As part of our Christian worldview series on Superheroes and the Comics, in this post we will look at Jonah Hex and reflect on the topic of masculinity.
Jonah Hex Classic Tales: Welcome to Paradise
Various. Jonah Hex Classic Tales: Welcome to Paradise. New York, NY: DC Comics, May 11th 2010. 168 pp.
This volume collects some of the 1970s issues on Jonah Hex, a bounty hunter operating in the old Wild West. There are various short stories of Hex’ adventures. This was the first comics about Jonah Hex and I was surprised that I really enjoyed them since I’ve never been a guy for anything Western. I like how each story is self-contained and you don’t need to know a whole lot from other issues in order to get what’s going on. I think I also liked the story of Jonah Hex as a manly gunslinger. Taking place in the 1800s when the West was far from tame, Jonah Hex must be a tough man to survive and capture the guys who are wanted.
Jonah Hex, Vol. 1: Face Full of Violence
Justin Gray. Jonah Hex, Vol. 1: Face Full of Violence. New York, NY: DC Comics, September 6th, 2006. 144 pp.
As a result of reading Jonah Hex Classic Tales: Welcome to Paradise I was drawn into the story of Jonah Hex and decided to purchase this new retelling of this character. Here we see a manly man working in the Wild West as a bounty hunter who is recognized by others with his scarred half-face. The drawings are a bit different than the old 70s issues and at times I thought Jonah Hex looked like Clint Eastwood (not sure if it was intentional or not). But I was surprised with the continuity of the character Jonah Hex even after all these decades of him being a tough politically incorrect gunslinger who has the habit of being close to death many a times and doesn’t like to talk much. Against the grain of our society today, Jonah Hex isn’t going to say sorry for being a man. This volumes had some enjoyable short stories and some interesting twists and turns.
Christian Reflection of both volumes on Jonah Hex:
With our cultural mores changing so much the last few decades I’m surprised at how constant this character Jonah Hex is after all this time. I don’t know how popular Jonah Hex is but I can imagine part of the reasons why some people might like the comics with Jonah Hex is that he’s a cowboy’s cowboy with that raw rugged many individualism we often imagine Western cowboys are like. While Jonah Hex is a contrast to the emasculated masculinity that we see in today’s cultures and a breath of fresh air in the sense that he’s not politically correct for the sake of the opinions of others, we must also note that Jonah Hex is not necessarily reflecting a biblical image of masculinity either. For instance, we often see in Westerns the idea of a man’s man must be silent and speak little. But a godly man as a father should be involved with his children’s life in a way where he should be talking in order to instruct. Scripture does talk about the wisdom of at times to be silent but there’s a time not to as well. Biblical masculinity is not the same thing with being rude, something we see in Jonah Hex. Violence by the way is not the same thing as masculinity. Sure as a man that involves at times the application of violence for self-defense and duty (in one’s appropriate office) but just because one is violent doesn’t mean they are being manly in a Godly way. It is interesting to see the contrast with Jonah Hex and today’s model of what is masculine and then compare both with what Scripture has to say.
All Star Western, Vol. 1: Guns and Gotham
Justin Gray. All Star Western, Vol. 1: Guns and Gotham. New York, NY: DC Comics, November 6th, 2012. 192 pp.
This is a story of Jonah Hex entering 1880s’ Gotham City (the city where Batman is from). He meets Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology who becomes his sidekick of sorts (largely because Arkham doesn’t go away). It is interesting to see the characters that is part of the history of Batman’s world. Arkham of course is later the namesake to the mental asylum in the future days of Batman. You also meet Bruce Wayne’s grandfather in the story! Jonah Hex is a Wild West Bounty Hunter and he poses a big juxtaposition with the urban life of the late 1800s. Taking on a case involving a serial killer we also see two looming secret societies are work in competition with one another. And both groups want Hex and Arkham not to interfere with their affairs. I like the story for the contrast of the two main characters. They are so different. One is booksmart doctor who psycho-analyzes everything. The other is a cynical common sense man who many an instance just doesn’t care. Arkham talks too much while Hex doesn’t talk unless he has to and wants Arkham to keep quiet (to put it nicely). This unlikely duo also run into other questionable characters throughout the book. The most interesting part of the story is the background it provides to Old Gotham and it’s secret society called the Court of Owls.
We often think of men of the Wild West as a bit untamed and therefore prone to being sinful. But here we see that even in urban life the taint of sin and depravity. While Jonah Hex is a contrast to the dignified upper class elites of Gotham in their formal wear and polite speeches, we see also that under the surface there also lies the hideous sinful nature that is capable of envy, murder and jealousy. Sin is everywhere. We see that as tough talking as Jonah Hex is, he’s not totally apathetic to ethics. He’s not a maniac like the serial killer that he’s after, even though Jonah does seem to enjoy the action that comes from being a bounty hunter. God’s law must be our guide for our action and also our motivation for those actions. As much as Jonah Hex can be cynical in light of his experience with the Confederate Army during the Civil War, he’s still very much a soldier at heart in my opinion. And that involves a set of morality that is absolute and a compass for one’s action that obligates one’s responsibility even when it is goes against one’s self-interest of preservation. And after all is said and done responsibility is the true mark of manhood.