Be honest now: before the big screen movie and the star power allure of Josh Brolin (or Megan Fox) had you even heard of this scarred and offbeat wild west ‘hero’ named Jonah Hex?
But then, maybe the question isn’t fair. Because clearly some of us have heard of the former CSA soldier turned bounty hunter. Old comic books junkies maybe, or even the occasional western genre fan. Not enough of us, maybe, but some of us.
Anyhow, I certainly have fond memories of ol’ Jonah. In fact, as an avid comic book fan way, way back at the tail end of what is now called the ‘silver age’ of comic books, Jonah Hex and his Weird Western Tales were a favorite of mine. True, he was no Batman, and he sure as heck wasn’t a member of The Avengers or the Legion Of Superheroes, but he held a weird appeal in my youthful eyes. I mean, the dude was just different.
For those who aren’t familiar with the character, he is both hard and easy to summarize: former Confederate Army soldier—think Josey Wales, here—former captive turned brother of the Apaches, part Bounty Hunter, part Gunfighter. Pretty standard western fare so far. But beneath the standard Josey Wales-like familiarity was a darker, weirder side. This gunfighter was way more High Plains Drifter than he was Joe Cartwright or The Virginian. Jonah would have been a lot more at home in Lago than on the Ponderosa.
And that was just one of the things that made Jonah so appealing to me back then. I mean, as a southern boy comic book fan in the early 1970’s, one didn’t see many comic characters that were former Confederates, after all! Old scar face was on our side, at least in my mind.
And speaking of scars, Jonah’s hideously scarred face somehow just made him even more endearing in a way. A pretty-boy, he certainly was not. The scarred countenance also served to set Jonah apart. He was both someone to cheer for as well as being someone who was just a little bit scary. Sure, Captain America or Captain Kirk or the more similar Rawhide Kid were cool, but with them, you knew they were the good guys just from appearance. With Jonah, you had to pay more attention to acts or actions.
But those things aside, two things in my mind set Jonah firmly on the cool side of the fence. The first was the way he was almost always somehow, despite being capable and deadly, an underdog of sorts. The odds were always against Jonah, and yet usually through sheer guts alone, he managed to prevail. And the second thing was the way his speech was written, his slang and lingo. Popular, if horribly stereotyped and inaccurate hollywood style southern drawl!
“Well, ah’ll be jiggered, thar ain’t no bars!”—Only Jonah Hex could pull that off!
So here is wishing, fondly, the big screen can bring a little recognition to a long underrated character. A man from back then, that is sure refreshing in this troubled day and age.
“Luck to yuh, Jonah!”