Tagged: GrimJack

John Ostrander: 65

So there I was, flailing around for this week’s topic. The clock was ticking and time was running out. And then it hit me like a wet sock on the end of my nose – it’s appearing on Sunday, which happens to be my birthday. Not only my birthday but my 65th birthday which is supposed to be one of those big hoohah numbers. A milestone (I hope Brother Michael Davis lets me use that word). It marks me officially as a Senior Citizen (as if my balding pattern and gray to white hair hadn’t already done that).

I’m doing all of those things you’re supposed to do at this age. Join AARP? Done that. Applied for Social Security and Medicare? Done and done. Gimme that governmental teat to suckle. Sorry, Junior, but I’m soaking up your financial future and destroying your freedoms. Ask various media.

Except, of course, they don’t give me all that much. Of course, there may not be Social Security by the time you reach my age but I didn’t think it would be there when I reached this age so who knows?

And, of course, I’m going to retire.

Not.

Even if I could afford to retire (which I can’t), why would I stop writing? I love this gig. It’s part of my bones at this point. This is what I do, this is what I am. Writing isn’t like playing sports; the knees may go but, with writers, so long as your mind isn’t completely shot (careful!), the probability is that you can just keep getting better and I think, I hope, I believe that I have.

Regrets, I have a few but then again too few too mention.

Crap. I’m quoting “My Way”. I’m not a fan of the song. Too self congratulatory for me. The only ones who can sing it and make it work are Frank Sinatra and John Cleese at the end of George of the Jungle.

Crap. Now I have it running through my head.

Crap. Now I have the disco version running through my head.

Yeah, now it’s going through yours too, right? You’re welcome.

Anyway, I can look back and see some things I do wish I had done differently. I wish I had done a few more creator-owned projects. Balancing those against the for-hire work is generally a better idea, I think. Folks like Peter David and Mark Waid have done a real good job of that, I think.

I also wish I had gotten into prose more, gotten some novels under my belt. Again, folks like Peter David have done a good job with that. Yes, there are times I wish I was Peter David. Most of the time I’m fine with being me but there are times. . .

But know what? I’m 65. I’m not dead. There’s time to make changes and start doing both prose and creator owned projects. My paternal grandfather lived to be 100 and his daughter lived to be 101. In this day of crowdfunding, it’s more possible than ever to get new work out there.

And I have new projects I’m working on with partners I’ve worked with before. There’s possibilities of a novel or two that I’m actively pursuing. One of the projects that I’m doing with Tom Mandrake, Kros, you may have seen mentioned on Facebook. Timothy Truman, Mike Gold and I are discussing more GrimJack. Lots of stuff I can’t discuss yet but I hope to tell folks soon.

And I’m on social media. I have my Facebook page, I have my Twitter account. Still learning how to use the latter but I’m out there pitching.

When you get right down to it, 65 is just another number. It doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself; the meaning is what we ascribe to it. Getting old? Naw. Pulling back? Hell no. Going to Tahiti? Well, I wouldn’t say no but not on a permanent basis.

I’m just getting started.

Photo by JD Hancock

John Ostrander: Up Against the Waller

It’s always interesting to see your children grow up. In my case I don’t have any flesh and blood children; I have the offspring of my imagination, of my heart and mind – the characters I’ve created in my stories, especially in my comics. By growing up, I mean seeing them in other media. And occasionally their sending money home.

In that regard, the most grown up of my offspring is, without a doubt, Amanda Waller, a.k.a. the Wall. She first appeared in the DC miniseries Legends but was created for my version of the Suicide Squad. For those of you who don’t know, the Suicide Squad was a covert team that Waller put together using jailed supervillains. They were sent on secret missions pursuing American governmental objectives and, if they succeeded and survived, they were set free or had their time significantly reduced. If they died – no loss. If they failed or were uncovered, they could be easily disavowed – hey, they were bad guys doing bad guy things.

Waller created this version of the Squad and was herself created to do that in the DCU. Len Wein and John Byrne are credited as co-creators since she first appeared in Legends but Amanda originated with me. (The same way that Tim Truman is, rightly, co-credited as GrimJack’s creator although the character also originated with me.) As conceived, Waller was middle-aged, black, heavy set, on the short side, and with no super-powers; just an iron will and a terminal bad attitude which is why her nickname is “the Wall”. I’ve always said that some aspect of the characters we write exist within us; it’s been pointed out to me that would mean that I have an angry middle aged black woman inside of me. Maybe I’m just channeling Tyler Perry.

She’s also one of my favorite characters to write; actually, I don’t so much write her as just take dictation and pay attention to where she wants to go. She gets the job done and doesn’t care what she has to do along the way; she is morally a gray character by design. Some think of her as an anti-hero; the site IGN listed as her 60th Greatest Comic Book Villain of all time. For my view, she’s not a villain but she is deeply flawed. Just the way I like my characters.

Waller has appeared all over the place – in video games, in animated series (Justice League Unlimited as one example), animated movies, television shows, and movies. I find seeing the different variations of her interesting and gratifying, especially financially. I have what is called “participation” with Amanda; DC licenses her out and I get a taste of the money that comes in because she was an original character. I don’t have the same deal with the Squad itself; there was an earlier version. Amanda, bless her, sends some money home every now and then.

Both Amanda’s appearance on Arrow and in the New 52 DC Universe is changed; rather than older, stouter, and shorter, she’s now model thin and young and, well, sexy. I’ve always thought of Amanda as many things but “sexy” was not one of them.

I don’t control what happens with Waller or where she goes or how she looks; she is owned by DC Entertainment and Warners. I knew that going in. She is their property. That said, I think the changes made in her appearance are misguided. There were and are reasons why she looked the way she did. I wanted her to seem formidable and visually unlike anyone else out there. Making her young and svelte and sexy loses that. She becomes more like everyone else. She lost part of what made her unique.

Still, I look forward to the Squad episode of Arrow and not only because of the eventual check that it will bring in. It’s interesting to see how your children turn out and to see how much of you is in them whether they are flesh and blood or just the children of your imagination.

John Ostrander: The Scar-Faced Cupid of Comics

Writing this on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to consider comics and my love life. Not my love of comics, although there is that, but as an active part of my love life.  There are two great loves in my life, my late wife Kim Yale and my current partner, Mary Mitchell. Oddly enough, I met both of them at comic book conventions.

When I first met Kim, she was married and I didn’t mess with married women. Eventually, that marriage didn’t work out but Kim and I didn’t get together right away. Truth to tell, before Kim and I did start going out, I hadn’t been on a date in over two years. For me, the whole dating/mating scene had become too painful. Getting my hopes up, excited by a possibility, only to have each relationship bottom out – it was too much.

Kim and I had worked on my Doctor Who play project together (that also crashed and burned) so we were friendly and at that point she lived about 16 blocks from me on the north side of Chicago. One day, I got a letter from her; she had read a GrimJack issue, “My Sins Remembered”, and it had really affected her, bringing up memories of her brother. I was touched but also confused and called her on the phone; I wondered why she had written, why didn’t she just call me to talk about it. She said that sometimes these things were better written. As a writer, I could only agree. Still, I asked her if she wanted to go out and have a cup of coffee or something and talk about it some more; I sensed there was more she needed to discuss. She said yes, we met, and that night was the start of us together.

We later referred to John Gaunt (GrimJack) as our “scar faced Cupid”. He brought us together and was part of our life thereafter. Eventually, Kim and I would write together about his early life in the “Young Blood” series that ran in the back of GrimJack for the final 12 issues. She was the only person I’ve ever allowed to co-write GrimJack with me.

Kim became very involved in the comic scene as well. We co-wrote other books together – Suicide Squad and Manhunter. She became an assistant editor at DC Comics working for my buddy Mike Gold, something that took us out of the Midwest and to the East Coast. Kim loved comic book conventions and for years hosted the Women In Comics panel at the Chicago Comic Con which was consistently well attended and was both entertaining and intelligent. She also loved the parties at conventions and could dance the socks off just about anybody; I know I couldn’t keep up and usually went to bed early.

Mary I also met at a Chicago Con; actually, I discovered her when she showed me her portfolio. I was floored by her talent and skill; I still am. She was also a Midwest girl, living on the family farm, and Kim and I urged her to move to the East Coast to try and get more work.

She did but she had a hard time of it for a while so Kim and I suggested that she move in with us in the house we were buying. She agreed. Any favor we did for her was more than paid back when Kim contracted breast cancer. All through the illness, the surgeries, the chemo, and Kim’s decline and death, Mary stood by us, by Kim, and helped.

When Kim died, my world ended. It’s a cliché, I know, but true. My future had always included Kim; we had discussed which one of us was the most likely to pass first and we both thought it would be me. Instead it was Kim who died first and my whole idea of what my future would be was gone. There was no longer a future.

Mary stayed on and we co-habited the house strictly as friends until, two years or so later, we became a couple. It caught us by surprise although, evidently, most of our friends saw it coming. Nobody said anything to ME, of course. I guess they thought I’d eventually figure it out although, in my past, I never could tell if a woman was interested with me. Generally they had to use a baseball bat. Mary just sat me down and told me. Once I was told, it seemed like a great idea. It was and is. And I had a future again.

The point of this – I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day but some of you maybe didn’t. Maybe you were alone and lonely. I’ve been there; I know the feeling. Kim didn’t happen until I was well into my Thirties. Although I’m a big romantic, I was romantically inept.

And yet I found Kim. When she died, I thought that part of my life was over. I had someone and she was gone. And then my best friend became the woman I love. If it happened to me – twice – it can happen to you.

Just find your own scar-faced Cupid.

John Ostrander: Bad Boys, Bad Boys

Ostrander Art 140119I was watching perhaps my favorite new TV show of the season, The Blacklist, last Monday. James Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington exacts a fierce revenge on those who wronged him. Reddington has done terrible things throughout the series and yet I find myself drawn to him, even rooting for him. I doubt that I’m the only one.

It’s not the first time for me. There was James Gandolfini in The Sopranos and, to an even greater extent, Michael Chiklis in The Shield. Who is the real center of The Dark Knight – Christian Bales’ Batman or Heath Ledger’s Joker? It’s a tradition that goes back a long way – the most interesting character in Shakespeare’s Othello isn’t the title character but Iago, the great and cunning villain of the play.

I really enjoy writing the bad guys as well. My favorite Star Wars creation? Probably the rogue and con man Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk. Over at DC, I had a whole series centering on the villains – Suicide Squad. My faves among them – probably Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot. It’s not hard to spot. Hell, even John Gaunt, GrimJack, is not a hero except maybe by default.

So… what is the attraction? I am, by most accounts, a nice guy. So where does all this come from? The bad guys have to come from somewhere inside of me. Why are all of us attracted by the Joker, or Hannibal Lecter, or Raymond Reddington and the others?

Going back to my acting days, it was always fun to play a villain. First of all, they usually had the best lines. More important, I think the villains do things that you and I have atavistic urges to do, but our own conditioning, our own morality, keep us from acting on those urges. By identifying with the bad guys, by emotionally investing myself with them and their acts, I do the crime without having to worry about paying the price. I get the thrill without having to worry about the consequences.

I especially enjoy writing characters like Captain Boomerang. Boomerbutt (as others called him) was remarkably well-adjusted in a rather reprehensible way. He knew exactly who he was and he was happy with it. No angst, no desire to make himself better. Nobody liked Captain Boomerang more than Boomerang himself; it might be safe to say that he was the only one who liked Boomerang at all. He was fine with that as well.

Another secret of villains is that they don’t think of themselves, for the most part, as bad. They may think that the rules don’t apply to them but they feel they have the perfect right to do what they’re doing.

I don’t like every villain. Simple thugs and bullies – not very interesting. Same goes for the megalomaniac who wants to rule the world. Usually they’re pretty one note. No, give me the guy or gal with intelligence or at least a low cunning, a sense of humor, a worldview of some kind, a touch of theatricality and who has no compunction about doing what they do. Ah, that’s a villain I can sink my literary teeth into!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY: Jen Krueger

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold

 

Mike Gold: Creating Creations Over Michigan Barbecue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThings usually wind down as we get towards the end of the year, but this is not necessarily true for most freelancers, and this year it is certainly not true for me. However, I am not complaining in the least.

Last Friday I found myself scarfing down absolutely fantastic barbecue at a place in Corunna, Michigan. If you don’t know where that is, well, it’s just southeast of Owosso. My lust for great Que is perhaps legendary, but to actually get me to Corunna took some additional bait: I met up with my old and dear friend and ComicMix comrade John Ostrander.

Not wanting to destroy our mood, we didn’t talk about the Cubs’ prospects for the new season. We did open with our other usual talking points: politics, weird Chicago history, comics industry gossip, and comics industry fact that we could never utter in public. Then we got down to work.

We discussed a project we’ve wanted to do for almost a decade; one that we believe will finally get off the ground in 2014. It’s funny – I can’t remember what happened last night (maybe for a reason), but I remember a brilliant pitch from Paleolithic times. I’ve got enough brilliant and worthy pitches rattling around in my brainpan to start Second Comics, Third Comics, and π Comics. All it takes is an infinite amount of time and about 40% of Uncle Scrooge’s money bin.

Working with first-rate creators in plotting a new story or developing a new series is, for me, the best part of the job. I truly enjoy the catalytic role of making things happen. My working relationship and methodology differs with each creative team, and quite frankly working with John on a new project is very different from working with John and Timothy Truman on a new GrimJack story.

John and I have known each other since around 1971 and we’ve been working together in the comics racket since 1982, so we collaborate like an old comedy duo, like Crosby and Hope, Letterman and Shaffer, or the Smothers Brothers. Whereas I might start with a suggestion based upon my knowledge of John’s creative strengths, my job is to collaborate, reality-test, and polish – and not to create. In other words, John – and, later, the artist we entice onto the gig – do all the heavy lifting. I’m there to bounce around ideas, to represent the reader in making sure the story is getting across the plate, and to represent the business interests of the publisher. If the latter sounds anti-creative, well, it doesn’t have to be – if you’re working with a good publisher who also has a good marketing department. And good luck with that.

Because writers can write faster than drawers can draw, I got to ask John about starting another project, one we can get to once the new one I just alluded to is in the works. Of course we’ve got at least a half-dozen other concepts we’ve been wanting to do forever, but this time we thought it might be fun to start with a blank sheet of paper. Such a conversation focuses on several questions, such as “What would you like to do?” “Why does that excite you?” “How does that differ from (fill in the blank)?” and “What reference and research do we need to do?”

John and I have been swirling around a couple of specific themes for years, all born from mutual interest. He told me what he really wanted to do next – not an actual concept per se, but situations, environments, time frames, and character bits; the meat and potatoes of any story. Then, like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, we take those potatoes and mold them into the shape of a… thing. Nothing too specific – that’s up to John when he spaces out in front of his computer and starts creating magic.

We finished our barbecue, made a lot of cheap jokes at the expense of friends, fools and politicians, paid the bill, and went our separate ways. Usually it’s kind of sad to separate from an old friend whom you might not see for several months, but this is the comics world. We will be working on both of these projects via ridiculously frequent emails and phone calls. We will be in constant touch – just as we have been for about 42 years now.

Damn, I’ve got a great job.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

 

John Ostrander: Time and Space and Remembrance

Ostrander Art 131124An unusual convergence of historical dates of different emotional resonances for me occurred this weekend – the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and what would have been the sixtieth birthday of my late wife, Kimberly Ann Yale.

Like many Americans, I remember where I was when I heard the news of JFK. I was in my history class at Quigley Preparatory Seminary North near downtown Chicago. The word that the President was shot came over the loudspeaker used for school announcements, followed a little later by the news of his death. I was stunned, in denial. I remember little else of that day. I think school was closed and we were sent home.

Kim’s dad was a Navy chaplain and they were living on-base at the time. She later told me how she was at school off-base and had to hurry back. The base was going into lockdown after the assassination and if she was outside when the gates closed, she wouldn’t have been able to get home. That was her tenth birthday.

For me, I place the days of my youth between two sets of gunshots – the ones that killed JFK and the ones that killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980. I was 14 for the former and 31 for the latter. Both gave me a slightly darker sense of the world around me and the country in which I lived. Both events inform my writing to this day.

The day after Kennedy was killed, a new TV series was launched over in the UK – Doctor Who. The series tells of the adventures of a time-traveling alien Time Lord and his (usually) human companions through time and space. When William Hartnell, the original actor playing the part, became too ill to continue the series, the producers came up with a key concept to the longevity of the series: when a Time Lord faced the death of his mortal body, it can “regenerate” into a wholly new form and, even more significant, a different character. Most important, there’s a whole new actor with a new interpretation of the main character. That, I think, has been key to keeping the series fresh and vital.

I met Kim through Doctor Who. I loved the Doctor and wanted to be the Doctor. I also knew that the odds, then or now, of an American ever playing the part was virtually non-existent. However, I was an actor in Chicago and a sometimes playwright and less often a producer. So I conceived of an idea of getting the rights to put on a play version of the Doctor in Chicago.

I managed to arrange a meeting with show runner John Nathan-Turner during a combined Chicago Comic Con and Doctor Who Convention (sometimes referred to as the Sweat Con since the hotel’s air conditioning unit proved inadequate to the number of people attending and outside it was a 106° Chicago August day). John Nathan-Turner brought along Terry Nation (creator of the Daleks for Doctor Who) and Mr. Nation brought along a lovely young woman with big eyes, curly hair, and a megawatt smile who was his assistant for the Con. That was Kim.

To describe Kim as a Doctor Who fan doesn’t begin to describe it. She was also very knowledgeable on all things Time Lord and I used her an a consultant as I developed the script. Nothing else developed at the time; Kim was married and I don’t fool around that way.

We became a couple only later, after the play project had folded and her marriage had broken up. My romantic life at that point was, if anything, even worse than my theatrical career. I’d given up dating; I hadn’t seen anyone in almost two years. It just seemed too painful to try. Kim and I had kept in touch and she was also a big fan of my work on GrimJack, the comic book I had created for First Comics.

I should note here that Doctor Who was an influence on creating GrimJack. It might seem that the two couldn’t be less alike but one of the things I loved about Doctor Who was that you could do any kind of story. They did horror, they did Westerns, they did everything and I wanted to do that with GrimJack. In that sense, he was my Doctor. Later, we showed he could even reincarnate. There is a darkness to the series that I can, in part, trace back to the assassination of Jack Kennedy.

Kim wrote to me about a specific issue of GrimJack that had affected and resonated with her; I found it a little strange that she would write since we lived less than a mile apart and she had my phone number. I told her this and she replied that some things were best expressed in writing. What can I say? I’m a writer; I understood that. Kim was a writer as well. That night was the night our relationship changed. That was the night we started to become a couple.

It’s just coincidence, I suppose, that the three dates are in such proximity to one another. We assign meaning to dates, both as a people and as individuals. It’s an accident that the significant anniversaries of the assassination, Kim’s birthday, and the launching of Doctor Who are in conjunction this year. The connections that I see, that I feel, among them are mine. We are all the results of the various events that have happened in our lives and none of them occur in a vacuum. This weekend, I remember and honor three that were significant to me.

MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

 

Rory Gallagher Box Set To Feature Original Rankin & Truman Story

RoryOur pal Timothy Truman, perhaps best known for his work on such comics features as GrimJack, Conan, Hawkworld, Jonah Hex, Hawken, and Scout, has teamed up with writer Ian Rankin to present a 44 page comics story inspired by the work of rock-and-blues musician Rory Gallagher. From the press release:

“On October 29, 2013, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Kickback City, a unique immersive album inspired by the crime noir passion and music of Rory Gallagher (MSRP $29.98). Featuring a specially compiled album of Rory Gallagher’s best crime novel-influenced music; the stunning package also includes an exclusive new novella by Ian Rankin, fully illustrated by graphic artist Timothy Truman. This unique immersive album also includes a special narration of the story by actor Aidan Quinn.

“Inspired by Rory Gallagher’s passion for crime novels, Kickback City is a creative collaboration combining the words of Ian Rankin, the illustrations of Timothy Truman and of course the music of Rory Gallagher. The result is a brand new kind of concept album – a must have for fans of Rory Gallagher, Ian Rankin, graphic novels and newcomers alike.”

In addition to being an accomplished writer and artist, Truman is also a journeyman guitar player and has jammed with musicians Carlos Santana, Bill Kirschen and members of the Grateful Dead. Timothy also provides the illustrations for a great many Grateful Dead album covers and posters.

“I was turned on to Rory’s work in 1973 when I was a junior in high school in West Virginia,” Truman noted. “One Friday night, I turned on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and that’s when I first saw Rory. He immediately blew me away. I thought he was the greatest guitarist and performer I’d ever seen and I’ve been a devoted follower of his music ever since.”

Music recorded by both Gallagher and Truman are frequently featured on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind (I wonder who hosts that show), on ComicMix affiliate The Point Radio . For more information on Rory Gallagher, please visit www.rorygallagher.com.

John Ostrander: Fashion Statements

My good friend Martha Thomases, as usual, wrote an interesting column this week on her way to the Baltimore Con. She wrote about choosing what to wear at the Con and that, in turn, set me to thinking and provided grist for my own essay mill. Some weeks I need a lot of grist.

Something that’s important in comics and too little discussed is the importance of clothes. The fashion choices made by a character says something about that character. What you wear makes a statement about who you are even if that statement is, “I don’t care.” As often as not, my criterion still is, “Is it clean? Is it clean-ish? Does it at least not smell? Does it not smell too badly?”

However, I can dress up. I clean up fairly well, to be honest. I’m not keen on wearing ties but I know how and when to do so. I like hats, especially fedoras, although the Irish cloth cap works well on me. One wonderful fan made me a beret like GrimJack wears and I like that a lot and can be seen at conventions with it.

Some people dress for success. Some people dress to be invisible. Choices are made even when it appears to be a non-choice. If you say, “I don’t care how I look; I don’t think it’s important,” that’s a choice. It says something and don’t bother maintaining that it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter. It does. We make up our minds about people right away depending on how they appear to us. They do the same with us. Assuming the phrase, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” Is true, why is it true? The answer is we want people to perceive us in a certain way even if our goal is not to be perceived, to blend in.

When I was working with student artists, I wanted them to look at different source materials for the way people dressed. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne would be more likely to dress out of GQ whereas Peter Parker might dress from the Old Navy store.  Here’s an extra-points question – how would Tony Stark dress differently from Bruce Wayne? Bruce’s suits are a costume for the playboy image he plays whereas Tony’s wardrobe is who he is (and, yes, I’m including the Iron Man costume).

Certain costumes can be a short-hand to who the character is – in Westerns, it used to be the good guys wore the white hats and the bad guys wore the black hats. Made things simple – an oversimplification, really. Clothing and costumes can describe a character but they can’t be substituted for characterization itself.

Clothing can reveal character: who the individual is, how they think of themselves, how they present an image of themselves. We do it (deny it if you want) and so characters do it as well. What’s true in life should be true on the page.

A very fun aspect of this in the past few years has been the rising importance of cosplay (costume playing for those of you who don’t know the term) as part of fandom. Fans become the characters they see in the comics or on the screen. The costumes can be elaborate or silly or elaborately silly or anywhere in that spectrum. They’ve become fixtures at most conventions these days and are often stunning. They’re a merger of the person who is wearing the costume and the character they represent.

Whether it’s in a drawing or in prose, clothes can make the character and if you want to work as an artist or a writer, you’d do well to remember that.

MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

Mike Gold: Comics Creators Kick Ass

Gold Art 130821Excuse me if this week’s profundity seems a bit more extemporaneous than usual. It’s been one of those weeks, and at 3:00 yesterday morning Roscoe The Cat literally saved my life and I’m still twitching over that one.

I listen to music all the time. Literally, all the time. I have a very wide range in taste, but most of what I listen to falls under the exceptionally broad category of “kick ass rock’n’blues.” It’s a phrase I use on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind, my weekly radio indulgence on (ahem) www.getthepointradio.com. Right now, I’m listening to Sterling Koch’s 2010 effort, Steel Guitar Blues. Kick ass music energizes me and takes the pressures of the day and it puts them over there, wherever there is. Music is my drug of choice.

A lot of my friends in the comics racket have a similar relationship to rock’n’blues – it’s crack for those of us with short attention spans. Topping that list is my Team GrimJack mate and awesomely dear friend, Timothy Truman. He’s turned me onto more great music than anybody outside of the amazing disc jockey Terri Hemmert (WXRT; they stream live and are on most of the radio apps). The difference is, it’s Terri’s job to turn us on to music. Timbo’s job is to sit at his drawing board and his computer and knock out the greatest comics the world has ever known.

The energy and the ambiance of kick ass rock’n’blues is reflected in Tim’s work – every damn panel of it. He’d probably do more comics work if he weren’t the artist for The Grateful Dead, and his work as graced the cover of many a recent GD release. He’d probably do less comics work if he had decided to make his career commitment the guitar: he’s one of the finest guitar players I have ever heard. That’s a lot to say, as I spent more than three decades in Chicago and I lived near many of their classic blues clubs. Timothy has jammed with Carlos Santana and Bill Kirchen and sundry of the Dead and a million others and, let me tell you, from the tapes I’ve heard nobody ever had to carry him.

Having worked with him on a zillion projects in the past 30 years – that’s 30 years this year – I can now reveal a secret: I stole Timbo not from TSR, where he was employed prior to Starslayer and GrimJack, but from the world of rock and blues… and for this, I feel guilty.

There are others whose work reflects the energy and spirit of the sound. Lots of so-called underground guys like George Metzger and Rand Holmes and Greg Irons. Erik Larson has more than a bit of that going for him. Howard Chaykin, but not so much rock’n’blues as Hoagy Carmichael and Billie Holiday by way of David Bowie.

Gold Art 130821-BBut no one ever captured the spirit and the energy of kick ass rock’n’blues the way Jack Kirby did. You could see the shift in his style around the time rock’n’roll hit the airwaves in the mid-50s (check out his Fighting American), and when it came time to co-create the Marvel Universe, well let me tell you, Galactus and Doctor Doom and the Silver Surfer and the negative zone and… well, you get the idea. Pure rock energy that carried over to his Fourth World stuff at DC.

Here’s the part that I find overwhelming: there is no recorded evidence that Jack Kirby was a fan of this music, or that he even liked it. He met a few rock’n’rollers; he met Frank Zappa, for crying out loud. But if this isn’t the creative coincidence of all time, then there was something in the air that only Jack Kirby and a couple thousand musicians could inhale.

It was intuitive, the way good comics should be. It was intuitive, the way good music should be.

By the way, I’m now listening to the new album by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Made Up Mind. And yeah, Timothy Truman turned me on to them. Then, I think some rockabilly. Or maybe Bo Diddley.

(Poster artwork by Timothy Truman in promotion of a 2009 Grateful Dead tour, and the Simon and Kirby piece is from Fighting American. Both are probably copyright by somebody appropriate. Oh, yeah. All Rights Reserved. So watch yer ass.)

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko