Letters to TLRH #0 Nov 1, 2012 20:05:13 GMT -5
Post by Susan Hillwig on Nov 1, 2012 20:05:13 GMT -5
Notes from the Road: The Idea
As with all great works, this story was partly inspired by a bout of depression.
In late 2004, I was six comics away from polishing off my Jonah Hex collection. This was a task I’d been working on for well over a decade, and had thought I’d never finish, but thanks to some recent lucky finds, my want-list was rapidly shrinking. Around the same time, I finished the first draft of my Western/fantasy novel, and the seventh (and presumed final) book of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was released, so there was this definite vibe of “all things must end” bouncing around in my noggin, especially when it came to the perpetually-dying Western genre.
I’m not going to lie, I realize most folks think Westerns are silly or one-note. Hell, even I don’t read or watch every oater out there because my tastes are kinda narrow. It’s that realization that made me somewhat depressed back in 2004, for I knew that, once I acquired the last Jonah Hex comic on my list, there would be no more. Like many other comics companies, DC was fully vested in superheroes now, and the Western genre was a rare blip on the radar in the four-color world. The last time they’d trotted out Hex had been five years previous -- Shadows West, his third and final Vertigo miniseries -- and the results hadn’t exactly been glorious. There was no conceivable reason for DC to give him another chance, which meant not only would I never see a "new" Jonah Hex story, but also that a certain question would forever remain unanswered.
In 1985, DC launched the singly-titled Hex, an ill-conceived attempt to keep the character around in an era that could no longer support a Western book. Inspired by the Mad Max movies, they dropped Jonah into the hellish nuclear nightmare of 2050 and let him tough it out. It lasted for 18 issues, and in their rush to sweep the mess under the rug, DC neglected to return Jonah to his proper timeframe, an error made even more glaring by the book’s last page, which shows Jonah finding his own stuffed and mounted corpse in a rundown warehouse. Crazy as it sounds, the corpse was actually a long-established fact in DC history: in 1978, the Jonah Hex Spectacular showed readers Jonah’s demise and subsequent desecration. So we knew Jonah Hex wasn’t destined to remain in the future, yet we had no clue as to how or when he would get back to the 1800s. When Vertigo revived Jonah Hex in the mid-1990s, they ignored the conundrum completely, and doubt began to seep in among fans that Hex was even still canon (there are some who’d argue these days that the Vertigo version of Jonah isn’t canon either).
So there I was, getting bummed out over the notion that I’d soon reach the end of everything Hex, coupled with the deep-seated need to know the answer to something unanswerable. Then came the announcement only a few months later that Jonah Hex was getting a new series in 2005. I went from depressive to manic rather fast. This couldn’t be real, it had to be a joke...but it wasn’t. It was honest-to-God happening. No one knew what exactly we were going to get, but just the idea that we’d be getting something was mind-boggling. Despite my giddiness, I knew DC would very likely continue to ignore the whole “Future Hex” debacle, and considering that the series was now about two decades old, the likelihood of an official answer faded further into the background. So I decided that, before the new Jonah Hex series launched, I’d create my own answer, if only to assuage my own curiosity.
I was only vaguely aware of fanfiction at the time, so I didn’t know how far I could spread the nascent idea in my head -- I originally planned on posting the story bit by bit on the now-defunct DC Comics message board -- my main concern was coming up with a rock-solid solution to getting Jonah home, one that could stand up to whatever scrutiny fans might put it through. Lucky for me, I had nearly every single appearance of Jonah Hex in my possession, which meant I not only had access to his entire tenure in 2050, but I also knew that wasn’t his only brush with the future. For the sake of making this story more accessible to anyone unfamiliar with Hex or that particular series, I decided to include another character to act as a go-between, someone who -- admittedly -- has a wider fanbase, but also legitimate ties with Jonah’s past. Little did I realize that decision would prove to be the key to unraveling a twenty-year-old riddle.
More on that later...on to the letters!
- Susan Hillwig