In an industry dominated by super-heroics, the Western genre has always taken second or third seat to the spandex and capes crowd, with one exception: Jonah Hex. The popular antihero was first introduced in 1972 in DC Comics' "All Star Western" #10 and the facially scarred character quickly became the star of the title - which changed to "Weird Western Tales" with issue #12 - dominating page and cover space through issue #38 when he left for his own series, aptly titled "Jonah Hex." Jonah was a rough and tumble mix of contradictions born out of the spaghetti-westerns of director Sergio Leone (which often starred Clint Eastwood). Though created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga, it was writer Michael Fleisher who became most associated with the character, penning the vast majority of Hex's stories over the course of his initial series' 92 issue run and subsequent appearances.
The first thing you probably notice about Jonah is the scar of melted flesh on the right side of his face, and the story of that scar sets the tone for the character and the series as a whole – one of the harshness of reality and the evil that men do to one another. As a young boy, Jonah accompanied his father across the frontier. Upon reaching Apache territory, Jonah's father sold the young boy into slavery to the Indians for safe passage through their lands. The young Jonah was eventually adopted into the tribe after saving the Chief of the tribe from a mountain lion. Sadly for our young hero, this made the Chief's son jealous. He betrayed Hex and, through manipulation, tricked Jonah into violating a sacred duel. The punishment was to be branded on the face with a heated tomahawk and ejected from the Apache lands.
Jonah's fate seemed set, and he joined the Confederate army in the American Civil War. During his tenure as a soldier, he is credited with accidentally shooting Stonewall Jackson (a wound that led to Jackson's eventual death). Before the war's end, Hex surrendered to Union forces, though he would wear the Confederate gray for the rest of his life.
Hex's life has been traditionally portrayed in short glimpses in the pages of the comics and not always in sequential order. Most often story-arcs take a snapshot of the man during a certain period of his life or at a telling moment. In the pages of "Jonah Hex," the titular character has battled alcoholism, faced his mother's life as a prostitute, fallen in love, and been the victim of betrayal.
Hex has not been without his controversy, with the character's Confederate uniform upsetting those who feel that making a hero out of a southern soldier of the era is racially insensitive and irresponsible. Despite that, the character has proven not only perennially popular with fans, but also remarkably flexible when it comes to building stories around him. While generally rooted in the era of the Wild West, Hex has also traveled to and lived in the far future (as depicted in the 18 issue long "Hex," written by Fleisher) as well as being the titular protagonist in several horror-themed miniseries.
The character's tale features a unique twist in that readers - and Hex himself - actually know the end of his story. As revealed in a Fleisher written comic, after being shot to death during a card game, Hex's corpse was stolen, stuffed, dressed in a garish cowboy outfit and paraded around by a traveling circus.
Jonah Hex is currently undergoing a revival of sorts, having seen over 50 issues of the current Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray co-written series published. The character also appeared in several episodes of the animated "Justice League" series and Josh Brolin will portray the character on the big screen in a feature film set to debut on June 18, 2010. - Brian Eason & Stephen Gerding