Friday, September 5, 2014


Art by Timothy Truman

DC canceled ALL STAR WESTERN this month, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. In a brief conversation I had with Jimmy Palmiotti, he told me that it’s a tough book to sell, which is why they were trying all sorts of gimmicks in it. Even though he didn’t say anything at the time, I could see it in his eyes. If Jonah Hex’s book isn’t canceled yet, it soon would be.

And now it is. I’m actually kind of glad. I’m a longtime Jonah Hex fan, and to see all the ridiculous bullshit they were putting him through hurt. I kept reading because I’m a completist. I have all of his appearances, even the stupid one in TIME MASTERS #3.

Back in the ‘Seventies, Jonah Hex first appeared ALL STAR WESTERN, an anthology book that featured regular characters. Some, like Bat Lash and El Diablo, were fun, and others, like Pow Wow Smith, were on the boring side. Hex was easily the best of the bunch. Shortly after his arrival, the book changed its title to WEIRD WESTERN TALES and got rid of the shittier characters to focus on the good ones. Hex was so popular that he eventually got his own book (leaving WWT to Scalphunter, who was fun but was no Hex). Hex’s solo book lasted quite a while, but interest in westerns started to wane, and in the first crime DC ever committed against him, they pulled a stunt designed to save the book. They should have just canceled the book. It had obviously run its course. Time to cut your losses.

No, they teleported Hex into the future and had him fighting aliens and villains who dressed like students at Nuke ‘Em High, using lasers and spaceships and all sorts of shit. They called the new book HEX, and it did not do very well. It swiftly came to an end, and Hex faded into obscurity . . .

. . . until Joe R. Lansdale saved him by reimagining the book as a horror western. Granted, the idea is almost as crazy as sending him to the future, but Lansdale is an incredibly talented guy. When he had Hex fighting an undead Wild Bill Hickok and shooting the shit out of underground monsters, it actually felt right. In all of Hex’s career, nothing supernatural ever happened. Weird? You bet. But supernatural? Never, not until Lansdale got his hands on him. He did three series, which were all fucking amazing. He’d planned a fourth one, in which Hex would go up against the God of the Razor, but I imagine it didn’t happen because he would have probably lost rights to his own character to DC, even though the book was being done at Vertigo.

Hex once again disappeared until DC, for some ungodly reason, decided to bring him back the way he’d been before the Vertigo books, and though it’s never stated, it’s also suggested that it happened before the events of HEX. (Thank fucking Christ.) I loved this new resurrection. It felt just like the old books but had a harder edge, all the way through to the end.

If only they hadn’t made that stupid fucking movie. If only they’d let the book end with the old DC continuity.

DC, please. Whatever you do, don’t bring Hex back again. If for some reason you decide to ride this old dog once again, here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t ever send Hex to Gotham City. Ever. There is no reason for him to be there. It’s a western book. He doesn’t need to hang out in the Batcave decades before it becomes the Batcave. He certainly doesn’t need to battle the lost tribe of natives living down there, as well as the giant bats.
  2. Don’t ever send Hex to the future. Ever. Did you not see how HEX worked out? No one wants that shit. I guess they figured he’d fare better in his future, our present. Pure garbage.
  3. Hex does not need to be a part of your stupid crossovers. He works best when he’s at the fringe of the DCU.
  4. Fuck you and your need to have him cross paths with Booster Gold. And while I’m at it, fuck you, Booster Gold. I never liked that guy.
  5. Hex’s most distinguished feature, the thing that got him the most attention when he first came out, is his hideous facial scar, which is known as the Mark of the Demon. So obviously DC had to get rid of it. Seriously, in the last few issues of ASW, he looks like a regular dude, nothing special at all.

And if for some strange reason you want to bring Hex back to the big screen, here’s an idea for you: don’t give him superpowers. He doesn’t have them and doesn’t need them. He’s a badass, heavy-drinking dead-shot with very few morals and an insatiable urge to fuck every whore in sight. It’s the perfect mix. Don’t add or subtract anything from it. [This isn’t a rant about the movie, though. I already did that here.]

The end of the recent book is kind of good, though. It was finally starting to get better after they got Hex back to his own time and way the fuck away from Gotham. (He met Batman, by the way. And Superman. And John fucking Constantine. And everyone else they hoped would get superhero readers interested in the book.) I hated his new look, but the stories were finally getting back to the basics.

But we’re better off without this series. Before I go, I should mention that they did something really clever in that final issue. For those who haven’t read it yet, SPOILER ALERT FOR THE REST OF THIS PIECE.

Waaaaay back in the day, when DC did a one-shot for their biggest western characters, they told the story about how Jonah Hex died: he was gunned down in his old age. He just wasn’t fast enough, and his eyesight was failing him. However, a sideshow guy had Hex’s body taxidermied and put on display. Eventually, he wound up in a warehouse, forgotten. His body somehow manages to last a long time, because Hex eventually finds it in the last issue of HEX. While the New 52 rewrote a lot of backstory, Hex’s remained fairly intact, and DC decided to hold on to this part of the old canon. In the future (our present), Hex finds his taxidermied corpse in a museum.

BUT! The final issue of ASW pulls a neat little trick on us. Remember, Hex lost the Mark of the Demon when a plastic surgeon fixed his face, so it would be impossible for that body to be Hex, not unless he managed to fuck up his face again in the exact same way, and how likely is that?

Turns out, when Hex gets back to his own time, there’s an asshole pulling all sorts of awful shit, and he’s calling himself Jonah Hex. He even looks a lot like Hex.

So yeah. Guess who that taxidermied corpse REALLY is. In the meantime, the real Jonah Hex has gone off to, um, become a pirate on the high seas. All right, maybe that wasn’t thought through all that well, but I really liked the trick with the corpse. It would be interesting to see if the DCU will hold onto that when they eventually go back to the old continuity.

Holy shit. I write a lot about Jonah Hex. Maybe too much. I’m going to stop now.

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