Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman’s Steampunk Riders Finale: From Jules Verne to Jonah Hex

Decoding DC – Part 10

36740-5511-41075-1-jonah-hex-riders-ofExtremites, what do you know about Steampunk? If you read Jules Verne as a kid you are well versed in the subject.

In recent years, Steampunk has become a buzzword that is thrown around like a football in Tommy Wiseau’s hand.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that imagines a world in which steam-power has remained the dominant form of technology. For example the steam engine time machine from Back to the Future III would be considered Steampunk. A normal steam engine that does not time travel would not be considered a Steampunk machine. Likewise, a 1982 Delorean would not be considered Steampunk. Change out the plutonium powered core with coal fired steam power gyration and it would be Steampunk. It’s all about fan semantics.

Joe R. Lansdale, Sam Glanzman and Tim Truman must be steampunk aficionados judging by Riders of the Worm of Such. I can see the influence of Steampunk throughout the arc. They also must have been fans of the French sci-fi titan Jules Verne because everything about this issue screams Verne.

When I was a teen, coming into my literate tastes, I obsessed over the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

I cannot tell you why.

Jules Verne

Jules Verne

Perhaps, it was his spirit of adventure that so enthralled my adolescent mind. The arresting stories of a nutty Englishmen racing around the world, or depressive French undersea captains, filled my brain with images that would obsess an inventor. Something about those yarns spoke to me on an instinctual level. They so enthralled that I missed the significance of the work. I didn’t understand that Verne was one of the writers that pretty much created Science Fiction. His blending of fantastical, yet science based technology, predicted machines that we now take for granted all the time. Verne’s ideas envisioned submarines, tanks, even the laptop. The interesting thing about his tech is that it is reliant on steam power. Imagine a laptop computer whose hard drives whistled with the sound of steam. Crazy idea.

One of Verne’s most popular works is Journey To The Centre of The Earth. In this story a Scandinavian geologist leads a ragtag group on an expedition through a dormant volcano into a hidden subterranean world populated by gigantic lizard monsters and forgotten stone people.

Sound familiar?

Add some H.P. Lovecraft Cthuloid Worms and you have the finale of Riders of the Worm and Such.

I love this surprising turn for the Jonah Hex mythos. Just when you think you are dealing with a standard albeit supernatural Western Jonah Hex goes on an off the wall adventure into the worm caves of old.

Peppered throughout the caves are the remnants of defeated past enemies; from Spartan looking helmets to spears. This is where Steampunk comes in. In the annals of these caves lies not only an elevator but a machine that looks like an automobile. A machine that evokes memories of the demonic Lincoln from 1977’s road horror film The Car. Judging by the mechanisms at work in the vehicle, it is steam powered and when Jonah uses this machine to charge into battle with the great worm, the scene becomes a Steampunker’s wet dream.

The Autumn Brothers, my favourite characters to come out of this story, have some wonderful moments and I even felt something when one of them takes a bullet. As the one brother begins to loose his breath he is consoled that he will be with the pig he loves. This harkens back to the bestiality I talked about in my article on sex in Jonah Hex. It’s a great moment. I cringed and sympathized with him.

Sitting on the end Riders of the Worm and Such, I must say, it is not anywhere near as bad I thought it was going to be at the beginning. It became very literate and fascinating as the story progressed. It is very worth a read. However, the dialogue still remains a problem throughout; often playing to the most juvenile reader. This didn’t serve the lofty ideas present in the story and cheapened the villains. The first two chapters are terrible, but when Jonah became a member to the ragtag cultural elite that is Grave’s Wilde West Ranch this story took off.

It’s an odd creation this, and a good example of the creativity that helped shape Vertigo into an original print. One that surpasses its parent company. I feel that the oddness of the Jonah Hex titles at Vertigo reflects some of the other weirdness going on in the other titles at the time.
Onward, to the next title.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Chapter Five: Cataclysm in Worm Town” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #5, Jul. 1995)

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5.

Pros: The literacy. The artwork. The off the wall Steampunk. The Autumn Brother’s death scene.

Cons: The empty ending. No reference to relationship with Brunhilde. It all kind of felt unimportant for such a titanic event. The dialogue.

Previous Review: “Chapter 4: Autumns of Our Discontent” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #4 Jun. 1995)

Upcoming Review:Part One: Long Tom” (Shadows West #1 Feb. 1999)

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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 April 5, 2014, in DC, Jonah Hex and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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