Justin V. Gray

Author and Graphic Novelist

Billy The Kit

BTK_Cover_Mock_02_copyI am currently in negotiations to self-publish a new supernatural western comic called, Billy The Kit, which centers on a gun-slinging rabbit seeking vengeance for the murder of his family. Billy is the son of an evangelical Christian preacher who left New England to follow the trail of manifest destiny and tame the American West. It is violent, mature, full of colorful language and, with any luck, an emotional and relatable experience.

I wanted this book to be many things to many people. On the surface, it is a classic western in a world of talking animals, a kind of Loony Tunes insanity meets the hyper-violence of Spaghetti Westerns. Dig a little deeper, and it is about the transformation of culture, religion, and post Civil War America. If you’re reading this, you might be familiar with the DC Comics character Jonah Hex, whom I co-wrote for nearly a decade beginning in 2005 and ending in 2014. If you enjoyed that run, this is something I think will interest you.

jh_7_panosian_movie_titlesWriting Jonah Hex and later All-Star Western, I felt I had said all I wanted to say in the Western Genre. By the nature of the job writing as a freelancer for DC Comics, I was restricted in the kinds of stories I could tell in the pages of Jonah Hex. Some things made sense, like feeding a newborn to an alligator might make some people upset. Other things like showing a dog eating fresh vomit – not so much. Anyway, there were all kinds of missed opportunities to push the book further into Rated M for Mature territory.

Still, I believed I said my piece and was okay with walking off stage. I was proud of the work I did with Jimmy Palmiotti and hundreds of brilliant artists, colorists, and letterers I was lucky enough to collaborate with. Without question, Jonah Hex was the most satisfying and creatively fulfilling work I’ve done for DC to date. Much of that was due to Jimmy and myself being left almost entirely alone to do what we wanted with the book month in and month out. This includes choosing artists and content.

It wasn’t until a few years later when Billy The Kit popped into my head that I realized something was missing. It seems American culture and society in the early 21st-century is an open wound both physically and mentally. Once again the nation is split into two very different ideological visions. Like Orwell’s 1984, setting Billy The Kit in a world of anthropomorphic animals allows me to work in allegory and symbolism in a way stories about people fall short. I know it is going to be a hard sell, which is why I’m starting to sell it early and often.

  1. relating to or characterized by anthropomorphism.
    • having human characteristics.
      “anthropomorphic bears and monkeys”
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