Friday, February 13, 2009

Famous First Fridays: Friday the Thirteenth Edition starring Jonah Hex

C'mon in an' set a spell, Groove-ophiles! We're headed back to the Old West! In last Friday's Bat Lash post, I mentioned that Lash was my second-favorite DC western hero, second only to Jonah Hex. So this week I figured, what better time than Friday the 13th to focus on an hombre with a name like Jonah Hex?

Hex was created by John Albano (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (artist), most probably with input from editor Joe Orlando, for All-Star Western #10 (November, 1971). ASW was a revival of DC's Golden Age western title, and had been, up to that point, unsuccessful in creating a character that could really take hold as the mag's lead feature. While Outlaw, Billy the Kid, and especially El Diablo were good concepts, they just lacked that magical "zing" that makes a character break out and become an icon. Then along came Jonah Hex.

From the first page, we knew we were in for something special. Their was an aura of mystery around the character that drew you right in. Albano and DeZuniga were wise in not starting with an origin story (that would come later--under a different writer and artist-- in Jonah Hex #7, August, 1977), but with a story that focuses on Hex's personality, 'cause it's that personality, not the scarred face, that sets Hex apart from the pack. In a lot of ways, Hex could be called "Conan with pistols", but he's far more than that. In fact, I think Hex is more ruthless than Conan. Somewhere inside Conan was the heart and mind of a king; somewhere inside Hex there's just a little bit of a heart, period.

It's most obvious that Hex was inspired by Clint Eastwood and his "Man With No Name" character, but because of the number of stories told and the way comics tell those stories differently than movies, Hex is a much deeper, more developed character than the MWNN. I think it's cool that the creators never hid their inspiration, as every time you see the handsome side of Hex's face, you see Clint Eastwood. I like to think that ol' Clint kind'a digs it, too.

Hex proved to be just the thing to make All-Star Western soar in sales, so much so that with ish #12 (March, 1972), the title was changed to Weird Western Tales, a title much more fitting for the types of stories the Hex team (especially when Spectre writer Michael Fleisher took over) concocted. JH remained WWT's star attraction through issue #38 (October, 1976), after which he was granted his own title which ran 92 issues (December, 1976-May, 1985). DC went a little crazy in '85, cancelling Jonah Hex, rebooting it as sci-fi comic called simply Hex and sending Jonah to a "Mad Max" kind of future. The real Hex, the cowboy we all love to hate, has bounced around the DCU since the beginning, been revived in a few Vertigo mini-series by folks like Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman, and finally given another shot at his own title in 2005 by writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (along with a host of great artists). Jonah's mag is still going, and in Ol' Groove's opinion is one of the very, very few comics out there today worth the effort of picking up. Now there's talk of a Jonah Hex movie! I hope they tap Clint to play Jonah's pappy!

Before I get to the story, I have to plug the one of the best blogs around, the magnificent Matching Dragoons, in which Dwayne "the canoe guy" is in the process of recapping and commenting on every Hex appearance, along with some other nutty cool stuff. If you're not digging Matching Dragoons, you're missing out!

Now, what say we check out Jonah's debut by Albano and DeZuniga?


  1. Great post!

    I collected "Jonah Hex" in the 80s and stocked up on 70s back issues. I have a few "Weird Westerns" ... but I don't believe I have ever read the first story. So thank you! The art is fantastic!

    I have praised DeZuniga's art on Jonah Hex before -- I actually had a letter published in the mag in the 80s... I think at the time he was inking Dick Ayers.

    I loved the mag as a kid. It was the best of all the Western comics, and also one of the best comics, period.

    Yes, the inspiration from Eastwood Spaghetti is obvious, but this first appearance reminds me much more strongly of "High Plains Drifter". And I'll be gol'-durned if Jim the villain ain't based on Lee Marvin!

    Do you know how bewildered and alienated I felt when they changed this comic to the SF "Hex"? I dropped it immediately, without a backward glance.

    I'll have to get all the mags out one day and re-read 'em. Thanks for the post, Mr Groove.

  2. T'weren't nothin'. Glad you dug the post, Aldous! Hex was (and still is, imo) The Man! I almost mentioned the "Lee Marvin" appearance, but I figured some of ya'll would have more fun catching that one for yourselves.

    Actually, Hex might've inspired High Plains Drifter, since Jonah'd been hittin' the saddle for nigh unto three years when that Eastwood Classic hit the screens!

  3. FR: Old Weird Ken

    Serendipitously enough, Jonah Hex is supposed to be in the next CartoonNetwork 'The Brave And The Bold' and team up with Batman.

    Don't know when it will show because the usual air time of Friday 8:00 EST is pre-empted this February Friday the 13th.

  4. FR: Old Weird Ken

    Oh ... and there's a lot of noise on the Internet about a big screen Jonah Hex movie.

  5. Right you are, OWK! Saw the online trailer for the Batman/Jonah Hex team-up; loved the plot/dialogue, but wasn't too crazy about the voice. Too young and civilized!



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