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09/03/2005 Entry: "Jonah Hex reviews Sequential Tart isn't running for some reason"

Well, I don't know what's going on at Sequential Tart with my Jonah Hex reviews, but it's making me look like a flake, when, in this case, I'm not being a flake. So here are the reviews they're not running and a link to one they have running in October (I've no idea).

Weird Western Tales 16

Weird Western Tales 17

Weird Western Tales 18

I hope Seq Tart runs 17 and 18 eventually because they do a good job of digging up the covers.

EDIT 091205: According to the Seq Tart editor who got back to me, they just ran out of time to code before the Sepember issue. So hopefully they'll get 17 and 18, which are already in the system, coded and also 19, 20, and 21, which I have entered yet, coded for October, which will be a very big Hex review issue if they do.

In honor of the new Jonah Hex series DC is releasing in the Fall, I decided to go through my collection. And, yes, I do have all of them; being thorough is the least of my problems.

Story: John Albano; Art: Tony De Zuniga

Weird Western Tales 17, May 1973

Title: The Hanging Woman

As in WWT 12, we find Jonah Hex in a lawless town, trying to eat his breakfast. Although he has more success in WWT 17 ignoring the outlaws shooting the place up and robbing the bank, he still gets sucked in. But first, he makes a little time in his busy day to give, Ned Haughton, a young man aspiring to be a gunslinger a little occupational advice:

Ned: "... Ah've been doing plenty of target practice -- by shootin' at tin cans!"
Hex: "... tin cans is the best things to shoot at!"
Ned: "Why's thet, Mr. Hex?"
Hex: "'Cause tin cans don't shoot back .. en' kill yuh!"

Kids really like Jonah; I'm not sure why, but they do. Enter elderly, wheelchair-bound Judge Hatchet, a female judge. It was her bank that was robbed, in fact, she owns almost everything and everyone is afraid of her (and so cowed by her, they're gutless in general; she even calls them her sheep). More on how she owns everything and why everyone is afraid of her later. She has three creepy, rather useless sons. She hires Jonah to recover the loot from her bank and get rid of her outlaw problem. So he does and collects his fee. On his way out of town, he rescues a little girl from a burning farmhouse. Turns out this was Ned Haughton's home and is his little sister. Turns out Ned's father's been hanged outside the farmhouse. Turns out Judge Hatchet wanted the Haughton farm and this is how she goes about getting what she wants so she can sell it at a fat profit. Turns out the Haughton grandfather is good at exposition. Turns out that poor Ned is going to find his home burned and his father hanged and do something rash if Jonah doesn't stop him. So Jonah rides off the rescue and gets there before Judge Hatchet and her two remaining sons (Ned shot one of them) can hang the kid. Showing their true colors, the sons only draw on Jonah when he turns his back on them. Of course he kills them. Then Judge Hatchet ties to shoot him and Ned, but Jonah shoves her wheelchair back. Towards a cliff, and he's too late to stop her going over the edge. Does she fall into the rapids below, Ned asks? "Not quite," sez Jonah. "Her scarf got tangled on some brush... Sometimes, boy, fate metes out its own kind of justice..."

I'm conflicted about this grim story. I mean, I'm getting to the age where biddydom is looking better than, well, death, and Judge Hatchet is the meanest old biddy I've read in many a year. Why, she might almost qualify for the C-word. Jonah just doesn't do well with mean women, which might be why there aren't very many in the J Hex oeuvre. There are helpless women, stupid women, foolish women, brave women, dead women, but very few mean ones. Judge Hatchet is probably the meanest, and yet, even after she's indirectly killed or tried to kill people Jonah likes and tries to kill him, he still tries to save her. Go figure. I think, in all the Hex sagas, he never kills a woman. They certainly drop like flies around him, but he never deliberately kills one. Love interest survival: N/A. Body count: six or seven bad guys, one good guy. Cover luridness: low, just Jonah riding up to a hanged man. Cover information: medium, from reader's POV, one only sees the bare feet and the boots below of the hanged man. There's a sign on the tree that reads "Last Warning! Do not pass this point!" (Possibly this is good advice for the remainder of this review. You're on your own from here, pilgrim.)

Letters: The letter section is called "Trail Talk," had I mentioned that? Anyway, there was an interesting letter about J Hex in this issue. Don Eiler in Kent, Ohio wrote of his high opinion of superheroes, and how those comics reinforce a positive lifestyle, and his low opinion of my boy: "Jonah Hex, however, is counter-productive. It pictures a paranoid existence in which callous ruthlessness can only be met with the same. Heroes think and behave mostly as villains; and so, in terms of social behavior, they become villains. Villains, then, become heroes. This is the ultimate immorality. Society cannot survive if its members follow the example of Jonah Hex." And then, editor Joe Orlando defends Jonah, so I don't have to: "Jonah Hex is not a villain…being a man such as he is, he finds himself caught up in situations that demand his acting in a violent way. We have never portrayed the violence as something that should be emulated...Hex has been involved with death, and it is always portrayed in a sorrowful way. When he kills it is not because he wants to kill, but because he is forced to."

Well, I don't know about that; Jonah kills too many people for business reasons, because he is, after all, a bounty hunter. He is, of his own volition, going toward danger instead of away from it, so I think it's a stretch to say he's forced to kill anyone, even though Albano did do a good job of making it look like self-defense most of the time. I also don't think sorrow enters into it very much either in the WWT run, which is one of the things I like about the WWT run. Look, folks, let's face it: Jonah Hex is not a choirboy. He's not a sociopath or an anti-hero in the Alex from "Clockwork Orange" mold, but, in the WWT run, he's no angel. And because his tortured back story isn't inflicted on us until number 8 of the "Jonah Hex" run, he's presented as a solitary and unsentimental man in a brutal line of work, partly because he's shunned by "respectable" society, and partly because he's good at it. It's true, aside from his line of work, Jonah never goes looking for trouble (he doesn't have to, trouble has no trouble finding him), but in the WWT run, he never turns down a job because he might have to kill someone. That's usually why he gets hired to do these things in the first place. Yes, he lives by his own moral code which is usually higher than that of "respectable" folk, and, yes, he usually does the right thing (except in WWT 16 where he's just a big rascal), blah blah blah, und zo on. Of course Hex must have some redeeming features or why would anyone buy the book issue after issue? But to say that the Hex story is counter-productive, I'd have to ask: counter-productive to what? A better society? Oh, please, readers, WWT 17 was published in 1973, comic books - sorry, graphic novels - weren't scheduled to save publishing, let alone society, until the late 90s. 1973, in retrospect, was hardly a stellar year for morality considering how President (but not for much longer) Nixon said in his second inaugural address: "We shall answer to God, to history, and to our conscience for the way in which we use these years" and then didn't, Henry Kissinger won the Noble Peace Prize for waging war, the Watergate burglars were taking the rap, and Vice President Agnew resigned from office to face charges of income tax evasion back in 1967 while he was Governor of Maryland. Yes! 1973! It was quite a year! I doubt Mr. Albano and DC were directly responding to current events, but I am sure that what passed for U.S. culture at that time was picking among the shards of what was left of our "respectable" institutions and wondering if there might not be another, possibly better, way to arrange things. If Jonah Hex doesn't fit into the established, flashy, morally certain hero mold Mr. Eiler was comfortable with in 1973, well, it might be because there were very few heroes of any kind in 1973. And the ones we did have were nerdy journalists, bland lawyers, and, dear God help us, Martha Mitchell, may she rest in peace. What hero in those days could compete with an unshaven, ungrammatical gunslinger in an old west that never was and all for 20 cents a book? In 1973 Jonah Hex, in his uncomplicated way, must have been a welcome break from the nightly news, if not a beacon of moral and spiritual clarity in a time that, looking back, seems almost quaint now."


Note: If my editors at Sequential Tart let these last paragraphs through, I'll be grateful; and if not, I'll understand, rilly ah will.

Done August 20, 2005

In honor of the new Jonah Hex series DC is releasing in the Fall, I decided to go through my collection. And, yes, I do have all of them; being thorough is the least of my problems.

Story: John Albano; Art: Tony De Zuniga

Weird Western Tales 18 (An all Jonah Hex issue!), August 1973

Title: The Hoax

This story starts with bad guys shooting at someone else for a change. One dressed in a coon-skin cap and the other in Union blues (no explanation whatsoever for that) kill this old gold miner for his claim. Then they notice Jonah, shirtless because he's washing his indestructible Johnny Reb Gray tunic, and try to kill him because they recognize him. Of course Jonah shoots them; he might be shirtless, but he's hardly gun-less (he's almost never gun-less). Jonah hears the gold miner's last words, that his daughter is coming to town and he asks Jonah to break the bad news to her. He gives the gold mine claim to Jonah. Then he dies. Jonah takes all three bodies into town and meets the daughter (who is blind) and he sells her the claim for $100.00. Turns out to be a fake claim and a mob of concerned citizens burst in on Jonah, who is trying to get some dinner in the saloon, and threaten to kill him for cheating a blind woman. He's a bout to shoot everyone, or at least 12 of them, when JM Marberry bursts in and talks them out of it. Apparently they have some law in this town and that law is looking into this case. He and Jonah go outside where there's another ambush, and Jonah kills two bushwacking varmints. This so impresses Marberry, Marberry decides to show Jonah his Wolf Boy - half wolf and half boy - critter person thing. Marberry offers Jonah a partnership to split the proceeds of showing the freak or selling it. Jonah accepts! Things must be slow in the bounty hunter biz or it just looks like easy money. During one show, a member of the audience notices the Wolf Boy has a diamond shaped scar on his throat. Turns out that over fifteen years ago, a rich man named Colby lost his son in a raid by Native American when the son was just a child and that child had a diamond shaped scar on his throat. Suddenly, it's a father and son reunion! Marberry sells the Wolf Boy to Colby and blows town with all the money. The Wolf Boy escapes. Jonah gets the blame for the swindle and again concerned citizens try to beat him up. No need for guns, Jonah just kicks their asses with his superior saloon brawling skills and runs for it. Meanwhile, the "Wolf Boy" has had a bath and is just a dopey looking guy. He and Marberry are on the trail when Jonah tracks them down. Jonah sends Wolf Boy back to town to clear his (Jonah's) name; Marberry, he keeps chasing further into the countryside. Marberry stops for a fresh horse and kills the homesteader couple he stole it from. With Jonah Hex hot on his heels, Marberry runs into a little band of peacefully hunting Native Americans and starts shooting at them. This is unwise because one of them shoots him in the chest with an arrow. Before he dies, Marberry notices the hunter gatherer that shot him has... a diamond shaped scar on his throat!!! He points this out to Jonah, who is standing over him to make sure he doesn't make a miraculous recovery, and Jonah is slightly impressed.

Wow! A coincidence worthy of Dickens! And, well, other than the reliable thrill of a shirtless Hex, that's all I have to say about it. Love interest survival: N/A. Body count: Jonah kills four bad guys; the bad guys kill three non-bad guys; the white-boy raised by Native Americans kills the main bad guy. Jonah spends a lot of time brawling in the saloon and shooting guns out of bad guy hands. I wonder if Albano was told to tone down the violence. I can't imagine why; I don't feel the violence so far has been obscene and it hasn't bothered me (and I'm the delicate sensitive type). Cover luridness: low; cover information: abysmal; other than J Hex and a furry on it, this cover has nothing to do with this story. Letters: Meh, not much, see WWT 16 review for the one letter from Mr. Dasch about how J Hex must not be a rascal. Lethal, yes; sexual, no. Poor Jonah.

Done August 21, 2005




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