Facing Turnbull: Palmiotti & Gray on Jonah Hex's 6-Parter

Jonah Hex #44, in stores in June

For nearly five years, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have been storming the countryside and painting towns red on horseback, guns ablaze—with their infamous riding partner, Jonah Hex. With the recent development of the Hex motion picture, starring Josh Brolin as the notorious bounty-hunter, and the addition of John Malcovich to the film as the villainous foil, Quentin Turnbull, was there any doubt that DC’s fan-favorite Western would re-introduce this classic Hex villain to its readership? It was a certainty. Starting in June’s issue #44, Gray and Palmiotti will be telling their first 6-part story, “Turnbull,” for the monthly series.

For fans that aren’t familiar with Quentin Turnbull, he was originally introduced in Weird Western Tales #22 in 1974. His grudge with Hex is pretty hefty—he blames Hex for the death of his son during the Civil War.

Newsarama contacted Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray to discuss the upcoming “Turnbull” arc; they also share some of their thoughts on the upcoming Hex motion picture.

Newsarama: Hex was a little worse for wear after the Sawbones story—but now, the two of you are re-introducing a classic Hex villain to the book; who is Quentin Turnbull and why does he have enmity with Jonah Hex?

Justin Gray: The story that was established in the past is that Turnbull directly blames Hex for the death of his son, Jeb. What we’re doing in this story is expanding the scope and scale of this vendetta between the two. Although Turnbull appears in the film as the main antagonist we’re using this story to remain in the context of Hex’s printed history.

Jimmy Palmiotti: What is interesting to us is that we got to read the Jonah Hex feature screenplay after we were finished with this 6-parter and realized we both covered the same character in Turnbull…so this story gives readers a heads up to what the film will be about, but it won’t ruin a thing, which made everyone happy.

NRAMA: Is this a classic revision of the Turnbull character or will there be new elements introduced?

JP: It is classic as far as the elements of the character and the motivations but in the end it’s our take on him and expanding on what has come before.

JG: Because Turnbull died during the initial run, what we’re doing is placing another tale inside the continuity, which is what we’ve been doing for the last five years anyway.

NRAMA: What makes Turnbull such a good foil for Hex?

JG: The familial relation and complex nature of Hex - having been a very good friend to Jeb, a father seeking revenge and Jeb’s death marks the point of no return in Hex’s life. Everything after that point defines the Hex we know. Prior to this Hex was unscarred, his position on the war changed as well.

NRAMA: This upcoming story arc is the first 6-issue arc for the series isn't it? Does this signify a change in the nature of this book or will you be returning to the usual “done-in-one" format afterwards?

JG: We remain dedicated to the single-issue format with the occasional exception of two or three part stories. This tale was too big to be confined in a single issue or even a few; we wanted to give readers a bigger serialized investment for 2009.

JP: It’s also an experiment to see how it will be received, but yeah, we are right back to the single issue stories after…and we have a total of 8 teams of artists working on them right this very minute—and, yes…there is more Jordi Bernet on the way.

NRAMA: Who will be handling the art chores for this arc?

JG: A relatively new artist who is bringing tremendous enthusiasm to this project, Cristiano Cucina. His style has some echoes of Tony DeZuniga so it provides a real sense of grit and purpose to the story.

Jonah Hex #45

JP: The great thing about having a revolving door of artists is that you get to experiment and give a variety of artists a shot at the character. Cristiano brings a different storytelling feeling to the book that is very cinematic and at the same time very bold.

For me, I see a bit of Paul Pope and classic blueberry artist, Moebius, in his work. Anyone familiar with the Blueberry series done by Jean Giraud will appreciate his level of detail. Cristiano’s art, married with the stunning color work of our regular color master Rob Schwager, is something to behold. We, as always, are very lucky to have such a talented bunch.

NRAMA: Was it a strange transition after writing so many short, sweet stories? I mean, do six issues seem epic in magnitude after so many shorter stories?

JG: For me it was. After so many years of being able to distill stories down to their most basic and poetic form, it seemed quite large and intimidating. The last thing we wanted was for people to feel like there was a filler issue in this so the action is insane, the emotional beats come on so many different levels and we give the guest-stars plenty of screen time to justify why they’re in the story.

JP: It gives us a nice chance to open up the visuals and storytelling and really be able to take a scene and dissect it more. I prefer the done-in-ones and I’m very vocal about it; but, this story needs all the space it can get because it covers so much. Honestly, it’s a good warm up as well for our next big project. Yeah, I am a tease.

NRAMA: What do you think of John Malcovich being cast as Quentin Turnbull in the Hex motion picture?

JP: Not only is he a perfect choice, but when you put him against Josh Brolin, you know the movie has just jumped up to another level of acting because both of these men are seasoned pros who always bring their “A” game to everything they do. We can’t tell you how excited we are about this movie and the producers and director Jimmy Heyward have been very generous in keeping us in the loop with everything from script to casting to the day-to-day shoots. It’s going to be a blockbuster.

JG: Fantastic, the man is a brilliant actor who can carry such a variety of roles that I feel confident in his portrayal.

NRAMA: Darwyn Cooke is returning for the 50th issue of Jonah Hex--what can you tell readers about this project?

JG: Nothing. It is a surprise. Remember surprises? Before the internet spoiled everything?

JP: What we can tell you is that it’s going to be more than 22 pages and that Darwyn has threatened me for the past month saying that the story better be amazing or else. Really, I need that kind of pressure…not. The man is a genius and it says a lot to us when he has his pick of projects and decides he wants to work with us again.

NRAMA: Has fan response continued to be strong for Jonah Hex? Do you think the upcoming film will further cement the popularity of the character in DC's pantheon of creations?

JG: We have a very dedicated core group of fans. I should say that Hex does and we’re just trying to deliver enjoyable stories. Hex doesn’t fit firmly in the consciousness of what I’d assume the general public thinks of when you say DC Comics; primarily because the dominance in film and TV has always been Batman, Superman and superheroes. In Hex, we have a very genre specific character and a different set of rules. What I do hope is that the film brings an even healthier audience to the book.

JP: Honestly, the film will come and go and we will still be writing the book [hopefully] long after. What we do hope for is a bounce in the month-to-month sales and maybe people that enjoyed the film might go out and try a trade book. We have been planning a few things with DC that will be announced this summer and knowing that the movie hits theaters in August 2010 gives us a chance to do our best and strike while the iron is hot.

What is great is that we have people like Bob Wayne involved that understand exactly how to take advantage of this. Right now, all we have is word of mouth from our wonderful loyal fans. I have to say, out of all the books I have ever worked on, the fans of the Jonah Hex series are the most hardcore bunch and have the most variety when it comes to age and gender. Their loyalty is so appreciated we do everything we can to give it our best month after month.

NRAMA: What do you think makes Jonah Hex so accessible to readers? Is there a cold-blooded gunslinger in all of us?

JP: Hex is cool looking and has guns. He is unpredictable and predictable as hell at the same time. He can be so horrible to others that it’s funny in a sick way. He wears grey when everyone else knows black is the new “it” color. He drinks more than booze than any relative I have and that’s a lot! He has more scars than Quint, Brody and Matt Hooper combined. Need I go on?

JG: I think it is the direct result of his actions that play to a subconscious understanding of simpler justice in a world that is far more complicated. By example as we struggle to understand why a female daycare worker would rape and stuff a little girl into a suitcase, the Hex mirror of that world would serve grim justice without a need to understand the sickness. Swift western justice is part of the American psyche regardless of how much the world has changed.

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