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Geof Darrow talks Action, Mayhem, and SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’ll STOP THE REIGN

Geof Darrow talks Action, Mayhem, and SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’ll STOP THE REIGN

“The action is the story,” Geof Darrow told me, putting an emphasis on the is. We were discussing his violent and bizarre series Shaolin Cowboywhich just saw the release of its latest volume, the utterly spectacular Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? 

If you’ve read a Geof Darrow comic book, you know the man embraces a sort of manic energy. Every page and panel is overloaded, filled with seemingly impossible levels of detail. There’s something kinetic about his work, an overall sense of life and movement that few artists ever manage to capture. Despite this attention to detail, Darrow is often accused of producing books that are light on story and heavy on action. With Shaolin Cowboy, this is a deliberate choice.

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? #1 from Dark Horse Comics

“There’s a lot of backstory that never comes up,” Darrow said. Darrow has always found stories where the history is hinted at but not explained more exciting. “It’s more interesting not knowing everything. I don’t need to know every little piece of Batman’s past to know he does the right thing.” Darrow also pointed out how the early days of the Star Wars franchise captured this feeling before its massive expansion. “Obi-Wan would talk about things and we didn’t know what they were and that was fine! It was cooler that way.”

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? hardly delves into the title character’s history. Throughout the series, knowing that there is a bounty on the Shaolin Cowboy’s head has been enough for a reader to jump into any given volume, and that holds true here. There’s an endless array of action and brutality, just page after page of blood-soaked insanity, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? #3 from Dark Horse Comics

While the story may seem scant, Darrow’s art creates a vivid and lush world. Talking animals, bizarre mutants, and monsters; the world Shaolin Cowboy walks through definitely has a history to it. ” I learned that from my friend Jean Giraud (better known as the artist Mœbius). He taught me how to create a world through little details.” It’s easy to see the influence of Mœbius on the pages of Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? and other Darrow books.

Darrow loves the insanity of comic books, that much is obvious. He loves that anything goes. “People say you can’t do this and you can’t do that. Why not?” he said in reference to the previous volume of Shaolin Cowboy, which essentially featured nothing more than the title character fighting a hoard of mindless zombies. “I thought it was fun and something interesting to try. I know it made some people mad, they said there was no story. They wanted it to be all build up to a big fight like Galactus shows up and is defeated in one page when they throw a radioactive fish at him or something. That’s just not what I do.” Darrow laughed. While he admits to having a certain affinity for the inherent silliness of superhero comic books, he’s more drawn to the action of Japanese titles. “The last volume of Lone Wolf and Cub has a fight that lasts forever. It just keeps going and going and I thought that was so cool.”

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? #1 from Dark Horse Comics

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign?  is definitely a testament to the awesomeness of Darrow’s art and writing, but it’s also a great showcase for his frequent collaborator, colorist Dave Stewart. “He makes me look way better than I deserve to look,” Darrow said. He noted part of their process involved Darrow sending over palettes and color samples, many from Japanese woodblock prints. “I’m always expecting him to quit, but he always delivers something great.”

When you talk to Darrow, he seems surprised that anybody reads his comics. He’ll make entirely false statements like “nobody wants to read me doing a superhero comic book or a Conan comic book.” He’ll talk about reading reviews and comments under Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? Amazon page. He can, and does, laugh off any negativity about his special brand of insanity and violence. “I don’t think there’s anything else like [Shaolin Cowboy] out there, which is what I like. I always come back to it, for better or worse.”

In the case of Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign?, it’s clearly for the better.

Image: Dark Horse Comics

Read the complete first issue in our gallery below!

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