Reed Gunther: Big Fun With a Bear-Riding Cowboy

Geek Culture

Reed Gunther and SterlingReed Gunther and Sterling

Reed Gunther Wants You!

All-ages indie comic Reed Gunther is coming to Image in June, and to celebrate, creators Shane & Chris Houghton are throwing a contest; you can win an original page of art from Reed Gunther #1. All the details are at the Reed Gunther website. The rules are simple: print out the “Wanted” poster from the site, take it to your local comic shop, and ask the shop staff to hang it in the store. When they do, take a picture of yourself beside the poster and send it in. All submissions go into a hat, and the one lucky person whose name is pulled out wins the page, which you can also see at the site. The contest ends on April 28, so don’t dawdle.

So what is this Reed Gunther comic all about?

It’s a comedic western about a cowboy named Reed Gunther; strong, bold, fearless, and not quite as bright as he thinks he is, Reed is often the cause of the problems he faces. Fortunately, Reed can depend on his best friend and trusty steed, a grizzly bear named Sterling, to rescue him. Sterling is fiercely loyal, resourceful and heroic; he may occasionally roll his eyes at Reed’s impulsive actions, but he’s always ready to back up his friend.Together with a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense cattle-wrangler named Starla (whom Reed persists in seeing as a damsel in distress, though she’s not very damsel-like and seldom in distress), Reed and Sterling battle gigantic snakes, mutant mole-people, and various monsters across the West.

The first four issues were self-published by Shane & Chris in black & white in 2009-2010; the Image run will publish those stories in full color, followed by at least six more issues. After the tenth issue, the series may be extended, depending on the sales figures.

Writer Shane Houghton is a video editor, his younger brother, artist Chris Houghton, works at Nickelodeon as a storyboard artist. They have been developing Reed Gunther for a few years now, and are very excited to be working with Image to bring the book to a larger audience. I met with them over lunch in Burbank to hear about the project. The very youthful brothers projected a contagious enthusiasm for their comic, which has already become one of my new favorites. One reason for this is their personal connection to one of their characters; Sterling is named after their childhood pet, a golden retriever who shared a lot of personality traits with his ursine namesake. Sterling was a smart and loyal dog; the Houghton brothers grew up in a rural area in Michigan, and their dogs, Sterling and a black Labrador named Riley, often ran free in the woods beside their home. On one occasion, a pair of drunken and irresponsible hunters happened to be nearby and decided that it would be fun to shoot the dogs. Riley died immediately, but Sterling, despite being wounded, managed to make it home and bark insistently at the boys’ mother “just like Lassie” to get her to come to Riley’s aid. Sterling made a full recovery and lived for several more years, and today he lives on in the form of a cartoon bear.

Chris and Shane can be found this month at the Long Beach Comic-Con, Wizard World Anaheim. On Free Comic Book Day in May, they will conduct a “how to make comics” workshop for kids at Meltdown on Sunset.

The Reed Gunther website has a few kid-friendly features; coloring pages, wallpapers and pin-ups, “how it’s done” features showing the creation process, and a time-lapse video of Chris inking a page. Pop on by and take a look.

The first Image issue, Reed Gunther and the Steak-Snacking Snake, will go on sale June 1; it’s available for order in the current issue of Previews. The order code is APR110403.

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