By Steve Morris

Spoilers below, of course: we’re talking about the last issue of the run!

If a bio-surgically modified talking gorilla wanders the outback desert with a gargantuan pair of six-shooters and nobody is there to see it, does his story still make a sound?

Six-Gun Gorilla is a character who exists in public domain, first published in 1939 by D.C. Thomson as part of Wizard Magazine. Written anonymously, the character was as described: a giant monkey with twin pistols, who went on a revenge mission after his human owner was murdered, and successfully kills his enemy at the end of the story. Just another silly pulp serial in a magazine which was thought to be long-lost and forgotten, created anonymously by storytellers we’ll never know. 

That was, until Jess Nevins somehow managed to obtain copies of the original series, and scanned them for posterity. Out of nowhere, Six-Gun Gorilla suddenly had a legacy: a story which outlives its creation. A definitive ending brings about the possibility of a continuation.

That idea of “creators unknown” is the lasting memory around the character now, and was the moment which spurred on Spurrier, sorry, to revive the character a few years ago for a six-part series with hot new artist Jeff Stokely at Boom! Studios. The western is a genre which has long-indulged the thrill of the unknown and unexplainable – see Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” as an iconic example, a character who exists simply to exist – and you can see why pairing the Six Gun Gorilla to the Western was such a tempting prospect. The creative team almost entirely toss out the original story for the character in favour of something completely their own, and over the course of their six issues tell a story… about stories being told. 

In keeping with that approach, our central character doesn’t get a real name in the series, instead referred to as “Blue”. A librarian at the last-remaining library in the world, after getting dumped Blue decides to end it all by joining a Forlorn Hope – signing up for the army and going on a suicide run as head of the charge, so the real soldiers can identify where the shots are coming from. A camera is put in one of his eyes so everyone back home can watch his experience, and revel in the violence of the real-life story that the war provides. Reality TV is no longer about sticking ten people in a house or pitting exes against each other: the only show worth watching is a live-stream of this bloody war with a distant planet.

Blue’s an annoying character throughout the series, lost in a world of fictions which caused him to lose sight of the very real romance right in front of him. His love of pulp stories rises throughout the miniseries, often as he follows their example to do the wrong thing, or stumbles into trouble through his lack of grip on reality. When he meets the Six Gun Gorilla himself, Blue naturally falls into a sidekick role, feeling that he’s now part of someone else’s story and there’s a place for him. The two wander around their desert planet, fighting off local troubles and getting stick from both sides of the ongoing war between the army of Earth and the local population. Every time Blue speaks to someone, his preconceptions about them are smashed into the dust right in front of him, his ignorance a defining character trait.

In turn, the people of Earth watch the ongoing war as a 24/7 news loop, no personal attachment to any of the horrors they can see through Blue’s eye and a casual disassociation with this distant battle. While Blue can’t get himself out of a story and into the real world, the real world match him with their disregard for the lives they see through the end of a livestream. It’s an extension of our current real-world obsession with streaming stories, our social media feeds awash with tragedies and horrors we casually skim past as we scroll through twitter. Real-world issues – wars, disasters, corruption – have become stories for us, which we leave a casual comment on but never truly engage with. Reality has become our fiction.

The final issue solidifies our worries, as Blue ultimately finds out that the war is a manufactured one: both sides are working together to send untold thousands of soldiers to their death so they can benefit from the streaming revenue and weapon sales. The public don’t think twice about the reality of the war because they’re so obsessed with watching it unfold over their TV set, gossiping over what they think will happen next like it’s a soap opera.

When the conspiracy is revealed, the general public riot, breaking into the office of the TV studio and bringing down the entire thing. War between two planets is replaced by a thriving tourism industry instead, how nice. That final victory for Blue, as his story is viewed by millions and he realises that living his life is more important than living through someone else, is a nice one. Also, of course, massively naive, and I’ve no doubt that if something like this happened in real life, the general public wouldn’t give a shit. But still, nice.

What of the gorilla, though? As the miniseries goes on, Blue’s silverback companion shows signs of not being who he says he is. Rather than a surgically-enhanced gorilla with the power to speak and fire guns (on a rogue planet whose climate should theoretically make that impossible), the Gorilla starts vanishing and reappearing in a manner which deliberately breaks up and confuses the flow of the pages. He starts firing more than the twelve shots that his two six-shooters would allow, and he seems uniquely affected by psychic interference. After he, Blue, and the villain all perish together at the end of the final issue, in a literal blaze of glory, his story is essentially lost, it seems. An ending at last. But.

The final reveal of the issue is that a young child who has appeared throughout the series is actually our narrator, and as they conclude their story for us, the final page shows the gorilla return, wandering the desert beyond death, ready for someone else to pick up a story with him. Six-Gun Gorilla will return! And, well, he’s in the public domain, so another creative team have recently picked him up for another completely different take on him, as is the will of the world. This miniseries, however, thrives on that energy, and the final issue works because it waits so long to reveal any of this stuff for us as readers. No major reveals happen anywhere in the story until this last issue, so on a craft level we get all our payoffs coming at once, which emphasises the importance of knowing what your ending needs to be.

The various characters of Six-Gun Gorilla all have the same flaw, which is that they exist in a world without an end. Whether that be the neverending produced warfare they live vicariously through every time they put on the television; the participants of the war who remain in a carefully managed bloody stalemate; or Blue himself, who doesn’t know how to live his life or find a suitable ending for his story. When Blue accepts that his fictions can’t match up to his reality, and when everyone else realises that their reality is a fiction, everything comes together and explodes – as Blue’s ex-girlfriend notes when he dies and the camera feed goes dark, everybody finally gets an ending.

Nobody knows where the gorilla came from, but that doesn’t matter: the important part of this was that the gorilla opened everyone up to a new kind of story, one which actually needed to be told. The story takes over on behalf of everyone on both planets, and the gorilla provides whatever kind of creative combustion the story engine needs in order to end. That’s why he can fire his pistols in a world where no other spark can ignite. Although the big-ass gorilla with giant pistols is the selling-point for Spurrier, Stokely and crew, he’s really just the enticing and distracting spectacle which lets them sneak their real story to an audience who might not otherwise have wanted to hear it. And as their story ends, the final page reveals that a new story begins: our story. 

What to make of that ending? Whatever you want of it, I reckon.


Six-Gun Gorilla #6 “Fill Your Hand”
Written by Si Spurrier
Drawn by Jeff Stokely
Coloured by Andre May
Lettered by Steve Wands


Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.


This post was made possible thanks to the Shelfdust Patreon! To find out more, head to our Patreon page here!