"All-Star Western" is, in many ways, the little title that could. The Western title set in the past of the DC Universe by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray has continued to surprise readers since its debut, going so far as to feature Booster Gold and bring series star Jonah Hex into the present day. The time jump gave Palmiotti and Gray the opportunity to introduce Jonah Hex to a vast array of modern situations and characters -- including the Man of Steel himself; in the recent "All-Star Western" #27, Jonah and Superman had a frank discussion about the present, the philosophy behind super heroes and more.
CBR News spoke with Palmiotti about crafting the sequence, as well as the unique challenge of bringing a book set in the past to the present. Plus, he hints at things to come for Jonah as he heads back to the past, gives an update on "Batwing" and more.
CBR News: Jimmy, "All-Star Western" #27 featured Superman, the latest in a long line of guest stars across the DCU. His trip to the future's been an intriguing story direction -- what was the impetus to have Jonah interact the way he does with Superman?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We brought the storyline and characters towards Metropolis on the DCU map, and it seemed like a natural thing that he would have a run in with Superman at some point. Justin and I always thought about what kind of conversation would be happening between these two and where would it go. Within the conversation, we were looking to reflect on the philosophies presented within the issue, and when the reader gets to the second half of the book, to understand that maybe all of what has been going on in the past few issues is a bit too much for someone like Jonah to deal with. Its one of the heaviest and most poignant issues we've written to date -- until Issue 28, where we drop another bomb on the readers. A lot of writing other peoples characters is thinking about the what if of situations and since we're never [maybe] going to be able to bring Jonah back to the future again, we're writing everything we always wanted to see happen and running with it.
It seems like a unique occurrence that Superman would spend time in the pages of "All-Star Western." How did you approach writing the character in a context that made sense?
With this epic meeting, we had a good opportunity to once again point out why Superman and his powers are as limited as anyone, and we get to have Jonah take an outing with the Man of Steel. That was cool, 'til he threw up. That wasn't so cool -- but he did it in a cool way. The man can't help it. In the end, Justin and I wanted to take the reader on a ride that they don't see coming like so many other books these days. We did our best to keep Superman's voice and reasoning unique to him, and with Jonah, well, we both live inside that mans head, so we always know what he is gonna do when faced with someone that is almost unexplainable. I think their conversation reads very genuine -- two adults trying to respectfully understand each other.
Although Superman's the character featured alongside Jonah on the cover, perhaps the bigger event was Gina bringing Jonah to the museum exhibiting his body. What was your process for designing the exhibit? The faux comic book covers were an especially nice touch.
We thought it would be cool for Jonah to see the impact he made in his life -- good or bad, real or not, and have him process [the information]. The items in the exhibit are specific, and the actual stuffed Jonah is from a story originally told in the classic "Jonah Hex Spectacular," where we theoretically witness the end of Jonah's life. We have scrutinized that issue and plan on coming back to it later once the story moves from the current location. And, yes, Booster Gold will be in Issue 28 for those that love the character. Things will be moving quickly.
Despite spending this time in the present, the series obviously maintained major connections with the past. By the time he heads back to his own era in "All-Star Western" #30, how will Jonah's time in the future affect his actions moving forward?
Besides the actual physical changes, it's giving Jonah a lot to think about and what his place is in the world. Imagine seeing what happens the rest of your life and reflecting on this. No person could fully process this kind of information and be left undamaged. This walk through the exhibit changes everything and we will be dealing with the impact of this for many issues.
"All-Star Western" is currently the only DC book set in the distant past. As Jonah returns to his own time, how tempting will it be for him to change history based on what he saw in the present?
Jonah is not that type of personality. He will internalize what he knows and feels, but will not be trying to change anything except maybe what happens around him. It's all an interesting idea on so many levels, and Justin and I are going to have a field day with this. Stay tuned.
The 30th issue of the series is also significant in that you're introducing Madame .44 to the New 52. What can you tease about her significance to the series moving forward?
We got to write a story for one of the greatest artists in comics, Jose Garcia-Lopez. I never thought I would get to write that sentence in my lifetime, and I cannot tell you how excited we are to have his talents on what we think is a story that was created specifically for his style of art. Madame .44 is a mix of old west and fantasy/sci-fi, and it will be a two-part story that runs in Issues 30-31. This is like nothing we have ever done in the book. Without giving away too much, this story is set in our world and another and has the feel of the John Carter stories that we both love. Garcia went insane and created a look and feel to this story that is worth it just for the beautiful art. The cover alone is incredible. Am I gushing enough?
What kind of challenges await for Jonah beyond "All-Star Western" #30?
I think the biggest challenge we personally have is trying to get the numbers [up]. We keep losing readers, and to be honest, the book will not exist if we don't see a turn for the better, sales wise. We lost readers along the way, or we lost retailers support -- and these things translate to a canceled book, unless things change quickly. Knowing that, we are doing our best to give it our all and deliver the best comic we can, monthly, on time. Only the future will tell. I guess we need the fans to be more vocal. There is no real answer.
In addition to "All-Star Western," you and Justin are also working on "Batwing," which is also headed to its 30th issue in April. As the conflict between Batwing and Menace comes to a head, what is the greatest challenge he's set to face?
There is so much going on with the book right now that we would need another few pages to cover it. I will say that Justin and I are taking Luke to some horrible places in the future, trying to deal with his personal and family life and we will be seeing a lot of Batwing outside our title in the next few months. The plans are big, and the book, with Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreria and Paul Mounts, keeps looking better and better. I think it is one of the best-illustrated monthly titles on the stands right now, and we are taking full advantage of the cinematic storytelling these guys bring to the book. Coming ahead, we spend some time underground. More than that, I can't say -- yet.
Looking forward, how much more story do you have planned?
We always plan ahead, and we have 'til Issue 34 mapped out at the moment. We also have an extra special guest artist coming on that issue that we cannot talk about. The coming months are going to be amazing, so I hope people like what we are doing.