Lest we forget that Halloween is rollin' around, the fine folks at DC Comics have produced a special Halloween issue of Jonah Hex everybody's favorite horribly mutilated Wild West bounty hunter. (Shown above dispatching the Man of Steel - clickee to see more big.)
Jonah Hex - a former Confederate cavalry officer who, after the war, became a notorious bounty hunter – is one of the most recognizable characters in funny books. See, Hex had an unfortunate run-in with some irate Native Americans and the result is a mug that could scare vultures off a gut wagon. The left side of Hex's face is completely normal. He's a blond and he's normally got a few days worth of stubble on him. The right side, though, that's a different matter. His right eye is large and saucer-like, as if the lids of his eye have been cut away. The skin of his right cheek was also stripped away, forming a sort of wedge shaped area where, even when his mouth is closed, his teeth and gums are visible. Finally, in what is perhaps the neatest bit of character design in the DC Comics universe, this weird strip of skin comes from an attached point under his right eye, hangs lose over his mouth, and re-attaches just above his chin. How in hell did that happen? Did some hack sawbones have this extra strip of skin and decided that he'd better save it somehow? I don't know. But it does add this surreal, gross touch to the character.
Despite his zombie-like appearance, Hex's earliest adventures were never really all that supernatural. He started his career in pages of All-Star Western, later to be renamed Weird Western Tales, the sister title to Weird War Stories. Both titles were showcases for genre bending tales that mixed horror elements with Western stories and combat tales. Oddly, as if it were an expression of his sour and contrary personality, Hex's stories remained firmly and solely in the Western idiom. And he stayed that way for more than a decade, branching off into this own book in '77.
In 1985, Jonah Hex was cancelled, but the character was retooled into sci-fi hero. With the help of some time-travelers Hex ended up in a post-nuclear war Mad Max type scenario. This played poorly in the US, but was well received in Europe, where the appetite for stories of America after the fall knows no bounds. This bizarre Hex Beyond the Thunderdome detour lasted all of 18 issues before it too was cancelled.
Hex lie fallow for several years until, in 1993, noted novelist and short story author Joe R. Lansdale created the first of three mini-series that placed Hex in a true Western/horror context. Lansdale's first series, Two Gun Mojo pitted the West's ugliest hero against a evil gang of sideshow freaks and the zombie of Wild Bill Hickcock. This was followed by Riders of the Worm and Such, which featured Hex going up against what's essentially Cthulhu, and Shadows West, in which the bounty hunter faced off against ghosts.
(As an aside, Hex got his day in court when the albino Texan music legends the Winter brothers sued DC for defamation over the appearance of the Autumn brothers, two albino mutant Cthulhu worshippers that appear in Riders of the Worm and Such. The Winters lost the case.)
In 2005, Jonah was back in a regular series. It was back to basics for the new creative team. Hex was stripped of all time-travel gimmicks and hoodoo trappings and returned to his role as a thoroughly unpleasant bounty hunter of dubious moral standing in a dark, but somewhat realistic West.
At least, until Halloween.
The Halloween issue re-unites Hex with two of DC's other Western heroes: Bat Lash and El Diablo. Bat Lash is a dandified gambler of the "Maverick" variety. El Diablo's a weirder sort – think of fusion between Zorro and Ghost Rider and you'll have an idea of what we're talking about. El Diablo is a lawyer by day, but at night a hell-spawned demon takes him over and, wearing Zorro-style mask and cape, he takes to the dusty streets of the West to punish the evil with his flaming bullwhip. I kid not.
The plot of the Halloween issue involves Hex becoming possessed by El Diablo's demon and taking on a witch and he zombie horde. It ain't Shakespeare, but in the words of Jonah Hex: "Lead, not words." All hell breaks loose, so to speak, and the carnage equals Halloween fun.