Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Kicking an Old Woman Off a Cliff

Jonah Hex is, without question, a brutal guy. But he is one of the good guys. Despite his casual attitude towards gunning down outlaws, he does usually shoot in self-defense after giving his opponents a chance to surrender. And, though he would probably never admit this to himself, he is a protector of the weak and innocent, especially women and children.

So, as violent as Jonah often is, we can trust that he would never do something especially cruel. Such as... oh, I don't know... kick a crippled old woman off a cliff.

Wait a minute. He actually did that once, didn't he?

Weird Western Tales #17 (April-May 1973) begins with a gang of outlaws robbing a bank, then blowing up that bank with dynamite, then killing the sheriff while making their getaway. Jonah is in town, but does not at first pursue the outlaws. When called to task for not interfering, he rudely but fairly wonders why the townspeople didn't take action themselves. After all, its their town.

A possibly violent confrontation is defused by the arrival of Judge Hatchet, a cigar smoking, wheelchair-bound old woman who runs the territory with an iron hand. She owned the bank and hires Jonah to pursue the outlaws.

With his usual combination of fast draw and clever tactics, he soon has the gang leader prisoner while killing remaining two outlaws. He takes his prisoner to Judge Hatchet, who has the villain strung up on a nearby tree within moments.
 Well, the Wild West was a brutal place and the outlaw leader was indeed a mass murderer. So far, so good. But Jonah soon learns that Judge Hatchet runs her territory in a rather dictatorial fashion. This includes having her three sons burn out and kill anyone who refuses to sell their crops or cattle to her at a very low price.

Jonah happens by a burning home and rescues a little girl from the flames. But he's too late to help the girl's father.

 When he learns the dead man's son has gone after Judge Hatchet, he immediately sets out to save the boy.

Take note that Jonah is a bounty hunter and didn't chase down the bank robbers until he was paid to do so. But now, despite his reputation as a cold-blooded and mercenary-minded killer, he is now acting on his own. He risked his life to save the little girl. He tried--however awkwardly--to give her some comfort when she asked about her dead pa. And now, he's rushing to save a boy he had met for only a few minutes.

Jonah Hex is one of the good guys. It would annoy him to no end if you told him this, but he clearly is.

He finds Judge Hatcher about to hang the boy, who had managed to shoot one of her three sons. Jonah objects to this by killing the remaining two sons. And when Judge Hatchet attempts to shoot him, he gives her wheelchair a nice, firm kick.

It's clear from Jonah's reaction that he didn't expect what happens next. When the the wheelchair starts to role back towards the edge of a cliff, he runs after it, trying to save the Judge. She is a totally evil woman and clearly deserves what is about to happen to her.

Heck, if the Judge had been a healthy man, Jonah would have let him fall without a qualm. He does not always object to vigilante justice.

But however evil Judge Hatchet may be, she's an old lady in a wheelchair. Jonah tries to save her, but can't quite get to her in time. Her clothing catches on a branch, snapping her neck.

Written by John Albano and beautifully drawn by Tony DeZuniga, "The Hangin' Woman" is an excellent Jonah Hex tale, full of both the violence and the reluctant compassion that defines that character.

Next week, it's back to Africa as Tarzan teams up with an African Little John and a barely tame lion to rescue his wife and son.


  1. I'm usually not a fan of Tonu DeZuniga's art, even less so when he inks someone else with his overpowering style. But he was perfect for Jonah Hex, Spaghetti-western style.

    1. I agree that his work was perfect for Jonah's book. He did some work on Weird War Tales that I like a lot as well.


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