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ISSUE NO. 819
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DC's Golden Age western comic book, All-Star Western, had a long and successful 62-issue run, from April-May 1951 to June-July 1961. The title was revived in 1970, featuring new western characters such as Outlaw and El Diablo.

But these newcomers never really clicked, and despite the top-notch talent creating the book, the constant merry-go-round of ever-changing, little-known characters confused and disappointed readers, and sales flagged. The title seemed to be headed straight for boot hill.

So, editor Joe Orlando began looking for ways to save the title. The letters page in All-Star Western #7 ended with Orlando making a direct appeal to readers to help rescue the book...

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But no massive letter-writing campaign materialized, and the comic was about to be cancelled when it suddenly got a last-minute reprieve. In these days, cancellation was a slow process, and, for production and other reasons, discontinued books often got several issues out after the axe fell. All-Star Western was one of them.

Just three issues after Orlando's dire warning, the book's 10th issue featured yet another attempt to create a popular new western character to carry the title. His name was JONAH HEX.And with the debut of Mr. Hex, a gunslinger in the "spagetti western" genre, a star was born.

Pictured below is the original art for Jonah's first house ad, followed by the published piece. The ad was done before the actual story was completed and, as we pointed out in DBB #551, Jonah's face is far more disfigured in this ad than it ever was in any story. Here; he looks monsterous! Apparently, the new chracter's look was softened considerably before it actually became final.

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BELOW: The printed ad.
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Accoring to editor Joe Orlando, "Jonah Hex was created by John Albano and myself, and the artistic creation of the character was a combination of our talents and Tony DeZuniga's."

When Jonah got his own ongoing series, Michael Fleisher (writer of the gory Jim Aparo Spectre series) became the character's regular writer.
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As Orlando recalls, "John Albano came up with the story, and I contributed the character as it went on. It's an old idea -- Jeykll and Hyde, Two-Face, a very tried and true concept. John and I had rules about Jonah Hex. You were only supposed to see his face when he was terorizing somebody. Ordinarily he would look like a handsome, normal cowboy. But people took it over who did not understand that premise, and Hex went around looking like the Phantom of the Opera all the time.

Remember that first story, "Welcome to Paradise"? That was influened by "Shane," and you couldn't get across that love story with the ugly side of the face -- it's always in the shadow in that story. It's a visual representation of Cain and Able (the Biblical brothers, not the hosts of DC's mystery books), of what we all are. We have our good side and our bad side."

BELOW: All-Star Western #10 (March 1972), Jonah's first appearance.
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BELOW: DC's color guides for Jonah's first splash page and selected panels from Jonah's debut story. Each color guide is followed by the printed piece, revealing the huge difference between what was intended and what was printed. The numbers written over the art are coloring instructions. For example, Y2 means "yellow 20 percent").
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But this wasn't THE END -- because the saga of Jonah Hex was just beginning! He would go on to star in All-Star Western #11, the last issue of the series, cover by Tony DeZuniga pictured below.
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A Hex page from the book's lead story...
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The title was cancelled, but All-Star Western had not ridden out of town yet. DC continued it with another name. DC had noticed that inserting the word WEIRD into their title made them sell more, so they kind of went of a WEIRD binge, with Weird War, Weird Worlds, Weird Mystery. So, when it came time to develop a new title for All-star Western, they simply stuck the word WEIRD in the title, changing it to Weird Western Tales.

The book continued under this name with Jonah Hex as its star from June-July 1972 to August 1980, when it was cancelled with issue #70.

The writer of Jonah's ongoing series was Michael Fleisher, famous for his grisly Spectre stories. Fleisher once said that, "My work on Jonah Hex was indisputably my best work, and The Last Bounty Hunter was probably my most path-breaking story. For me, the experience of writing Jonah Hex was always close to magical."

BELOW:
This ad for Michael Fleisher's novel, Chasing Hairy, shows Jonah Hex reading the novel, with some of he characters the author worked on at DC looking over his shoulder.
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We conclude thi issue with a brief film clip featuring the artist Tony DeZuniga, discussing how he came up with the visua image of Jonah Hex. DeZuniga doesn't speak much English, but a translation of what he's saying has been added at the bottom of the screen.
VIDEO (one minute, 50 seconds)
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Our rundown of Robby's favorite Jonah Hex stories
begins with "Violence at Vera Cruz!
"
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