Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, January 30, 2015


Jonah Hex:  Riders of the Worm and Such by Joe R. Lansdale (1995)

If your only familiarity with Jonah Hex is from the 2010 botched movie, you just don't know Jonah Hex.  If your only familiarity with the comic book Jonah Hex is the character created by John Albano and continued by Michael Fleisher, then you don't know Joe R. Lansdale's Jonah Hex.

Although Jonah Hex had appeared in 27 issues of Weird Western Tales, there was nothing supernatural or weird in the early stories, except for the appearance of the character -- the right side  of Hex's face was hideously deformed.  Even though there was no hint of the weird, the series felt weird.  The series itself (IMHO) jumped the shark by having Hex taken to the future several times, teaming up with various DC heroes for mega-battles.

Then along came Lansdale, who put his own special mojo on the character.  If Jonah Hex felt weird, why not make it weird?  And few people do weird better than Lansdale.

Teaming up with artists Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman, Lansdale wrote the five-comic book series Jonah Hex:  Two-Gun Mojo, in which every one's favorite deformed bounty hunter/gunslinger goes up against zombies.  Then came the five-comic book series Jonah Hex:  Riders of the Worm and Such, discussed below.  Lansdale, Truman and Glanzman's final outing with the character came in a three-comic book series Jonah Hex:  Shadows West, in which he encounters Spirit Bears.

In Riders of the Worm, we find the bounty hunter with a bounty on his own head.  Hoping to cash in, a gang of six thugs have tortured and killed a couple who had provided Hex with shelter and then had headed toward the barn where Hex was hiding.  The thugs didn't realize that Hex was hiding under  a pile of dung and each met their end by a rather odiferous Jonah Hex.  Wounded, Hex rides off and eventually passes out.  He's found by and treated by a couple of saddle tramps (one of whom is Billy the Kid) who bind up his wounds.  The three take refuge in an abandoned shack.  Something with a lot of tentacles starts to come out of the ground, rips the heads off all three horses and sucks out their guts, and then it kills one of the saddle tramps, leaving Jonah Hex and Billy the Kid to wonder WTF.
In the morning, the two pick up their saddles and begin to trek across the empty countryside, where eventually the come across the bodies of many cattle with their heads torn off and their guts sucked out.

There's a Cthulhu-type monster, a forgotten race of once-intelligent worm-beings, brutish hybrid worm-men, an English expatriate running a ranch of resentful singing cowboys, a speeding underground armored truck, lots of violence, lots of gore, lots of language that would not approved in any church that I know of, and some great story-telling in the best East Texas tradition.

(This series caused musicians Johnny and Edgar Winter to file a defamation of character suit against DC comics and the series creators because two of the more disgusting characters resembled them.  They lost the case, but the publicity certainly helped the series.)

The original graphic novel reprinting the series is pretty hard to get.  Luckily, Vertigo reprinted the graphic novel and Lansdale's two other Jonah Hex series in an omnibus volume last year, Jonah Hex:  Shadows West.

Lansdale may not be everyone's cup of tea and graphic novels are not everyone's favorite, but Lansdale remains one of the most original, innovative, and readable authors in any genre.  Recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Good news about the omnibus. I lost a lot of my comix from that time.