Interview: ‘Jonah Hex’ Comic Writer Jimmy Palmiotti

Josh Brolin led the charge into theaters this weekend as the famously scarred gunslinger Jonah Hex, a character with a long reaching comic backstory. The man behind his most excellent modern adventures is comic writer Jimmy Palmiotti, the scribe behind the current on-going series, the graphic novella Random Acts of Violence, and more than a handful of other great properties.

So first things first – read this interview.  Secondly, go buy some modern Jonah Hex books, they’re one of the few comics that still has me heading out to the comic shop on a regular basis.

What drew you to the character of Jonah Hex or what makes him interesting to you?

When I was a kid growing up in the 7o’s I was a big fan of non-superhero books and Jonah Hex was one of those cool characters that I collected. He wasn’t a clean cut cowboy with a heart of gold…he was a mess of a man trying to do the right thing in a weird and twisted way…and the visual of half of his face disfigured was just too cool. All the books had handsome leading men and Jonah was nothing like anything coming out at the time. The stories were wild, the art was beautiful and the back issues were easy to find…something any collector could relate to. The other thing that made a real impression on me early on was just how violent and raw these comics were. That really appealed to me as did the western genre overall since I loved western themed movies.

What was your involvement with movie?

Well, the new series inspired, and from what I was told, got the movie on the fast track at Warner brothers, but other than connecting with the producer Andy Lazar , our involvement was limited. We read a few scripts, visited the set and offered advice and background whenever needed. Sure, we would have loved a real part in the process, but we had our comic to do and they had their film. Maybe if they make another one they will give us a shot at the screenplay. Hey, I can dream. [Author’s Note: I’d love to see a Palmiotti scripted Hex]

Have you seen the film, have any thoughts on it?

I have just seen some clips and what they shot when we were on set, but like everyone else, I will be seeing it when it opens…Actually, I will be seeing a midnight showing the night before.  From what I can tell, they aimed the film at a broad audience and at the same time added a lot of visuals and scenes from the comic, which I think is pretty awesome. They even went as far as to name the Megan Fox character after a character we created for the new series called Tallulah Black, which we think is really cool of them. Honestly, we know it’s different than the book and that’s fine. We are looking forward to the film and can’t wait.

From what we’ve seen, this Jonah Hex is a good deal more supernatural than the one you write – for better or for worse?

Again, I think on some level the studio was going for summer blockbuster and decided to add elements to the story that would appeal to a film going audience. It’s not what I would have done, but we shall see what happens when it’s released. We do have some supernatural elements from time to time, but we never gave Jonah the power to speak to the dead. That is something the studio came up with.

Josh Brolin seems like a great choice, but when writing Hex, was there an actor, character, or model you had in mind?

No… There is never an actor we have in mind. To us, Jonah is Jonah…not someone pretending to be him. We write his dialogue and figure out how he would deal with something because we live and breath this character daily. Justin and I really hear his own voice when we work. As far as Josh playing Jonah, they couldn’t have picked a better actor for the part. We think he is brilliant.

Is Hex a bad person or just a guy who does bad things to mostly bad people?

He is at times, [a] confused and slightly insane character that does things to bad people and at times to himself. There is nothing simple about Jonah and as to why he is this way, we cover a lot of the time with flashbacks to his childhood and how his father mistreated him. It always goes back to the parents, doesn’t it?

The Hex comics aren’t without humor, but they seem more serious than the upcoming film. What do you make of the lighter tone of the movie?

I think they are aiming for entertainment value first…they are giving the viewer a roller coaster of a ride in the film and with the book, we jump between extremely serious to playful to downright insane and we can do that because we are familiar with the audience of the title and vice versa. We have a lot of freedom with the character that the studio doesn’t…As well, we have none of the pressures. Our comic comes out the first week of the month for the last 56 months…they have one shot to make the movie work.

We’ve seen in the past that Hex ultimately meets an undignified end – stuffed and on display in a museum – does your Hex fit into this course of history, or does he perhaps find some dignity in death many, many years from now?

Some might hate me saying this, but I feel that story was one man’s idea how Jonah comes to the end of his life…and it was entertaining as hell.  We have a completely different end for him planned and will not pull that specific trigger until the day we are told not to write any more stories. We hope this never comes honestly.

You’re currently listed as a writer for Deadspace in 2011. Can you reveal the status of this film? Any details on the story?

Don’t believe IMDb. They don’t list 4 other credits of mine in film…and then list me as being involved in a project that I have nothing to do with. Justin and I wrote the first Deadspace animated film a couple of years ago for the Starz channel and EA games.

You recently wrote “Random Acts of Violence,” a graphic novella. Any plans to continue this storyline? Expand into more horror stories?

We told the story we wanted to tell in that original graphic novel and we have moved on to another project called TIME BOMB at Radical comics that is a mixture of sci-fi, drama and war story. As far as horror, we have another graphic novel coming at the end of the year called THE TATTERED MAN and it’s about a spirit of vengeance that originated in a concentration camp during World War 2.

We always experiment with different genres and that said, we have a time traveling western as well in the works. If anyone needs to ask me anything else about these projects, they can hit me up on Twitter at @jpalmiotti. As well, if you go to, you can download our other titles like THE RESISTANCE, and in the future we will be doing more with the site. We are looking into every way we can to get our stories and characters out to the public.

Any other upcoming movie projects?  Comic projects?

We have a few screenplays making the rounds and I just finished some animation scripting for Marvel Comics. As well, we have a new FREEDOM FIGHTERS ongoing series starting in September from D.C. Comics. For Marvel, there are a couple of projects around the corner that will be announced any day now. And last, some video games on the way…and I am not allowed to talk about those yet as well.

Well, once he’s allowed to talk about those projects, we’ll be sure to check back in with him.  In the mean time, consider seeing Jonah Hex but definitely check out the modern incarnation of the character that inspired the movie.

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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