The ‘weirdest Western hero’, Jonah Hex, is best known for the grey confederate army uniform he wears and his disfigured face. Patterned after the Clint Eastwood “Stranger Character” from the Sergio Leone 1960s Spaghetti Westerns, Jonah Hex was a bounty hunter who lived in the 19th century antebellum west. Western comics often cater to maverick characters, but even among outlaws Hex stands out. Jonah is more than just a gunslinger, even though he is a lightning fast draw and a very, very good gunslinger, he is an anti-hero who suffered deeply and wears the marks of his suffering on his scared body.
Created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga, Jonah Hex made his official debut in the DC title All-Star Western #10, where the main themes of the Hex universe are already clearly delimited. Often Jonah Hex stories are not so much action adventure tales, as they are moral vignettes.
Crusty and cynical as Jonah is, he has a code of honor that he tries to live up to. This code can be summarized more or less as follows: always protect the innocent. This makes an otherwise cranky and unpleasant character easy to root for. As a bounty hunter, Hex is a relentless tracker and his detective skills are also excellent. If you need someone tracked down, Hex is your man.
It’s a shame that Jonah Hex has already made a big screen appearance. Played by Josh Brolin in the 2010 film ‘Jonah Hex’. This film was a complete box office bomb and, as a Jonah Hex film, it wasn’t very good. Hex is a human character, in a sense he is like a 19th century version of Batman without the cowl and carrying side arms. The film added supernatural elements. Sure, later in the comics he time travels and meets DC heroes and villains etc., but what keeps Jonah Hex interesting and popular is the gritty realism and self-sufficiency of the character. So, there is really no reason to introduce magic or give supernatural powers to Jonah Hex. He’s not Constantine or Ghost Rider.
Will future movies with Hex appear? Like with all things cinematic regarding the DC universe, it’s hard to say. Hex has since appeared on the small screen (Legends of Tomorrow) and in various animated features. Who knows what the future will bring. But as Western anti-heroes go, Hex is probably here to stay which means his key comics are good investments.
Not many comic book Western characters have songs written about them (for example, I don’t know of any popular songs celebrating the Rawhide kid). But it is precisely the intense fan devotion Jonah Hex inspires that makes him, as always, the exception to the Cowboys comics rule (to hear Ian Frazier’s “the Ballad of Jonah Hex” – see here– this tune is, by the way, a great introduction to all things Jonah).
Jonah Hex first fully appears in All-Star Western #10, published by DC comics in February of 1972, and this is actually his second comic book appearance as the character first appears in a two panel house ad that ran in various DC Comics at the end of 1971.
Two issues later, All-Star Western was renamed Weird Western Tales and Jonah Hex took over until issue 38 when he was replaced as the main attraction by Scalphunter before being given his own title. This comic is holding steady in value as a Bronze Age key. Its prices have been rising more or less in line with other important books from this period. Best returns have been on 9.4 grades with a 40% return on investment over the last five years.
With a script by Michael Fleischer and art by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, the first issue of Jonah Hex’s solo standalone series continues his adventures out west and where they left off in Weird Western Tales. In the first issue of his own comic Hex is hired by a wealthy Tennessee plantation owner who wants the bounty hunter to find his kidnapped son. The body of the kidnapped boy is eventually found by Hex lying dead in a coffin. The killers of the boy are summarily dealt with quite brutally by Hex. He throws them off a cliff. When he returns to Tennessee to return the child’s dead body to his family we see a common motif in the Hex stories, he refuses to be paid. How did this guy ever eat? Returns on this comic have been rising over the years. Currently best returns are on 9.4 copies at 19% over the last five years.