I collect Western graphic novels. They’re my favourite thing in the entire world to read. I f*cking LOVE comics about cowboys.

 

The only reason I’ve held off so long on writing this roundup of Western comics and graphic novels is because I wanted to have as many titles to put forth as possible.

 

I will read literally anything and everything in this genre, and I’ve been annoyed at how most lists of Western comics are just vintage titles you can’t easily find (or afford).

 

This is a specific taste – if we share it, you’re obviously awesome. I’ve done some serious legwork over the last couple years to build my collection and write this roundup. I promise I’ll add to it every time I find something new.

 

This isn’t a ranking list. It’s just all of the Western comics and graphic novels I’ve read and brief reviews, so you can hunt them down for yourself!

 

What are the Best Western Comics and Graphic Novels?

That totally depends on your taste! If you love the classic Western comics of the ‘golden age’ (the 1940s and ’50s), you’d probably dig The Lone Ranger, Hopalong CassidyKid Colt Outlaw, or one of the many comics based on Western movie stars like John WayneLash LaRue, or Roy Rogers.

 

If you’re a lifelong DC and Marvel fan, they had some of the most popular Western comics of the ’50s and ’60s which are worth exploring. These included Black RiderPhantom RiderNighthawkJonah Hex, and Scalphunter, and their individual roundup series: The Mighty Marvel WesternAll Western WinnersAll Star Western, and Western Comics.

 

If you like darker or more genre-bending Westerns, your best bet is modern series like The Sixth GunJonah Hex, Django/Zorro, and The Dark Tower. 

 


Big Western Comic Series

 

Jonah Hex

Let’s get this out of the way: I love Jonah Hex. I’ve read more Hex than any other Western comic book character or series.

 

Hex has been done many ways, by many authors and artists. The stories always toe the line between a realistic Old West and one with paranormal influences.

 

He’s perpetually rocking a Confederate Army uniform, but he’s not a racist – just a foul-mouthed gun for hire. He frequently sides with BIPOC characters. With that said, the ‘70s Hex stories do have characters with cringe-worthy racial stereotypes and some racist language.

 

photo of a collection of Jonah Hex comics laid out on a grey carpet

 

All Star Western

This six-volume set of graphic novels is one of my personal favourite takes on Hex. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are masterful in their gruff, gory storytelling, and Moritat’s art captures everything Hex ought to be.

This Hex is dark, snarky, and constantly sucked into twisted stories involving the seedy underbelly of late 1800s Gotham. From taking on a wealthy Gothamite secret society to time traveling with Booster Gold, there’s a huge variety of entertaining stories.

There are strong and weak volumes within the series – you can read my full review of DC’s All Star Western set if you want to know more. If you’re trying Hex for the first time, this is a great place to jump in.

Jonah Hex

The early ‘00s Hex graphic novels that are also by Gray and Palmiotti are wicked good, too. These stories, like All Star Western, take Hex all over the Western frontier and involve him with a delicious assortment of well-written villains and dames.

There’s a vast range of titles from this era that are increasingly hard to buy – either they’re sold out online or ridiculously priced. I borrowed them all from my local library back in 2014, and only own one – Jonah Hex: Luck Runs Out. If you can find Jonah Hex: Guns of Vengeance, that one is particularly good.

Weird Western Tales: Jonah Hex

This amazing collection features my other favourite takes on Hex, the art of Tony de Zuniga and José Luis García-López. But honestly, all of the art in this one is on point. If you want the most bang for your buck and prefer the original Hex, I’d definitely go with this collection.

It contains works from DC’s Weird Western Tales 1972 to 1977, written by Joe Albano and Michael Fleisher. This Hex reads more like a classic Western than the ‘00s stories. The dialogue is more heavily accented to sound Southern, and Hex is slightly less offensive than the modern take on him – he’s not a drunk womanizer, just gruff and crass.

It’s a gorgeous book and a lot of fun. You also get the full story on why Hex deserted the Confederate Army, and why he is the way he is. 10/10.

Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex

These two beefy volumes are for the true Jonah Hex fans out there – every Hex story ever told is gathered in their pages. The only downside is that they’re black and white, whereas Weird Western Tales: Jonah Hex is glorious full colour.

Volume one collects every Jonah Hex comic from All-Star Western issues 2-11 and Weird Western Tales issues 12-33. Volume two collects the remaining Weird Western Tales (issues 34-38) and the Jonah Hex series (1-16).

Jonah Hex: Welcome to Paradise

This collection is another throwback to the original Hex. It’s printed in colour but on soft paper with that vintage comic book feel. The stories here were originally published in 1972-75, and 1977.

This smaller collection of comics are all featured in one or both of Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex and Weird Western Tales: Jonah Hex, but it’s half the price. So if you want to treat yourself to oldschool original Hex without breaking the bank, this one’s a good pick.

Jonah Hex: Shadows West

OMG, this one is bad. I don’t like the art as much as other takes on Hex, and I despise the storytelling. It gives me the NO feeling.

I did write a whole review of it, in hopes of saving others from starting out with this Hex. Reader beware! Unless you think incessant dick jokes and bestiality are actually funny.

 


The Sixth Gun

photo of five Sixth Gun comics laid out on a grey carpet

 

Where Jonah Hex hints at the paranormal, The Sixth Gun dives right in. Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt have crafted a fascinating Western world that’s a little bit fantasy, a little bit horror, and all easy reading.

 

At times The Sixth Gun is wholly Western. The characters are all tied together by an obsession with finding these six guns, each having a uniquely dangerous magical power. But there are periods within most volumes where there’s so much spooky, evil, or paranormal shit going on that you almost forget it’s also the Old West.

 

With that said, the horror parts are never super-serious horror. The art is fantastic, but I’d say it’s more creepy than scary.

 

This series is a lot of fun. The only reason I don’t yet own them all is because I can’t seem to find a reasonably priced copy of volume six.

 


Assorted Series and Stand-Alone Western Comics

Some of these are Western graphic novel series that I didn’t get into after the first issue. Others are series I would f*cking love to get into, but I can’t find them anywhere. And the rest are stand-alone Western comics I’ve stumbled across along the way.

 

Weird Western Tales

If you recognize the name from higher up in this roundup, that’s because DC’s Weird Western Tales is the birthplace of Jonah Hex. But Hex isn’t the only weirdo in these parts!

 

I’ve managed to get my hands on a few vintage singles starring various characters.

 

  • Scalphunter replaced Hex as the series’ star in Weird Western Tales issue 39; he’s a white man raised by Kiowa people, but unfortunately not nearly as engrossing as Hex and kind of vanilla for a series full of dark, paranormal happenings
  • El Diablo was another main character, appearing in the first issue and many afterward; this man (real name Lazarus Lane) is entirely paralyzed from being struck by lightning, but can be raised by his Native American companion to gallop around in the night delivering justice
  • After discovering Cinnamon in the same All Star Western, I was SUPER STOKED to find her first two appearances in Weird Western Tales 39 and 40; unfortunately, her character in these older comics is thin and kind of vapid – the new version is way more layered and badass

 


photo of various Western graphic novels laid out on a grey carpet

 

Bat Lash

Bat Lash is one of the characters from DC’s Weird Western Tales. I first encountered him in the modern All Star Western volume 2, and have since picked up the irresistibly named 2008 graphic novel Bat Lash: Guns and Roses.

 

This Bat Lash isn’t as much of a playboy as he was in that little clip from All Star Western. Sergio Aragonés and Peter Brandvold have created a more wholesome farmboy who has eyes for only one woman – but he’s still a badass with a gun.

 

If you want something that’s every bit as fast and fun as Hex but with more colourful country cusses, Bat Lash is a solid investment. I have my eye on Showcase Presents: Bat Lash as a future treat to myself.

 


Django / Zorro

Oh yes, you read that right. It’s everything the title promises – Django is hired to be the bodyguard of none other than Don Diego de la Vega.

 

Quentin Tarantino has officially declared this the sequel to Django Unchained, with hints in the introduction that since he’s already in this crossover universe he’d like his fierce Black bounty hunter to also meet Tonto, and I’m F*CKING HERE FOR IT.

 

Django / Zorro starts out a little preposterous, I had my doubts. But these two heroes pull you into a mad Arizona adventure that suits them both perfectly: taking on villainous, upper class Arizona douchebags.

 

Everything is on point, from the storytelling (once the action picks up) to the art. Significantly fewer n-bombs than Django Unchained, but plenty of violence by bullet and by sword.

 


Cowboys & Aliens

You’ve probably heard of this one, if not already seen the blockbuster movie. If you have seen the movie, you’re good. No need to do what I did, which is go on a lengthy mission to buy the graphic novel, only to remember that it’s painfully thin storytelling with inconsistent art. Great premise, though.

 

I wrote a full comparison of Cowboys & Aliens the movie vs. the graphic novel that goes into more detail.

 


The Man with No Name

This is a Dynamite ‘series’ that I guess went nowhere, because there are only two volumes of the graphic novel. I found them both on a shelf at Great White Toys in Prince George.

 

It seems like the big beef with them is that everyone loves Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character, and the stories didn’t follow closely enough to that guy. I didn’t like A Fistful of Dollars, and have mostly forgotten the plot, so I didn’t mind hitching a ride with Luke Lieberman and Matt Wolpert’s character. This isn’t astoundingly creative storytelling, but the stories are engaging and Diego Bernard’s art is thoroughly enjoyable.

 


Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities

Here we have Billy the Kid, alive, and traveling around the world with a troupe of ‘biological curiosities’. He’s still very much a fast-draw gunslinger, but Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz plant Billy in situations so ridiculous that they absolutely should be movies.

 

I’ve only found the third volume of this set, also randomly tucked on the shelf at Great White Toys. I would kill to get my hands on the other two volumes. In my graphic novel, Billy and his crew go to Loch Ness to fight Dracula.

 

Yes, you read that right. And it’s so bizarre that it works. The art is also some of the best I’ve seen in a Western graphic novel.

 

  • Fun Fact: There’s actually a movie called Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, starring John Carradine as Dracula. It’s not as good as this comic.

 


photo of various Western graphic novels laid out on a grey carpet

 

High Moon: Bullet Holes and Bite Marks

Werewolves somehow make perfect sense in the Wild West. It’s like, why wouldn’t a former Pinkerton with a dark secret come to town to hunt werewolves?

 

High Moon was released by DC’s webcomic imprint, Zuda, and you can definitely feel the DC vibe here. It feels like artist Steve Ellis was like, “what if I made an entire graphic novel that looks like an ‘80s metal album cover set in the Old West?” The colours are rich, and this one is definitely more of an actual horror story.

 


The Dead Rider: Crown of Souls

I wanted to love this graphic novel, I really did. It looks like my brand of Western – dark and creepy AF. Unfortunately, this is another good premise that was let down on its pages.

 

The Dead Rider is a reanimated corpse of a gunslinger. He’s controlled by the Bog Witch, who makes him kill people. Beyond that, it’s confusing. Kev Ferrara’s art is actually pretty cool. It reminds me of Stephen Gammell’s illustrations in the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – highly detailed, wispy, and gross.

 

Unfortunately this comic is clogged with excessive text. There’s so much copy in so many styles and colours that the pages feel messy. Many panels have unnecessary narration blocking the art. And unfortunately, this is a case of writing quantity over quality.

 


Pulp

Holy shit, was this graphic novel worth the wait. I preordered it ages before it was published. And I wish I could say it’s a series, but the ending is quite conclusive.

 

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver this rich and heartbreaking world in which former Old West outlaw Max Winter is now an old, struggling Western fiction writer in 1930s New York. Max has an empty wallet and a bum ticker, but is desperate to leave something for his wife. He’ll take on the Nazis to do it.

 

I can’t say enough good things about Pulp. It’s such a unique story, like nothing I’ve ever read before and driven by strong art. You fall hard and fast for this old cowboy. They should make Pulp into a movie starring Bill Pullman. I’d be all over it.

 


Civil War Adventure

This one is an interesting oddity among my collection. It’s definitely a graphic novel, written by Chuck Dixon and mostly illustrated by Gary Kwapisz, both of whom have done significant work for DC and Marvel. Although there are no cowboys in it, tons of Westerns take place during the Civil War, and most famous gunslingers were involved in some way.

 

But Civil War Adventure is not your typical comic – it’s a collection of stories that span the Civil War, told in comic styling.

 

Many of the stories are actually true, and it’s filled with maps and details taken from legitimate sources. The art is pretty good, although I do wish it was in colour. And that it had more people of colour. But it does have the origin story of the word ‘dingus’…

 


Of Dust and Blood: the Battle at Little Big Horn

Like Civil War Adventure, this is more like an ambitious graphic novel-styled chapter out of a history book. Lots of research was done (there’s a bibliography), and the art is engaging.

 

The first trouble I had with this book is that the text is F*CKING TINY. I had to hold it close to my face to comfortably read it, and my eyesight is good. They crammed a lot of historical information into the 43 pages. My other beef with it is that it’s super shallow. You get a speedy introduction to the two leads, a 7th Cavalry scout and a Lakota warrior. Then you’re hurled into the battle and you just didn’t get enough time to care.

 

It’s too bad, because the art really is good. This could have been better if it was three or four times the length. More backstory, more emotional connection. This battle was horrific, and the way the story ends instead feels like a forced lesson. It would make a good graphic novel for kids, though.

 


photo of various Western graphic novels laid out on a grey carpet

 

Shot All to Hell

Holy heckin’ hell, is this ever an amazing graphic novel. It’s the true story of the botched final robbery of the James-Younger gang, and is based on the non-fiction book Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape.

 

This is no sweet, sassy American Outlaws. The original narrative wove carefully researched accounts from witnesses and Cole Younger’s own autobiography. It’s got literally every angle of the robbery, getaway, and captures covered in gritty detail. Between the rich artwork and the masterful storytelling, you can’t put it down.

 

This is the world’s coolest history book. I’d say change my mind, but you can’t.

 


Golden Age Western Comics

If you want the oldest of the oldschool, this is it.

 

It’s a roundup of comics from the 1940s and ‘50s, from some of the biggest Western comic publishing houses at the time. I learned from the introduction that superheroes were in decline after WWII, and people were hungry for more realistic heroes – enter the cowboys (and girls).

 

These comics are all simple and some are actually terrible, but they’re still fun because of that vintage look and feel. The characters force complete descriptions of plot points into their speech bubbles, and handily defeat every bad guy (and the bad guys are always stupid). The art quality varies. But this is where Western comics came from!

 


Pretty Deadly

This is another series I couldn’t get into. The art is STUNNING. You could look at the pictures for hours and be happy. The story just lost me. Maybe I’m not the target audience. It wasn’t bad, just didn’t hook me into ordering a second volume.

 

Pretty Deadly sort of blends magical realism, folklore, and Manga into a Western setting. The concept is definitely cool. I just found it difficult to follow; at times it became too abstract or poetic. If you’re a super artsy person, you’d probably love it.

 


The Dark Tower

I’m late to the party, as usual, with this series. I haven’t read the books or seen the movie, although I’ve meant to for years. But I started reading the graphic novels and holy shit, they’re great.

 

The Dark Tower is equal parts fantasy, dystopian Sci-Fi, horror, and Western. It does all of those genres really well, thanks in large part to the glorious work of artist Jae Lee. But there are plenty of gunslingers, horseback chases and escapes, and even a Man in Black – all the good Western-y stuff.

 

Occasionally the language is tricky, thanks to the high fantasy element, but it never holds up the story – you can figure out what they mean by context. If you’re really into fantasy as well as Westerns, you’d dig it.

 


The Lone Ranger

I was on the fence about buying this graphic novel. I haven’t actually seen the show (or the movie), so I’m not familiar with the character and I thought I should focus on hunting down the original comic. But the introduction by DC writer Geoff Johns made it sound like everything a Lone Ranger fan could want, and the art is outstanding, so I ponied up.

 

The first volume is an outstanding pairing of great storytelling and exciting art. You get the full origin story of the Lone Ranger – how he ended up ‘lone’, how he met Tonto, and how he got Silver. The best part is that Tonto is a total f*cking badass, and comes away the hero of the story. Definitely going to hunt down the other volumes in this series.

 


Bouncer

I spotted this on multiple comic shop visits and didn’t buy it, because I didn’t like the art. It’s hard to get into a story when the main character’s head reminds you of an intentionally offensive Ben Stiller character from Tropic Thunder. You know the one.

 

But Bouncer shows up when you Google ‘best Western comics’, so I felt like I had an obligation to give it a shot. I still don’t like the art. Now I also don’t like the story. It’s about a 15-year-old boy who wants to avenge his parents brutal murder, so he teams up with a bouncer who happens to be his uncle.

 

The premise is decent, but the writing is pretty bad and the characters have no depth. It also seems like author Alexandro Jodorowsky (who wrote and directed the Acid Western El Topo) has never met a young woman, or doesn’t like them.

 


Western Classics (Graphic Classics vol. 20)

The Graphics Classics series produces graphic novel versions of popular fiction, collected either by author or genre. This is their “tribute” to Westerns.

 

I feel bad for this volume. Some of the stories are actually kind of fun, and some of the art is really good. But the first story is Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, and it drags out over an EXTREMELY BORING 50 pages.

 

I can’t tell if the original story was terrible or if the writer just failed to translate fiction to the graphic novel format. The art is meh, and the story is exhausting. The dialogue doesn’t flow and feels unnatural. The characters are weak at best.

 

There’s some good stuff in here. The adaptation of Knife River Prodigal is excellent and would make a great series. I would totally read more by this author-artist duo. The Hopalong Cassidy story is fast and fun. That’s about it.

 


Honourable Mentions: Western-Adjacent Comics

These comics aren’t technically Westerns, and probably aren’t for purist Western fans. But they have enough Western blood running through their veins that they’re worth a shot if you just love a gunslinger in any time or place.

 

photo of various Western graphic novels laid out on a grey carpet

 

East of West

This one took me three tries to get into.

 

First, I read volume one of the graphic novel series. It’s a dystopian Sci-Fi Western in which the Civil War never ended, the United States was split into multiple nations, then hit by a comet and visited by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

 

Trouble is, the gunslinger known as Death has split off on his own and he is pissed. The nations are building up to wars against each other, Death is taking out their leaders, the other three Horsemen are hunting down Death, but the leaders are also turning on each other. It’s madness.

 

This series has a complex premise that’s SUPER f*cking hard to follow if you don’t read them back-to-back. That’s why it took me three tries – I left too much time between volumes one and two, so I had to go back and fully re-read volume one to understand what was happening.

 

Death is 100% a Western antihero. Two of the world’s leaders (Republic of Texas and Confederate President Chamberlain) and a former Texas Ranger bounty hunter also amp up the Western-ness of this series. I found it more challenging than my usual taste, but I actually appreciated making my brain work to enjoy this rich storyline. I will continue reading this series.

 


Preacher

Holy guacamole. This is my new favourite graphic novel series. How to explain Preacher? It’s a doomsday story with elements of crime, religion, paranormal, Western, and horror. HOW does all of that work in one story? I don’t know, but it sure f*cking does. The storytelling is so good, I was hooked within a single page. I read the whole first volume in two evenings, because I couldn’t put it down.

 

It’s a modern-day story of a jaded preacher who gets possessed by Genesis and wipes out his entire congregation at the same time. Genesis is the lovechild of an angel and a demon, and it gives Preacher the power to compel anyone to do anything. ANYTHING. If he tells you to screw yourself… well, you’re screwed.

 

Anyway, Preacher finds out that God has left the building, and makes it his mission to hunt him down and hold him accountable. But because he’s the prime suspect in the inexplicable explosion that killed that whole town, the law is on his ass – and so is the patron saint of killers, an undead gunslinger raised by beings in Heaven who are desperate to get Genesis back behind bars.

 

The other characters include a hitwoman, an Irish vampire, a perverted serial killer, a diabolical grandmother and her white trash sidekicks, various racist rednecks and homophobic cops and kindly inbred swamp people, and a kid who tried to follow in Kurt Cobain’s footsteps but lived and is now horribly misshapen. Oh, and the ghost of John Wayne.

 

Preacher is not for anyone who’s easily grossed out or offended. The language is crass, the gore is vivid, and it can be seriously raunchy. But if everything I just described sounds intriguing, I highly recommend finding a copy ASAP.

 


American Vampire

This series is EVERYTHING. I am obsessed. I own all of the existing graphic novels, and have the next one on preorder.

 

There are tons of reasons to love American Vampire, but the one that’s most relevant here is that the American vampire, Skinner Sweet, lived through all things Old West. Volumes one and four have stories from Sweet’s ‘youth’ including fighting in the Civil War.

 

Volume four also has stories of Sweet as a death-racing ‘50s bad boy with greased-back hair, so if you’re only going to read one, that’s the winner right there.

 


Redneck

What if a family of redneck vampires ran a modern day barbecue joint in small-town Texas?

 

You can take Redneck at face value and it will pay off exactly how you expect. The writing is simple and entertaining, the linework and colouring perfectly evoke the right tone. There are flashbacks to the Old West, and the old dudes of the family feel like grizzled old cowboys. It gives me major vibes of the barbecue joint in Tarantino’s Planet Terror.

 


Cowboy Ninja Viking

This one is a bit of a stretch, but I bought it because it had ‘cowboy’ in the title, so why not.

 

It’s a hugely dense story that’s categorized as action and dark comedy. It delves into international politics, warfare, and deadly assassins called Triplets who are actually people with multiple personality disorder – one man is the cowboy, the ninja, and the viking. They cleverly add a weapon to the shape of the speech bubbles so you can tell which personality is talking – this comes in handy when there are nine or more personalities in a fight.

 

Cowboy Ninja Viking definitely has an underlying Western theme of justice. I made it sound like a caper, but with multiple personalities AND action happening all over the world, it’s challenging to follow. That might be why the movie project starring Chris Pratt shut down during pre-production.