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Cattle Punk

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When Steampunk goes out to the Wild West.

Cowboys are awesome. The Western was one of the most popular film genres from the advent of film through The '60s, and that's not to mention the books, comics, TV series, and radio. Science Fiction is at least as awesome, and even older, dating from 1608 and Kepler's Somnium. An obvious recipe for even more awesome is to mash them up.

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 Fiction (when gadget-heavy James Bond films were all the rage) — which, in practice, ends up looking a lot like Steampunk. It is worth noting that stories in either western or steamppunk tend to fit into roughly the same time period historically — between the mid 19th and early 20th centuries.

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.

For the inversion, see 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 Music and Punk Rock, which existed mainly in the 1980s. Cowpunk developed when punk rockers became intrigued by the angry, Three Chords and the Truth authenticity of 1970s Outlaw Country. Nevertheless, a twangy, edgy Cowpunk soundtrack would be a natural fit for a Cattle Punk movie.

See also Desert Punk.


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    Anime & 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 a visibly mechanical arm with a concealed submachine gun, and can form a Wave-Motion Gun out of his non-mechanical arm under the right circumstances.

    Comic Books 
  • The New 52 All-Star Western title is often Cattlepunk, with Jonah Hex dealing with various proto-superhero tropes and Steampunk villains. The back-up strip 19th Century Stormwatch starting in #17 is very Steampunk.
  • The comic book Cowboys & Aliens, wherein cowboys and Indians set aside their differences because, hey, aliens are invading.
  • 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.
  • Flesh features cowboys from the future being sent back in time to herd dinosaurs for their meat.
  • The first issue 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.
  • 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.
    • There's also Earth-18, a world in the DC multiverse inspired by Justice Riders, where technology has been frozen at a 19th-century stage by the Time Trapper, so people have used the available resources to create 19th-century versions of 21st-century technology.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Volume 9 of Atomic Robo, The Knights of the Golden Circle, the titular atomic robot is sent back in time to the Old West. Played straight as he finds a mad scientist who ISN'T time displaced trying to invade the US with a war zeppelin crewed by outlaws turned into primitive cyborgs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Westworld was kind of an inversion: Late 20th century robotic and Artificial Intelligence technology were used to re-create the Wild West for entertainment.


    Live-Action TV 


    Tabletop Games 
  • Canonically exists as a background element in the BattleTech universe, where what technology the inhabitants of each world — especially the more 'backwater' ones — may have access to can vary wildly after the chaos of the Succession Wars and such things as dedicated civilian 'Mech designs specifically for harvesting and livestock herding purposes date back all the way to the heyday of the Star League, if not earlier. It's not even at all implausible for a MechWarrior hailing from the right planet to have already grown up piloting one of these machines.
  • Deadlands mixes elements of this with Weird West. Mad Scientists use the many and varied properties of Ghost Rock to power all sorts of gizmos and infernal devices that are years, even centuries ahead of their time because Ghost Rock is made from the souls of the damned, so they are Powered by a Forsaken Child. Salt Lake City, the City o' Gloom, is the most obvious example of this, but Mad Science tech permeates the setting.
  • 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 
  • Damnation portrays the United States torn by Civil War that lasts for at least several decades.
  • Dusty Revenge and Dusty Raging Fist, despite both being set in a Western-inspired setting (albeit one populated by andromorphic animals; the titular Dusty is a rabbit gunslinger for instance) also have cattlepunk elements, from bulls and rhino enemies with Arm Cannon appendages, moles who have drills for arms, robots and drones as well as presence of high-tech machinery throughout.
  • Fallout: New Vegas combines this with Zeerust. The first quest is a small-town gunfight.
    • Also a Justified Trope for New Vegas, as the New California Republic has basically rebuilt the US government from scratch. They've just reached the 19th Century level of advancement (along with some 20th and 21st century tech such as manufacturing service rifles, laser weapons, and mini nukes).
  • Gun Mute, a piece of interactive fiction by C.E.J. Pacian.
  • Overwatch has Cassidy, once known as McCree, a cyborg gunslinger with The Wild West aesthetics in 20 Minutes into the Future. His rival Ashe leads a gang that includes her Robot Butler Bob.
  • 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.
  • Red Steel 2 is set in an alternate-universe desert mashup of samurai swordfights, cowboys, computer hackers, bandits, Japanese culture, and steam locomotives.
  • Rimworld (which owes considerable inspiration to Firefly above) has enough Schizo Tech to straddle the line between this trope and Space Western.
  • SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Dig 2 take place in a Wild West world populated by steam-powered robots.
    • SteamWorld Heist includes the Steambots from Dig, although major changes to the game’s world over the time gap have caused their inspiration to shift partially from Western to anywhere from the Prohibition-era United States, to Soviet Russia in one case.
  • A Rail Shooter called Tin Star is set in the Wild West, with robots instead of people. They all explode into gears when they die instead of bleed.
  • 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."
  • The setting of Wild ARMs is definitely inspired by The Wild West, with plenty of advanced technology thrown in.

  • The Western setting in Arthur, King of Time and Space.
  • In Cwynhild's Loom the less populated areas of Mars reflect the American West. Cowboy hats are quite common, and many people are openly armed.
  • The Guns Of Shadow Valley is set in an Old West where all of the major characters have superpowers. One of the villains has a mechanical arm, and one of the protagonists has the ability to make steampunk weaponry.
  • Next Town Over, a webcomic whose primary characters wield steampunk weaponry and/or arcane powers in a quintessentially Wild West setting. Combined with Weird West, so you've got an outlaw pyromancer being pursued by a bounty hunter on a steam powered horse.
  • Penny Arcade's Sand project.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown", Ra's al Ghul tells Batman and Robin a story (featuring Jonah Hex vs. one of Ra's' sons) that borders on this.
  • Bravestarr bounces between this and Space Western, being set on the distant-future planet of New Texas.
  • The DuckTales (2017) episode "The Outlaw Scrooge McDuck" dips into Cattle Punk by having Gyro Gearloose get stuck in the past. In order to help a young Scrooge (and get home to the present), Gyro builds a set of rocket-propelled mechanical horses and a set of rudimentary steam-powered Gizmoduck armor.
  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "The Once and Future Thing: Weird Western Tales" has three heroes going back to the West chasing a time-traveling 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 (1966): It 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 (1997) 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 (2003) has this setting briefly during a Trapped in TV Land episode.
  • 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 Beast Men.