Jonah Hex is awesome. I aim to prove that decisively by reviewing a very big chunk of his comics in the coming months. Let’s start with his first two appearances in DC anthology All-Star Western #10-11 in ’72. These issues just about say everything you really need to know about Jonah Hex. He doesn’t bat an eye at the prospect of shooting someone dead. When All-Star #10 is getting kicked up, he’s dragging two dead raiders through the middle of a town called Paradise Corners. At a hundred dollars per raider, he’s making a killing. But he learns from the town’s businessmen, who have ponied up the fee for Jonah’s pistols, that three more raiders have come into town and plan on killing him. Now we learn something else about Hex: he doesn’t think too highly of women, and doesn’t think too much of violence against them. Hold up, now, you say. Violence against women is bad. Isn’t Jonah Hex the hero?
It absolutely is, and he absolutely is. Hex is a real anti-hero. He’s a despicable son of a bitch who, again and again, manages to muster heart enough to do something good for someone. When he does, he gets shot down. In the rest of All-Star Western #10, we see Jonah eliminate the rest of the gang, giving off sinister vibes the entire time. When he catches up to the leader of the gang, he’s taken hostage the mother of a kid Jonah tripped over earlier in the story. So he pulls his strap off, lets the guy turn his back, and throws a knife deep in him. The kid offers him some of his mom’s apple cobbler for saving her.
When Jonah Hex gets back to town, he hears that she’s in some three hundred dollars of debt and may lose her property, so he gives up three hundred dollars of his reward money. Then, he tells the businessmen of Paradise Corners, he’s been wanting to settle down and he knows there’s a house for sale just outside town. They lie and tell him it’s been sold, and that there are no houses whatsoever being sold. When he goes to take the kid up on his offer for apple cobbler, the mother fires a rifle at him.
The message is clear: Jonah Hex is an outcast. Hex is a freak, a hired gun, an absolute savage, and no self-respecting town would or could abide his presence for longer than they need to. No amount of good deeds can make up for his hideous face or his actions. When he goes to leave town for good, the kid catches up to him and says he’s coming along. So Jonah Hex does the right thing. He acts the way he’s expected to and tells the kid he hates him like poison. And, just to let you all in on a secret, this is all how an anti-hero is supposed to look. Jonah Hex is pissed off. Not just occasionally, but damn near all the time. He saved that town, and they told him there was no place for him. He saved that woman, and she wouldn’t even show an ounce of gratitude. And they’re right. Jonah Hex is a cold-blooded killer, a misogynist and a savage. But he isn’t a freak and an outcast because he’s a killer; he’s a killer because he’s a freak and an outcast.
His second story, the first page of which is above, sees a fleeing fugitive attempt to steal Hex’s horse in order to get away. Jonah Hex, of course, takes him and nearly leaves him for the vultures when he collapses off the horse instead—but he says he hates scavenger birds worse than anything. When the thief tells him he’s innocent of murder and robbery, and promises one hundred dollars to deliver him to his sister (actually, his wife), Jonah signs on immediately. Eventually, he shoots dead some five or six gunmen after the thief before catching on that the pair intend to recover the stolen cash and leave Jonah in the dust. Instead, he gets the drop on them, and takes the two in for a nice reward.
Jonah Hex is awesome. After two issues of All-Star Western, the anthology would be renamed to Weird Western Tales, which he was a regular in until issue 38. I’ll be reviewing all of that next, giving some opinions on what the best stories were and what the worst were, and then I’ll review volume one of Jonah Hex.