Jonah Hex will ride again when DC Comics relaunches its entire line this September, but this time around the disfigured antihero will headline a reimagining of the publisher’s classic Western anthology, “All-Star Western.”
The original “All-Star Western,” which enjoyed a healthy 62-issue run throughout the fifties and sixties, was revamped in the seventies for an additional 11 issues before being renamed and repackaged as “Weird Western Tales.”
Hex himself debuted in “All-Star Western” #10 in 1972. The 39-year old character, whose adventures have been explored over the past six years in “Jonah Hex” by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, will operate out of Gotham City circa 1885 in the new series, working with Amadeus Arkham and quite possibly other DCU Western heroes like Bat Lash, Pow Wow Smith and El Diablo.
Palmiotti and Gray saddle up once again for the new title, joined by fan favorite artist Moritat , who most recently worked on “The Spirit” for DC Comics “First Wave” imprint.
The prolific writing team shared their thoughts on the new “All-Star Western,” hinted at what readers could expect from the series and thanked the fans that have feverishly read “Jonah Hex” since its debut in 2006, therefore helping in making the new series possible.
CBR News: When you learned of DC’s plans to reset its entire line with 52 #1 issues, were you concerned at all that Jonah Hex had finally met his match?
Justin Gray: Before we jump into the future of what is one of the most interesting, ballsy and exciting endeavors we’ve been a part of, I think we owe it to a lot of people to say thank you for 70 issues of “Jonah Hex.” The fact that we were able to put together that many issues, work with so many talented artists and colorists, especially Rob Schwager who contributed so much, our lettering master Rob Leigh and more than a few dedicated and supportive editors is a testament to DC and our fans.
Despite incredible odds and the expectation of failure, a little western comic book, starring a morally questionable bounty hunter with scarred face survived. That may not be special to everyone, but it certainly was for us. 70 issues, an original graphic novel, an animated short and a feature film in just under six years is a testament to the appeal of Jonah Hex.
Jimmy Palmiotti: Exactly, and well said. Never in a million years did we think we would make it this far, and it’s exactly because each and every person brought his or her best work to the book. You have to understand; we didn’t know about any of the stuff going on at DC until we got the call. When we did get it, it was never a question of “‘Jonah Hex’ is being cancelled.” It was more like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we…” So we didn’t have a chance to panic and worry on any level.
Gray: Jimmy and I were talking about what our last issue would look like. It was something of a preemptive strike against the inevitable reality that all good things must come to an end. We knew we wanted to call it “Weird Western,” and we knew we wanted to introduce an idea about Hex that has been in the undercurrent of our entire run. You’ll see what we mean when you read “Jonah Hex” #70.
The two of you are recognized for making “Jonah Hex” a must-read for fans, fellow creators and reviewers each month. So how did this new series and the re-inventing of “Jonah Hex” as “All-Star Western” come about? Did you pitch the concept, or did Dan [DiDio], Jim [Lee] and Geoff [Johns] ask you to expand the Western corner of the DCU with this new title? And, was any thought given to re-introducing the character in his post-apocalyptic Mad Max form?
Gray: Like Jimmy said, It just sort of happened. [Editor] Wil Moss called us with the news that changes were coming and that we were involved not only with “Jonah Hex,” but also the entire western genre. I can’t say we weren’t hoping to break the previous finish line of 92 issues of “Jonah Hex,” but the opportunity to tell different kinds of western stories definitely excited us and set the creative wheels in motion.
And yes, we could pull off a Hex apocalypse, I have no doubt about that. But the idea of staying in the DCU during the Wild West is pretty damn cool.
Palmiotti: Given the opportunity of doing another “Jonah Hex” title set in the future, I think we would have a blast with the concept and take it somewhere different altogether from where the last one did so long ago. The only similarity would be that it would be fun to do it with Mark Texeria, the original series’ artist. Who knows — one day they might ask us to. The fans have all the power.
I know you can’t share too much about specific plot points, but from the teaser solicitation, Jonah Hex is operating out of Gotham and he may or may not be collaborating with Amadeus Arkham on solving some cases. We know Jonah Hex and what he brings to the table, but what can you tell us about Arkham? Will the two be working together on cases like Holmes and Watson? And how is this character linked to the Amadeus Arkham that Grant Morrison introduced in “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth?”
Gray: September is down the road, and we’re still focused on making the last two issues of “Jonah Hex” as good as they can be. I can tell you that the pairing of Hex and Arkham is both absurd and yet makes perfect sense. We asked ourselves, what happens when a psychologist and a sociopath have to work together?
Palmiotti: It’s going to be something you haven’t seen before and at the same time, be as natural as anything. For the new readers, it’s going to be exciting, and for the older fans, we are not going to miss a beat staying loyal to who Jonah really is. So far, it’s been a blast.
Come to think of it, I said we know what Jonah Hex brings to the table, but this is the new DCU, so I should ask; is this the same haggard anti-hero you’ve been writing the past few years in “Jonah Hex?”
Gray: I think wild speculation is to be expected when something this monumental takes place with characters and a universe that is as beloved as the DCU. Some people are going to be excited, some people are going to be deeply concerned and some will be skeptical. Let me tell you that when Jimmy and I took over “Jonah Hex” back in 2005, a lot of people were deeply concerned and skeptical. I received quite a few “don’t screw this up” emails from fans and pros alike. So in the interest of setting minds at ease, Jonah Hex is the same bad ass motherfucker you’ve come to know and love. What makes Hex interesting is that you can drop him into any situation and watch what happens.
Palmiotti: Yeah, Jonah has a voice and when you stray from that — well, it’s just not Jonah. We totally get that and apply it to this new title.
Predominantly, your “Jonah Hex” series was single-issue stories. Will you be doing the same here or will you be telling larger stories over multi-issue arcs?
Gray: Here is where the differences come in, not in the character but the format. We’re telling primarily linear, ongoing stories this time.
Palmiotti: Our run on “Jonah Hex” was written in a nonlinear style, and that benefits us moving forward with “All-Star Western” because we don’t have to nail down dates. The only dates that should matter with Jonah Hex are his birth and death. Anything can happen in the middle.
Will we see any of the supporting cast that you’ve explored over the years in “Jonah Hex,” like Quentin Turnbull, Tallulah Black and El Papagayo?
Palmiotti: Don’t want to give too much away, but good characters never truly go away.
One of the pluses of “All-Star Western,” as far as I’m concerned, is that you’re also writing co-features with some of DC’s other classic Western heroes. Were you always looking at ways to play with the likes of Bat Lash, Pow Wow Smith and El Diablo within the pages of “Jonah Hex?” And beyond the co-features, will these characters be showing up in the pages of the Jonah Hex-focused stories, as well, creating a larger shared universe?
Gray: In the interest of saving many surprises for the near future, yes. I want people to understand thst just because the word “Western” is in the title, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. We’ve had dozens and dozens of people say they don’t like westerns, but they like “Jonah Hex.” At the end of the day, a Western, aside from being one of the truly American genres like comics, is an American medium. It’s just the setting for stories about people. So not buying a Western comic is pretty much un-American. [Laughs]
Palmiotti: See how he didn’t answer that exactly as planned? Everyone that has been following our “Jonah Hex” run knows that we have a great love for all the established characters and, as well, have created new ones that have become fan favorites. Did I say good characters never go away, already?
Taking nothing away from Moritat, who will be providing art for “All-Star Western” #1, will we get to see other artists rotating through the series like you did on “Jonah Hex?” And yes, I’m really asking about Jordi Bernet.
Gray: I think at this time it is important to focus on Moritat and how staggeringly beautiful his art looks for this book. I know you can’t see it yet with all the secrecy, but “All-Star Western” is going to make your eyes happy. What we do in terms of research and a desire for having an authentic base for these stories is multiplied by Moritat’s efforts. The man sends email after email of detailed research, sketches and visual concepts.
Palmiotti: We are blessed to have someone with his amount of talent as our artist on the series, and as Justin mentioned, his excessive amount of research and skill has blown us away so far. Each e- mail from him has been more spectacular than the last and I think people are going to really love what they see. As far as other artists and such, we are not at liberty to say anything except that there are surprises, for sure. I will say that given the opportunity, we will always work with Jordi.
Another artist you’ve had great success with drawing “Jonah Hex” is Darwyn Cooke. There’s a page making the rounds online that he drew of Vigilante. Might that page be appearing in “All-Star Western” at some point?
Gray: Artists illustrate. That’s what they do. Even if I knew anything, I still wouldn’t say anything.
Palmiotti: I really think the two issues that Darwyn did were brilliant. “Jonah Hex” #50 should have won him a number of awards that year.
Before we let you go, and you mentioned this off the top, there are still two more issues of “Jonah Hex” to come out, the next featuring the art of one the industry’s true rising stars, Jeff Lemire. What did he bring to the character of Jonah Hex that you perhaps weren’t expecting?
Gray: We’ve been trying to work with Jeff for a while and he sent Hex drawings to me long before “Sweet Tooth” hit the stands and started making kids with antlers cool. The timing wasn’t quite right, and then one day everything lined up perfectly. As a result of such determination and resolve, plus a love of Jonah Hex, Jimmy and I made sure that the issue he illustrates is very important to the Hex mythology. It is something the fans have been interested in seeing for some time.
Palmiotti: Having Jeff illustrate an issue was a challenge because he is a writer himself, and if we gave him anything short of brilliant, we figured he would make fun of us forever. He really did something different in my eyes for the issue and I think it’s nothing short of brilliant. And yes, I think all the artists we work with are amazing. That’s why we pick them.
Finally, the solicitation for “Jonah Hex” #70 teases the possible death of your leading man, which would give definite closure to an incredible run. Plain and simple, is Jonah Hex going to die?
Gray: He did die. That’s one of the many things that make Hex a special character. That said, you’re getting a story that is 100 percent Jonah Hex in ways you might not expect. To be honest, we were talking about the last issue before we were told #70 would be our last. As I said, it sets an idea on the table and walks away leaving the readers to decide how they feel about it.
Palmiotti: It features art by Ryan Sook. And it’s amazing. It will be the most beautiful last issue of any book ever. Honestly, Ryan is one of my favorite artists working in comics and I figure if I flatter him enough he might work with us again. Ryan, did I tell you how handsome you are, as well? Ryan, are you reading this? Ryan?