Graphics Noir: GrimJack Returns
John Gaunt is GrimJack, a hard-bitten mercenary and private detective in Cynosure, a city at the nexus of dimensions. Raised in the Pits to fight for the amusement of the public, Gaunt lives by his finely honed wits. He can and does fight demons, sharpshooters, magicians and gangsters.
Since its first appearance as a back-up in Starslayer in 1983, GrimJack has been a fan favorite. The stories blend genres – the hard-boiled detective stories of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet get combined with the sword and sorcery of Robert E, Howard. GrimJack can and has done science fiction, horror, fantasy, and even westerns, with a streak of dark humor and strong, strange characters running all the way through.
In his newest adventure, exclusively on ComixMix.com every Tuesday starting October 2nd, Gaunt goes in search of The Manx Cat, a statuette made of fossilized dreams. Why do so many want to possess it? What happens when it “goes walkabout”? Why is Gaunt seemingly immune to it and how did he become that way? What price did he pay?
The saga of the Manx Cat has been part of the GrimJack legend since the very first story. Here, at last, Ostrander and Truman reveal the legend’s roots – as John Gaunt must attempt to declaw the Cat once and for all!
John Ostrander wrote some of the most important and influential comics of the past 25 years. After studying theology and training under Del Close at Chicago’s legendary Second City, he used this knowledge of story and character to bring a unique voice to the marketplace. Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. He co-wrote his best known effort, Bloody Bess, with actor William J. Norris. The production, directed by the noted Stuart Gordon, starred Dennis Franz and Joe Mantegna. Bloody Bess has toured all over North America and Europe, and is frequently revived.
From Warp, his first published comics work in 1983, based on the series of science fiction adventure plays, he went on to create GrimJack with Timothy Truman. He’s since written Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Suicide Squad, Justice League and more for DC Comics. At Marvel Comics, Ostrander has also worked on X-Men, Bishop, Quicksilver, Heroes for Hire and The Punisher. From the mid-1980s until her death from breast cancer in 1997, Ostrander frequently co-wrote with his wife Kim Yale. It was while working with her that he made what is probably his most lasting contribution to the DC Universe: the recasting of Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, into the information and computer specialist Oracle.
Ostrander has also written for other comics companies: Hotspur for Eclipse Comics; Lady Death for Chaos! Comics; Magnus Robot Fighter, Rai and the Future Force, and Eternal Warrior for Valiant Comics. Ostrander was one of the main writers on Star Wars: Republic for Dark Horse Comics, and many of his story arcs, such as "Twilight," "Darkness," and "The Clone Wars" stories are available in trade paperbacks. He is presently writing their best-selling series Star Wars: Legacy.
His work has won him a good deal of recognition in the comics field, including nominations for the Comics Buyer’s Guide Award for Favorite Writer in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
GrimJack’s artist and co-creator is Timothy Truman, whose distinctive style has earned him critical and popular acclaim as an artist and a writer in a variety of genres. From his first work for fantasy role playing games to comic books to Grateful Dead album art, Truman brings engaging imagination and brilliant draftsmanship to his fans.
Born in West Virginia, Timothy studied art at the Columbus College of Art and Design, West Virginia University, and the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in New Jersey. He has been the writer/artist on Hawkman, and Justice League for DC, where he also drew Ostrander’s acclaimed mini-series The Kents.
Along with Scout, an early series he created for Eclipse Comics in the 1980s, Truman is credited with reviving the Western genre through such work as Jonah Hex for Vertigo, with best-selling novelist Joe R. Lansdale. He spent five years on research for the two-volume Wilderness, followed by Tecumeh, and the all-prose Straight Up to the Sky.
In 1991, Truman began a long association with the Grateful Dead. He has created CD covers, limited edition t-shirts, and contributed to Grateful Dead Comix from Kitchen Sink. He illustrated Dogmoon, a graphic novel written by Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter. He’s also done art for projects by Hot Tuna, Carlos Santana, Jim Lauderdale and Terry Strongheart.
He has won several major awards, including the Haxtur (the Spanish comics award), the Bram Stoker award from the Horror Writers Association.
We recently chatted up John Ostrander about what’s ahead for Mr. Gaunt.
Q. What is GrimJack about?
A. John Gaunt – aka GrimJack – is a mercenary for hire working out of the multi-dimensional city of Cynosure. The city lies at the nexus of dimensions; cross the street and the laws of physics may change. Magic works here, guns work there, and a bad attitude works everywhere. Gaunt can usually be found at the corner table at Munden’s Bar. People come to hire him for jobs that are too big – or too nasty – for them to handle on their own. The stories themselves are a touch of sword and sorcery, a touch of science fiction, a touch of hard-boiled detective, and splash of black humor. Quite a cocktail!
Q. The first issue was almost 25 years ago. What’s changed?
A. Well, hopefully, we’ve all gotten better at our jobs. I know Tim Truman sure has. The art on the new series is simply astounding. What we’ve done with the current stories is go back to the early days of Gaunt’s “detective” career, an era that we’ve alluded to but not often seen. Gives old readers something they’ve been very curious about while, at the same time, being very friendly to new readers. The relationships between Gaunt and the supporting cast is a bit different from how they later evolve; we see first meetings and such.
Q. How would you describe Cynosure? Is it as much a character as Los Angeles was to Chandler, or Isola to Ed McBain? More?
A. At least as much and probably more. Cynosure has really SHAPED John Gaunt into who and what he is – for better and for worse. It’s left scars – both physical and psychological. Cynosure, being at the nexus of the multi-universe, is the ultimate trading spot. Unfettered capitalism is what drives the city. Elections are decided by how much you’re willing to pay for your candidate. It’s also a very dangerous place – while some dimensions interface on a more or less permanent basis, other dimensions phase in and out. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may phase out with the dimension and have no way back. Hell once interfaced with the city and that resulted in the Demon Wars, where hell and the demons and chaos took over almost the entire place. The nastiest part of Cynosure is called The Pit – a shallow depression where the dregs of Cynosure congeal. Gaunt was born there and Munden’s is at the very lip of it. Without Cynosure, GrimJack really isn’t GrimJack. It allows us to have all the different types of stories that we have.
Q. Does the Internet change the way you write/draw the stories? Does it make you nervous or fill you with joy to think of people reading the stories in HD?
A. There are some formatting aspects that I have to consider but that’s true of any kind of writing. The Internet lets me go out and research stories in ways that I couldn’t before; more importantly, it also allows for tighter communication between myself, Tim and Mike (editor Mike Gold) as we pull the stories together. We can bounce ideas back and forth so quickly and maintain a record of them (barring catastrophic hard disc failures like the one I had a few months back). And if it gives us a wider audience – so much the better! I’m a storyteller and I like the stories to REACH people. That means you have to go where the readers are and ComicMix gives us the opportunity to do that and for the readers to experience us for free.
Q. GrimJack: The Manx Cat – is there a story to this tale? (Ha!! I amuse myyself!)
A. Would I tell you a “tail-less” story? Actually, the artifact that we refer to as the “Manx Cat” appeared in the very FIRST published GrimJack story – “Buried Past”. The first time we see GrimJack, he’s gone to retrieve it for its “rightful” owners. From the first, we’ve implied there’s a backstory there. Well, now we’re going to tell you what it is. And, as part of story, we’re also going to give you the FULL story of how one of the series best loved supporting characters, Bob the Watch Lizard, came to be at Munden’s. Tim had given a short version in an excellent Munden’s Bar story that he told – Family and Friends. Now we’re going to expand on it. There will be twists on existing characters and some new ones introduced as well. Plus the usual amount of action, violence, and dark humor that is all part of the series. Doesn’t matter if you know the characters or not – come and try it and you’ll feel right at home. And for long time fans – just all the more enjoyable, I think.
Q. What’s next?
A. Probably more GrimJack again after we’ve finished this story. In the meantime, I’ll still be fooling around with Star Wars: Legacy for Dark Horse and the new Suicide Squad miniseries I’m doing for DC, and our new Munden’s Bar series, of course.
And, of course, there’s also my weekly column at ComicMix.