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Cattle Punk

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? Steam Punk 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 Steam Punk, 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 Steam Punk.

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:

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 (though the main character's name, Vash, is a mistransliteration of Vache, which is French for cow). There's nothing to graze. Somehow there is purportedly some farming. Main character is a Technical Pacifist outlaw gunman in a dramatic red duster, with an artificial arm with a concealed submachine gun.

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 Steam Punk 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.
  • In the Silver Age Of Comic Books, the Marvel Comics Western characters drifted into Cattle Punk territory as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced superhero elements up to and including costumed, alien, and superhuman villains.
  • The New 52 All-Star Western title is often Cattlepunk, with Jonah Hex dealing with various proto-superhero tropes and Steam Punk villains. The back-up strip 19th Century Stormwatch starting in #17 is very Steampunk.
  • The first isse in the lost in time arc of IDW's Ghostbusters ("Displaced Aggression") is Peter Venkman with a poncho, cowboy hat, and steam-powered proton pack, cleaning up a small town menaced by ghostly outlaws.

Film

Literature
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower is this, along with many other genres you wouldn't expect King to pen.
  • Mike Resnick's Weird West Tales Staring Doc Holiday takes 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.
  • Dime Novel inventor Frank Reade personifies this trope with his adventures in the West using Steam Punk tech.

Live-Action TV

Music
  • The video for P!nk's "Trouble" is this with possible elements of Desert Punk.
  • The video for "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse has lasers, robots, and unicorns in a setting resembling a 1970s cowboy movie.
  • "The Copper War" by The Cog is Dead is effectively a celebration of this genre.

Tabletop Games
  • Deadlands
  • Assuming it ever gets around to the "game" thing, then the purest RPG distillation of this trope might be Far West.
  • Rifts has this in its "New West" setting, where a Rubber Forehead Alien cowboy might drive a herd of dinosaurs into town on a robotic horse with a laser pistol at his side. For bonus points, some companies operating in the area have deliberately embraced this trope, and said laser pistol might just look like an old fashioned Colt revolver.

Video Games
  • Wild ARMs
  • Phantasy Star Zero differs from other games in the series, taking place on a post-apocalyptic earth and having a more Wild West-themed aesthetic.
  • 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, so there's no moral ambiguity about killing them. There's also a hidden village with distinctly western architecture, a test of your sharpshooting ability, and a soundtrack that homages Ennio Morricone's film scores.
  • 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.

Webcomics

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.
      • This was probably a reference to the Dark Age of Jonah Hex's comic, when he was for some reason stuck in a post-Apocalyptic future that wound up being pretty Cattle Punk too.
  • 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 Steam Punk 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 Steam Punk 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.


Bizarro UniverseOtherworld TropesConstructed World
The ApunkalypsePunk PunkDesert Punk
    The WesternSpace Western
Byronic HeroImageSource/ArtThe Cavalier Years

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