It all began at last year’s Orlando Mega Convention where I had the privilege of sitting between Tony Bedard and George Perez on the DCU panel. At one point during the standing-room only event, someone in the audience asked DC Comics’ Co-Publisher Dan Didio, “What about Billy Tucci drawing an issue of Jonah Hex?”
Dan Didio turned to Hex, co-writer, Jimmy Palmiotti, “What do you think?” Jimmy quickly replied that he’d love to have me draw an issue. Almost simultaneously, Dan, Jimmy and the entire room turned to me, and the man with the microphone inquired, “Want to draw an issue of Hex, Billy?”
“Hell Yes!” was my reply, and on that, Dan slapped his hands together and announced, “Great! Billy Tucci’s drawing Jonah Hex!” There was a nice applause from the crowd and it was onto the next topic – but boy, was I glad that guy came to the panel that day!
It’s funny how some comic book projects come to be. Some come from brainstorming office meetings, or retreats, others happen while sitting in restaurants and bars (you wouldn’t believe how many are actually cemented over a pint of beer!). Fortunately for me, this particular one was born from a fan. For the next several months following Mega Con, Dan keep telling me to hurry up and finish Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion, so I can draw Hex. Well I did complete Rock and, thanks to writers Palmiotti and Justin Gray, got the chance to draw some good old ass-whuppin’ Jonah Hex style!
Jimmy has been one of my best friends for sixteen years now, and I’ve been pals with Justin Gray for at least a decade. I’ve always marveled at the energy, humor and edginess that of their scripts, especially their perfected “one and done” formula – for Hex, -- and how fresh and original they always are. Since drawing Heroes For Hire for them a few years ago, we’ve often discussed working together again, and I can’t think of a better project than Jonah Hex #53.
After 53 published issues, it’s obvious Jimmy and Justin have LOTS of Jonah Hex adventures in them. But aside from being creative iron men, they’re also the most generous of creators I’ve ever met. Though they had a story in mind for me, they asked if there was any specific elements I wanted to draw and they would craft a story around that. Jimmy and Justin really had my best interests in mind and wanted to ensure that the project was going to be an enjoyable experience for their artist. That is a very selfless and very rare attribute to one’s character today.
So I remember talking on the phone with them about it all and since trains are my son William’s passion I asked the story revolve around a train. That and since I love death and destruction, I need lots of lead flying. Also, I hadn’t drawn much women in about a year wanted a “really hot chick!” Hence, our “Hex and The Show Girl” was born – that’s not the real title I just like to call it that!
Anyway, let us get on with the artwork – and a look at the cover process and some interior pages.
I had an idea to give the cover a look of an old Western photograph and sent in these roughs to Jimmy, Justin and our editor Wil Moss.
After they chose what would be the final, I was off to the races. While drawing the cover, I had the idea that perhaps it could have elements of an old “wanted poster” – and that was incorporated into the final illustration:
The next step was taken by my buddy, Sgt. Rock colorist Brian Miller and the crew at Hi-Fi Design to literally make the cover about, oh, I don’t know, a thousand times better??? Brian went through several stages before getting the right mixture of color, texture and atmosphere – I think it’s our best collaboration yet!
My friend and artistic genius, Paul Mounts colored the interiors, but for some reason, I cannot find any of his files. Perhaps that’s for the best as DC will be putting up a preview of the artwork, so you’ll see it there. Besides, I’m not quite sure I’m allowed to post the colors but I promise you won’t be disappointed and that they improve my illustrations! Guess you’ll all just have to wait for the comic to hit the stores Wednesday, March 3rd. I’ve wanted to work with Paul for years and am really glad that he took time from his busy schedule to work with us on this one – I assure you, it won’t be the last you see of Mounts and Tucci!
Anyway, I hope you won’t mind seeing the initial drawings… here’s a look at my interpretation of Jonah Hex, our heroine showgirl and other scenes in black and white.
As you can see, Jimmy and Justin’s story literally was a blast, and since the story moved so fast, I freed up my style to keep pace. I feel the result made my drawings more organic and, well, “alive”, -- and hope I succeeded.
Again, thank you, Jimmy, Justin, Paul, Wil, Brian and Dan – it was a wonderful assignment and it’s greatly appreciated! I just want you all to know that if I ever get a chance to draw Hex again, and am asked just what I’d like to draw –
I’m just going to say, Hex and a naked woman walking in the desert!
And if the person who started the whole process by asking Dan Didio for me to draw an issue of Jonah Hex, well, I owe you a real nice illustration when I see you!
Remember, JONAH HEX #53 by Gray, Palmiotti, Mounts and Tucci will be in stores Wednesday, March 3rd – I hope you all pick it up!
Thank you all and it’s off into the sunset for me!