Jonah Hex doesn't have his scowl anymore, he's back in the past (but with a girlfriend from the future) — and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti just keep the changes coming for the character, even after 100 issues with him.
Completing 100 issues of Jonah Hex stories is worth celebrating — when the pair started writing Jonah Hex back in 2005, even the most die-hard fans of the Old West character wouldn't have expected him to last very long. Nine years later, Palmiotti and Gray have just published their 100th issue featuring Hex, and under the new, relaunched title All-Star Western, Palmiotti and Gray have immersed the character into the fabric of the New 52.
But things have changed again for Hex — February's All-Star Western #28 featured the much-missed and fan-favorite character Booster Gold sending Hex back to his own era, with a woman named Gina in tow.
During Hex's visit to the present day, he was given facial reconstruction — something that's already given him trouble. What's next for the character? We talked to Gray and Palmiotti to find out.
Newsarama: Jimmy and Justin, now that you've hit the 100th issue writing Jonah Hex, what are your thoughts on the evolution of both the title and the character during that time?
Justin Gray: It's been a rewarding experience to have the opportunity to write such an interesting character for such a long period of time. The most rewarding part has been the collaboration with dozens and dozens of artists and many editors. One important factor in this long run has been our partner in lettering Rob Leigh, who has been with us the entire run. Rob never gets the recognition and credit he deserves.
Hex has evolved more in recent months, as we’ve explored storytelling ideas that were off the normal track we’d taken for so long. Some of it has been successful and some not so much. I feel we’ve been presented with challenges and done our best to meet them and adapt. The constant is Jonah and how he views the world no matter what world he's in.
Jimmy Palmiotti: Agree with Justin about Rob — he is a part of the team all the way, and a lot of times, even we overlook him because the work is always fantastic. He's one of the few people that I work with that I ever hardly have to send a comment or fix to. The man knows his work and we're proud to be working with him. So damn talented!
As to the evolution of the book, we always looked at the book as one big adventure in the lifetime of a great and interesting man. Looking back, I can honestly say that Jonah has been through some life changing events and has come out of them a smarter man. As far as the title, it's obvious we love working on this book. That we got as far as 100 issues is a shocker.
Nrama: In the last issue, you gave Jonah some facial reconstruction. What were your thoughts behind that?
Gray: We needed something to shock readers, to keep pushing the title as far as we can to do the unexpected.
Palmiotti: We cannot put Jonah in modern day and not acknowledge that this world offers technology that back then could only be imagined. We felt it was the right thing to do. I like that he now has a different challenge ahead of him by not scaring everyone around him all the time.
Nrama: That's true. His new face must change things for the character. Can he still be as mean without the permanent look of horror?
Gray: A lot of people wear masks in the DCU; that doesn't define who they are inside. Hex is Hex, but having his face changed does create a unique storytelling opportunity. Is he the scar and the confederate uniform? Or is he more? We wanted to find out on a meta level.
Nrama: This issue utilized Booster Gold, right when a lot of people are speculating about where the character is going to show up again. How informed are you about his current situation, and can you give us a hint about how his time in All-Star Western fits into Booster's timeline?
Gray: I couldn’t tell you what is happening with Booster. I’m sure it is something exciting, but we’re not privy to it.
Palmiotti: Agree. He is here, in issue #28. You like the character, pick up this book. Will he be in another issue of Jonah anytime soon? Don’t bank on it.
Nrama: Jonah brought someone back to the past with him when Booster helped him come home to the Old West. What does the addition of Gina to the title bring to All-Star Western?
Gray: Gina's been interesting and unlike any other woman Hex has had a relationship with. Contrast is what makes Hex so fascinating and Gina, the modern woman, reflects both a 21st century attitude about the roles of men and women, but she also has a sense of attraction to the rugged individualism that Hex personifies, even if he can be incredibly sexist.
Palmiotti: Gina is fun, something Jonah needs to have more of. Sure, this may be a doomed relationship, but it will be fun to see how Jonah grows with her around. I think she adds another dimension to his personality that few have seen, other than when around Tallulah.
Nrama: In next month's issue, the solicitation mentions the name Turnbull. Is that a new character, or a familiar one?
Gray: That solicitation is wrong.
Nrama: Because of Jonah's trip back to the past? Is that a change?
Gray: We originally intended for Jonah to encounter the modern day ancestors of Quentin Turnbull – lots of violence would ensue, but the opportunity to return him to the time where we feel he belongs was too important to us.
Nrama: Issue #30 has Tallulah Black on the cover. If she's showing up, doesn't that cause some trouble with Gina?
Gray: Again, relationships are what we find most important in this and other books. Contrasts, personalities, and personal history can be powerful tools in storytelling. Gina made a very difficult and perhaps not the most well informed decision in time travelling with Hex.
Palmiotti: Gina did not think this out. Love does that.
Nrama: That issue also has a back-up story about Madam 44, drawn by José Luis Garcia-Lopez. What can you tell fans about the character and her introduction to the New 52?
Gray: I’m not even sure she has fans, to be honest.
Nrama: [Laughs.] OK, then what can you tell All-Star Western fans?
Palmiotti: What I can tell you is that we had a blast working with José on this two-part story, and it lives up to the title of the book. This is the story of a miner’s daughter who finds herself transported to another time and place and it's the least expected thing you will ever read in the book. This story is stunning to look at. Getting José to work on a story with us was a wonderful gift.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else about All-Star Western that you want to share?
Gray: I’d like to share a thank you with the fans that have supported both Jonah Hex and All-Star Western, through the highs and lows, leading up to these 100 issues. Maybe we can do 100 more!
Palmiotti: Agree. Thanks to everyone that has supported us and spread the word about one of the greatest characters in the history of the DCU.