Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snownah Hex

Glory was at a slumber party last night, so when we picked her up after church, she was happy that Fenya had brought her a gingerbread snowman from this morning's activity. When she brought it into the house Fenya said, "Sorry Glory, but your snowman turned out looking like Jonah Hex."

Now, I knew his eyes were a little lopsided, but I thought it unlikely that the mouth shared Hex's disfigured grimace as well, but as I peered over, darned if I couldn't make out the resemblance! (Technically I guess it is a mirror image, but still, for happenstance it's pretty close, I thought.)

"Don't you think so too Mama?" Fenya asked, but Audrey just looked bewildered.

"Your mother doesn't know who that is sweetie." I explained. "Aww," said Fenya.

I took a lot away from this tiny (and surprisingly typical) exchange:

  1. The accuracy and perception of Fenya's characterization.
  2. The charming juxtaposition of a jolly confectionery snowman and a disfigured, macabre comic book bounty hunter.
  3. The fact that my eldest could end up being a pop culture monster, if only we paid more attention to the things that are popular now.
  4. Her sadness that her mother neither recognized nor appreciated the reference.
It's unfortunate to me that from a reference standpoint, far more people will now recognize this character from the recent (and apparently lacklustre) movie, as opposed to his true origins in DC Comics.
As a kid, I had a number of comic digests featuring the adventures of Jonah Hex, a cunning, ruthless and horribly disfigured bounty hunter. His adventures in post-Civil War America started out heavily inspired by the recent 'spaghetti westerns' of the time, eschewing the matinee idol looks of previous comic book cowboys like the Rawhide Kid in favour of an unshaven anti-hero, similar to Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name.

Jonah Hex was fast on the draw, and a deadly shot with either his twin Dragoons or a repeating Winchester, but his most deadly weapon was clearly his mind and both his tactical and strategic savvy. Any time you saw some owlhoot draw down on Hhex's silhouette and pull the trigger, long time readers would chuckle to themselves, knowing this rube had actually just shot a comrade that Hex had tied into his saddle and dressed in his battered old Confederate army jacket (although, even as a young man, I wondered how he kept finding tailors to wash out the blood and patch the numerous bullet holes...).

My favourite though, was how an adversary in a saloon might get the drop on Hex's back, only to have him turn around while lighting a stick of dynamite from his cigar. The TNT would be revealed to be a dud of some fashion, but only after Jonah used the momentary surprise to draw and fire, which would usually result in more bounty income.

Being a comic book, Jonah Hex could venture into stories that western movie and TV shows were unlikely to touch, like the one where he allies himself with a Meiji period samurai looking for his daughter. This may be the high water mark for me in terms of the number of fanboy elements hit; comic/western/history/samurai has probably only ever been trumped by the Kung-fu/action/comedy/romance/monster movie/ghost story Big Trouble In Little China.

Later on, as interest in comic book westerns waned, Hex saw himself reinvented; first, as a time traveling, post apocalyptic warrior (of which, the less said, the better), and later on as a western bounty hunter again, but in tales full of supernatural overtones. Most recently, as part of DC Comics universal reboot, Jonah Hex has teamed with Gotham City psychologist Amadeus Arkham (founder and eventual inhabitant of the infamous Arkham Asylum in the Batman comics), grappling with ruthless and depraved secret societies as he tracks a trio of murderous brothers from the plains to this strange city.

Sadly, I no longer have my trove of Jonah Hex digests, so Fenya mostly knows The character from his guest appearances in the DC Animated Universe, which makes it surprising that she would so quickly envision his visage on what would appear to most of us to be a fairly cheery snowman cookie. Still, even a ruthless and deformed western anti-hero can have a role to play during the holidays, wouldn't you think?

Uh, those boots in the corner of the cover notwithstanding, that is.

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