Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Problems with a Jonah Hex timeline

Comics have an inherent problem. Time keeps moving forward and (usually) the characters don't. Charlie Brown & Peanuts are forever the same age and time barely moves except for the birth & aging of Linus, Sally & Rerun. Dilbert doesn't age, Dagwood & Blondie are eternal. Really, only Gasoline Alley & For Better or Worse have aged their characters in a real way. It's not too hard to do with comic strips, we read these every day. But comic books are printed monthly and one book may cover 5 minutes worth of time or several months.
If Superman is about 35 years old did he land on Earth in the 30's, 50's, or 70's? Superman's 'present day' keeps slipping as time in our world marches on, but he doesn't age. Superman, Batman, Spider-man are all ongoing series. But Jonah? Jonah Hex is a western that takes place in a particular time. He has a birth & a death, both given with dates. Some of his adventures can be placed on a timeline based on a historic event (the death of Stonewall Jackson) or by other references ("when I was 10 years old"), but most of them did not have dates assigned. If they did, they usually fell in 1874-1875. That would have been well & good except for one thing.
Mei Ling.
Yup, Jonah got married and while author Michael Fleisher didn't put a year on the wedding he did place 2 events close enough to cause a slight problem. In issue #50 of Jonah Hex Vol.1, Mei Ling decides to celebrate Jonah's 37th birthday. From other books and textual references, we can determine that Jonah was born in November of 1837. That means that Jonah Hex #50 takes place in November of 1874. The 42 issues after that, during which Jason, Mei Ling & Jonah's son, ages about 3 years, happen between December of '74 and the abduction of Hex to the future, which according to Secret Origins and a Who's Who reference, takes place in 1875. There is no way in heck that this can be true.
Part of the problem with the years can be easily explained by one small fact. Jonah has a November birthday (Nov 1st). Having a November birthday myself (4th) I can tell you that I was born in 1960, but in 1970 I was ten for only 2 months. So if a story of when Jonah was ten takes place during a summer month in 1848, that means that Jonah was born in 1837, he wouldn't be 10 in '48 until November. So despite Mr. Fleisher's other writings and the Who's Who entry, we can place Jonah's birth year at 1837. Jonah's death in 1904 at the the age of 66 (according to Who's Who & Jonah Hex Spectacular) would also place the year at 1837 (1904 - 1837 = 67, BUT he did not die during Nov/Dec, so he would be 66). We are faced with the error being in the year of Jonah's birth or all the other dated events are wrong. I decided to go with the birth year being wrong.

Having determined the year of Jonah Hex #50 and given the fact that the majority of the next 42 issues had some manner of continuity to them either in making reference to the marriage or involving people that Jonah met during the marriage (J.D. Hart, Emmylou Hartley), we can place them after November 1874. By then taking in all of the text captions ("The Next morning", "two weeks later"), plot references (Jonah jailed for 30 days, traveling to China & back for months), and visual clues (weather conditions (snow), age of Jonah's son, and seasonal indicators of planting & reaping crops) we can then place Jonah Hex #92, the last issue, as late as 1878. We know that it didn't occur in 1879 because issue #84 takes place during Mardi Gras (March) and Mardi Gras was canceled in 1879 due to yellow fever. The following eight issues have textual references covering about 40 days, there may have been some gaps between issues, but not enough to push Jonah's disappearance to 1879.
Soon I'll post a timeline placing some of the more important events in Jonah's life on a timeline with issue references. I currently have issues 50-92 of Jonah Hex cataloged and I have started on the Weird Western Tales books. I will also be keeping tabs on the number of folks Jonah has killed as well as his injuries.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

at this point it seems unlikely you are going to continue to hash out the timeline and all it's inconsistencies (since it has been 4 years since you started this post) but i wanted to mention something i have noticed-- in issue 65 we start learning about jonah's former fiance and are treated to flashbacks... thing is, it is said multiple times that the events occured 15 years before and that it was in 1859 which puts it "presently" in 1874-- but it's AFTER mei ling leaves him AND the incident in china... the storyline ends during winter so jonah has had to have had another birthday