouse Nights with comedian Jimmy Durante) or the 1931 novel The Glass Key (itself adapted into a 1942 movie), depending on who you ask. In either case, both novels were the work of Dashiell Hammett, whose figure looms large over this genre of adventure story, even though Kurosawa’s name is much more often quoted by fans.
Another name that pops to mind here is Sergio Leone, the director who handed in the Clint Eastwood-fueled masterpiece Fistful of Dollars. In it, the “man with no name” destroys not just one but two rival criminal groups while freeing a community from the influence of organized crime. In that film many things now considered ”classic” images — the hat brim low over a man’s eyes, the gruff demeanor and look, and so on — were born, first for Italian audiences (who saw the film under the title Per un pugno di dollari) and then to Americans in 1964.
Hammett, Kurosawa and Leone’s influence was widespread, and many have tried to make this work with varying degrees of success or quality. Bruce Willis did an homage to Fistful of Dollars with his movie Last Man Standing,, and his Pulp Fiction castmate is responsible for a science fiction version of this with his current comic miniseries Cold Space. This is the model most familiar to western audiences — one secretive man wielding death in the form of firearms, equal parts terror and savior, depending on one’s personal moral standpoint. Even Sharon Stone took a turn at this motif in The Quick and The Dead opposite Gene Hackman, and on the small screen everyone from Jack Bauer to Robert McCall toSpenser for Hire and his good friend and A Man Called Hawk have all borrowed this concept of one man with a gun enacting change by force.
No matter how many men are sent against them, it’s never enough as these taciturn travelers mercilessly mow down wave after wave of antagonists in pursuit of blood-soaked redemption. Whether a straight crime story, a western or a samurai story, why is such a paradigm so popular over so many years?
There are many possible reasons. Often, the characters themselves are ciphers, scantly discussed pasts driving them forward with murder in mind. It’s easy for each reader to put themselves in the bootsteps of the skillful stranger, enjoying a kind of voyeuristic catharsis in the bloodletting and eventual comeuppance of the character. As well, the stories often mean that bad people will come to a grisly end, and that kind of moralistic narrative plays well in societies heavily influenced by religious mores discussing the spiritual dispensation of the good and evil. Western audiences often seek a just ending and the protection of innocents, and from each example the final result is normally “bad guys” bleeding from a horizontal position while grateful innocents find themselves free.
Stranger Comics has a fresh take on this Man With No Name legend in their stark debut property, The Untamed. Boiling the concept down to its simplest elements and adding a mystical, fantasy edge, the story brings a man literally back from the edge of hell, giving him seven days to silence seven souls and earn his chance to live free.
“Outside of Kurosawa and Sam Jackson’s new thing, the only time these archetypes have been explored is with casts that have been … well not so diverse,” said writer Sebastian A. Jones, a creative talent steeped in the lore of fantasy and noirish fiction. “Moreover, this model has never been applied to a ‘fantasy’ environment of magic and swordplay, especially with the kind of plot twists we have in store for the audience. Like George Lucas’ example, it’s not about running away from the archetypical models, but of adapting them to an environment and situations that are unusual and refreshing. Myself, I like the idea that one man can make a difference, that redemption is possible for anyone, no matter how much blood is on their hands. We all have a choice, and the point at which those choices pivot is such a fascinating area for me, as a fan and as a writer.”
The Untamed is the opening feint of a longer epic-styled story which is the cornerstone of the Stranger Comics universe. Focused on making the finest in sequential art storytelling they can, the rush to package every half-baked idea for a Hollywood agent never comes into the picture. Jones said, “I’ve been writing this story, and the stories that surround it, for twenty years,” Jones said. “In developing a world with its own cultural mores and racial hierarchies, I found out a lot about myself and about human nature. These stories have followed me through working in the music industry, through acting, through club promotions, and in a way I’d say those experiences informed the story. The characters, the reactions… they were kind of surreal, when I experienced them, and now you’ll see that skewed through a kind of fantastic lens The Untamed lets the reader explore their own moral limitations as they watch what’s happening now and discover how what happened before, and more importantly what happens next, influences those events.”
Debuting with comic retailers in late 2010 and with a preview of the first issue online at www.strangercomics.com, this is a story intent on walking right up to genre fans and turning the tables on their perceptions of fantasy, noir and an old trick from some decidedly new dogs.