The first week of Long John updates hangs overhead and, naturally, I begin to worry.  I want to explain everything before the first page updates; I want to immerse every reader into Long John’s world from the get-go; I want you to know everything about everybody with all the research and changes that have happened since I started putting this thing to paper.  But that’s not how stories work.  I only dole out pieces at a time.  Some pieces you’ll never see, and that’s okay.

What I will do, however, is let you in on a little bit of the background, inspiration, and motivation that has made Long John what it is.  For the last four days, you have been getting chunks of what helped make Long John into the comic it is (or will be).

4.  The Western Factor

I can’t write a primer for a western comic without discussing westerns.  However, it is last on the list for a reason.  I love western movies, but Long John is influenced more by my interest and research into the actual West rather than by fictional versions of it.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some westerns that don’t evoke a similar tone of what I’m going for and, thusly, have influenced Long John.

When it comes to westerns, I’m rather picky and am mostly a Clint Eastwood devotee.  From his filmography, the one that probably fits nicely alongside Long John is High Plains Drifter.  It’s a weird movie, in the sense that it’s uncomfortable, but also “weird” in the literary sense––the bizarre events of the movie seem to be resolved through spooky and supernatural means, but a perfectly logical explanation could also work–we just don’t know.  It’s a great story where everyone in it is rather despicable, but that’s what makes it stand out.  High Plains Drifter is a moral tale, drenched in metaphor and thematics and is a must-see even outside of the Long John context.  Another important aspect that links this movie to Long John is that it was filmed at Mono Lake, where Long John starts.

Yeah, High Plains Drifter is a weird movie.  Source: IMDB.com

Yeah, High Plains Drifter is a weird movie. Source: IMDB.com

As lightly discussed in previous parts of the primer, it’s hard to ignore the Hammett-Kurosawa thread that runs straight to modern westerns, specifically Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars.  Because of its progenitors, I think it’s required that I love this movie, and I do, but not as much as Yojimbo.  Part of it has to do with the fact that it is basically a scene-for-scene remake of the Kurosawa movie but less artfully done (in my opinion).  But it’s classic Eastwood, and he’s a riveting watch no matter the pacing or awkward overdubbing of foreign actors.  Just to complete the circle, the Red Harvest/Yojimbo/Fistful template was used for a big screen movie at least one more time by writer/director Walter Hill for his film, Last Man Standing.  Set in the 1920’s Texas, this iteration of the Red Harvest plot actually takes place at the time Red Harvest takes place (why they didn’t just do a little more work and make a Red Harvest movie stumps me).  It’s bleak and a bit cynical–two reasons why it was panned–but I really enjoy the movie for its tone and the Ry Cooder score is pretty great, too.

A_Fistful_of_Dollars_poster

Another daring western that helped me push Long John forward is a French comic by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq, called Bouncer.  What I liked about it, as a comic, was that it was a bare-bones western.  No zombies, aliens, time travel, or robots.  What kept it interesting was the very distinctive characters and the well-honed story (the translated dialogue left a little to be desired, though).

The gorgeous art of Bouncer.  Source: Humanoids.com

The gorgeous art of Bouncer. Source: Humanoids.com

I feel I must address the Lawrence Kasdan ‘80s western, Silverado, if only because it could superficially be tied to Long John.  In it, Kevin Kline’s character wakes up in the desert in nothing but his long johns.  Not to make excuses, but I hadn’t seen this movie until years after I dreamed up Long John’s basic appearance, and when I saw Kevin Kline in his undies my heart sank.  By the time I saw the movie, I had already begun developing the story, and––as the movie progressed––I calmed because Kline’s character goes on a severely different arc from Long John.    In fact, Silverado ditches the long john motif quickly and isn’t a factor for much of the movie.  So, my only defense for the similarities is this: great minds think alike.

Great minds think a like! A shot of Kevin Kline from Silverado.  Source: fthismovie.net

Great minds think a like! A shot of Kevin Kline from Silverado. Source: fthismovie.net

So, that’s the Long John primer.  If you want to acquaint yourselves with these items, you’ll be more than ready for the comic when it hits next Tuesday and Thursday.