In the Horror Headlines section of this site, there has been a lot of talk about a big screen adaptation of JONAH HEX. This movie may or may not get made and it may or may not star Josh Brolin. It is in that phase of limbo, where the possibility is very high that it might get scrapped altogether. But why make a film of the JONAH HEX comic to begin with, and why is HEX worthy of discussion on a horror site?
Those two question have very different, possibly opposing, answers. The character of Jonah Hex first appeared in a cowboy comic book series called All Star Western in 1972. After a successful run as the main character in the book for close to thirty issues, Hex got his own self-titled series in 1977.
Over the years, Hex has become one of DC’s most well-known characters even though his title has never been one of the highest selling. What makes Hex memorable is his horribly disfigured face. His face, which may or may not have been an inspiration for the Aaron Eckhart version of Two-Face, is completely deformed on the right-hand side.
Hex is one of those tragic western characters who just so happens to have an “ol’sumbitch” for a father. His pappy sold him to the Apache Indians to buy himself safe passage. Wow, thanks dad.
While living with the Indians, Hex eventually became an honorary member of their tribe. But, things went downhill shortly after. I found out the gruesome details behind Hex’s scarring by reading his bio on the DC Comics database. At one point, Hex had to fight the Apache chief’s jealous son, Noh-Tante, to prove his honor. According to the database:
“Noh-Tante feared that Jonah was a more capable fighter, and so he deliberately sabotaged the tomahawk that Jonah was to use during the fight. As the trial commenced, Jonah found himself losing to Noh-Tante's brutal attacks. Unable to rely upon his tomahawk, Jonah used his Bowie knife to bring Noh-Tante down, killing him in the process. By doing so, Jonah broke a sacred law which forbade the murder of an Apache. Jonah appealed to the chief, claiming that he was fighting in self-defense, but the chief would not listen to him. Several braves held Jonah down while the chief ordered him branded with the Mark of the Demon. Jonah's face was hideously burned and he was expelled from the Apache camp never to return.”
I always wondered, why Hex’s face was deformed in such a way. Why was their a hole in the side of his cheek? Now I know it is because a smoldering hot tomahawk was pressed against the side of his face. That will certainly be a difficult scene to watch (if this HEX film is ever made).
Hex’s personality is as cruel as the look on his face, and that is why I fell in love with his newest ongoing series. It took literally two pages for me to realize that Hex was going to be one of my favorite characters.
Writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti really nail the unflinching dialogue between Hex and his fellow cowboys. Each issue is like a PG-13 version of “Deadwood”, and Hex has the sharpest tongue in the book. Here is an example of the dialogue taken from one scene out of the trade Only the Good Die Young:
Mr. Park: This is my place and from time to time I employ family. They handle rowdy customers, act as couriers and…
Hex: You gonna outline the entire operation or are you gonna get to the god dammed point?
Mr. Park: I’ll have you know I’m a man of import around here and am not accustomed to be addressed as such…WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Hex: AH’M goin to get a drink. Send your man down when yore story has concluded.
Mr. Park: I need you to hunt down and kill some men!
Hex: How much?
Mr. Park: Don’t you want the specifics of this transaction?
Hex: Right…exactly how much money are you offerin’?
Hex is the ultimate utilitarian. He gets shit done. He pays a whore to have sex with Mr. Park to distract him while he places dynamite throughout Park’s business. Later on, Hex sets the dynamite off with Park and the rest of the members of gang inside the building.
Why did Hex kill Park and his crew? Revenge, of course. When Hex was drunk, Park’s men tied him up and hanged him from a tree in the middle of the desert. Hex woke up to the sight of three vultures ready for a meal. Hex spits out a bit of his blood to draw one of the vultures to him. He then severs the vulture’s neck with his teeth and holds its head in his mouth. He uses the vultures beak to cut himself free. Like I said, Hex knows how to get shit done.
Hex’s newest ongoing book is brutal, but it certainly doesn’t place Hex in the horror genre. The reason why Hex has been mentioned so much on this site, and other horror sites, is because of three miniseries he stared in during a revival in the 1990’s. Each of the three miniseries were written by Joe R. Lansdale, with art by Tim Truman. Hex tangled with a giant worm, zombies and ghosts throughout each of the stories, all great reasons to go check out the three Hex miniseries, that were put out by DC’s Vertigo imprint.
Like I said, the current ongoing JONAH HEX series, written by Gray and Palmiotti, doesn’t fit into the horror genre, but it is worth the $2.99 to read about Hex every month, and it will be worth the price of a ticket, if the movie adaptation is ever made.