Jonah Hex's great-great-granddaughter gets her own spotlight this month in December 29's Jinny Hex Special. Spinning out of her part in the recent Young Justice series, Jinny Hex Special takes the 20-year-old (and her great-great-grandfather's box of mysteries) back in time to the Old West.
Writer Magdalene Visaggio and artist Gleb Melnikov are making this a story about family - fleshing out this new character after her surprise 2018 debut.
As Visaggio tells Newsarama, she is digging into Hex's roots - and the writer's own Southern roots, to the point of finding the voice for the villain Three-Eyed Jack in her own father.
Newsarama: Magdalene, how did this Jinny Hex Special one-shot come about?
Magdalene Visaggio: Well, I didn't show up at DC asking to write Jinny Hex. This was actually just an incredibly lengthy process to get this thing nailed down. Brian Michael Bendis Bendis and I first were talking about my involvement with Wonder Comics actually I think before the imprint was even announced.
He basically was like, 'I want to hear about the character you most want to write out of the characters that were early on involved in Wonder Comics.' I, of course, said 'Superboy' because I love Connor Kent. 'The Reign of the Supermen' is some of the earliest comics I ever read - that stuff is imprinted upon my brain, and I just wanted to get to play in that a little bit.
I've always had really strong thoughts about Superboy and what it must be like to literally be the clone of the most perfect human being that has ever lived - or not human being, but you know. I had this whole idea about what must that experience be like and how does he resolve that within himself? DC was initially very receptive to it, but the focus in the Superman books turned toward the older Jon Kent. There was just less interest in pursuing a Superboy series at that time, and if they were going to do one it would've been Jon.
Bendis had always initially been thinking about me for Jinny Hex. I really, really love the character. It's such great Americana. You get to do that Western vibe but with a 21st-century twist. She's a spitfire without just being 'spunky.' I had so much fun working on this. It was just an absolute delight.
Nrama: Jinny's back home. We get to see a bit more of her world. What were some of the supporting characters you wanted to explore?
Visaggio: I struggled a little bit at first because I guess I'd never really been given the opportunity to do anything additive to the DC universe like to an established property. I've written for like one-shots for other characters here and there. Like I did Ms. Marvel, but the whole point of that kind of thing is that it has to reset to zero at the end.
This was really intimidating because Bendis basically said we want you to flesh out this world and give us what's her family, what's her status quo, what's her momentum forward? I fixated really early on the fact that I wanted to explore her parents a bit more. We don't know anything about her dad prior to that issue. The only thing we really know about her mom is that they own an auto shop, she had died of cancer, and left Jinny this box of mysteries.
So, I was like, 'Okay, well... that's a big gap that needs to be plugged in. That's a really rich area.' I landed on basically bringing in her father pretty early on in the process. Beyond that, it was just who is she on this quest? Who was she on this mission with? Who's by her side? Who does she lean on for support when she's not with Young Justice?
So, I decided very early on that I wanted to give her a best friend. I also made the decision early in that I didn't, even though Jinny is gay, I don't want this to be like a relationship. I want her to have a 'no pressure' friend. A best friend - there's no 'will they, won't they' question? It's none of that. I wanted to take that element out of the book entirely. I came up with Ladybird just kind of around well what's the opposite of someone who's a perky go-getter like Jinny. So, me and Gleb landed on the snarky gothy Ladybird.
Nrama: Being a Wonder Comics book and a Brian Michael Bendis creation, did you get to brainstorm with Bendis at all?
Visaggio: Bendis is not always the easiest person in the world to reach, but he was very involved. Based on any conversations that I had about the character I had with him I would periodically do these write-ups. I'm thinking about this character right now as we kind of zeroed in on what's the angle we want to take here.
It took me a little bit to really make sense of Jinny because in the issues of Young Justice that I had seen to that point, she hadn't had the spotlight in a real way. So, I made her sound a little bit too Western at first. I probably wrote her too young. There was definitely this back and forth in terms of honing the character. As far as the story and the plot - the themes are all everything that me and Bendis had discussed. Things that I had also spoken about with DC's editorial.
Nrama: A big part of Jinny's story is the treasure's in her trunk. Is this something you wanted to take a deep dive into with the one-shot?
Visaggio: Well, if you're going to do a character whose powers are that they have a bottomless box of mysteries and her first outing out the gate doesn't center on that box in a really, really big way it's like writing a Superman story, but it's just him being a reporter. That's kind of her gimmick. Every superhero has their gimmick and for something like this where you're really defining the character in a really concrete way for the first time, I feel like I did want to establish right off the bat that a Jinny Hex story is about the box.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about the story's villain - Three-Eyed Jack.
Visaggio: The character is very, very closely integrated into Jinny Hex's personal universe in a way that she found startling, and their whole dynamic kind of spins out of how exactly they're in meshed, and that's the spoiler.
But I guess the whole thing about Three-Eyed Jack is I wanted her to be facing off against like an evil super-powered cowboy because that's her deal. This one-shot needed to be very focused on Jinny and who she is and what her history is, which meant there was no way I could do this without acknowledging the legacy of Jonah Hex and a big part of that was having a Western-style villain. I also love writing cowboy dialogue. I had so much fun writing the Southernisms. I'm not from Texas, but I'm from the South. A lot of that stuff I just picked out of my experiences. Kind of mimicking my grandfather's voice when writing Jack, just to get that cadence down.
Nrama: During the plotting process of this book, did you ever want to bring any of the other Young Justice members into this story?
Visaggio: I love guest stars. I always have such fun. She's already got these really existing relationships with these other characters. And so, yeah, early on I would have loved to at least have a couple more cameos. But the whole point was it was always really going to be a Jinny Hex story. We didn't want to detract from that. This is her time to shine, and if she's fighting alongside Superman, well, what's she going to do that Superman can't?
Nrama: We've seen Jinny fight on a team, what makes her superheroing different as a solo hero?
Visaggio: Well, I hope at least that it's consistent with how Bendis has written her to date, but I do really hope she seems a little bit more coming into her own - more confident. For the first time she's the expert, you know? There's definitely a lot of, like, blustery confidence projection, but there's also that kind of infinite confidence of being 20. Like, 'Oh yeah, I've fought with Young Justice,' ' 'no, I got this, I got that. We can handle this.' Only to find that it's more emotionally challenging than anything else.
That's the thing, I had 38 pages. Like if I had multiple issues to stretch this out across. I think there probably would have been a much bigger emphasis on the dynamics of how she fights and how she superheroes because I just would've had more space for that, but I wanted to tell an emotionally resonant story within that short space.
It's really about Jinny's experience. What this process, this encounter means to her because it all ties back to - where does Jinny Hex come from? Who are her parents? What's her connection to Jonah Hex? How does that tie into what's happening here? Not just in terms of I have the box that I inherited from Jonah but how does who Jonah was directly impact her now?
Nrama: What makes writing a 20 year old different than, let's say, a teenager?
Visaggio: The big thing that we did was we started with the fact that Jinny's mom had died. She didn't know her father, which means that she lost her support now. Here she's trying to get the auto shop back up and running after her time away - having to lean more on her friends. She's really showing adult initiative and has the confidence navigating the world that a teenager wouldn't necessarily have. She's also already come off of all this other crazy stuff because she's been to other planets and other dimensions now. She currently comes to this with a sense of this being old hat, but it's still really emotionally fraught.
Nrama: Would you like to write more Jinny Hex in the future? Maybe an ongoing book?
Visaggio: With a lot of one-shots like this, featuring new characters, is that it's just kind of testing the waters and if it does well, maybe. So, I imagine with the economy and with the crunch the direct market has been under that might be a bit of a harder sell now than it would have been. I just think there's just a higher hurdle to cross, but I hope so.
Jinny Hex Special #1 is available on December 29 in print and on most digital comics platforms. Check out our list of the best comics readers for Android and iOS devices.