Jonah Hex Puts Up with Jimmy Palmiotti for 50...

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Jonah Hex #50 makes a mark in history...as much a mark as Hex has on his face! Jonah Hex is about a horribly scarred (complete side of his face) former officer of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, who has a special brand of ethics which he uses to protect and avenge the innocents. DC comics has been featuring stories about Hex since 1972 and next year will also herald Hex as a movie character, played by Josh Brolin. BF (with the help of Niko) went to address all things Hex-y...

BROKEN FRONTIER: Jonah Hex #50 is a landmark (and double-sized) issue for you and co-writer Justin Gray. You have had some excellent runs on other series, and only with Hawkman (and maybe, if you count Vol.1 and Vol.2 of Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters together) have you stayed longer than 12 issues on a series before being cancelled or handed to another writer. With the stories of a western (anti-)hero you managed what you haven't with superheroes. Not because the quality of the writing is bad (insert laughter), but maybe because Jonah Hex just stands out. So I'm wondering: do you think that Jonah Hex appeals to an audience that suffer of superhero fatigue? 

JIMMY PALMIOTTI: I think the character appeals to most comic fans but the western genre, well... quite a few less. That said, we have found a healthy audience are gaining readers the world over because of the collections and the books being published in different languages. The event fatigue, well... people love the event books as the sales suggest, but yeah, they can take a break and read a done in one and we are the go to guys with that. The most push we get on the books are by the fans and retailers that support us and are vocal about it and D.C.’s wonderful crew of talented all stars. 

BF: How do you feel about gaining more success with a western hero rather than with superheroes? Proud? Frustrated?

JP: Well, Power Girl seems to be doing pretty well and Painkiller Jane has done all right for me, lol. I am proud about Justin’s and my run on Jonah Hex for sure... the frustrations come from other things... being a control freak has its price. I worry about each and every step of every book I work on. With Hex, we have an editor that understands that it helps with the quality of the product. The success we have had is amazing and we hope it continues for another 50 issues at least.   

BF: Jonah Hex #50 is the second Hex collaboration with Darwyn Cooke. How is it like working with Cooke, who also happens to be a close friend of yours? 

JP: Well, when you work with Darwyn, you get some of the best storytelling in the business, so in both cases we were able to know who it was we were writing for and pushed the story to his strengths and I think it shows. This issue is just amazing. 

BF: Cooke also happens to be a writer himself. Does he suggest scenes or is he following the script handed to him?

JP: A little of both. He enjoys the book and what we do and respects that. On this issue he saw some of the scenes playing out a bit differently in pacing and structure and suggested some moving here and there and some ideas. When working with someone this talented, we were more than happy to listen and apply these changes... which made the whole project an even better collaboration on all of our parts. Also, he brings in the relationship he has with colorist Dave Stewart and this all together makes for a spectacular book that I think, celebrates why comics can be so good. If I owned a comic company and had 3 guys like Darwyn, I would be a rich old man.  

BF: Throughout the series we had some excellent artists, some veterans and some new talents. What's next? How do you up the ante on the artist side? 

JP: Well, that’s easy...we have some classic artists in line for the series and some newcomers that people will love. Coming up next is a story illustrated by the amazing Dick Giordano who approached us and said he would love to do an issue. That in itself was a gift. We had that happen as well with Brian Steelfreeze, Billy Tucci, Lee Moder and many more. As usual we also have in the drawer three done issues by Jordi Bernet...one of my favorite Jonah Hex artists of all time. We got a good year laid out for everyone and like the 50 issues before it, we will be shipping on time, first week of each month. 

BF: Then we wíll get more Jordi Bernet

JP: YES!!! He is working on story number 4 for us as we speak. We view Jordi as the guy that gets as many issues as he wants and his output on average is 5 issues a year, and we will be taking each and every single one of them. Like I said earlier, he is my favorite artist on the book and one of my favorite artists overall in comics. My dream is to get a collection of all his Hex issues into a hardcover and let my other favorite, Joe Kubert, write the introduction. Yes, I am fishing...but this job is all about trying to make your dreams come true. 

BF: How do you choose the new talent? What gives you (and ofcourse Justin) the feeling that artist X is a perfect fit for Jonah?

JP: We [the editors, Mark Chiarello, Justin and myself] usually get approached by artists and some have “ it” and some don’t. It’s something we just go with...a feeling. We try to pick the best storytellers to work on our scripts and with the book being mostly done in one issue, we have a chance on every issue to grab a new reader...so we don’t want to ever mess up that opportunity by having art that doesn’t “fit” so far, I think we have been dead on with our choices art wise and hope to continue shooting in the right direction.  

BF: Justin and you just came off a longer story (the six-part story "6 Gun War"). Was the switch to a longer story easy? Is the switch back to one-issue-stories difficult? 

JP: The done in ones are the easiest because Justin and I have the same kind of storytelling sensibilities and love the chance to get a complete intricate well rounded story told in 22 pages. It’s a skill we wish we could apply to some of the other titles out there. The switch back from the 6-parter was easy because we were writing the other books while we were doing that story. This is a title we have to write far in advance because some of the artists we use have other gigs and do this as a break between jobs. Most look at it as a very personal pet project and we get the best work out of them each and every time because they do not feel rushed in the least bit. That said, some artists take their time and we have to call them and remind them that they have to get it in this century...lol...its always fun to bust balls. 

BF: How do they feel was the reaction of the fans to "6 Gun War" as opposed to the one-issue-stories so far? Are you (Jimmy and Justin) thinking of writing another multi-part story?

JP: Justin and I feel we did that...and the 128-page hardcover due out in spring.  That’s it for now unless we come up with something that we feel needs it. Honestly, I prefer the done in one book. If we were given 36 pages a month...well, that would be a better book all around. I wonder if anyone would consider paying a buck and a half more for a larger page count. 

BF: What is it that makes Jonah Hex work as a character? He has a loyal fanbase. What makes his fans come back month after month?

JP: We hope it [is] the solid stories and beautiful art. As a character, he works on so many levels... As the anti-hero, the bounty hunter and especially as the screwed up drunken hater of all things. He really is an interesting character that deep down is a good man...but I am talking DEEP. It’s fascinating to watch such a colorful character that we think, never does what you expect him to. To us, Jonah is a real person and we try to write him as such.  

BF: Anti-heroes appear to be serving justice more than superheroes. Anti-heroes have chosen a lonely path, whereas superheroes try to fit in the society, yet they usually fail. They don't seem to manage to get their personal lives together. Anti-heroes however don't even try to fit anywhere - and they face that they'll never go back to a happy life with family and all. They follow a strict moral code that is their own interpretation (of what is moral, that is). They know they are damned, they embrace it and go on with their lives. To which extent do you think this also applicable to Jonah?

JP: It has everything to do with who he is and at the same time he would never picture himself “the hero” on any level. He kills for money or revenge or because he wants to. He is a murderer, whatever the reason and he has a ton of demons to deal with at all times. To me, the Punisher and Jonah Hex are two totally different characters but I am sure a lot of people think they are the same in a way and what we try to explore in the book is not only who he is but why he does the things he does. The comparison of him to superheroes doesn’t work. He wears clothes...lol. 

BF: It also seems like 'grim and gritty' is equal to 'realistic' these days. Do you think Jonah is a realistic hero? Or is he some kind of a western superhero? Maybe both?

JP: His actions and the book are based, at times, on real events and stories from the Old West, so that said, we try to keep the character on a level that realism is the norm, most of the time... unless El Diablo is around. I don’t picture him as a western hero really...but as we know, a lot of really bad men were glorified from the old west that were nothing but bank robbers and thieves. Hex is not a thief or a robber of any kind. Hex is Hex... he is his own man and an enigma at the same time. Because it comes out in a comic format, it’s considered and shelved along side superhero comics.  

BF: Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead started a wave of zombie stories. Would it be unrealistic to say D.C.’s Jonah Hex stories started a wave of western stories?

JP: It sure did... in the past and the present run, and that’s a good thing. We got some good titles out there and we welcome the company.  

BF: Even though Jonah is not a creator-owned project, I feel like the success of your stories paved the way to the forthcoming Jonah Hex movie. Do you see it the same way? Does this open new doors to reconsider projects like Monolith and 21 Down, as comic properties as well as movie options?

JP: We have been told by the producer and the people involved at Warner and such that the new series is what got them to get the Jonah Hex movie in the works and we feel great about that. So much so, they invited Justin and I to set to see what they were doing and have given us the screenplay to read and comment on. We are very proud and feel lucky with the way things have been happening for the book and the character and yes it does open up other doors for our other properties. Both 21 Down and Monolith are not only being looked at, but one of the projects has people involved with them that are pushing forward with it. Hollywood is a town where its “hurry up and wait” so I don’t sweat these things. The attention to Hex also put Painkiller Jane back in the spotlight as well as Back to Brooklyn and a number of other projects as well. We hope, with things going on at DC, that someday they take a good look at the potential of our Power Girl run and look beyond that and realize our potential to rework other characters. For now, we just worry about the comics.  

BF: What do you think of modern western movies like Appaloosa or No Country For Old Men or even Bloodrayne 2? Are westerns coming back? What is the appeal of westerns? Is it more the characters or the setting? 

JP: Never saw Bloodrayne 2, didn’t even know it was a western... lol. I think when a movie is excellent, it will find an audience and since there are a number of genres being thrown around these days, I think the western has a good a chance as any to catch on. The appeal of a western is universal and the basic story structure is just about used in every type of films these days, so it’s the history and setting of the story that defines the genre. That all said, I loved No Country and liked Appaloosa and look forward to more.  

BF: Do westerns work better when there're visuals? Could you imagine writing a Jonah Hex novel for example?

JP: Words and imagination can create any visual in the mind of the right person. I offered the license people at DC the idea that if anyone were interested in a novel I would be up for the job, but so far no hits on that. Personally, I think anyone getting that license for the novels would do pretty well with them... it would be a wonderfully fun gig to actually adapt some of the comics and expand on the ideas presented. I have my fingers crossed with that one.

Jonah Hex #50 is out now from DC Comics priced $3.99

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  • Fletch Adams

    Fletch Adams Dec 4, 2009 at 8:37pm

    Consistently one of the BEST books out there...congrats to Jimmy and Justin to their ongoing success! This is a book that always goes to the top of my reading pile...and then gets promptly dropped of at my parent's house so my Dad can enjoy it too!

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Dec 8, 2009 at 3:42am

    great interview, love the books though I read it in TPB!

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