As you may remember, I had a few points of contention with Keith Williamson's review of Jonah Hex and I sent him an email. He was kind enough to respond and granted permission to post our exchange:
Mr. Williamson wrote:
Thanks for your remarks, but my comments weren't erroneous, as you suggest. But we do have a difference in perspective.
While you cite the three mini-series in the 1990s, the fact is, Hex hadn't carried an ongoing title of his own for a period of almost 20 years. And the fact the character has varied, sometimes wildly, between genres suggests neither he nor his central story have ever really connected with comic fans en masse. That can't be said of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or Wolverine, to name a few.
Does that make Hex a failure? Well, it doesn't make him a big success. It makes him what he is: a cult figure with a faithful following. And so I was questioning the logic of making a big-budget film based on a hero who, in the eyes of even most comics readers, is more a cool image than a fully-dimensional character. What Hex storyline was dying for the big-screen treatment? What about Hex cried out for a film? Unlike, say, Swamp Thing, there's no one run that elevated the genre or redefined the medium. Kick-Ass, like its source material, feels fresh. What new would a Jonah Hex movie have to say?
That doesn't mean I think all Hex comics suck or Hex is a crappy character. I certainly remember him from my childhood in the 1980s. And, as I pointed out, he is a long-running creation. But after four decades, he has never truly caught fire as a solo act. So couldn't Hollywood have better spent its money elsewhere? Just because it's a comic doesn't mean it should automatically be a movie. But that shouldn't negate your enjoyment of the title either.
Thanks for your response. I agree that we have a difference in perspective and we may have to agree to disagree.
What jumped to my eyes in your review was the phrase "oft-canceled" which conjures a picture of a character being canceled more than twice (Jonah Hex & Hex). I don't consider the mini-series as cancellations because mini-series, by their very nature, are limited runs. The fact that DC went back to the Vertigo version of Jonah Hex twice more shows that the sales were there to warrant the effort (the success of that effort is probably a whole other slew of emails. :) )
Granted, Jonah Hex didn't carry an ongoing book from approx 1987 until 2006, but does that indicate the character is "failed"? I can name a lot of other literary characters that have longer gaps in publishing than 19 years that aren't considered failed.
But again, I think we may be disagreeing on definitions.
Did a Jonah Hex movie NEED to be made? No, not really, and certainly not the one they made. I'm sure there are a lot of other characters that could have used and carried a better film. Nobody was more surprised than I that the film was being made and I think the major failure was trying to rewrite the character and bring in elements of the mini-series, rather than dipping in to the current series or the original run. As far as a run that changed the genre, I would probably point to Jonah's marriage to Mei Ling, his drunkeness, and the arc where Jonah went to China to rescue Mei Ling. These were stand-out stories for a western comic in the 80's. (But contain far too much story for a two hour film)
Since I did make mention of your review on my blog as well as posting the email I sent, I would like to receive your permission to post your previous response as well as any response you send to this email. If you rather that I don't post either response, I'll respect that and not post this email as well.
Again, thanks for your time.
Mr. Williamson replied:
Feel free to post my response to your e-mail.
What is unusual is that we're not debating the movie itself. It's too bad how it turned out because Josh Brolin is perfect casting and the ensemble cast - Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender, John Malkovich - is exceptional.
Turns out that Neil over at The Bleeding Tree also took time to write to Mr. Williamson. We didn't plan that, honestly we didn't.