Secret Origins #21: Jonah Hex and Black Condor

Ryan Daly and guests Tim Wallace and Mike Gillis review the (sorta) origin of Jonah Hex from Secret Origins #21. Then, Diabolu Frank does what no one else would dare: helping Ryan discuss the origin of Black Condor.

Listen to Episode 21!

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Sample pages from Secret Origins #21, written by Michael Fleisher with art by Gray Morrow (Jonah Hex), and Roy Thomas with art by Murphy Anderson (Black Condor), and a cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Praised Be His Name).

#21cover #21page3 #21page7 #21page14 #21page16 #21Bpage1 #21Bpage7 #21Bpage8 #21Bpage16

Plus, sample images from “The Wheelchair Bounty Hunter” in Jonah Hex #73 by Fleisher and Garcia-Lopez (PBHN), and the graphic novel Jonah Hex: No Way Back by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Tony DeZuniga; also, Black Condor’s first appearance from Crack Comics #1 by Will Eisner and Lou Fine.

#73page8 #73page12 NWB  Cracked1page3 Cracked1page4 Cracked1page7

Check out Tim Wallace’s Blue Beetle Blog at Kord Industries: http://kordindustries.blogspot.com

And hear Mike Gillis on Radio Vs. The Martians: http://radiovsthemartians.com

Check out Diabolu Frank’s Martian Manhunter podcast, the Idol-Head of Diaboluhttps://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/idol-head-diabolu-podcast/id951536541?mt=2

And his DC Bloodlines Podcast at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dc-bloodlines-podcasts/id991575714?mt=2

And his Diana Prince Wonder Woman Podcast at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/diana-prince-wonder-woman/id1010333234?mt=2

And the Marvel Super Heroes Podcast at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/marvel-super-heroes-podcast/id908880908?mt=2

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music this episode: “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash; “Spread Your Wings” by Queen; “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul.

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

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23 thoughts on “Secret Origins #21: Jonah Hex and Black Condor

  1. Extremely enjoyable episode, from the variety of stories to the variety of guests. Gray Morrow on Jonah Hex is a win, and in the interest in being nice, I will say there was little any artist could have done with that Black Condor story to make it work. Murphy Anderson, RIP.

    Ryan and Mike’s astonished reactions to Tim’s “true-life” Hex stories were priceless, as was Mike’s Darwin Award concept “This is an award for a guy who died doing this.”

    Frank is usually able to find something good to say about any superhero concept, but even he advised just throwing in the towel with Black Condor. I think that’s a first. Like a lot of the Freedom Fighters, I think the characters seem less absurd when in that team together. Give them their own feature and it all falls apart. Still, I like the name “Black Condor.” It’s sleek and cool and might actually be worth trying to reboot in a post-New 52 world. Maybe.

    Bonus points to Ryan for having the guts to end the show with one of the most offensive songs in popular music.

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  2. This is one of the few issues of the title I don’t own so I have been looking forward to this episode. Now after hearing the discussion, I feel I need to go out and find it.

    The Jonah Hex story as a life epilogue is a fascinating way to approach an origin. But as mentioned, this might have been Fleischer trying to sneak in an new story for Jonah. On face value, it is a rather nasty story, possession of a stuffed corpse in a sideshow being argued about in a court of law. Bizarre.

    I have to say that most of my Hex comic knowledge comes from later stories. I bought the Lansdale/Truman stuff and liked the sort of Vertigo vibe we got there. Plus Truman seems perfect for those stories. But I really enjoyed the Gray/Palmiotti recent (pre New 52) series. It was never on my pull list but I always seemed to pick up the book. These were mostly ‘done in one’ books with art from the most insane group of artists I can recall assembled on one title – Noto, Bernet, Tucci, Heath, Gulacy, Camuncoli, Williams III, Cooke, Giordano, and others. Just eye candy! I also liked the addition of Tallulah Black, a sort of female analog to Hex.

    I haven’t read much of Black Condor in my time outside of the reboot Native American in Jimmy Palmiotti’s reimagining of the Freedom Fighters. But this origin (as well as the original) sounds so guano crazy that I think I have to read it! I am a big fan of Anderson’s classic linework. Most of my experience comes from the ‘Swanderson’ era of Superman. But his own work (here and Who’s Who and other books) shows just how polished he was. Sad to hear of this passing.

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  3. Jonah Hex is one of those characters I’ve always liked the look of but have experienced very little (really just the animated short at this point.) It’s interesting to find out that his backlog of stories is as strong as it sounds from you guys. A bit like Ryan mentioned, the Western setting rarely does much for me. I love the tropes of westerns (the frontier towns, the lone gunmen, the harsh environment) but I’ve never been able to divorce the image of the cowboy from the extreme kid-friendly version I grew up on. I see the hat, or the boots or hear the accent and I think of going to Six Gun City when I was 7 and it’s REALLY hard to take seriously. That said, I should probably give this guy a closer look.

    As for Black Condor… wow. It reminds me more than a little of the Secret Origin of Johnny Thunder, in so far as it’s ridiculous on its face and you have to wonder why they would even want to bring attention to the character at ALL. That said, I’m kind of with Ryan in that it’s enjoyable for the same reason the Johnny Thunder origin was: because it just goes all in on the madness rather than trying to tone it back. You have to respect something that just embraces what it is rather than trying to appeal to people who are never going to accept it. A balls to the wall failure will always leave a stronger impression (for better or worse) than a compromised middle of the road product.

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  4. I really need to track this issue down. I met Hex through DC house ads. There seemed to be a TON of them in the late 70s, with him and Scalphunter. I always liked the character from afar, but never had too many issues of his book until the Gray/Palmiotti run, which is just damn good comics. But I’m a big fan of westerns, particularly the gritter, Clint Eastwood-style films, so Hex fits right in there with those type of western anti-heroes. The story about the actual stuffed corpse was shocking. I had no idea! Tim and Mike did a great job on this segment.

    I hate to admit I didn’t like Gray Morrow’s artwork as a kid, especially when he did Batman and refused to draw his eyes all white. Now I greatly appreciate his realistic approach, especially on features like this.

    Loved Hex’s appearances on the various DC toons, and the animated short. Especially loved that line on JLU, and the follow up on laser pistols. “They jam.”

    Black Condor…man…that’s just bat-crap. I do think Frank is right, that Thomas should have just took this opportunity to reveal a new origin, but his compulsions wouldn’t allow that. I understand Ryan’s enjoyment of the story, and I too like a good Tarzan/Mowgli raised-by-animals-tale, but condors? CONDORS? That’s a species too far. Even with a glowing meteor. Did the meteor make the condors smarter? More advanced? Less likely to just eat this poor kid?

    In Anderson’s defense, from the Golden Age to the Bronze Age, when many comic artists referenced earlier stories, they simply redrew the panels they were representing. Look how many artists redrew that panel where Pete Ross sees Clark Kent change to Superboy in that tent! Same layout, every damn time! I know Anderson was a huge Fine fan, and that was part of it, but this was often the go-to method for twice-told tales. Anderson just re-did the whole story that way!

    Fun episode!

    Chris

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  5. First, RIP to Murphy Anderson. Fantastic artist, who, here, is paying tribute to one of his heroes.

    I can’t recall when i first read Jonah Hex. I was aware of him, via house ads, through the 70s. I definitely recall the story that was featured in the Best of DC digest, where Hex has amnesia and believes he is a minister (he was travelling with one, when they were ambushed, if memory serves). It predates Pale Rider by several years, yet there are similarities. Hex was probably the best attempt at carrying on the western legacy, following the example set by Sergio Leone, rather than trying to continue the traditions of the 50s westerns. Hex always attracted artists who excelled at the gritty settings and character, and Gray Morrow fits that bill. Morrow knows his way around a western and we get bits of that, in this odd tale.

    The Black Condor I encountered in the Freedom Fighters comic. I liked the name and the look; but, none of the Freedom Fighters were fleshed out well, though Condor and Phantom Lady competed for display of the most flesh (ba-dump-bump!). I do recall reading Maurice Horn’s World Encyclopedia of Comics, in it’s first edition, and the entry for the Condor. It talked of the Condor swooping and diving and it sounded awesome. Flash forward many years to my obtaining the Lou Fine Comic Treasury, from Greg Theakston’s Pure Imagination company (as mentioned in the Uncle Sam episode). That book contains a full reprint of a Black Condor story where Fine demonstrates how to draw a flying character. The adventure was nothing special; but, Fine’s art is amazing. He is about the only artist who has ever captured the joy of flight, as one would assume a person who could fly would feel. Condor swooped and dove, Fine gave different perspectives and angles that emphasized Condor moving through the air. Unfortunately, Anderson doesn’t quite equal his hero in this element. The origin story is pure Tarzan (always was), though even less believable, if possible. At least the mangani of Tarzan were mammals and a higher order of simian. A condor would pretty much strip the flesh off a baby and feed it to its hatchlings then raise it. But, you know, the Golden Age…

    Meanwhile, you can’t beat a Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (PBHN) cover! It’s ironic, as I just found a really cool t-shirt at Walmart (I know, what are the chances?) with JLGL (PBHN) artwork. It’s called Original Gangsters and features JLGL (PBHN) renditions of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler. It’s truly awesome!

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  6. Gray Morrow did the last couple of issues of JH’s 1st series, you he was the perfect choice of artist for S.O. I am a huge fan of his art, but sometimes I don’t think his work reproduces well on newsprint, and some of his impressive detailcis lost. I’d LOVE to see his work here & in those last couple of JHs reprinted on quality paper.

    I love the point about basically being able to pick up any Hex story and get a good read – that is so true! He was a character that was written so consistently well for such a long time – the only DC character that comes even close is John Constantine. I think of these characters together often, so it was a special moment for me when they finally met toward the end of All-Star Western, the only New 52 title I’ve read with any regularity!

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    1. Good point on Gray Morrow. Did he really ink his work? It almost look like they usually reproduced his work directly from his pencils…but maybe not. There is a Batman story in Christmas with the Super Heroes #2 a few years from this, written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by Morrow that I love. BUT, the printing on that one is absolutely horrid.

      Chris

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  7. I just listened to the feedback, and as a Lone Ranger fan, I hate to say, there is no defending that movie. No offense to Mike or Tim (I can’t remember which one liked it), but I will never forgive myself for dragging my father, a life-long Lone Ranger fan, to that celluloid turd of a film. Blasphemous.

    Chris

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      1. Well, if the advertising didn’t suit you, the movie probably won’t either. It’s far…zanier than even the trailers and commercials promised. “Whacky” Johnny Depp at his worst.

        Chris

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  8. Gray Morrow was truly awesome. I have a color pin-up he did of the Black Terror. Apparently, he did a bunch of these, of various favorite comic characters, just for his own enjoyment. Then, when he developed health issues in the latter part of his life, he(or his wife) auctioned them on e-bay to help pay the medical bills. I got it on e-bay; but, have no idea if it was directly from the Morrows or from another party. It looks great with my Don Newton Black Terror original, which he produced for a fanzine (love the Black Terror’s costume, though only the Mort Meskin and Jerry Robinson stories are worth reading).

    I don’t think they were shooting from his pencils; but, I think his inking style was sketchier than most. I have no idea if he preferred to use nibs or if he used a brush, or a combination. I don’t think I ever read an article where he spoke of his technique.

    The man also had an awesome name; like something out of a poem.

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  9. Jonah Hex for the win! He truly is like the comic book version of Clint Eastwood’s character in any of his western films, and then the scar and uniform just give that extra edge to make him stand out and be truly unique and recognizable compared to the rest of the western characters. I think DC had a better handle on the Western genre than Marvel for sure, that’s not knocking Marvel, but their characters seemed to be much more in the vein of Gunsmoke or Bonanza, which is fine, but it just doesn’t compare to High Plains Drifter.

    Gray Morrow was the perfect choice, love his work on the Greg Sanders Vigilante stories that were in the Dollar Comics Era of World’s Finest Comics.

    Great to hear Mike & Tim on the Jonah part, great discussion between the three of you. Mike’s recent Podcastla Vista was awesome!!!

    On to Black Condor, such a sweet name wasted on a very under-developed character with perhaps this most crazy off the wall origin story in the entire Secret Origins series. I actually think if someone wanted to sit down and work out all of the hodge podge elements and settings that this story is trying to draw on, they could reinvision the character and make him pretty cool. And with that ridiculous beefcake costume he’d be perfect for adaption on the CW Network, that costume was built for their teen drama male modelling show method.

    It really makes me think that they just tried to draw on so many elements, maybe they had two drafts, and liked elements from both, so they just smushed all together and didn’t cut anything out?

    Obviously you see the Far East Monk thing come into play and then thrown in is the Middle East stuff, I can’t help but wonder if they were maybe trying to tap into the popularity of Robert E. Howard’s El Borak character, black hair and everything and that’s where the stranded in the Middle East thing came from.

    Good to hear Frank back on, can’t get enough of his crazy obscure comic info dumps. As much as he does not like Roy Thomas, he has a Roy Thomas level of comic history knowledge on golden age obscurity. He’s like Roy’s rebellious son.

    Great episode as always. RIP Murphy Anderson, he was one of the greats.

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  10. One of my favorite episodes yet!

    Jonah Hex was a staple of the newsstand when I started collecting comics, but I didn’t think I’d be into westerns. Didn’t pick up the Mad Hex series either. So barring any appearances in Crisis, this issue would have been my first Hex story and still not at an age where I would appreciate it or the Gray Morrow art. So my first real Hex purchase and enjoyment was Two-Gun Mojo, which is totally how they should have done the movie (not that I’ve seen it). I picked up the Palmiotti and Gray series in trades, and stayed with the character through All Star Western. You’ve just given me motivation to finish my Showcase Presents of the early stories.

    As for Black Condor, I embrace the madness. If Roy had been a little bit more creative with it, he might have written a frame tale that acknowledges how goofy the origin is, perhaps by having someone tell it as an urban legend, with interruptions from the listeners about the various nonsense uttered, and Black Condor winking at the audience at the end. A kind of non-origin origin. Well whatever. Regardless of how silly Sky Tarzan is, he’s still the best version of Black Condor ever, as all others have been weak and unpalatable to me.

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  11. I too was introduced to Jonah Hex through late Bronze Age house ads like the one where he’s dangling from a tightrope across a gorge with a saloon gal hanging off his neck, the one where he had a team-up (with Scalphunter? Bat Lash?) and of course the series of Mad Maxalike ads that preceded the Hex reboot. All of them hit the mark, intriguing me, and I eventually did score some random appearances in both the western and post-apocalyptic settings that failed to live up to their promise. I’ve come across better material since, in comics and animation, but my favorite by far is the trio of Vertigo mini-series by Joe Lansdale and Tim Truman. They struck just the right notes between Leone spaghetti western and genre bending Lovecraftian intrusions, plus Hex could finally be completely unrestrained (a problem I had with the comparatively safe Fleisher & Gray/Palmiotti material.) Of course, their gratuitous quality is the reason why we didn’t get more stories, since the inclusion of Winters Brothers analogues in the last mini got DC Comics sued, which I believe was ultimately settled out of court. As with Flex Mentallo, it took the better part of 15 years for DC to work up the courage to negotiate collected editions (both of which I snapped up quick, just in case.)

    Michael Fleisher is one if those extremely hit or miss writers of his time. If Gerry Conway was the original Geoff Johns, I guess Fleisher was like a Steve Niles or a Rick are endear or something. I’ve been fond of Gray Morrow since Marc Hazzard: Merc, but he’s very much a Dan Spiegel in that he’s an acquired taste that does not suit the fantastic and is best utilized on realistic period pieces. If you crossed Spiegel with Russ Heath, it might approximate Morrow, and that’s at least half a compliment. The Secret Origin felt truncated, but still a darned sight better than most of these dull retellings, appropriate to the character. Was that stuffed corpse found on a Russ Meyer set or an Andy Sideris? Can’t quite tell.

    As much as I like Hex and respect his unique position as a commercially bankable gunslinger in a popular culture otherwise largely hostile to same, I’ve never felt compelled to support him over the long haul, and he probably wouldn’t make it into my top 50 characters. He’s a Clint Eastwood pastiche, and that only goes so far. Plus, I sat through the entirety of the Jonah Hex movie, and it was no Adventures of Brisco County Jr., let me tell you. Man, I would buy the heck out of a good Brisco County comic, but it would probably end up at Dynamite or BOOM, just like how I somehow ended up not buying a Big Trouble In Little China comic despite my fondness for Jack Burton. Stupid overpriced low rent also-ran publishers!

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  12. Oh, my. I’ve been looking forward to this episode for some time. The first DC Comic I bought was Hex #18 and he’s been a favorite character of mine ever since. And this episode was so awesome! You guys didn’t let me down (not that you ever do). Excellent use of Johnny Cash! And the Elmer McCurdy thing! I had no idea the weird Hex corpse was grounded in reality. Man, this episode was great! This issue of Secret Origins was great!

    And Black Condor was there, too.

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