Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Top 10 (Non-Western) Gunslingers in Fiction

I already made a list out of my favorite Western gunslingers in fiction (check it out).  This list is now exclusively made of fictional gunslingers that are not cowboys or gunfighters functioning in a Western setting.  However, it’s fine if these characters have some subtle references to or took some inspiration from the “Western cowboy” trope – they will still be considered for this list if so.  To qualify as a “gunslinger”, the character’s trademark weapons should be handguns, so anyone who regularly wields a weapon aside from handguns is disqualified for consideration.     


Hellboy, whose real name is Anung Un Rama (which means “and upon his brow is set a crown of flame”), is a demon that was summoned from Hell when he was still a baby by Nazi occultists.  He was rescued by the Allied forces and Prof. Trevor Bruttenholm, who took it up for himself to raise him as his own son.  Thus, Hellboy would grow up like a normal human, familiar with and engaging in human culture and practices.  He would also develop a knack for humor, gab, and sarcasm.  

Hellboy joins the organization founded by Prof. Bruttenholm – the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) – and uses his innate demonic strengths to fight in humanity’s behalf against occult threats.  Though he carries a variety of paraphernalia to combat supernatural evil forces, his primary weapon of choice is a large-ass revolver named “Good Samaritan.”  However, he’s only number ten in this list because he himself admits that he is a lousy shot and prefers to fight close-range.  

Ron Perlman killed it when he portrayed Hellboy in the film adaptation.   


This character originally appeared in comics, but was also given a terrific live-action portrayal by Karl Urban in an underrated film adaptation back in 2012 (let’s pretend the one starring Stallone never happened).  In a dystopian future, Dredd is a “Street Judge” – a law enforcement officer who is literally a police, judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one.   Hence, once he apprehends a criminal, he can immediately convict and sentence him, and carry out the appropriate execution when necessary.  Being a Street Judge, Dredd possesses the standard issue “Lawgiver pistol” – which is designed to be exclusively handled by him and has six kinds of ammo.        


“The Phantom” is a masked crime-fighter persona that has been passed from father to son.  Because of this, the Phantom is thought of by people as immortal and has been given nicknames like “The Ghost Who Walks.”  The current Phantom, who is  being featured in the popular comic strips, is Kit Walker, the 21st Phantom in line.  He has no superpowers, but uses his skills, wits, and his reputation as a “ghost” to fight crime.  The Phantom doesn’t particularly seek criminals and then shoot them, often choosing to beat them up instead.  But he will use his two M1911 pistols when the occasion calls for it. 


Jigen is a character from the popular manga/anime series Lupin III.   Jigen is often by Lupin’s side when he’s on a heist.  Though his primary function in Lupin’s crew is that of a “trigger man”, he also fulfills duties as Lupin’s aide-de-camp or unofficial “number two.”   He is adept in a variety of firearms, but his preference is that of a Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver.   He possesses amazing quickness and accuracy as a shooter, and is known to use the notch of his fedora to improve his aim.      


The Shadow originated from the pulp era of comics and novels, and is just one of several Zorro-inspired “wealthy gentleman by day, masked crime-fighter by night” adventure heroes that emerged during that time (one other example of which is Batman).   My first encounter with the character was in the 1994 film starring Alec Baldwin.  I was impressed by how “unique” of a superhero he was – particularly, how he will laugh maniacally like a villain to intimidate his opponents.  He possesses psychic powers and can also make himself invisible.  But even with these superpowers, the Shadow still arms himself with a pair of pistols.


What if you can mix close-combat martial arts with gun-slinging?  That is what the movie Equilibrium explored with “Gun Kata”, a fictional fighting style that I adore.  John Preston (played by Christian Bale) is the main protagonist of the movie.  And in this movie’s universe, he is considered as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Gun Kata fighters there are.  Equilibrium is a must-watch, not necessarily due to its story, but because of John Preston’s awesome close-combat gunfights.   


I admit that when I wrote my list on fictional Western cowboys/gunfighters, I forgot about Spike.  He would have qualified for that list since Cowboy Bebop is a “space western” and Spike is even referenced as a “space cowboy.”  So I intend to make it right with Spike, and make a little exception for him here (besides, I also established in the introduction that it’s acceptable if the character has “some subtle references to or took some inspiration from the ‘Western cowboy’ trope.”  Moreover, Spike isn’t really a complete “cowboy/gunfighter character in a Western setting”).  

Spike used to work for the Red Dragon Syndicate, but after faking his death so he can leave the syndicate, he found himself working as a bounty hunter with former cop Jet Black.  Spike shows proficiency in several skills, including martial arts, sleight of hand, piloting, and – of course – shooting.  Spike’s trademark gun is a Jericho 941.      


This reinvention of Dracula is my choice for the greatest “vampire hunter” character in fiction (read my “vampire hunters” list for a more detailed analysis of the character).  He can easily tear apart his opponents by means of his viciously powerful vampire powers, but favors engaging in battle with a pair of large, badass handguns:   the Hellsing ARMS .454 Casull Auto (or “The Casull” for short) and the Hellsing ARMS 13 mm Auto Anti-Freak Combat Pistol, Jackal (or “The Jackal” for short).  The Joker-like, “badass gunslinger” persona is what initially drew me to this character. 


Vash is one of the coolest anime characters ever.  As what I had written about him in the past:
At face value, Vash has one of the coolest get-ups or appearances found in anime.  Just one look at him and you can easily tell that he’s one kickass, badass dude.  And the appearance is not at all deceiving.  At the first episode, we learn how awesome he is when the fact that he’s a guy with a high bounty on his head was presented.  And then we got acquainted with his superhuman agility, reflexes, and eyesight, which are combined with his superior gunslinging skills.  More than that, the reason the anime is titled “trigun” is because Vash has three guns in his disposal: his revolver, a cybernetic left arm that turns to a machine gun, and his “Angel Arm” – his right arm, when activated by his revolver, turns into a powerful cannon that can level cities with a single blast.
Awesome dude.


I’ve been an anime fan for many years now, and Genjo Sanzo has remained as my most favorite anime character all this time.  A large part of it is because of the unparalleled depth and charisma of this gunslinging monk.  After being crowned as the 31st Sanzo and tasked to travel to the West to recover his late master’s Holy Sutra, he was led to a weapons room to arm himself for his mission.  Without any further thought, he proceeded to make a sole pick: a “banishing gun” – a five-shot Smith & Wesson revolver.   However, he was not only a gunslinger by his choice of weapon.  He truly embodied the personality of a gunslinger – terse but crusty; lonely; dogged; an I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude; and never backs down from a necessary challenge, no matter how formidable and grim it is.


Anonymous said...

The Phantom uses M1911 as you said, not what's in the picture you have up.

Anonymous said...

The pistols the shadow is shown using in the movie are not from that era.