Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Elseworlds Hex?

I've been rereading some Elseworlds trades I have. Some of them work really well and others not so much. Batman in the Old West didn't work but Batman during the French Revolution did. So did Batman vs Jack the Ripper. Commie Superman in Red Son was a great book.

Why does a great Elseworlds work? I think it works when we see a character placed into a different time and things end up playing out very closely to the 'real' character, not through very contrived circumstances, but something that flows naturally. The French Revolution Batman didn't lose his parents, but he was still the playboy by day and the fearful bat at night and battled against a believeable Harvey Dent. The Victorian Batman worked because it was very plausible that Bruce Wayne would have studied under Freud and also studied the methods of Holmes. The technology he had was comparable to what he would have been able to put together at the time. Red Son Superman took the man and his principles and gave them a slight communist twist, allowing Superman to become the leader of the not-so-free world.

Old West Batman didn't work because he was mainly a spy for the goverment and the idea of Robin being a secret Indian agent just didn't fly. None of it was the same character.

So that got me to thinking. What would an Elseworlds Jonah Hex look like? He would have to have an abusive father, fight in a war, become hideuosly scarred, rejected by society. I'm not talking about Vertigo Jonah Hex or thrown into the future Hex. I want a Jonah Hex that starts his entire story in another time or another country.

How about a Jonah Hex that is from Germany and has lied about his age to get into the army during the end of WWI? He decides that the war is too brutal and when he decides to surrender he ends up being horribly scarred during an explosion. He recovers and eventually finds his way to America in the early twenties, smack dab in the middle of Prohibition and ends up working for Al Capone as an enforcer. Eventually he realizes that he doesn't like working for anyone and starts free-lancing for the Feds, other gangs, anyone that will pay him enough.

Jonah Hex during the American Revolution as a Tory that realizes he is on the wrong side and finally winds up as a ...?

Jonah Hex as a Samurai in feudal Japan?

Jonah Hex in Medival England as a scarred knight?

Jonah Hex, abandoned by his parents, sold into slavery for the Egyptians. He kills another Egyptian, is discovered and is scarred according to Egyptian law and cast out into the wilderness.

Anyway, it's interesting to contemplate, but I think that we would never see any of these come to fruition. Nice to dream though.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jonah Hex #47 "Doom Rides the Sundown Train!"

Jonah Hex #47 Apr 1981
"Doom Rides the Sundown Train"
Michael Fleisher, story - Dick Ayers & Tony DeZuniga, art - Tony DeZuniga, cover

Some time has passed since we last saw the badly injured Jonah and his lovely bride of three weeks. They have bought the farm (no, they didn't die!) from last issue and Jonah is now up on the roof of the house making repairs. However, we see four men on horseback on a hill overlooking the farm and their intent is not to throw a shivaree.

While Jonah is on the roof, gunfire suddenly erupts and Jonah takes a header off the roof. Jonah forces Ling into the house and runs around the back of the house to grab some dynamite that he has been using to remove stumps. Soon the four thugs see several sticks of lit dynamite arc up over the hill towards them and then they end up meeting their maker.

When Jonah returns to the farm, Mei Ling says that she heard an explosion and wonders who the men were. Jonah states that it's too late to figure out who they were. Mei Ling is appalled that Jonah has killed four men that he didn't even know and she breaks down in tears.

MEANWHILE!!!!! Outside Richmond, Virginia, Quentin Turnbull is approached by his servant, Solomon. Solomon states that after months of searching, the Catlow Jackson gang has located Jonah Hex and his new wife. They tried to kill Hex, but...

Turnbull interrupts Solomon and asks for a clarification about Mrs. Hex. Obviously, Turnbull has learned that Hex is not dead, as he last thought, and with this new information hatches a plan to make Jonah suffer as Turnbull has suffered.

Several days later, Mei Ling is in town when Mr. Wilkins, the telegraph operator at the train station, asks Ling to come into the station. Just then a man standing behind Wilkins pulls a gun and forces Ling into the station.

Much later, night starts to fall and Jonah realizes that his wife isn't home so he saddles up and heads into town.

At the station, the thugs are anxiously awaiting nightfall so they can take Mei Ling to St. Joe and then keep moving her all around the country, out of Jonah's reach for the rest of his life. As the train pulls into the station, one of the thugs notices that Wilkins has been fiddling with the telegraph wires and they wonder if he might have sent a message. Suddenly Wilkins bolts for the door and they unload several rounds into his back, driving him out the window in the front door.

Jonah arrives in town as a man runs up saying that Wilkins has been murdered. Just then the Sheriff confronts the villains and he is quickly gunned down. Hex saunters up and the thugs hold a pistol to Ling's head and then they steal the train. Jonah makes a last minute lunge to catch the train and ends up getting pistol whipped.

On the locomotive, the gang kills the fireman and throws him off. One of them stays in the engine and the other two go back into the train. Back in town, Jonah comes to and heads off to intercept the train. Jonah finally catches up to the train when it stops to take on water and he leaps onto the roof of one of the cars.

A thug in the car hears the noise, looks out the window and sees a dangling boot. He sticks his head out the window and .....

That actually made me chuckle.

Jonah then heads towards the locomotive and beats the crap outta the thug up there and then heads back to the caboose after the engineer tells Jonah that's where the ringleader has taken Mei Ling. Jonah busts in on the ringleader (just as he is getting ready to take advantage of Mei Ling) and gives him an entire boot-to-the-head whoop-up. Jonah and Ling head out of the caboose but the villain is still conscious and puts a bullet into Jonah's shoulder. Jonah pushes Mei Ling into the next car and then pulls the pin between the train and the caboose.

We get a two-panel showing that Quentin Turnbull learns that his thugs have failed. The rest of the issue is another Scalphunter backup.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 6
Running Total - 316
Jonah's Injuries - Taking a header off a roof, hit in the head, shot in the right shoulder
Timeline - This one covers several days between the dynamite killing and the kidnapping. It is unknown how much time has elapsed since last issue, but Jonah's back is better, so I'm guessing about a week.

I enjoyed this story, mainly because of the boot stunt and the introduction of Turnbull into Jonah's marriage. The sad part is that Jonah doesn't know that these guys are hired by Turnbull and just thinks it's random goons looking to punch up their rep.

Even though I enjoy Scalphunter, I think the Jonah Hex stories suffered from the shorter page count. But, I always try to keep my readers happy, so here are a few quick scans from the Scalphunter backup. Yup, Indians in loincloths.

Next Issue: An old friend of Jonah's shows up for dinner and goes stark raving crazy!!

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Huge Spike, right over there

I don't have a huge readership, not like Mike or Chris, and probably not even as large as my constant commenter and person who keeps convincing me to buy more comics, Sally. But, when ya have a niche blog about Jonah Hex, don't work in a comics shop, AND ya have a life, what can ya do? You end up getting around 30 page loads a day with about 3 regular readers. Of course, even a blind squirrel finds a nut, and somebody gives me some linky love and I get a LOT of crossover hits.

Then, THIS happens
Somebody, searching for Jonah Hex stumbles upon my writings and reads everything that I have written in the past two years!! 249 page loads in one day. Brings a tear to my eye.

Anyway, that's enough for now. You kids run along and read something fun & hip, I'll just stay here obsessing about the best Western character that has ever been penned. I'll be here when ya get back.

Don't worry about me.

I'll be fine.

You have fun, run along. Matlock is on and I haven't seen this one.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jonah Hex #46 "Death in the Grass!"

Jonah Hex #46 Mar 1981
"Death in the Grass!"
Michael Fleisher, story - Dick Ayers & Tony DeZuniga, art - Joe Kubert, cover

Three weeks have passed since Jonah & Ling left the town where they were married and a huge thunderstorm has overtaken them in their search for a home. They stop at a local hotel and when they attempt to check in, the clerk refuses to give them a room, constantly using the word "wife" in quotes. Jonah is about to go ballistic on the clerk when three locals walk in and explain that the hotel is whites only, not for coolies and race-mixers.

Jonah is about to increase the population of the local boot hill by three but Ling says that it is not worth it, they will find a room elsewhere. As they continue their trek, the rain stops but the mud ends up overwhelming the wagon when the axle breaks, the horse attempts to bolt and Jonah & Ling are thrown from the overturned wagon. Ling is uninjured but Jonah ends up with a severe back injury and is unable to stand or walk. Jonah instructs Mei Ling to saddle up his horse and head for a nearby town to fetch a doctor. It shouldn't take more than two hours round trip. She helps Jonah prop himself against a rock and leaves him with a pair of binoculars, then rides off.

As fate would have it, the three bigots from the previous town have decided to follow Hex to teach him a lesson on threatening good decent white folk. They spot Jonah using a telescope but Jonah sees the sun glinting off their lens. Using the binoculars, he realizes the trouble he is in and starts dragging himself into some nearby buffalo grass. By the time the three get to Jonah's location, he is well hidden in the grass so they start searching for him.

Bigot #1 finds Jonah but Jonah manages to get off the first shot, that is, he would have if his Colts hadn't jammed because of the mud in them from when Jonah took his fall. Bigot #1 starts gloating, giving Jonah enough time to grab his knife and deliver a message from Mr. Bowie himself. Jonah doesn't have time to retrieve his knife and crawls off further into the grass.

Dragging himself onward, Hex encounters a rattlesnake, manages to get his jacket off and around the rattler. Just as he finishes bundling up the viper, Bigot #2 locates Jonah. Hex whispers that if the bigot will let him go, he can have all of Jonah's money in the coat. Bigot #2, also known locally as Stupid #1, unwraps the jacket and gets bit in the throat by the snake and starts screaming.

Jonah doesn't have time to grab his rifle and drags himself off into the grass. Bigot #3 shows up and sees that his friend will soon be gone and continues tracking Hex. Jonah has located a small farm, but it is across a large stretch of open land. He decides to start a fire to cover his movement, but his matches are much too wet. Jonah uses his binoculars to start a grass fire and since the grass is wet it's gonna cause a whole lot of smoke. Jonah uses the cover to drag himself to the farm while Bigot #3 has to make tracks to keep from being surrounded by the fire.

Meanwhile, Ling has located a doctor and is heading back to save Jonah.

Jonah is now in the barn, he finds a rope, makes a lasso, lassos a rafter and pulls himself up into the loft. Bigot #3 eventually makes his way to the barn and determines that Jonah is in the loft. Bigot #3 climbs the ladder and locates Jonah but as he moves in for the kill, Bigot #3 doesn't notice the rotted boards, falls through and ....

Much later the doctor makes this diagnosis "..your fall... produced a traumatizing jolt to your spinal column, resulting in a sort of temporary near-paralysis. The fact that you've continued to experience pain...strongly indicates ...unlikely..serious permanent damage." (I've edited it for brevity) Jonah asks if the doc knows who owns the farm they are at and the doc says that HE owns it and is willing to sell since it is an investment property.

Ling is overjoyed that they have found a home and they end on a semi-painful kiss.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 3
Running Total - 310
Jonah's Injuries - Thrown from a wagon resulting in "temporary near-paralysis"
Timeline - Three weeks since last issue.

While it was a good adventurous tale, this one really stretched my "willing suspension of disbelief".
  • First off, the wagon wasn't going fast enough to throw Jonah & Ling like it did.
  • I've had back pain and there is no way in hell I would be dragging myself around, climbing a rope or even sitting up. Jonah must be twice as mean as Chuck Norris.
  • Wet grass doesn't catch fire and smoke. Green grass smokes. Wet grass doesn't burn.

These, sadly, are major points of the story and pretty much ruined it for me. It looks like the happy couple will finally be able to settle down and get to some non-violent happiness. There was also a Scalphunter backup story which caused a page crunch on the Jonah Hex tale

NEXT ISSUE: Turnbull learns that he wasn't invited to the wedding. Now they've gone and made him mad.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Jonah Hex #45 "Blood Wedding!"

Jonah Hex #45 Feb 1981
"Blood Wedding!"
Michael Fleisher, story - Tony DeZuniga, art - Joe Kubert, cover
How come you didn't buy this one? It has a Kubert cover, DeZuniga art, Hex getting married and SCALPHUNTER TOO! (did I really need to capitalilze that last part? Guess so). You didn't buy it because you weren't born yet? Stinking comic noob, sit down and let me learn ya on this one.

This is the story that Jonah's life pivots on, everything after this will never be the same. This is the dividing line, the continental divide, the equator, the 19-ft fence around the nudist colony. But enough hyperbole, we have a wedding to attend!

The story opens with Jonah & Mei Ling in the general store picking out her wedding dress. A few of the local biddies...uh ladies...uh, women are lamenting the fact that the hideous scar faced bounty hunter would publicly show his "bestial lusts" but at least he hasn't stooped to marrying a negro. Jonah leaves Mei Ling so he can go over to the bank and sign the papers on the vacant farmhouse they are going to buy.

As Jonah is heading to the bank he is called out by a brother of a man Jonah killed a few years prior. The man, Mike, shoots Jonah in the left shoulder, knocking backwards into a horse trough. As Mike gets closer to Jonah, Hex jumps out of the water and repeatedly dunks and punches the man into oblivion, all the while noting that Mei Ling would skin him alive if she found out that he had killed someone the day before their wedding.

Later Jonah and Mei Ling ride out to her brother's, Mei Wong, place. Ling asks if Jonah got the papers from the banker and Jonah tells her he ran into a fella he used to know. Ling says that Jonah should invite him to the wedding.

When they show up at Mei Wong's farm, they meet his wife and go inside for tea. Wong asks if he can speak to Ling privately and takes her out to the garden. Wong asks why an Occidental is in his house and Ling explains that they are to be married. Wong explains that he has heard of Jonah Hex and the stench of death that follows him around. He says that if Ling marries Jonah, she will no longer be his sister. Ling leaves crying.

Meanwhile, Mike has been carried by his buddy Luther back to a cabin in the woods. There Jake, the leader of the gang learns that Jonah is getting married tomorrow and they decide to help Jonah settle down.

Back in town, the local biddys have descended upon the poor banker, explaining that if he makes a mortgage for Jonah Hex, they will pull all of their money from his bank. Banker Jarvis vouches for Mei Ling, who he describes as "an attractive and thoroughly well-bred young lady", and Jonah who has stated that he is quitting bounty hunting. Nevertheless, the women add to their threat by saying that all of their friends will withdraw their funds as well, leaving Jarvis wiping his brow in worry.

Sunday morning rolls around to find Jonah getting dressed in a suit, thinking about what his paw would say, and then heading out for the church, leaving his pistols in the hotel bed.

At the church, packed to the gills, the priest (pastor?, not sure of the denomination of the church) notes that the only reason the place is full is because of the wedding of Jonah Hex (Side note: I don't know if it was customary to get married during a regular service, but I know that this wouldn't happen today).

The wedding goes off without a hitch, Jonah and Ling both exchanging their vows. However, once they are pronounced man & wife, before Jonah can kiss his new bride, a man bursts into the church shouting that Jake McCafferey and his gang have dumped kerosene on six buildings in town and unless Hex comes out, they'll burn the town down.

Jonah tells Ling that he'll keep his promise and won't fight but the townsfolk are up in arms. Their town will be destroyed because of his promise. Hex is adamant and even shows that he has no pistols. The messenger produces the pistols because he stopped by the hotel to pick them up. Jonah tells Ling that he won't fight is he can't help it, but he can't let the town be destroyed just because of him. He straps on the gunbelt and walks out of the church.

Outside, the gang starts heckling Jonah but he explains that he just got married and is in a good mood. Therefore they have five minutes to leave town. Since the gang has a major stupid gene, they start insulting Mei Ling, calling her a coolie, a cheap saloon tramp, and that she has round heels. Finally one of them says they were mistaken, it was Jonah's MOTHER that was the tramp. Then....Four men dead and Jonah covered in mud, Mei Ling nevertheless runs out to be sure her husband is well. Jonah apologizes to her as she tells him she loves him anyway. Banker Jarvis walks out and Jonah says that he would gladly take the keys to the ranch they were going to buy, but Jarvis, under the gaze of the biddys, states that one of his associates sold that place earlier. Jonah starts to go off on him, but Ling says that it isn't important. Jonah agrees and they head out of town, Jonah saying that he never wanted to live around there anyhow.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 4
Running total - 307
Jonah's Injuries - shot in left shoulder
Timeline - Well, we'll have to come BACK to this once we get some more information, but it appears to be 1874-1876. This story covered two days. (this becomes important later on when we try to count backwards to place some dates.)

A really good story with several nice elements. First we have the prejudice of the women of the town, judging Jonah and Mei Ling both by their appearance, next we have the prejudice that Mei Wong displays to the extent of disowning his sister. Is it narrow-mindedness or pride on their parts? Probably both, pride in the their town and pride in the family name of Mei. Oddly enough, Mei Ling is now an outcast in to worlds, the west and her family, not unlike the outcast that Jonah Hex himself is.

Jonah tries to keep his promise and actually does the honorable thing trying to save the town. Ling doesn't go off on Jonah, she realizes that this is his past dogging him, not Jonah actively pursuing the violence (that will happen later). It was a short 17 page story (there is also a SCALPHUNTER backup story) but it was well crafted.

One last thing, Chinese names put the surname first, so Mei Ling's family name is Mei and her first name is Ling. I will probably refer to her as Mei Ling (mostly to help searches land here) but most of the time I'll refer to her as Ling.

Next Issue: The happy couple goes house hunting, so somebody is gonna end up dead.