He was a hero to some, a villain to others … and wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was Flopsy Bunny … the other, Twinkle the Elf.
No wait, that’s not right.
one was death itself … the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.
Hex was one of my favourite comic book characters when I was a kid; I used to have a leather belt on which I’d had the name “Jonah Hex” hammered. (Okay, I was in Idaho at the time.) Hex was a cynical Clint Eastwood style antihero gunslinger with a battered Confederate uniform, a massively scarred face (just how massively scarred depended on who was drawing him), and a twisted sense of honour; his stories ran in All-Star Western / Weird Western Tales from 1972 to 1977, then in his own Jonah Hex title from 1977 to 1985. (I call this Phase I.)
Then came the controversial genre-bending years (though admittedly Phase I hadn’t been completely devoid of such aspects); first, a science-fiction element was introduced in the series Hex (1985-87), with the central character being transported to a post-apocalyptic 21st century (Phase II). Unfortunately Hex was cancelled before revealing how he got back to the 19th century. (Wouldn’t mind seeing a limited series tying up the loose ends from Hex, as well as the plot threads from Jonah Hex #92 that led in to it.) Then in the 90s three limited series (Two Gun Mojo, Riders of the Worm and Such, and Shadows West) had Hex back in the old west facing various supernatural horrors – zombies, subterranean worm people, and the like (Phase III).
Finally, a couple of years ago Jonah Hex came back in his own series, mostly straight western again without any more science-fiction or fantasy elements – though one recent issue did push the Edison-Tesla rivalry in a science-fiction direction. (Phase IV – though the movie of that name would fit better in Phase II or III – is in essence a return to Phase I.)
From the interviews I linked to above, it’s sounds like the upcoming Jonah Hex movie combines the Quentin Turnbull arc from Phase I with the zombie arc from Phase III. The Quentin Turnbull arc (which draws crucially on Hex’s Civil War backstory – see the first Showcase volume for details) is great and is the obvious place to start with a Jonah Hex film; I’m not as big a fan of the zombie arc, and in particular I don’t see how the zombie arc is going to fit easily together with the realistic, historically-grounded Quentin Turnbull arc. So I’m not sure how enthusiastic I should be about this movie.