Letters to TLRH #2 Nov 22, 2012 18:55:49 GMT -5
Post by Susan Hillwig on Nov 22, 2012 18:55:49 GMT -5
Notes from the Road: The Paradox
Though he didn’t create the character, Michael Fleisher is responsible for virtually everything we know about Jonah Hex. From his boyhood to his death and everything in between, Fleisher laid a lot of groundwork in the 13 years he wrote about the bounty hunter. And while he managed to fill in so many details, he also neglected to set Jonah’s “current” adventures in a workable timeframe. When he first got a hold of the character, he usually set the stories in 1874, and after a few years, this drifted up to 1875...and then it stopped. For roughly a decade, time stood still when it came to date-references, yet major events kept happening in Jonah’s life to belie that -- he got married, had a kid, seasons passed, the kid got older -- it’s a weird hiccup that many Hex fans (including myself) have to ignore when reading the old pre-Crisis stories. Of course, when Jonah got tossed into the future, Fleisher kept up with the 1875 reference whenever mention was made of Jonah’s proper timeframe. What was once an oddity became cold hard fact, and that meant his appearances in both the JLA 2-parter and Crisis on Infinite Earths could only have happened after he got back from the future. If I planned on sticking as closely as possible to what was already canon -- and I did, that was the whole point of writing the fic -- my original notion of Jonah recognizing Green Lantern straight off was impossible. Instead, I decided that, if we already had one paradox going with Jonah finding his stuffed and mounted corpse, so why not throw on another? Why not make his inability to deal with these paradoxes and life in 2050 in general the undercurrent of the story? So I decided to give him a nervous breakdown.
To tell the truth, I didn’t have to push him too far. It’s well-known that Jonah’s an alcoholic, plus there had been past instances where his life had become such a shambles he climbed into a bottle to escape it (one of which occurred about a year before DC stuck him in the future -- you’ll learn more about it later), so all I had to do was establish where the cracks were developing this time and how deep they went. The mild depression I’d felt before I got the idea for the fic provided a starting-point for me -- I figured that, if I was getting upset over Jonah’s situation, how upset would Jonah be, especially after staring his own corpse in the face? Fleisher always believed that character-building moments were more important to a story than action scenes, and Jonah struggling with post-traumatic stress seemed like a logical progression of what Fleisher had already established. Adding Hal Jordan to this -- a man who had not only met Hex before, but whose life depended upon the gunfighter returning to the past stable and sane -- gave the story another, more emotional level to work with, as opposed to just being a straight “time travel hi-jinks” tale.
With the plotline finally, firmly established, the writing began in earnest. Jonah’s nightmare came first, then I jumped right over the “present day” scenes (Green Lantern: Rebirth hadn’t reached its conclusion yet, so I wanted to avoid contradicting it) and went right into dumping Hal in the parking garage and introducing him to the finer points of life in the future. The world of 2050 as seen in “The Long Road Home” is a pastiche of what Fleisher put forth in Hex, filtered through twenty years of hindsight. As I mentioned before, I like to stay somewhat grounded in reality when I write, so some of the “future” elements concocted in 1985 that now seemed unrealistic in 2005 were omitted -- no flying vehicles or laser guns here -- and I expanded on the ones that seemed more true-to-life, the warehouse community glimpsed at the end of Hex #18 being the best example of this. For practical reasons, I wanted to have a “safe” place to set most of the story, and since we’d left off at the warehouse, it made sense to return there, which meant I had to create nearly everything in it from the scraps Fleisher had given us. What few people that had names were fleshed out, others were invented to fill necessary roles in the story, and once the work was done, I christened the warehouse with the moniker of one of Jonah’s biggest fans from back in the day, the late T.M. Maple.
There’s another element from Hex that was greatly expanded upon in “The Long Road Home”, probably far beyond what Fleisher had planned. As with Jonah’s breakdown, however, it seemed a logical progression. I’ll tell you more about it next time, but for now, let’s flip through a fresh stack of letters.
- Susan Hillwig