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Let's face it. Cowboys are awesome. The Western used to qualify as their own genre so many of them used to be made. The thing is, in the modern world, Science Fiction is much more high-brow. And yet the awesome allure of cowboys cannot be ignored. Solution? Steampunk meets The Western.

A setting which otherwise more or less resembles your typical John Ford film will have things like robots, super-weapons, and wacky gadgets tossed in. Interestingly, the heroes of such stories are usually pretty normal considering the setting- they'll use weapons like pistols and shotguns to take down warmechs.

This kind of plot usually takes place either on another planet or in a very obvious Alternate History, since making it work on Earth seriously messes up the space time continuum.

This setting is unusual among the Punk Punk subtropes in that it actually predates Steampunk, which is generally considered the ur-trope. For this we can thank The Wild Wild West, which pioneered the genre by thinking in terms of The Western meets Spy Drama- which, in practice, ends up looking a lot like Steampunk.

Expect ample Schizo-Tech in this setting. This a bit of a variation on the In Space model, though characters here rarely ever actually go into space, at least for extended periods of time.

See the inversion, Space Western. A related genre is the Weird West, for when the west gets a supernatural treatment.

Not to be confused with Cowpunk, a form of music combining (you guessed it!) Country and Punk, which existed mainly in the 1980s. Although a Cattle Punk movie with a Cowpunk soundtrack would be a good idea.

See also Desert Punk

Examples of Cattle Punk include:


Anime and Manga

  • Trigun. Desert planet. The Future. High tech not entirely lost, but not in general circulation, but a fairly large proportion of outlaws appear to be bio-modded. Trains replaced by titan things called 'sand steamers,' but you can also take a bus, buy a truck or motorcycle, or ride an ostrich-horse creature called a thomas.
    • No cattle whatsoever. There's nothing to graze. Somehow there is purportedly some farming. Main character is a Technical Pacifist outlaw gunman in a dramatic red duster.
  • Shows up in Cowboy Bebop with the Big Shot show and a "real life" cowboy.

Comic Books

  • Knights of the Dinner Table would be the Trope Namer, as one of the games the group frequently plays is literally titled "Cattle Punk." The game, known for its grim style as well as the lethality (players going through dozens of characters in a session), along with several alternate history "supplements" fit the description quite well.
  • The graphic novel Daisy Kutter utilizes this setting with surprisingly little ham-handedness, largely because robots appear only when it makes sense for them to do so in the plot.
  • The comicbook Iron West by Doug TenNapel, in which cowboys and Gold Rush prospectors must fight off a robot zombie uprising.
  • The comic book Cowboys and Aliens, wherein cowboys and Indians set aside their differences because, hey, aliens are invading.
  • Justice Riders, a Justice League of America Elseworld, in which Sheriff Diana Prince leads the flying Native American Katar Johnson, the Steampunk engineer Beetle, the maverick gambler Booster, the fast-drawing Kid Flash, and the extremely mysterious John Jones against rail baron Maxwell Lord, whose plan to control the West combines Felix Faust's magic and alien (Dominator) technology.

Film

  • Back to The Future Part III has this to a mild extent: Doc Brown is the only character with this kind of technology and his attitude is such that he probably does everything he can to keep anyone else from finding it.
  • The most recent Zorro film had elements of this, set in an Alternate History Republic of California where a European secret society tried to keep California out of the Union as part of a Xanatos Gambit to ensure that the Confederacy will win the upcoming civil war. The plan also involved supplying anachronistic nitroglycerin to the Confederates.
  • Oblivion
  • The 1935 serial The Phantom Empire with Gene Autry as The Singing Cowboy who discovers an advanced underground civilization with robots and other high tech.
  • Wild Wild West has the infamous Giant Spider.
  • Westworld was kind of an inversion: Late 20th century robotic and Artificial Intelligence technology were used to re-create the Wild West for entertainment.
  • Cowboys and Aliens
  • Jonah Hex, full stop.

Literature

  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower is this, along with many other genres you wouldn't expect King to pen.
  • Mike Resnick's The Buntline Special taking place in an Alternate History where Thomas Edison's Steampunk tech butts head with Geronimo's magic.
  • Alloy of Law fits as well. Although most of the action takes place within a city, two of the protagonists and the Big Bad are lawmen from the Roughs. The opening scene takes place in a mining ghost town.

Live-Action TV

Music

  • The video for Pink's "Trouble" is this with possible elements of Desert Punk.
  • The video for Knights of Cydonia by Muse pretends to be a movie made in the 70s that's a great example of this trope.
  • "The Copper War" by The Cog is Dead is effectively a celebration of this genre.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • Wild Arms
  • Phantasy Star Zero
  • Gun Mute, a piece of interactive fiction by C.E.J. Pacian.
  • A great deal of Twilight Princess invokes a western setting. Even the first quarter or so of the game is reminiscent of The Searchers, except there's no rape and the Indians are orcs.
  • Vigilante 8 Second Offense has Dallas 13, a robot outlaw driving a supposed Mustang from the future (looking somewhat like a Nissan, though) with hoverpads. 'Trigger. Finger. Calibrated'.
  • Red Steel 2 is set in an alternate-universe desert mashup of samurai swordfights, cowboys, computer hackers, bandits, Japanese culture, and steam locomotives.
  • Damnation portrays the United States torn by Civil War that lasts for at least several decades.
  • Fallout: New Vegas combines this with Zeerust
    • Also a Justified Trope for New Vegas as the NCR has basically rebuilt the US government from scratch. They've just reached the 19th Century level of advancement.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • One episode of Justice League Unlimited has three heroes going back to the West chasing a time-travelling supervillain. Thugs stole his time machine and create this setting as a result.
    • The Western heroes that the present heroes meet in this episode also seem to fit this setting though not to such an extreme. When one of them expresses disappointment about having to return the ray guns, another tells him they're not as useful as they look because of their tendency to jam.
  • The Lone Ranger had a 60's animated cartoon that turned this trope on and off as the producers desired. Among example plots, we have: an entire ghost town taken over by an anti-social madman of a ventriloquist who used mannequins and his talents to drive away real folk (preferring the company of his dolls) who try to set up, a magician in a devil costume named Mephisto who used a mixture of stage magic and apparently real spells to commit crimes, a botanist who created a valley filled with mutant plants capable of killing people, a German aviator attempting to take over the West with an armada of zepplins, an assassin who used explosive clocks as his weapon of choice, and a villain-worshipping child prodigy who would come up with (and pull off) plans like leading a gang of crooks on spring-heeled boots or becoming the general of an army of animated toys.
  • The 90s animated series The New Adventures Of Zorro had Diego fighting Steampunk cyborgs and magical foes. To even the odds, Grey Owl provided Zorro with his own magical assistance, and Barnardo was reinvented as a Gadgeteer Genius.
  • Teen Titans had this setting briefly during a Trapped in TV Land episode.
  • Batman the Animated Series featured an episode where Ra's al-Ghul tells Batman and Robin a story (featuring Jonah Hex vs. one of Ra's al-Ghul's sons) that borders on this.
  • The late-80's cartoon Bravestarr bounces between this and Space Western, being set on the distant-future planet of New Texas.
  • In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Duelist and the Drifter" the Adventure Town the Swordsmans' Town is this, with a Steampunk turbine whirring away alongside creaky wooden buildings with saloon doors, and a Samurai Cowboy Sword Fight culture that hosts a motley crowd of Humanoid Aliens and Petting Zoo People.

Notes

  1. : 360 degree swivel, dapper gentleman's concealed shaving kit, quadrupedal ambulatory mechanical legs & more!
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