Friday, August 13, 2010

The Many Phases of Jonah Hex - The Ongoing Hex.

Who or what is the Ongoing Hex? Why, it's Jonah Hex with continuity, of course. The early days of Hex, back in the Weird Western Tales, was a character that showed up, shot and got shot, and left town. When Michael Fleisher took the writing chores in WWT #22, the first thing he did was give us Quentin Turnbull, a past for Jonah Hex, and continuity. WWT 22-24 are more of less a three issue story arc, but after that we have to wait until WWT 29-30 for another two parter.

For the rest of Jonah's run in WWT and on into his own book, we would get a "done in one" followed by a two or three parter. Once in awhile a character would return (Bigfoot, Joanna Mosby, The Chameleon) but the stories and the arc's could be read in almost any order. I could read the Bigfoot stories before or after Jonah being framed for murder. About the only ongoing continuity was Quentin Turnbull and that at times was haphazard.

Everything changed with issue #42. There we were introduced to JD Hart and were reintroduced to Mei Ling. From that point on, each issue followed the next, each issue had a reference to the prior one, and each issue built on the ongoing life of Jonah Hex (except for a few obvious tales that appeared to have been put in for deadline reasons. #73 and a few others come to mind.) What did this do to our scar-faced bounty-hunter?

It made him more human. Jonah Hex went from being a monster with no past to a man with a tortured past to finally a man with his life being ongoing torture. Rather than seeing him ride into town, shrug off everything that was thrown at him and ride off, we got to see a man with a heart, a conflicted heart to be sure, but a heart nonetheless. He became a man that could grow weary of being hounded by Turnbull, tortured by Papagayo, and put upon by women. He would risk his life for his wife and son, battle the memories of his family, and face his own demons of alcoholism.

Every few issues it would seem like things would be wrapped up, but we didn't need a cliffhanger. We knew that there were a lot of things bubbling beneath the surface of Jonah Hex and his supporting cast and something was going to boil over and we wanted to be there. Then Michael Fleisher started doing something odd. He started wrapping up a story arc on the middle of the issue (#71) and started up another in the same issue!

At first that was pretty jarring. We had become conditioned to understand when the end of a story would be coming and all of a sudden we were finished at page 10. Kinda of like your Grandpa telling you a bedtime story and it ends after 15 minutes. You feel tricked but then you realize that you have time for him to start another one before the lights go out. This was a great way to keep the saga of Jonah Hex rolling.

Sadly, even though Michael Fleisher could keep the action going, he never took the time to figure out how long each issue actually lasted. Everything from issue 42-92 was pretty much crammed into 1875 (if you take the dates they give you). However, through meticulous tracking we now know that issue #42 was in 1874 and  #92 ended in August of 1878.

Fifty issues to chronicle four years of a man's life and it was probably the best fifty issues of Jonah Hex there was to date.


SallyP said...

It was good storytelling with a good character, dadgummit.

Abe Lucas said...

Dwayne, you're dead-on about that fifty issues. In fact, I'm putting them--the ones I have, anyway--in my "to read" shortbox.

Jonah struggling to survive in the desert in issues #79-82 is the first storyline that comes to mind.

Oh, and feel free to review some more Scalphunter stories...

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I think I need to do some more Scalphunter just to cleanse my palette of the last half of HEX and the upcoming Vertigo.