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Jonah Hex

DC Direct
by yo go re

In 1956, DC Comics started a series called Showcase to give new characters a test run, to see if they were popular enough to warrant their own ongoing series. It's where the Silver Age was born, for instance, when The Flash premiered in #4. In 2005, DC resurrected the name for a series of low-cost repint tpbs under the name Showcase Presents, and in 2008, DC Direct applied that same name to a series of figures.

One of comics' most famous Western warriors, Jonah Hex's gunslinging expertise was often based on the art of Tony DeZuniga.

Since his stories all take place in the past, Jonah Hex has an advantage most comic characters don't: a lot of the events in his life have set dates. Hex was born November 1, 1838, the son of a drunkard who sold the boy to Apaches in exchange for some pelts in July of 1851. At 15, he saved the tribe's chief from a puma, and the chief declared Jonah his second son. This pissed off Son #1, Noh-Tante, who ambushed Jonah and left him for dead at a rival Indian village in 1854, etc. Compare that to DC's policy for their superhero comics, where Superman became publicly active "10 years ago." You know, it's been more than 10 years since I first heard that explanation, which therefore means DC came up with it before Superman even showed up.

Jonah was sculpted by Karen Palinko, and he looks great. His gray jacket (yes, he fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War) has a pitted texture that makes it look like old cloth, and of course the wrinkles on his coat, pants and boots are all realistic - would we expect any less? The spurs on his boots don't spin, of course, but they're not so flimsy that you'll have to worry about them snapping off if you touch them at all. He's strapped with a gunbelt that has a working holster, and is sculpted with 28 bullets. 28? That's a weird number for him to carry. I know real gunfighters kept five bullets in their guns, not six (without the benefit of a safety, you kept the hammer on an empty chamber so the gun didn't fire by accident), but that still doesn't divide evenly.

The thing that makes this a Jonah Hex figure instead of a nameless cowboy figure is, of course, the face. In the early days, Jonah's face was never shown clearly, always hidden in shadow or what have you. The ads promoting his first appearance made him look like a werewolf or something. The scar is a result of Jonah going back to the Apache tribe (in 1866!) to tell them what Noh-Tante had done to him years before. Noh-Tante denied it, and the chief ordered trial by combat to decide the truth. Noh sabotaged Jonah's tomahawk so the handle would break, and Jonah pulled out his knife to save his life. For breaking the rules, the chief ordered Hex be given "the Mark of the Demon": a tomahawk was put in a fire until it was red hot, then pressed to the side of his face. He's not quite as disfigured as Two-Face, but the hideous scarring is definitely present. Our only complaint is that his right eye should be larger and rounder, but that may be due to familiarity mainly with his DCAU appearances.

Articulation is disappointingly standard for a DCD figure, with a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, peg hips, pin knees and swivel boots. There's no waist, even though it could have easily been hidden under his coat. The paint is quite nice, with shadows and highlights painted on his clothes, fine silver apps for the buckles, bullets and buttons, and a disturbingly raw pink for his disfigurement.

Hex's accessories include two revolvers and a removable cowboy hat. The hat is almost a must-have for the character, and it fits on snugly. The inside is smooth, not shaped to fit his hair or anything, so that makes it more realistic. You may wonder why he has two guns, but only one holster - simple, one gets tucked into his belt. Both hands are open slightly, so he can theoretically hold the guns, but neither index finger can fit into the trigger guard. Still, it's better than giving him guns and closed fists, right? The guns are decent approximations of his trademark Colt Dragoons.

Jonah comes with the standard "Showcase Presents" base, a translucent purple disc. The footpeg leaves him off-center if you use it - really off-center, not imaginary off-center. Although, if you twist him to the side and extend his right arm to point his gun, you can almost fake it. No worries, he'll stand fine on his own.

In addition to adventures set on specific dates, Jonah Hex got something else a lot of characters never did: an ending. Today, stories like Dark Knight Returns, Reign and Marvel's The End series are commonplace, but it wasn't always the case. In 1978, writer Michael Fleisher went to his editor (our old favorite, Larry Hama) with "The Last Bounty Hunter!" - a story that chronicled the final days of Jonah Hex. Back to those specific dates, again: Hex died in 1904, at the age of 66, shot while cleaning his glasses. His body was stuffed and put on display in a cheesy "Wild West" show, and that was the end of Jonah Hex. He didn't get better, he didn't get retconned, he just died and his body was mistreated. The stuffed corpse even showed up in Kingdom Come. Poor guy. It's a powerful story, and if you can track down the Jonah Hex Spectacular, it's worth it. But if you get this toy, you can write any ending for him you want.

-- 05/30/10

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