Writing Under the Influence, by John Ostrander

John Ostrander

John Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. His best known effort, Bloody Bess, was directed by Stuart Gordon, and starred Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, William J. Norris, Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna. He has written some of the most important influential comic books of the past 25 years, including Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Suicide Squad, Wasteland, X-Men, and The Punisher, as well as Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. New episodes of his creator-owned series, GrimJack, which was first published by First Comics in the 1980s, appear every week on ComicMix.

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10 Responses

  1. Mike Gold says:

    Doctor Who as a Western? Oh, Brother John, your words… your words shall live forever!

  2. MARK WHEATLEY says:

    It is very hard to go wrong if you start out influenced by Leigh Brackett. About 1/4 of the pulps I own are due to Brackett stories. And I started collecting PLANET STORIES because of Brackett as well.

    But –

    Edmond Hamilton (Leigh’s husband) started writing a style of SF tale in the late 1940s and from there through the 1950s into the early 1960s that I’ve been thinking of as STAR NOIR. Grim and gritty stories of the starways – but still retaining a edge of the Sense of Wonder (where Hamilton made his first reputation). Of course I have always assumed that Brackett had influenced Ed in this – as did the change in taste of the times. Yet Brackett claimed that Ed had tried to write this kind of story as early as the late 1930s – but no one was buying.

    BTW – I see a lot of that STAR NOIR in BABYLON 5 as well as the first two pilot episodes of STAR TREK.

  3. Elayne Riggs says:

    "I very much fall into the camp of wanting to write because of the pleasure I’ve had in reading." Wow, I can't believe I never made that direct connection, but me too. Great essay, John.

    • Marilee J. Layman says:

      While I just like reading. I hang out online with a couple of writer’s groups because I like the conversation, but I don’t want to write.

  4. Anonymous says:

    "As I created John Gaunt, I wanted him to have a full history – one that the reader wouldn’t know right away but to which I could make allusions and references."This isn't what attracted me to GrimJack in the first place – but it *is* what hooked me in and made me into a fan. IMHO, it's this attitude that takes the characters and story in GJ out from the comic mainstream and pops them up to the next level. As a reader, I am intrigued by the fact that the characters – *all* the characters, even the "bad guys" like Mayfair, Major Lash, the Dancer – have a non-trivial personality and background. Even the seemingly simple supporting characters, like Bob and Gordon, have that same quality. Sure, the sword and sorcery meets technology setting of Cynosure is great, and it's the city that makes the stories unique… but it's the depth of the characters that makes the stories interesting, intriguing, and wonderful.Summary: It's great to have Gaunt back. Thanks for sharing him with us again, John!

  5. Marilee J. Layman says:

    My favorite of Leigh Brackett’s is The Long Tomorrow. It’s one of those "gee, our world is actually inside a spaceship" books, but it’s a particularly good one.

  6. Mike Gold says:

    A small light bulb lit up over my head — vacuum-cleaner sized is about as good as it gets, but this time I get to plug something worthwhile. Some time ago, we did a news story about Planet Stories, a new science-fiction trade paperback imprint dedicated to bringing back classic s-f. As it turns out, this December they're releasing Brackett's Stark novella The Secret of Sinharat – with People of the Talisman as a back-up. Michael Moorcock did the intro.Since you've already recommended this one, Brother John, I, for one, will pick it up.

    • MARK WHEATLEY says:

      Ah – but will it be the pure Brackett version – or the version that Ed Hamilton expanded for the ACE PB?

  7. Nikolavitch says:

    Well, we can trace back every story to the greeks. and as a matter of fact, that's true. But go even earlyer, and in Nineveh, you find the Gilgamesh Epic. And a lot of universal patterns are already here as well : innocence lost, the friendship between two former enemies, the grief at the loss of a friend, the ill fated quest for immortality (and add to the mix the original model of the Flood story here, complete with crow and dove), the coming of age of a reckless hero discovering true wisdom, fights, defiance toward the gods , you name it. It's a great masterpiece, with great characters, worth reading even now.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of Dr Who as a Western, any idea when Dead Man’s Hand will be coming out?