With Jonah Hex on Legends of Tomorrow it’s clear that the series is dedicating itself to using the time travel motif for good rather than evil.
Last week it was announced that Jonah Hex would be joining Legends of Tomorrow for an episode set in the Old West. Hex is a popular character in the DC Universe and his inclusion bodes well for that particular episode of Legends of Tomorrow.
Admittedly, Heatwave and Captain Cold seem to have the grumpy, morally ambiguous shtick covered for the central Legends team, but it’s safe to say that no one does grumpy (or morally ambiguous) like a Wild West bounty hunter.
Traditional Western Values
As far as origins go, Jonah Hex is a rather simple character. He was a confederate soldier in the American Civil War, and while that sounds horrifying, it was admittedly just the go-to backstory for the leads in Westerns in the 1970s (when Jonah Hex made his debut).
Just to make sure his story leaves him on the positive end of history (and allow him to be worthy of being a “DC Hero”) Jonah’s morality makes it hard for him to fight against the abolitionists of the North, leading him to surrender to Union forces. As the DC Wikia states: “Jonah Hex goes down in Southern history as a turncoat and a traitor,” which, given the context, is a positive achievement for the hero.
Additionally, Jonah Hex’s origin involves being sold into slavery by his drunkard father to an Apache tribe at the age of 13. “Trained by Apache” is the given reason for most of Jonah’s skills and proficiencies, which list as:
It was when Jonah returned to his tribe as an adult that he was faced with opposition, receiving his signature Mark of the Demon. In practice the mark looks as though half of his face was burned off. This portion of the backstory really screams of “Cowboys vs. Savages” so let’s not linger…
Time Travel Opens the Door
Legends of Tomorrow as a series is entirely rooted in Time Travel (brace yourselves for “Where are we?” “NO When are we” jokes), so it’s not hard to extrapolate how Jonah Hex will easily fit into the show. As Executive producer Marc Guggenheim said:
Ever since we decided that Legends would involve time travel, we were eager to do a story set in the Old West. But if you’re going to do a story set in the DC Universe version of the Old West, you simply must include Jonah Hex in it. We’re thrilled about bringing another well-known, beloved DC character to Television.
That not only confirmed Jonah Hex’s appearance on the show but the fact that there would be an Old West episode. Personally, that comes as incredibly exciting news. Time Travel as a motif and plot device can sometimes become a bit of a drag, and Legends of Tomorrow is, of course, completely at the mercy of its time travel plot. But the news that the show will use their Time Ship (the Wave Rider) to travel back to the Wild West bodes well for how much the series will focus on fun.
Already, we know at least one character carries a revolver. It’s Rip Hunter and technically it’s a laser pistol, I believe, but nonetheless the western aesthetic is already in place. It would be pretty exciting to see Rip Hunter shoot up a saloon with a laser revolver while the mustachioed cowboys’ jaws drop. Furthermore, sending modern heroes to the Wild West is always a recipe for comedic antics as they try to fit in and (presumably, hopefully) fail.
While “they travel back to the Old West” is enough to warrant bringing Jonah Hex into the series, it will take more to make it worthwhile. It will be interesting to see how the series incorporates Jonah into the story. I would predict something reasonably serious will have to go down in order to bring DC’s signature gun slinger into the fold. If I can pitch my own theory briefly, it would be delightful to see one of the Legends look exactly like someone in a wanted poster that Hex just happens to be tracking.
Misfits / Legends
Jonah Hex is the traditional grumpy Cowboy archetype, well versed in grumbling angrily and drinking rather than feeling emotions. Furthermore, Hex is a bounty hunter, which, in traditional Western rules means he’s less a “hero” and more and “anti-hero.” This all sounds a little familiar…
Jonah Hex fits right in to the central theme of this series. All of the Legends are either misfits, has-beens, or straight up criminals, so Jonah the grumbling outlaw would be right at home. It could even follow that Jonah might start as an antagonist for the Legends of Tomorrow.
In the words of Jonah Hex’s creator John Albano:
He was a hero to some, a villain to others… and wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was death itself… the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.
Jonah’s particular disposition and dark backstory could lead him to clash with the central heroes of the series, at least at first before everyone realizes they are on the same team.
Who will Play the Marked Marksman?
Originally, this section was going to be a thorough speculation of who might play the Bounty Hunter, but less than an hour ago the news came in: Jonah Hex has been cast!
Ray Donavan actor Johnathon Schaech is set to bring the role to life on the small screen. Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of Schaech’s work, but he certainly has the look (i.e. Cute/Handsome but in a “maybe a little scary too” way). The report on Variety comes with a brief description mentioning Hex’s surprising familiarity with time travel himself. That of course fits with some of the character’s history in the comics, especially surrounding the DC mega-event Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Now that Hex has been cast it all feels so real and so exciting! There is a long history of Jonah Hex that the show can work from, and also a great deal of Cowboy tropes as well. It’s hard to know yet exactly what we will see of Jonah on Legends of Tomorrow but it promises to be worth our while.