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Literature

Black Jack Ketchum Graphic Novel (2015)

Black Jack Ketchum graphic novel

The Black Jack Ketchum graphic novel is a dreamlike version of the Old West, in which Tom Ketchum struggles to clear his name-and stay alive-when he’s mistaken for wanton outlaw “Black Jack” Ketchum. With the aid of his talking sidearm, a secretive gambler, and a mute girl with a Winchester, Tom evades the mysterious Union and its supernatural enforcers, the faceless Dusters, as he’s forced to question his identity, his sanity, and his very existence.

Black Jack Ketchum graphic novelWriter Brian Schirmer and artist Claudia Balboni teamed up for a fantasy, western adventure in the Black Jack Ketchum graphic novel (it was released in 2015 by Image Comics). Black Jack Ketchum pulls readers into a dreamlike version of the Old West, where one Tom Ketchum struggles to clear his name—and stay alive—when he’s mistaken for wanton outlaw “Black Jack” Ketchum. With the aid of his talking sidearm, a secretive gambler, and a mute girl with a Winchester, Tom evades the mysterious Union and its supernatural enforcers, the faceless Dusters, as he’s forced to question his identity, his sanity, and his very existence.

“To me, Tom Ketchum is more than a minor historical figure—he’s family,” said Schirmer. “My great-grandmother’s cousin. So, his name and the stories associated with him have been with me my whole life. That said, I knew we wouldn’t be creating a strictly biographical piece, so I pulled in influences from Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Orson Welles’ The Trial, just to name a few.”

Balboni added: “It’s a surreal western, so it’s spiced up with many elements foreign to the classic western comics. I tried to evoke the excitement and atmosphere of the Old West in a darker and distressing visual context, to attract both the lovers of classic Westerns and people who like a more intricate and oneiric narrative style.”

The real Ketchum was executed by hanging in Clayton, New Mexico Territory. Nobody in Clayton had any experience in conducting hangings; the rope was too long, and since Ketchum had gained a significant amount of weight during his time in jail, he was decapitated when he dropped through the trap door.

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