How Jonah Hex Founded Modern DC

Decoding DC – Part I

Story I Read: Chapter 1 – Slow Go Smith (Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo Aug. 1993)

mojoGoing through the Marvel Universe, in our Journey Into Marvel series, it’s astounding to me the amount of influence DC had on the creation of the nuts and bolts of Silver Age Marvel titles. I realized that though I have spotty knowledge of DC, namely Batman and HellBlazer, I didn’t have a full understanding of what made the DC Universe tick. To remedy this, I declare today the beginning of our Decoding DC series, in which I will journey through the DC comics similar to the way I do with the Marvel equivalents.

This poses a lot of problems. Unlike Marvel, there is not a concrete through-line and the DC Universe is quadruple the size.

Where to begin?

I cannot possibly go back to the Golden Age, as there will be so many black holes where I cannot get the issues or I refuse to negotiate the racism of the zeitgeist writing. I can’t start with the Silver Age either, because even though some Superheroes were rebooted, many were continued from their Golden Age roots. The Bronze age poses many similar issues. I decided therefore to begin decoding at the beginning, or near abouts, of the Modern DC Age. This was the time in which comics became more adult oriented and DC Superheroes were now able to deal with events in the real world. I found this list online, which is fairly comprehensive, and decided that this will be my guide. I will do my best to give each issue a proper amount of time and discussion. Notice this list begins with Tor, I could not get this publication. I read both The Viking Prince and Bat-Lash, but I do not feel they have too much impact on what will follow, so I am going to begin with Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo.

All right, so Jonah Hex. 

I gotta say this was a culture shock for me as I have been mired of late in the very different world of Silver Age Marvel, but certainly this was not an unenjoyable issue. Jonah Hex is so gritty. Sometimes so rude and off putting that it is tough to buy him as the hero, but hey, that’s what the Modern DC Age is all about, right? The Anti-Hero. Not to mention, I am a huge fan of Spaghetti Westerns; so this brutal, uncompromising style is something I adore.

Like any good Western, Chapter 1, begins with a hanging. Jonah is being hung by outlaws for, you know, his being a bounty hunter and all. The way the panelling focuses in on the movement of the noose and whinnying of the horse feels both stoic and action packed. I love this technique. It doesn’t confuse the progression of the narrative at all.

Jonah-Hex-Two-Gun-Mojo-Slow-Go

Slow Go and the Hanging Jonah Hex

In what must be a direct nod to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, a bullet rings out and it actually shoots the horse that the doomed Hex is perched on. In the film, Clint Eastwood’s character would shoot through the hangman’s rope when the victim was doing his dance in the air. When the old shooter rises out of the bushes to accept adulation from the rescued Mr. Hex, we discover that he is an ancient confederate soldier, with a visage as scarred as the face of the moon. It turns out that this is the Slow Go Smith of the title. I love the sense of humor written into this first meeting. There is a real sense of a figurative pissing match between the two, and furthermore, this continues throughout the whole issue.

As I say, masculine banter paints this issue, in the case of the first meeting it’s a great touch, but it does start to get a little old as the story meanders on. I say ‘meanders’ because nothing much happens in the story. Jonah and Slow Go go to town, get in some scuffles, go to bed and that occupies the majority of the story.

This slow or perhaps better put, meandering pace is to show the importance of the ‘mise en scene.’ Environment is extremely important to a Western, as some would say that the landscape and background characters are the main character. Most Westerns are just archetypes duking it out in the dust and it is often the style that makes the western important. This is great in film, but makes a comic just a tad uncompelling.

The ending, however, shifts the focus perfectly, showing just why this comic is a comic.  We know comics can do things that films could never in their wildest dreams hope to. Slow Go is urinating in the barn, after being thrown out of the shared room with Jonah, when he is murdered by reanimated corpses.

I know, right!

Crazy.

I can’t help but feel, as good as the ending is, most of the 30 odd pages were wasted by ‘mise en scene.’ There could have been so much more fun. I guess this whole issue is really about character, as the whole Two Gun Mojo arc, is a reboot of sorts for Jonah Hex after being cancelled back in 1987.

I’m excited to start this odyssey into the world of DC as I hope you are too.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Pros: Beautiful Art, the amount of subtext and the ending.

Cons: The pace, the coldness of Jonah Hex and the length.

Upcoming Review: Chapter 2 – “Invitation to a Hanging” (Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo Sept 1993)

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About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on November 22, 2013, in DC, Jonah Hex and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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