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How Jonah Hex’s Creation Was Inspired by…a Medical Chart?

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover the surprising role that a medical chart played in the creation of Jonah Hex!

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover the surprising role that a medical chart played in the creation of Jonah Hex!

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and forty-third installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.

NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I’ll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!

Tony DeZuniga was inspired by a medical chart to design the iconic western comic book character, Jonah Hex.

True

In late 1971, a new issue of All-Star Western was released, #10, teasing a new character, Jonah Hex…

Check out the opening page of the story (by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga), as Hex’s face is obscured (as it is throughout most of the story)…

The fascinating thing is that, as you can see, Jonah Hex’s hook is the mystery of what he looks like, and yet in a house ad released weeks before All-Star Western #10 came out, the house ad sort of reveals the secret, right?

But it did so in a strange way that didn’t EXPLICITLY reveal the secret. It is such an odd ad. Why in the world would you play something like that down the middle, not hiding the secret but also not COMPLETELY revealing it, either? It reminds me of the debate about whether to give too much information about a movie in the trailer (it appears that people really DO want the trailer to give away a lot of the plot of the movie before they watch it), but this seems to please NEITHER side of that debate! There’s a smaller version of this same ad that is condensed to a half page that I think is even MORE clear with regards to Hex’s deformity.

In any event, eventually Hex reveals his face clearly, and it is a shocking sight to see…

Fans were delighted at the new character, and he eventually received his own series and has remained a popular DC character ever since (even starring in his own major motion picture over a decade ago).

The fascinating thing about the now iconic design, though, is that it came from the most unusual source of inspiration…a medical chart!

RELATED: Which Extremely Obscure Marvel Superhero Nearly Had His Own Cartoon Series?

The always informative Bryan Stroud interviewed Tony DeZuniga before the classic artist passed away and DeZuniga discussed his love of westerns in terms of how he did a lot of different work for DC, but he was most interested in westerns,” I did tons of things. I did romance until it was coming out of my ears. But I loved westerns. You know I was a little boy and we had no cowboys in the islands. (Chuckle.) So, we’re watching John Wayne movies and oh, man, I love westerns. Even to this day. I would still enjoy creating a western character or drawing scenes of western stories. I still enjoy it, because when the spaghetti westerns came along; when Sergio Leone started doing westerns, oh, my God, they changed the whole concept of westerns. Before comic book westerns, like the Rawhide Kid, you showed these guys shooting the guns out of the bad guys’ hands, when me and [John] Albano were doing Jonah Hex, I designed the character. Albano said, “Ah, perfect. I like that. An anti-hero type western. No more shooting guns out of the bad guy’s hands. He’s shooting down the bad guy himself. No more guns like that.” I thought, “Great! Okay.” That was when Jonah Hex became an anti-hero and a popular comic book character.”

DeZuniga then revealed a shocking story of how he came to design Jonah Hex…

RELATED: Why Did the Beast Join the Avengers?

He explained:

When Carmine was asking me during the time period when everything was “weird;” Weird War, Weird this, Weird that, Weird Western Tales; everything was weird. When Carmine asked me if I’d thought about the character, I kept telling him “yes,” because Albano told me, “Don’t ever tell Carmine ‘not yet,’ because he’s gonna nag you. Just always tell him, ‘Yeah, I’ve got it.’” But actually, I really don’t have any idea at all yet. No idea. But it’s “weird.” The title of the book was “Weird Western.” And then one day I have to go to my doctor and I went in there and you know how doctor’s offices are. They have anatomy charts that show half of the body in all muscles or bones. So it’s hanging up there and I got the idea. “Look at this. This is my guy. Half is face is blown up almost and half is normal.” (Chuckle.) So when I decided on that, Carmine just loved it. I actually didn’t have any idea at all until I went to my doctor’s office.

I don’t know what kind of chart that DeZuniga was referring to specifically, but I assume it was something along the lines of these sorts of things…

It really is amazing how a certain creative mind can look at something that people see every day and suddenly something will click in their minds and they’ll be inspired to do something amazing with it…

Thanks so much to Bryan Stroud and the late, great Tony DeZuniga for that awesome story of inspiration.

Check out some entertainment legends from Legends Revealed:

1. Did Cameron Crowe Use “Kashmir” in Fast Times at Ridgemont High Even Though it Didn’t Fit the Script?

2. Did MTV Cancel the Reality Show Fear Because a Contestant Died During the Filming of the Series?

3. Did Michael Bay Really Apologize for Armageddon?

4. Was a Shakespeare Expert Really Called in to Rule on the Genital Authenticity of a Statue of a Character from a Shakespeare Play?

Check back soon for part 2 of this installment’s legends!

Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed).

He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo.

He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References.

Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you’d like to see featured at brianc@cbr.com!

SOME OTHER ENTERTAINMENT LEGENDS!

PART TWO SOON!

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