Thursday, July 29, 2010
Joe Lansdale Does It Again: Jonah Hex's DC Showcase Presents Short Animated Feature
It was a great idea pairing Batman and Jonah Hex together on one, single dvd release. I don't know if anyone involved realizes it, but both stories center around an elder man, not meaning old and decrepit, but an elder statesman kind of figure, proven and tried and wise (or, at least, wise enough), trying to save the life of what is most symbolic about hope in the future, at least from a male perspective: a young lad. At least that's the way I'm interpreting it. (And I honestly think you might feel that way, too, once I'm finished. I hope you'll bear with me.) But, first, let me say a few words about what Lansdale has done in the exclusive DC Showcase Presents short (and if you don't buy the special edition of Batman: Under the Red Hood, you're a fool; it's only a mere $5 more expensive, and if you don't get it, you're missing an unbelievably great Hex story; but I've met you nuts before, so I know you're out there; just stay away from my Wal-Mart, okay?). He's encapsulated in eleven minutes a morality tale that highlights the same issue that drives the Red Hood story: retribution. Or you could call it vindication. Or morality. Or, you could ask the question, when and why is the life of one killer more valuable than the slew of innocent (well, in Hex's brutally wild Western world, the not so innocent usually) people he or she kills? Lansdale's very wonderfully conscious of this issue because he purposely places Hex in situations where he could rightly kill people in the name of self-defense but chooses not to do so in the name of an unwritten, never-spoken moral code. To wit, when a young man full of comeuppance who just has his body beginning to get its first trickles of testosterone and manhood decides to challenge Hex to a gunfight, and even goes so far as to attempt to draw on Hex (in and because of his inexperience, the pup never even clears leather), Jonah turns and punches him out. The boy loses a few teeth, but, in the higher moral order of the universe that Hex believes exists, that's better and more right than dying. And Hex had all right to kill him. But he didn't have to, and this boy's fault was being a boy, something that every young man has gone through. I did it myself. I'm embarrassed to this day with a bar scene of my own which will forever have the phrase, "The kitten's trying to tell the big cat where to get his milk." I could have been pulverized. Instead, I lived to see another day; a little tail-tucking was involved, but that was better than broken bones, burst lips, or black eyes. And that's the point here: the boy didn't deserve the ultimate punishment. That's, ironically, the same issue that Ras Al Gul capitulates to in Batman Under The Red Hood; because it was his actions that resulted in an innocent boy's death, he decides to make retribution, but saving him, he ultimately places the boy in a double-endimnity death by allowing him to be revived in the Lazarus Pit to, sadly, die another day. And the issue that haunts Jason Todd is why Batman allows the Joker to live to kill people another day. Anyway, I've strayed a bit from Jonah Hex. So, the Hex story is framed by the story of two possible mentors, Red Jack (a riff on Red Hood?) or Jonah Hex, for the young man who wants to be the next gunslinger in town. And that's the same thing Jason Todd is facing; he's had Batman as one mentor, but his hate for The Joker causes him to, strangely, become his protegee, even taking his Red Hood. Anyway, Joe Lansdale has created a morality tale centered around moral retribution in an eleven minute short. And he's made it damn entertaining. I find that kind of mixture in popular culture very significant. He's brought Hex to popular culture popularity in a bit over a dime what the movie couldn't do in nearly two hours. Where the movie practically ruined Hex, Lansdale resurrects him. Okay, whoops, with all this Lazarus pit stuff and how it turns out badly, let's just say that Lansdale spins a yarn in the classic Hex style. I'm worn out or I'd write more. I will say this: Don't you dare miss them Lansdale-penned, Truman-pencilled Jonah Hex motion comics. I've read them stories, so I already know: They're gonna be good stuff.