One of the things I was most looking forward to when 10YL was initially proposed was the thought of Susan writing DC2-centric stories again. Her tales of Jonah Hex and the other Wild West characters over in Weird Western Quarterly are sublime and have always ben, and I think that they provide a great spine to the site. The fact that it’s an undertaking that’s taken so seriously is next level, in my opinion. You have the entire timeline of Jonah mapped out, and seeing you present that to us in your superior prose is a blessing.
But there are two things that stand out to me, as a reader and a fan. Firstly, it was your crossover with Justice League some years ago, with Boris and Roy on covers, telling the story of Jonah’s interactions with Hal Jordan and others. He’d already met Hal in his lifetime, but Hal hadn’t met him. I love some timey-wimey-ness, and the story that unfolded then was amazing.
Secondly, it’s this story. Your take on the ‘future’ Hex stories that came in the aftermath of his involvement in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Road Warrior Hex, dystopia Hex, whatever you want to call it, that chapter in his life is so interesting, and I always wondered how—or if!—you’d approach it on the DC2. I remember you sparking with ideas when 10YL came up, and there being an opportunity to do something original with an odd facet of Hex’s story.
And now, here we are, past the mid-point of Omega Crisis, the antagonist revealed, and the scope of his villainy slowly becoming clear. How do make him scarier? How to show his ruthlessness? Why, by drilling down onto the personal level, by showing how horrifying this ‘Crone’ truly is by having him run rampant over a character we’ve come to enjoy in the DC2.
Susan’s Jonah Hex is as much a stalwart of the DC2 as Powers, Inc., as Dave on Justice Society of America, as Don’s stupendous take on the pulp characters in Danger Trail. It’s great work that transcends the limitations of ‘fan fiction’, and I’m really happy to have had a chance to read this before it hit the site. Events weave through Omega Crisis and Hex: Missing Time, and I consider this to be an integral part of the story. Expect it to be included in whatever collected edition I wrap up once Omega Crisis #10 hits!
And now, to the story. I thought Jonah was as great as ever, but the additional weight of his torture, of everything he’d been through, was sometimes hard to read. The warring factions on the planet were really interesting, and I’d never really considered the distinction before, but you’ll be sure to know it’s going to be followed up in Omega Crisis. Jonah’s interactions with the Vietnam-era soldier was great, and really interesting to boot, and his romance so sad, considering that it inevitably has to end considering his timeline. But that ancient warning signal… the familiar symbol… I can’t wait to see this followed up on!
Thanks for sharing it, Susan! And thanks to James for a great cover!
Post by Susan Hillwig on Jun 3, 2018 19:40:15 GMT -5
Okay, Charlie requested a "Trail Talk" of sorts for this gig, just like I do over at Weird Western Quarterly, so I'm gonna do my best to deliver. Frankly, I didn't even think of doing one for this issue, since it's tied into this humongous event and I didn't want to accidentally spoil anything, plus I've been so busy promoting my novel and such that I wasn't aware this issue had even posted yet. Don't get the idea that I've forgotten about DC2, however, 'cause I named-dropped the site in a podcast interview a few weeks ago. Gotta get the word out wherever ya can, folks!
Where was I? Oh yeah, trying not to spoil Omega Crisis. This is a big frickin' story with a ton of moving parts, so it's easy to slip up if you talk too long about it. So I'm gonna talk about Michael Fleisher instead. You may have noticed that HEX: Missing Time is dedicated to him. This isn't just because this story is partially based on the "Future Hex" era he crafted, it's also because he passed away very quietly on February 2nd of this year. It took about a month before word really got around the comics community about it, since he'd essentially dropped out of the public eye a couple of decades ago. Back in the day, though, Fleisher was prolific: in addition to Jonah Hex, he wrote stories for Spider-Woman, Ghost Rider, Spectre, and the first six tales featuring Scalphunter, not to mention various one-offs for anthologies like House of Secrets and such. Then there's the exhaustive research he did for the Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, consisting of three volumes covering Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman. In short, he made a tremendous mark on the four-color world we love so dearly.
In the long run, his name will likely always be associated with Jonah Hex. From 1974 to 1987, Fleisher wrote 126 issues featuring the bounty hunter. That's thirteen years straight, with only a three-issue break around 1978, presumably so he could finish scripting the big storyline he had brewing in Jonah's self-titled book at the time. It occurred to me recently that my own run on Hex has also spanned thirteen years, but I've been less prolific. Hell, I don't think I'll ever beat that record, and the only fella who's come close to it -- Jimmy Palmiotti, with 107 Hex tales -- thinks it should remain unbeaten. Of course, if it hadn't been for HEX, the gap between Fleisher and Palmiotti would be much closer. The "Future Hex" era only lasted 18 issues, and the only reason it exists is because Fleisher wasn't ready for Jonah to ride off into the sunset when his title got cancelled in 1985. He needed a hook that would help the bounty hunter stand out on the direct-market shelves where he'd be surrounded by superheroes, and a Mad Max pastiche is what we got.
I've had a love/hate relationship with HEX for a long time. There's only about 3 issues that I honestly like. The rest, to me, doesn't live up to the storytelling standards Fleisher had established with Jonah in the decade prior to it. It's too concerned with flashy tech, action shots, and out-of-nowhere cliffhangers as opposed to character-building. The execution is terrible, but the idea -- taking Jonah out of his familiar element and dropping him somewhere that he has to relearn the rules, essentially -- is great. And despite my distaste for it, I've always considered it to be canonical, so much so that my first big fan fiction, The Long Road Home, was my way of resolving the unanswered questions readers were left with when the book got the axe in 1987. That story is how I got my gig here at DC2, and right from the get-go, I knew that, someday, we'd redo the "Future Hex" era in our own special way. Starting with Jonah's very first appearance in WWQ#0, there are occasional references to something happening to him around 1875 that affected him very deeply, but he doesn't like to talk about. All his dealings with superheroes are set after that year, and no matter how weird those encounters get, he never bats an eye (his cameos in the early issues of Booster Goldare a great example of this). I didn't know when exactly we'd get around to making history repeat itself, but I wanted to be sure we'd planted the proper clues before we got there. However, when I began writing a direct sequel to TLRH -- Jonah Hex: Shades of Gray-- I posted an extended edition of the original fic in the Elseworlds section on this site, so doing a DC2-ified version now seemed redundant, not to mention self-indulgent.
Lucky for me, Omega Crisis came along. Charlie, Don, and the rest of the gang wanted both myself and Hex to participate, but it wasn't very clear at first how to make it work. I didn't want to shoehorn Jonah in just for the sake of including him, so his presence had to make sense on some level. What was immediately evident, though, was all that setup I'd been doing for the past 10 years had just found a new payoff. After listing a few conditions -- in order to have this tale match up with the clues we'd dropped over the years -- we began hammering out Jonah's part in Omega Crisis. Now, instead of finding himself in a post-apocalyptic future Earth, he'd wind up on a hellish alien world, battling a menace he'd never imagined possible, one that would push him to the breaking point. And instead of abandoning Jonah's Old West background like Fleisher did with HEX, I wanted this story to embrace it, playing up not only the skills he learned during his years on the frontier, but also his wartime experience. I wanted to live up to the potential I saw in the "Future Hex" era, cherry-picking what worked and making something new with it.
As Charlie said, Missing Time is also a missing link. As Omega Crisis goes on, Jonah will continue to be a part of it, helping to pull together all the disparate parts of this massive story, whilst filling in the blanks for a period in Jonah's life that we've been hinting at for a very long time. Hope you enjoy the ride.