Friday, October 05, 2007

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Jonah Hex Spectactular

OK - the full title is DC Special Series #16: Jonah Hex Spectacular but I know enough about marketing to understand that too many words spoil the title. Western comics were well on their way out in the late 70s, but this great book made sure that they went out in with a bang. This one is pretty much designed to be great. I don’t know how commercially successful the DC Dollar Comics experiment was in the long run, but they certainly produced some great books.

Before Elseworlds, before Armageddon 2001, before Dark Knight we start off with a wonderfully twisted tale ("The Last Bounty Hunter"), which explores Jonah Hex’s last days on Earth. We are at the turn of the century and Jonah is an old man struggling to adjust to the modern world. It’s a very strong story by Michael Fleisher with a rather ghoulish ending. What really made me fall in love with the story, however, was the Russ Heath artwork. It is simply gorgeous. I am sure that this story was fairly controversial back in the day as readers saw the future demise of a current, successful character. To me, it makes perfect sense. Jonah’s future is actually 1904 so readers in the late 70s should bloody well know that he wasn’t gonna live to celebrate the Bicentennial.

There are two other stories that round out this book. A strong Bat Lash tale, with our good friend Mr. Lash exploring the underbelly of late 19th Century San Francisco. It’s a strong and entertaining tale by O’Neill and Moliterni. The Scalphunter story is the only relatively weak spot in this book. It’s a fairly simple paint by numbers recounting of his early days with his tribe. I’ve always been intrigued by the Scalphunter character and have been looking for the definitive Scalphunter tale – this isn’t it. This last story prevents this from being a perfect comic – but it’s still a Single Issue Hall of Famer.


-Keller said...

I still remember the amazing Heath art on this one!

Izbot said...

An all-time favorite. Incidentally, the final fate of Jonah Hex as presented in this story (SPOILER ALERT) was inspired by a true story that was still recent news when the comic was published. Apparently an old amusement park in California (I think) noticed an old cowboy 'dummy' in it's spook house had broken its arm -- revealing human bones inside! After some research it was discovered the 'dummy' was in fact the mummified remains of a small-time turn-of-the-century gunfighter. The body was displayed to the curious after the gunfighter had been himself gunned down and eventually ended up in the spook house even though his origins had been forgotten.