Sunday, April 5, 2020

Time to do some "birthday" shopping!



You may recall that, in the early days of developing Richard Corrigan as a character, I gave the fella a birthday.  Specifically, he was born on April 5, 1854, which means he'd be 166 today if he was, y'know, a real dude.  Today would also be the second day of Blue Water Intl. Comic Con if the world hadn't decided to up and have itself a pandemic.  Had I been at the con today, I might've brought in some mini cupcakes or something to celebrate (nothing like free treats to bring folks to your table!), but instead, I'm at home doing my best to self-isolate.  After having missed two shows last year due to a family emergency, it's become obvious that I need another sales channel besides cons, Amazon, and a couple of indie bookstores.  Lucky for me, Square -- whom I do my credit/debit sales through -- offered me free website space just as everything began to go on lockdown.

So that's what I've been doing the past couple of weeks when I'm not working at my "essential" day job: setting up an official "Swords & Sixguns" store to debut on Richard's birthday.  The Weebly template is pretty basic, but that's fine, since I only have a few things to offer right now (as seen above).  At the moment, I'm only set up to ship within the United States, so if you live elsewhere, contact me and I'll see what I can do about international shipping.  Also, I have a small amount of secret freebie items that I'll be slipping into the first few orders, 'cause what's a birthday without gifts, eh?  So head on over to https://susanhillwig.square.site and put in your order so's ya got something to read while you're staying safe at home!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Blue Water 2020 do-over!


As expected, the folks at Blue Water Intl. Comic Con have rescheduled!  Our springtime show has become a holiday one, now taking place November 21-22 (the weekend before Thanksgiving), so this will be a great opportunity for everyone to do a little shopping for the pop-culture-minded loved ones on their lists.  I'm already planning on having some special holiday items for sale at my table, and for those of you who received one of my flyers with the "free stuff" coupon attached, I will honor those at the November show!

In the meantime, I'm still putting together an online store so you can get not only my novel, but some of the other things I offer for sale at cons, like the brand new "quote tote" I'd planned on debuting at Blue Water (reckon it'll go on sale online first now).  And as always, you can go on Amazon anytime and purchase "Swords & Sixguns: An Outlaw's Tale" in paperback or Kindle format.  Hang in there, folks, we're gonna get through this!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Down but not out


As I expected, Blue Water Intl. Comic Con has been postponed due to COVID-19. This stinks, but I'm not going to complain too loudly, because it's not like I'm the only one whose plans have drastically changed lately. Thankfully, the con will be rescheduled for a later date (I'll let you know as soon as it is), but that doesn't help my book sales very much at the moment (which were already low because I had to miss two shows last year due to family issues). So I'm taking steps to make sure I don't get caught in another "dry spell": I'm setting up an online store with Square. They sent me an offer to do so last week, and I'm still in the process of setting it up, but I'm hoping to debut it by April 5th, the same weekend Blue Water was scheduled for. In the meantime, "Swords & Sixguns: An Outlaw's Tale" is *always* available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format, so be sure to head over to https://www.amazon.com/dp/1540506924 if you can't wait another minute to get your copy...and if you want it signed, don't fret, I'm looking into setting up an "autograph only" option for the online store so you can send your book in for me to sign. We're gonna get through this, kids. This world has faced worse -- Hell, if you've read my book, you *know* it has! -- we just need to keep our heads right now and help each other out. Stay safe, y'all.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Blue Water 2020 is coming!



Blue Water International Comic Con will be here before you know it! I always look forward to this show, and I love that folks stop by who remember me from previous years (and bring friends over to buy books!). As always, I'll be collecting donations for Hero Initiative, plus I'll have my new swag bags out for purchase (or for free if you purchase a copy of "Swords & Sixguns: An Outlaw's Tale"). You can get tickets at the door, or buy 'em in advance at 
www.etix.com. Hope to see you there!

Friday, November 1, 2019

An Illustrated History of Jonah Hex (Part 17)



2008-2009: Riding High

By the beginning of Jonah’s third year under the care of Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, it was clear that our favorite bounty hunter was firmly ensconced in the comics landscape of the 21st Century.  Though sales on the title were low compared to most superhero comics (at this point in time, Jonah Hex moved roughly 14,000 copies per month, whereas Batman would sell at least 70,000 copies during the same period), Dan Didio believed it was important for DC to offer a variety of genres, so Hex survived the chopping block despite numbers that would’ve killed many other books.  Such an attitude may have been why one of Jonah’s fellow cowpokes also experienced a brief arrival around this time, as Bat Lash received a 6-issue miniseries written by Peter Brandvold and Lash’s co-creator Sergio Aragones, with art by the legendary John Severin.  Jonah even managed to earn a spot in DC Direct's Showcase line (which was inspired by the Showcase black-and-white reprint collections), when in June 2008 they released an action figure done in Tony DeZuniga’s classic style.  Also, Jonah’s continued presence on the racks as opposed to comic-book limbo was possibly what brought the prospects of the long-dead Jonah Hex feature film back to life, as reports began circulating in mid-2007 that a new script was being worked upon by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.  Movies take a long time to move from script to screen, however, so we’ll push that to the back burner for now and continue our focus on Jonah’s monthly adventures.

In Jonah Hex (vol. 2) #26 (February 2008), Gray & Palmiotti gave a shout-out to three fans who frequented their Paperfilms website -- specifically Lewis Himelhoch, Mike Hewison, and Loy Turns -- by bestowing their monikers upon a group of outlaws Jonah is in pursuit of.  His search leads him to a remote farm owned by two women with a penchant for quoting the Bible -- recites the King James version of Jonah 4:10-11 when the bounty hunter informs her of his name -- as well as a dark secret luring upon their property.  Seems some men wronged them in the past, so these ladies have decided to wreak vengeance upon any man who comes ‘round by hacking off their limbs at the knees and elbows, cutting out their tongues, and forcing them to live like pigs in their barn...which is exactly what happened to Himelhoch, Hewison, and Turns (in a way, this little name-drop ain’t too far off from the “tribute” Lansdale & Truman cooked up for the Winter Brothers back in 1995).  Suffice it to say, Jonah makes sure the gals won’t be adding any more guys to their pigpen, in a scene that artist Guiseppe Camuncoli (previously the cover artist for JHv2#7) renders in gory detail.  The story wraps up with Jonah delivering the mutilated outlaws to the local sheriff, who is horrified by what he sees, but as Jonah points out, the warrant on them stated they be brought in alive, so he was just following the letter of the law.

JHv2#27 gives us another masterpiece by Jordi Bernet, as well as adding a new member to Jonah’s cast of characters.  Not long after the end of the Civil War (and certainly after Jonah received the “Mark of the Demon”, going by the depictions here), a boy named Victor Sono immigrates from Italy to New York with his father, a former soldier and peacekeeper who’d lost his leg at some point.  When the elder Sono goes looking for employment with the police, the “native” New Yorkers mock him and gun him down, an act that justifiably sends young Victor into a rage.  Grabbing a pistol off a stranger in the street, Victor opens fire upon the tin-star-wearing murderers, only to soon be clubbed across the head by Jonah Hex, the rightful owner of the pistol (what exactly he’s doing in New York City at the time is uncertain -- there’s mention of a transfer of funds to Hex, but not the why of it).  While at first Jonah seems unconcerned as to what the lawmen may do to Victor, he quickly reconsiders and finishes the job the boy started, then takes the unconscious Victor to an orphanage.

Many years later, Victor is known by the moniker of “Star Man”, in reference to all the badges pinned to his coat, each of them taken off of a crooked lawman Victor has killed (by the way, there are no apparent ties between Victor and any of the other Starman folk to come after him in the 20th Century).  When Jonah comes looking to collect the $1,000 bounty on his head, Victor recalls what the man did for him as a boy and refuses to kill Hex, even going so far as to give him the majority of the bounty money in the hopes that Hex will leave him be -- it appears Victor’s sense of honor is just as ingrained as Jonah’s.  Seeing as how Victor was about two hundred short, though, Jonah ain’t done with him yet, and after a series of twists and turns -- as well as a couple more lawmen gettin’ what’s comin’ to them -- both men eventually end the tale satisfied with their respective outcomes.

John Higgins joined the ever-growing list of Hex artists with JHv2#28, which features a tale of revenge taken to the extreme.  Jonah is approached by a gay man whose lover was lynched by some townsfolk who objected to their lifestyle.  The man blames the entire town for the deed, and wishes Jonah to kill everyone within, to which Jonah replies, “So yer of the mind Ah’m an orphan maker, or would you have it that Ah slaughtered their offspring in crib and stroller alike?”  He then turns down the job offer, for while Jonah doesn’t really give care one way or another that the man is homosexual, he certainly doesn’t relish the idea of leaving behind a bunch of orphans who may come looking for him someday.  The man, however, decides to take matters into his own hands by wiring the town church with explosives and detonating it when all the folks are inside (don’t have to worry about vengeance-seeking orphans when you blow ‘em up all at once).

When the man later seeks out Hex again to brag about the deed, the bounty hunter literally cuts the tongue out of the man’s head as punishment (only thing worse to Jonah than killing kids is being proud of it), and he likely would’ve done worse if the whore Jonah’s been visiting with throughout the story hadn’t stepped in to stop him.  “You fancy yourself a martyr and misunderstood saint of killers,” she says to Hex.  “Cast that anger inward, you son of a bitch, and the reflection of truth shows you the face of a coward not one boot heel taller than them he’d call law-breakers.”  Jonah blows her off and leaves, but a few issues down the line, we’ll discover that her words cut deeper than he let on.

We return to Devil’s Paw in JHv2#29, this time with Rafa Garres on art chores, and in JHv2#30, we get more Bernet in a story that, continuity-wise, appears to take place directly after the events of 1982’s Jonah Hex #53.  There’s a sepia-toned double-page spread that acts as a highlight reel for Jonah’s life all the way through his marriage to Mei Ling, the birth of their son Jason, and ending with Mei Ling leaving him:




Jonah becomes a drunken wreck after this, stumbling into a nearly-deserted town called Desperation (how fitting).  A few days later, a gang of outlaws led by a man named Lucky Dave arrives on a train they hijacked, intent on blowing the safe in one of the boxcars -- they picked this town to do it in since there’s only six people living there.  They begin rounding up the folks, who tell them about the “mean drunk” who’d arrived, gathered up all the booze in town, and locked himself in a hotel room.  The outlaws figure they can handle him and send a huge fella named Samson upstairs to get him.  Too bad for Samson that Jonah managed to rouse himself from his stupor enough to kill the man as soon as he entered the hotel room.  When Samson doesn’t come down, another fella goes up, and Jonah kills him as well, tossing him out the window and into the street for good measure.  By this point, blowing the safe has already gone terribly wrong (rather like the scene in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid), so Lucky and his gal try to get out of town, but Jonah -- haggard, shirtless, and probably nursing a mean hangover -- catches up to them and challenges Lucky to a gunfight.  By this point, Lucky hasn’t had one damn thing go right on this job, so he’s more than happy for the opportunity to blow Hex away.  Too bad his gun misfires.  “Yore just a no good drunk!” Lucky yells as he throws his pistol as Hex.  “A whiskey hound with an empty heart he’s tryin’ ta fill with whiskey!  Ya ain’t even got nuthin’ worth stealin’!”

“Sure Ah do,” Jonah answers as he thumbs back the hammer on his own pistol.  “Ah got my reputation.”  Though there is no gunshot, it can be assumed that Jonah took Lucky Dave out.  Overall, the issue is a great “between the panels” sort of story that shows us Jonah didn’t exactly jump right back into bounty hunting after his marriage to Mei Ling fell apart.  It also won’t be the last time Palmiotti, Gray, and Bernet visit that particular period in Hex history.

Jonah reputation doesn’t serve him well in JHv2#31, as it nearly gets him killed by lawmen as well as framed by a masked outlaw.  Artist Paulo Siqueira -- whose style is reminiscent of rags Morales -- made a good story even greater with wonderfully-detailed panels and expressive faces (including probably the most evil grin I've ever seen on Hex’s ugly mug!).  In JHv2#32, the bounty hunter heads to Mexico during Dia de los Muertos (meaning this takes place around November 1st, Jonah’s birthday) to meet a powerful man named Esteban who wants Hex to kill a famed matador that had an affair with Esteban’s wife.  It’s soon evident to Hex that the man is off his rocker (Esteban carved up his wife’s face as punishment for her infidelity) and he turns down the job, but Esteban won’t take no for an answer and arranges for Hex to be gored to death by a bull in the same arena the matador performs in:



Ironically, Jonah is rescued by the same matador Esteban wants dead, and gets nursed back to health by the matador and his younger sister Chula (who apparently has the hots for Hex, going by all the not-so-subtle advances she makes on him -- Jordi Bernet’s art makes this scene all the more hilarious).  Once he’s recovered, Jonah sneaks back into the bullfighting arena and stabs the very-surprised Esteban in the gut, then informs the wife that the matador still loves her.

After his ordeal in Mexico, Jonah gets about as far away from there as possible...all the way to the Great White North, to be exact.  For JHv2#33, Gray & Palmiotti managed to get the award-winning Darwyn Cooke to step away from superheroes for a bit and join them in the Old West.  In a Newsarama article published around the time of the issue's release, the three men revealed that they’d all known each other for a few years, with Gray admitting to Cooke, “Once you made a casual comment about wanting to maybe do an issue of Hex it was all over, we were going to lure you into it one way or another,” and Palmiotti adding that Cooke had been on their “short list of dream artists” for Jonah Hex, “but never thought you would actually be interested.  We’re very glad you did, but somehow I have a feeling it’s a favor I will be repaying for the rest of my life.”

The duo always took pride in delivering scripts tailor-made for the selected artists, and with Cooke, it was no different.  “One night in San Diego last year,” Cooke revealed, “I gave Justin my ‘laundry list’ for a Hex story.  It had to take place in Canada, it had to break the cliché of the squeaky-clean Mountie, it had to feature a knife fight with wolves and so on.  Two weeks or so later, I’ll be damned if the script didn’t appear, better than I’d hoped.  You boys took my caveats and made them window dressing to what is one of the best stories they’ve written.  That main story is pure J&J and it’s what elevates the issue to something resonant.”

Indeed, it’s a remarkable tale, told from the perspective of a young mute boy, whose father dies while they’re traversing the Canadian wilderness.  Jonah saves the boy from a pack of wolves, and soon after, a group of Mounties comes across them with a prisoner in tow.  Seems Jonah came north to collect the bounty on said prisoner, and the Mounties don’t take kindly to such things.  Jonah tries to fake his way out of the situation, telling them he’s a trapper by the name of “Fleisher”, but the Mounties are well aware of Jonah’s infamous scar, so it don’t do him much good.  Stripping him down to his longjohns, the Mounties crack open the ice over a frozen lake and let Jonah fall in, then go on their way, leaving the boy behind as well.  Jonah being Jonah, he eventually manages to drag himself out of the lake and -- half-frozen and angry as Hell -- he tracks the Mounties back to their fort, slaughtering them one by one:



Once the task is complete, Jonah collapses, and the boy drags him inside one of the buildings in the hopes that he’d recover.  The bounty hunter does, of course, and to the surprise of both the boy and the reader, Jonah proceeds to literally push the boy away, at one point smacking him across the face when Jonah goes to leave the fort.  Considering Jonah’s reactions when other folks harm children, such a thing seems out of character, but it appears Jonah was trying to show the boy that, despite his muteness, he could take care of himself, and that depending upon a surly cuss like Hex would be a mistake in the long run.  As Cooke said in regards to the issue, “The story’s power lays in its ability to be both heartfelt and heartless at the same time.  There is a remarkable slow build to the final scene and it is one hard ending...this bitch out-Shanes Shane.”

Mark Sparacio handily took care of the art for JHv2#34, which contains multiple references to fans within its pages, as well as acting as a sequel to JHv2#28, with the opening giving us a recap of the events of that issue (said to have taken place in New Mexico).  Seems the angry words leveled at him by the whore apparently struck a nerve with Jonah, causing him to leave the open plains behind and head for Oregon in an attempt to make a life for himself that doesn’t involve killing people for money.  To that end, the first page shows Jonah literally burying his past: he places his guns and uniform in a box marked with the Confederate battle flag and inters it in a cemetery.  After spending the winter in a log cabin built by his own hands -- the one practical skill passed on to him by his father -- Jonah heads to the hardware store over in the nearest town for supplies, where the owner, Mr. Clarkson, and his daughter Sandy strike up a conversation with him.  When they inquire about his name, Jonah tells them it’s “Hillwig”, borrowing the surname of a certain Hex historian (full disclosure: while I’d known Jimmy & Justin for a few years by this point, and they were well-aware of all the Jonah Hex fan fiction I’d written, I had no clue they were going to work my name into a story.  See the blog post I wrote back in 2011 for more info on my fanfic career).

As they help Jonah load supplies onto his wagon, a group of men ride into town and begin causing trouble.  The leader, Elmsford, is modeled after Jonah Hex fan and podcaster Matt Herring, while his buddy Blackie is based on Brian LeTendre.  Both Palmiotti and Sparacio were already familiar with Herring’s work, so when the artist was working on the issue, Herring gave him some reference material for the character, which soon turned into Herring and LeTendre going over to Long Island for a photo shoot, under the assumption that they’d be featured in a panel or two.  Little did they know, Sparacio would turn them into the two main baddies for the story, having them harass shopkeepers for protection money and make rather lewd remarks about Sandy.  Jonah witnesses all of this but does his best to ignore it, even as the days pass and the violence amps up, leading to the hardware store burning down, killing Clarkson.  Faced with having to turn tricks at the saloon to survive, Sandy heads out to Jonah’s cabin, and though they spend the night together, Jonah’s attitude changes drastically in the morning:


Some time after she leaves, Jonah is sitting in his cabin before the fireplace, a Bible in his lap as he mutters, “You press me ta action against muh will.  Set a bush ta burnin’, why don’t Ya?”  Since the very first issue of Gray & Palmiotti’s run, we’ve seen references to Jonah’s feud with the Lord, and it all comes to a head here, with the bounty hunter speaking plain about the hypocrisy he finds in the Word of God: “Love thy neighbor and thou shall not kill stand at odds with each other an’ Ya prefer Ah take up the work of Yer angels who ain’t but assassins with wings!  And when Judgment Day comes, Ya’ll put these deeds in shadow an’ condemn me nonetheless as a killer and a sinner.”  He then throws the Bible into the fireplace and heads into town, only to find Sandy already dead and buried in the same cemetery he was in at the beginning of the story (the date on Sandy’s tombstone states the year as 1871, so all this may have taken place before Jonah’s marriage to Mei Ling and his other attempt at hanging up his guns).  Jonah spends little time mourning her loss, for he already knows what he has to do: he grabs a shovel, digs up his uniform and guns, then seeks out Elmsford and his crew so he can cut them down in a hail of gunfire.  As much as he loathes it, Jonah has faced up to the fact that God will never let him have a moment’s peace, not so long as evil walks in the world.

Though Gray & Palmiotti were essentially able to do whatever they wanted within the pages of Jonah Hex, there were occasions when DC’s higher-ups would rein them in.  Such was the case when the duo got the idea for a story that would make Jonah Hex an ancestor of Harvey Dent, AKA Two-Face.  Someone in Editorial shot down that notion real quick, so the references to Dent were removed and the script reworked into what became JHv2#35, gloriously illustrated by J.H. Williams III.  Jonah assists some lawmen in wiping out a band of outlaws, and afterward, the elderly sheriff tells Jonah he’ll have to wait until tomorrow for payment since the bank is closed.  In the meantime, the sheriff invites Jonah back to his home for a bit of supper with himself and his young wife.  Once their stomachs are full of fine vittles, the two men take a seat on the porch and share some whiskey, during which the sheriff makes an unorthodox proposal.  Seems the man is impotent, and his wife is longing for children, so he’d like Jonah to play surrogate father -- between the bounty hunter’s wandering lifestyle and his unsightly appearance, the sheriff thinks his wife would be less inclined to run off with Hex should he do the deed.

Considering that it’s been implied more than once that Jonah’s mother was a whore, it’s understandable that he isn’t in favor of prostituting himself, no matter how good the cause.  Too bad for him the sheriff has already put a contingency plan into motion, i.e. he slipped something into Jonah’s whiskey.  The panels in the comic begin to twist about and turn wild colors as the drug takes effect, letting the reader experience the same level of disorientation as Jonah while fights off both the sheriff and his wife, who at one point literally straddles him with her skirt hiked up.  Jonah manages to get away without being sexually assaulted -- let’s not mince words, that’s exactly what this is -- but there’s still the matter of him getting paid, so before he leaves, he gasps, “Be...at the...bank come...mornin’ or...I’ll come...fer ya...” then tells the sheriff to “think real hard” about why Jonah didn’t kill him outright.  The next day (after puking up whatever it was they slipped him), Jonah heads into town to collect, and though the sheriff does cough up the dough, he also threatens to shoot Hex, who points out that the sheriff doesn’t seem to realize he’s better off than most men.  He and his wife may not have children, but they have each other, along with a roof over their heads and a comfortable life, so they should be happy with that.  In saying this, Jonah is silently pointing out that he himself has none of these things, and that the couple’s actions the night before nearly stripped Jonah of one of the few things he does have -- his dignity -- just for their own selfish gains.

Rafa Garres returned to do the art for JHv2#36, set in 1866.  Unusually, it takes place before Jonah received the “Mark of the Demon”, and certainly long before he took up bounty hunting.  Also unusual is the narration throughout, as it takes the tone of a historian writing about Jonah’s life (perhaps this is from Professor Lawrence’s book on Hex?), focusing mainly on the question of whether or not Jonah was a racist.  While our unknown narrator cites facts about Jonah’s enslavement by the Apache, his marriage to Mei Ling, and his actions during the Civil War (see Appendix A for more on the latter), we see Jonah travelling through Tennessee, whereupon he stops beside a riverbank to ask a black woman for directions to the nearest town.  Upon seeing his Confederate uniform, she cries out, “Oh Lord!  You’re one a’ them!” and tries to flee, only to fall into the fast-moving river.  Jonah does his best to save her, but she strikes her head against a rock and dies.  Just then, a group of blacks finds the two of them and, presuming Jonah murdered her, pummel him and attempt to string him up.  Jonah is soon rescued by four white men, who kill every black person present without mercy, then take an unconscious Hex back to their place.

As Jonah recovers, his rescuers talk long about all the injustices they perceive around them -- namely the laziness and general uppity attitude of the black populace since the South lost the War -- and how they plan on turning things around.  When they realize their guest doesn’t share the same sentiment, they immediately brand him a spy who must’ve stolen a uniform.  Jonah informs them that his uniform was rightly earned in battle, “but as time has passed and reflections bolstered by several attempts at surrender have taught me...the thinkin’ behind both blue an’ gray leaves a bitter taste.”  He also mentions that a longing to live amongst whites again after years with the Apache may’ve caused him to take up a “foolish” cause.  All this perplexes the bigoted men, as they can’t understand why someone who thinks as Jonah does would still be wearing that uniform a full year after the War ended, but Jonah is through trying to explain himself, and instead pulls leather and kills three of the men.  The fourth survives, but his kneecap is shattered, a fact Jonah pays no mind as he drags the man back out to the riverbank.  Once there, he forces the man to dig seven graves -- one for each black person the bigots killed -- and after the man dies from both exhaustion and his wounds, Jonah dumps his body under a tree and proceeds to dig an eighth grave...this one for the woman Jonah was unable to save.  As the story closes, our unseen narrator surmises Hex was not racist in the sense that we usually know, for in truth he “loathed every human soul with equal enthusiasm”, and by continuing to wear Confederate gray, he could more easily judge what truly lay in a person’s heart by how they reacted to the uniform.  If good people feared him and stayed away, that was fine by him, and if it lured evil folks out into the open for him to snuff out, so much the better.

Next up, we get a double-dose of Jordi Bernet, starting with JHv2#37, wherein Jonah has to contend with three female circus performers looking to get into the bounty-hunting business, and in JHv2#38, we learn that the sheriff Jonah delivered those mutilated outlaws to back in JHv2#26 (which apparently took place three years earlier) was turned out of office due to the townsfolk losing confidence in him that day.  Feeling that the bounty hunter is to blame, the man hunts down Hex to get revenge, during which time we learn their lives were more entangled than just that one encounter (and the sheriff isn’t as much of a victim as he implies).  Then Garres comes back again for JHv2#39, as Jonah helps a reluctant lawman take down three escaped convicts (and later prevents a beloved saloon from being shut down by temperance folk).

Artist David Michael Beck -- who’d previously done the pair of Hex/El Diablo team-ups -- is on hand for the two-parter in Jonah Hex (vol.2 ) #40 & 41 (cover-dated April-May 2009), which takes place in 1879.  Jonah is put on the trail of a man believed to have killed seventeen young girls in a gruesome manner -- when the details are given, Jonah finds a note of familiarity in them.  He recalls stories he heard during the Civil War about a doctor from Louisiana -- William Zimmerman, known to many as “Sawbones” -- who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and performing medical experiments upon Yankee prisoners.  The man had learned “hoodoo magic” from some slaves proficient in it, and used the War as an excuse to partake in the dark arts.  Despite this reputation, Jonah takes on the job, but a month later, as he closes in on his quarry, he’s accidentally shot in the chest when mistaken for a member of an outlaw gang.  When Jonah wakes up, he discovers himself bound hand and foot, with Sawbones standing before him.  The good doctor knows who Hex is and why he’s in town.  “It’s a true crime that I so rarely get to speak freely with my own kind,” Sawbones says as he begins to go to work on the soles of Jonah’s bare feet, slashing them with a knife, then cauterizing the wounds shut, over and over again.


After a while, Sawbones leaves to go fetch some of his disciples, and Jonah uses the opportunity to free himself, repeatedly slamming his back against the support pole he’s tied to until the wood snaps.  Exhausted and feverish from both the effort and the infection setting into his chest wound, Jonah staggers on bloodied feet out of Sawbones’s lair and into the night, eventually collapsing into a stream when he pauses for water.  The issue ends with his semi-conscious form being found around dawn by none other than Tallulah Black, whom we haven’t seen since they parted ways in JHv2#17.

The next issue opens two weeks later with Jonah waking up screaming from a nightmare, wherein Sawbones was taking Tallulah apart one organ at a time.  Fortunately, Tallulah is just fine, and has been tending to Jonah’s wounds with both bandages and “Mr. Chow’s special deliveries” (presumably opium-laced cigarettes, knowing of Tallulah’s previous experience with the drug).  Jonah has told Tallulah nothing about how he came to be in such a state, nor does he want her hanging around, but she feels indebted to him and refuses to leave (there’s also the fact that they still fancy each other a bit -- “Just holler if I break anything important,” Tallulah says as she pulls off her shirt and climbs into bed with him).  Four days later, Jonah feels well enough to leave the hotel they’ve been holed up in, and Tallulah has managed to ferret out where Sawbones is now.  Apparently, Jonah did fess up about what happened to him, but he still doesn’t want Tallulah to help out.  He’s faced people as depraved as Sawbones before, and he’s never shied away from doing some rather gruesome stuff to folks what deserved it, yet going by the nightmares, Jonah is genuinely afraid of Tallulah falling victim to this mad doctor.  Keep in mind that one of Jonah’s first loves -- Cassie Wainwright -- was tortured to death, so perhaps his feelings towards Tallulah combined with this situation are dredging up those dreadful memories.

Whatever the reason, Jonah does go after Sawbones alone...and nearly gets captured again when one of the doctor’s disciples bushwhacks him.  Lucky for Hex, Tallulah decided to ignore his warning to stay away, and together they eliminate all of the disciples, then strap Sawbones to his own operating table so Jonah can extract a bit of justice for all those girls the doctor killed.  “Ah like fire.  Always have,” the bounty hunter says as he pours a literal bucket of blood into the doctor’s open mouth.  “There’s somethin’ ‘bout it that brings a smile ta muh face.”  He then takes a lit kerosene lantern and smashes it over Sawbone’s head, making for an exaggerated variation of the “bleed and cauterize” torture Sawbones had inflicted upon Jonah.  Tallulah makes a wry comment about it smelling like a barbecue as Jonah repeats the procedure upon the doctor, followed by an admission that “Watchin’ you work makes my blood hot.”

Despite his initial reluctance to let her help, it’s plain to see that Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black are perfect for each other.  Palmiotti & Gray made the right decision two years earlier when they let her survive in her debut tale, and Jonah's world is all the better for it.  In less than a year, however, their relationship will be tested in ways that no one should ever have to endure.


<< Part 16   |   Index   |   Part 18 (coming 2020)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Pardon our dust...


The next installment of "An Illustrated History of Jonah Hex" will be going up this Friday, and in anticipation of that, I finally took care of something I should've done months ago: I upgraded my Photobucket account.  It didn't occur to me until recently that the site had been blurring my external image links, so to fix that, I had to start actually paying for the service instead of mooching like I've been for well over a decade.  The downside of this (other than the annual fee) is I'll have to update every single old link that leads to Phototbucket.  As you can imagine, this'll take a little time.  The newest entry will be fine and dandy, though, it's just the previous 16 plus the two appendices that need updating.  So if you're perusing one of those and find a blurry link, try going directly to my Photobucket account instead to view the image.

Okay, that's all for now.  See ya on Friday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

150 down, 50 to go!

Despite having to cancel a couple of appearances back in May, I did manage to sell enough copies of Swords & Sixguns: An Outlaw's Tale over the course of this year to finally hit the 150 mark.  As you may recall, I've talked about 200 being the "friends and family" number, meaning that -- for the average author -- if you can sell more than 200 copies, you've managed to sell to more than just folks that know you personally.  So I'm doing well in that regard.  My only concern is how much the sales have slowed down: before the first year had passed, I'd sold 100 copies, but it's taken close to two years to sell another 50.  So I'll be changing things up a little next year, with a different display at cons and some eye-catching items added.  Book 2 is still in progress (other projects have taken up my time, along with some personal stuff), and I'm hoping that, once it's out there on my table alongside Book 1, sales overall will jump up a bit.

Speaking of cons, I've already bought my table for next year's Bluewater International Comic-Con, plus I'll be part of a little pre-Black Friday event over at Paperback Writer Books in Mt. Clemens next month on November 22nd (they're the fine folks that let me sell my wares during the Made in Michigan Festival every year).  Keep an eye on my Facebook page for more info on that.  And as always, if'n ya want to help me out by spreading the word about Swords & Sixguns, I'd be much obliged.  We're nearly three years into this gig now, and I don't plan on quitting anytime soon!