The Chronicles of Jonah Hex (part 4

By Eric S Brown
Jonah Hex has been DC Comics’ most popular western character since his creation, and even as early as the late 1970s there was talk of a feature film based on the character. Today, Jonah Hex has indeed broken out of the comic pages with appearances on TV, toys, and more - reaching a much wider audience the normal “cult” comic character. Jonah made his first TV appearance in the Batman Animated Series on the WB. He won over the viewers with his gritty style and drive for justice to be done, which matched the Caped Crusader’s own. In the episode entitled “Showdown”, mainstream American audiences were introduced to the character for the first time as he traveled across the old west in pursuit of Arkady Duvall, the son of Batman’s arch nemesis: Ra’s al Ghul. His second appearance on the small screen occurred in the Justice League Unlimited series. Justice League Unlimited was an attempt by DC to expand it’s old Justice League cartoon into a showcase of its universe featuring not only the company’s “big” seven but lesser known characters as well, ranging from The Question, Dr. Fate, and the Huntress to The Viking Prince, Wildcat, The Shining Knight, and Booster Gold. In an episode titled “The Once and Future Thing”, three Leaguers, including John Stewart (the cartoon League’s Green Lantern) and Batman, travel through time chasing a powerful villain, ending up in the old west. There they encounter DC’s “big three” western heroes: the mysterious and magical El Diablo, the charming gambler, Batlash, and Jonah Hex (voiced by Adam Baldwin). Jonah was the only one of the three not stunned by the Leaguers’ outlandish costumes and powers. He seemed to know that they were time travelers and even had knowledge of what a “Green Lantern” was. When Batman asked him how he could know these impossible things, he responded by merely saying “Experience. I’ve had an interesting life,” alluding to his time spent in the future via Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the post apocalyptic, Sci-Fi “Hex” comic series. The Cartoon Network has launched an all new Batman series titled “The Brave and The Bold”, based on the long lived 1960s Batman team-up book. The series is aimed at making B-list characters better known to the general American public. Episodes of “The Brave and The Bold” will include characters like Aquaman, Red Tornado, Blue Beetle, and Plastic Man that already have small fan followings, along with more wellknown characters. Jonah Hex is featured in the show’s intro. Jonah’s existence outside the pages of comics has reached into diverse areas such as RPGs in the peak of the roleplaying rage. Along DC released its own RPG dice based system and also marketed “solo” adventure modules featuring its most known characters. The scar faced, western anti-hero received the honor of being featured as the main character in one such module which was based on the “Hex” comic series that had recently ended its run. With fans clamoring for more Jonah Hex collectables, DC also added the bounty hunter to its Showcase Presents line of action figures. Jonah Hex is at last being recognized fully to by DC as an important part of the company's history and his figure is part of the first wave of the set, sharing the spotlight along side such iconic characters as Hawkman, Superman, and Batgirl. These highly detailed figures retail for around $16.99 and may be found at most toy outlets.

Jonah continues to grow in the world of comics, bringing his unique brand of gun smoke justice to numerous DC books with various guest appearances ranging from a drinking contest with a time traveling Booster Gold to perhaps his coolest crossover to date: an appearance in the pages of the ongoing Superman/Batman title. In Superman/Batman, an evil version of the founders of the Legion of Superheroes have traveled back in time and changed history to make Superman and Batman lords of the Earth as their puppets. As the universe tries to right itself, Superman and Batman bounce from time period to time period and skitter through various alternate realities. On one of these jumps, they encounter the heroes of the DCU’s old west who have all joined together in an effort to stop them. Batman is wounded but Superman easily slaughters El Diablo, Batlash, Scalp Hunter, Cinnamon, and everyone else with a single blast of his heat vision. Jonah, being his normal out-for-himself kind of guy, did not join the others in their last stand against the two tainted heroes from the future. He wades through the sea of bodies and marches up to confront Superman who laughs at him. Jonah loses his temper and his guns start blazing. The bullets rip through Superman’s flesh, killing him. While Batman looks on in fear, Jonah explains that he added some meteor rock to his rounds, then he turns on Batman and then finishes him off as well, saving his reality from the evil heroes. Reality blinks and Superman and Batman are reborn elsewhere, but the slickness of Jonah in that scene lingers in the reader’s mind long after the story moves on. The biggest news for all fans of Jonah Hex however, is that a feature film has not only been green-lighted, but is slated to be released in 2010. Rumors flew across the internet that Punisher star Thomas Jane would be portraying the scar faced bounty hunter. Pictures of Jane in full Jonah Hex garb and makeup surfaced on the web, but DC and the studio refused to acknowledge that Jane had anything to do with the upcoming film. It turned out that one of Jane's special effect friends had created the photos as part of an appeal to the studio for the Hex role. Somehow, these images leaked to the public and Jane was forced to come out about it, and very humiliating see his fan boy feelings for the character and desire for the role splattered across the cyber world. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the creative team behind the film “Crank”, have now left the project citing “creative differences” leaving the studio desperately scrambling to find a new director. The studio is eager to see the movie start production this year and retain its 2010 release date. It has also been made public that actor Josh Brolin, of such films as Planet Terror and No Country for Old Men, has been cast as Jonah. Brolin himself seems disinterested in the role in terms of public interviews on the subject and speculation is high that he may yet turn down the part. Rumors are also flying concerning the plot and setting of the film. They claim that Jonah Hex will not be a traditional western. While Neveldine and Taylor were at the helm, the film was supposed to be a darker, more supernatural take on the character, with Jonah going head to head with zombies and the Undead in an epic good vs. evil showdown much like Marvel’s take on Ghostrider. Now that the original directorial team has stepped aside, new rumors claim that the film will be based on the “Hex” series and turned into a Sci-Fi western in the style of Joss Whedon’s cult hit “Firefly.” True Jonah fans can only pray that the studio, and DC comics, will realize that a successful Jonah film must be a traditional western full of real life drama, character depth, and the real old west, not a wild ride of flashy CGI or zombies and spaceships.

None the less, Jonah Hex’s legend and readership continue to grow as more and more fans of good storytelling and westerns come to know the character, and realize his importance in the history of American Pop Culture. This concludes “The Chronicles of Jonah Hex” but join us here at next month as we began an extensive look into the history and legacy of comics’ greatest speedster and his rogues gallery in a series of articles titled “Riding the Ligthning: The History of the Flash”.

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