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But as any man, woman or child knows, he had no friends, this Jonah Hex...but he did have two companions...one was death itself, the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.
Created in the 1970s "Weird" phase in comics, Jonah Hex was created as a deliberate subversion of every Western hero cliche you can think. He then ended up being the last headline character of the genre in the comic book medium. He first appeared in "All-Star Western" vol. 2 #10 (February-March, 1972), created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga . The title was soon renamed to "All-Star Western", with Jonah remaining its star to 1977. He was then moved to his own series, which lasted from 1977 to 1985.
Jonah has a rather grim background. Raised with unrelenting abuse from his drunken father, the boy was sold to a Native American tribe, until he came of age and joined the Confederate forces in the American Civil War. Deciding to resign his commission after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, he inadvertently left clues to his old unit which led to it being found by Union forces. Wrongly accused as a traitor, Hex left on his own, unwanted by either side even while he still wore his gray Confederate officer's uniform.
Eventually, he was adopted by another Native American chief, but was challenged to a duel of honor by his jealous son who cheated in his favor. When Jonah was forced to kill him with a knife, the chief punished him by scarring his face, giving him the hideous "Mark of the Demon."
Since then, Jonah makes his living as a bounty hunter, carrying out his hunts with ruthless efficiency, although tempered with a personal code of honor that leads him to defend and avenge the weak and the oppressed in his own brutal way. He's part of the wider DC Universe, though long-dead in the present era (his body was apparently stuffed and mounted and ended up in a traveling circus).
When his original series ended, Jonah was thrown into a post-Apocalyptic future ala Mad Max in a title called simply Hex. He had a few miniseries in Vertigo Comics with a supernatural bent, went on to a new DCU series that, with the Comics Code having lost any meaningful power, was even Darker and Edgier and Gorier than before, and eventually came full circle, returning to the pages of All-Star Western in the New 52 as the main character.
The character has appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Batman the Brave And The Bold episodes. Also, a feature film was released on June 18 2010 starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox. The results were... less than auspicious, with reviews ranging from mixed to horrible, and a box office that suffered heavily (thanks mostly to competition from Toy Story 3). There is also an animated "DC Showcase" short that serves as a bonus feature for Batman: Under the Red Hood; interestingly, it's written by Joe Lansdale, who wrote the Hex-starring Batman TAS episode "Showdown".
- Abusive Parents: Woodson Hex is almost in a class of his own when it comes to this.
- Alcoholic Parent: Woodson Hex again.
- All Asians Know Martial Arts: The current series of Jonah Hex gave his wife Mei Ling kung fu skills despite her never displaying any during the original run of the comics.
- The American Civil War: Jonah fought for the Confederacy in it, and still wears a Confederate uniform.
- Amnesia Danger: In one story, Jonah is buried by a rockslide while dressed in the clothes of a preacher. Digging himself out, he cannot remember who he is. Finding a letter addressed to the preacher in his pocket, he assumes that he is the preacher and takes on the preacher's new posting as an army chaplain.
- Anti-Hero: Type IV
- Arch Enemy: Quentin Turnbull.
- Army of the Ages: Reinhold Borsten did this in the Hex comic book series. This is how Jonah Hex got transported to 2050.
- Army Scout: Jonah was an Army scout for a time.
- Awesome McCoolname
- Back From the Dead: Hex's body was reanimated in the Zombie Apocalypse of the Blackest Night and tracked down his archenemy's descendant.
- How Badass? When Batman and Superman were traveling between universes (sort of) and they ended up in a universe where DC's western heroes existed in the modern day he gunned down BOTH of them.
- Hex's final fight with El Papagayo in the graphic novel No Way Back. Papagayo stabs a knife right through Hex's arm. The fight ends with Hex killing Papagayo with the same knife... whilst it's still sticking through his arm.
- Bandito: El Papagayo.
- Black and Gray Morality: Hex is a cynical and immoral bounty hunter who cares about little aside from money. The villains tend to be Complete Monsters.
- Bounty Hunter
- But Now I Must Go: Hex comes across a fair few opportunities to settle down, but refuses each and every one in favour of his lonely bounty hunting lifestyle.
- Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: Jonah is often shown bathing with his trusty bowie knife concealed in the tub.
- Carnival of Killers: "6 Gun War"
- Chained to a Railway: Jonah does this to a corrupt Pinkerton Detective (who has just murdered a 13 year old boy) in #13 of the original series.
- Cigar Chomper
- Cigar Fuse-Lighting: A favourite trick of Jonah's.
- Conveyor Belt O' Doom: In "The Pearl" in Jonah Hex v.1, #64, Jonah and the Girl of the Week are tied up and dropped on a conveyor belt leading into a copper smelter.
- Crusading Widower
- Cut Himself Shaving
- Dead Guy on Display: Jonah's final fate. His body was stuffed, dressed in a "singing cowboy" outfit, and put on display in a wild west show. The ignominy (and the fact that he's used to represent the opposite of who he is) is palpable. Hex actually finds it comforting when he sees it himself - it meant he would someday get back to his own time.
- Deadly Distant Finale
- Deadpan Snarker: Jonah.
- Determinator: Hex. And how!
- Disguised Hostage Gambit: More than once Jonah has captured an enemy, dressed the bad guy in his trademark jacket and hat, gagged him and bound him to the saddle before sending the horse galloping into the outlaw camp to draw fire.
- Distaff Counterpart: Tallulah Black is pretty much a female version of Jonah Hex.
- Do with Him as You Will: Jonah hands an Indian-butchering sheriff over to the tribe he's been preying on, but then subverts it in another issue, where he hands a murderess over to the carnival who hired him, but when he sees them start to enact "carnival justice" which involves beating her to death all night long, he puts a bullet in her head.
- Evil Albino: The Autumn Brothers
- Expy: jonah of any Clint Eastwood Western Anti-Hero you care to name.
- Eyepatch of Power: Tallulah Black
- Fastest Gun in the West: Jonah has this reputation.
- Genre Savvy: In Justice League Unlimited, he immediately deduces that Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are time travellers. How?
"Experience. I've had an interesting life."
- God is Cruel: Jonah expresses this view on several occasions, believing that the kind, just God of Christianity is just a comforting delusion for those who don't know God as well as he does.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Happens to Jonah in issue 9 of the original series. Jonah is forced to chase the thief, and the theft turns out to a plot to lure him across the border into Mexico.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: He's a decent enough guy when put to the moral test, but his scarring leads to a lot of assumptions from others.
- Guns Akimbo
- The Gunslinger
- A Handful for An Eye: Jonah does it while fighting mountain scum in Hex #4. (Given Jonah's penchant for fighting dirty, it would be surprising if this was the only time this trick was used in the various series.)
- The Hashshashin: Jonah fights a Hashshashin brought to the Wild West as part of a Carnival of Killers during the "Six Gun War" storyline.
- Ignorant of the Call
- I'm a Humanitarian: Some of the inhabitants of Casket Canyon seem to have grown very fond of human flesh. See No Party Like a Donner Party below.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Jonah himself.
- In the Back: The final fate of J.D. Hart and ultimately Jonah himself.
- Instant Death Bullet: Most of the time.
- Inevitable Waterfall: In issue #39 of the original series.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In his early days his stories always seemed to end with him committing some act of kindness out of the good of his heart, but they were always done in a way that didn't break his "mean and nasty" facade.
- Joker Jury: Jonah is subjected to one in Weird Western Tales #30. Quentin Turnbull captures him and puts him on 'trial' for "treason and other high crimes against the Confederate States of America". The 'jury' consists of "your former comrades in arms, some of them survivors of the very massacre you perpetrated".
- Just Like Robin Hood: Railroad Bill
- Knife-Throwing Act: In "Sawdust and Slow Death" in Jonah Hex #15 (original series), Jonah joins a circus and becomes the unwilling target of an armless knife-thrower (possibly inspired by the silent movie The Unknown).
- Libation for the Dead: Jonah pours one for his father after watching die in Jonah Hex #69.
- Lodged Blade Recycling: In the graphic novel Jonah Hex: No Way Back, Jonah stabs el Papagayo with the same knife Papagayo just stabbed him with: while its still stuck through his arm!
- Mad Doctor: Sawbones
- Made of Iron: Hex routinely recovers after having been shot, beaten, and left for dead. Inevitably, it's the other guys who all actually wind up dead.
- Mark of Shame: His trademark disfigurement was punishment for using a weapon other than a tomahawk in a sacred battle, even though his opponent cheated by sabotaging Hex's and forced him to resort to a knife to defend himself.
- Master of Disguise: The Chameleon.
- Moe Greene Special: Tallulah Black.
- Monowheel Mayhem: In Hex, Reinhold Borsten's forces had armoured monowheels; sort of like miniature, one-man War Wheels.
- Murder by Mistake: In one issue, a killer tries to shoot Jonah through a curtained saloon window. He instead shoots the Soiled Dove who is prancing about the room in Jonah's hat
- My Horse Is a Motorbike: Jonah swaps his horse for a motorcycle in Hex. Ads for the new series even showed Jonah on a motorcycle with the tagline "This is Jonah Hex's new horse".
- The Native Rival: Jonah's saving of the Apache chief he was sold into slavery to earned him this trope.
- Nightmare Face
- No Party Like a Donner Party: "Casket Canyon" in Jonah Hex v2 #66.
- Outlaw Town: Outlaw Springs in "Christmas in an Outlaw Town".
- Pinkerton Detective: Pinkertons often appear (usually as antagonists) throughout the series.
- Pirate Parrot: Bandito parrot in this case. El Papagayo takes his name from his pet parrot.
- Politically-Correct History: Averted. Hex and other characters often have the sort of attitudes you'd expect from the 19th century. Hex himself is a subversion — "progressive" enough to marry a Chinese woman, and treating all races, colors, and creeds equally... but only because he hates all races, colors, and creeds equally.
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot: US Marshal J.D. Hart features prominently in issues 42-44 of the original series, essentially acting as a co-star to Jonah in those issues. Hart was going to spun off into his own book, unofficially titled Dakota, but that book never eventuated and Hart eventually returned as a supporting character in Jonah Hex.
- POW Camp: The events of Fort Charlotte will haunt Jonah throughout his life.
- Powder Trail: Pulled off in issue #78 of the original series, where Jonah ignites the powder trail with a rifle shot.
- Practical Currency: In Hex, the standard currency are Soames: pills used to decontaminate radioactive water.
- Recycled in Space: In the Hex series, Jonah was transported to the 21st century and became somewhat of a post-apocalyptic warrior, reminiscent of Mad Max.
- The Remnant: The Fort Charlotte Brigade
- Retired Gunfighter: Jonah in the Deadly Distant Finale.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: After Jonah Hex is transported to the future in Hex, he acquires a pair of Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnums. He chooses these because they are single action revolvers like he was used to in the Wild West, but he still manages to outshoot everybody armed with more more modern weaponry.
- Shooting Gallery: Jonah runs through a shooting gallery where the dummies are firing back with live ammunition in Hex #8.
- Sleeping Dummy: A favourite trick of Jonah's.
- Still Wearing the Old Colors: Jonah still wears his Confederate Army uniform.
- Sociopathic Hero: Jonah is one of these, to a certain extent.
- A Tankard of Moose Urine: This gem from Jonah Hex #53 (original series) (and at no point during this monologue does Jonah stop drinking):
"Ugghh! Thet rotgut shore do taste nasty! Smells nasty! Tastes nasty! Got an aroma just like kerosene! A man'd have tuh be near halfway crazy tuh drink this stuff!"
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jonah really doesn't like Bat Lash, a frequent teammate, to the point when saving a drowning man and finding it to be Lash, he threw him back in the river.
- He also hates working with Dr. Arkham since the guy is basically The Load. He only tolerates the man because Arkham knows more about Gotham than he does.
- Temporary Blindness: Happens to Jonah in Weird Western Tales #24. Needless to say a gang of outlaws comes gunning for him while he is afflicted.
- Train Job: Too many to count.
- Two-Headed Coin: In one comic, a Frenchman uses this to win a coin toss against Jonah, choosing to stay behind and make the Heroic Sacrifice holding off the Indians while Jonah gets the woman they were escorting to safety.
- US Marshal: J.D. Hart
- Vapor Trail: Jonah pulls one in Hex #18, lighting the fuel with his trusty cigarillo. The Mooks' last words are "That's a fuel hose, right?"
- Weird West: The three Vertigo mini-series were this.
- Whip It Good: Stiletta from Hex was an expert with a whip.
- The Wild West
- Although, interestingly (or not), not in the movie. It's apparently set in the Wild South, unless Jonah's horse is extraordinarily fast- he travels from the Old-West-style town he's in to the villain's lair in about a day. The villain's lair is an old confederate fort, on the Atlantic coast.
- Wretched Hive: Jonah Hex's opinion of Gotham City. When Catherine expresses shock at the idea of a lost tribe of vicious natives and giant bats underneath Gotham, Hex replies that the streets are worse.
- Jonah Hex (second series) #36 explains why.