Tagged: Timothy Truman

John Ostrander: Details, details, details…

OStrander Art 130407There’s a saying that goes “The devil is in the detailsl, but so is character, whether writing, drawing, or acting. I had the opportunity of teaching at the Joe Kubert School a few times (and the inestimable pleasure of getting to know not only the legendary Joe Kubert but so many others working at the school) and I had the maybe unenviable task of teaching writing to a bunch of art students. Some didn’t take to that right away; after all, they were there to learn how to draw. From talking to some of the graduates over the years, however, I think most found it worthwhile and I enjoyed it.

For me, everything in comics is about character and storytelling. Design to me means nothing unless it is tied to those two points. I’m not interested in a mask or costume whose design is simply “cool” or its what the artist wants to draw.  The character has chosen to make or wear a given mask, costume, or uniform. What does that tell us about him or her? Famously, Batman wants to invoke a bat because criminals are (supposedly) a cowardly and superstitious lot. He wants to invoke fear in them.

One exercise I gave the students was to create their own mask – not for a character but something that would express and freeze some aspect of themself. It would both reveal them and, because it was a mask, it would also conceal them. They were safe behind the mask. It was and was not them.

When the masks were completed, I asked them to wear them. Masks in many societies have power; often, they represent a god and the wearer (supposedly) channels the power of the god. I asked the students to let the mask act upon them; how did they act, how did they feel, how did they move? What – if anything – changed in them?

The purpose was to get them to understand the affects that the masks the characters they wore had upon the characters they were writing and/or drawing. Spider-Man, for example, certainly reacts differently than Peter Parker. Batman, on the other hand, becomes more of who he is when he wears the cowl; his true mask may be Bruce Wayne, as perceived by others.

We do the same thing with what we choose to wear. We say something about ourselves, about who we perceive ourselves to be, of how we want to be perceived by others. Even a careless choice – “whatever is clean” or “whatever I grab” says something. Even if the message being sent out, “I can’t be judged by my clothes; I’m deeper than that.” that is still making a statement. Maybe the message is – I don’t want to be noticed. That is also still a statement. That’s a choice being made and that tells us something about a person – or a character.

What kind of clothes does your character wear? Bruce Wayne may wear Armani; I asked my students if they knew what an Armani suit looked like. Peter Parker is going to shop off the rack. Which rack?

In movies and TV, they have a whole team of people deciding what the rooms look like. Bedrooms, offices, desks, kitchens – depending on the person and what room is most important to them, what are the telling details about them that personalize the space, that say something about the character?

As an actor, I needed to know what my character wore, how he walked, how he used his hands when talking (or did he?). What sort of shoes did he wear? I compared knowing this to an iceberg; the vast majority of the iceberg is under water and only the tip shows. However, for that tip to show, the bulk of the iceberg had to be there. (One of these days I’m probably going to have to explain what an iceberg was.) I have to know far, far more about a character than I’m actually going to use just to be able to pick the facts that I feel are salient to a given moment or story. When Tim Truman and I created GrimJack, we had a whole vast backstory figured out, some of which was revealed only much later; some of it may not have been revealed yet.

Generic backgrounds create generic characters. To be memorable, there have to be details. The more specific they are, the more memorable the character will be. That’s what we want to create; that’s what we want to read.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell



Mike Gold: The Baltimore Fun

I like comic book conventions, although I’ve been pretty hard on them lately. These days most conventions have little to do with comic books. They have a lot to do with pop culture and celebrities and movies and autographs and promotion, but over the past decade or two comic books have become the ugly stepchildren within their own temples.

Except for a handful. Mid-Ohio Con has been consumed by the dreaded Wizard ogre; that one used to be a favorite. HeroesCon in North Carolina is high on my list of the exceptional; I wish I could get there each year. There are plenty of great small shows, usually held in hotels and attracting people from about a 200 mile radius, if the weather is agreeable. And, as I’ve incessantly proselytized to the annoyance of thousands, my absolute favorite: the Baltimore Comic-Con.

First and foremost, the Baltimore Comic-Con is about comic books. The panels are about comic books. The exhibitors are about comic books. The awards ceremony is about comic books. In short, it is a comic book convention.

Second, it’s only two days: Saturday and Sunday. The burnout rate is low and people tend not to leave as early on Sundays. You can get as much done in those two days as you can elsewhere in three… or four. Third, the staff is well-trained, efficient, and so damn polite if you’re from New York your skin just might peel off in strips.

I’m happy to say I’ve got a hell of a lot of friends who go there. It’s one of the few shows Timothy Truman attends. Mark and Carol Wheatley both put me up and put up with me year after year; my daughter and ComicMix comrade Adriane Nash gets to stay in Mark’s breathtaking library and studio. Marc Hempel joins us at the Insight Studios booth. Great folks like Gene Ha, Brian Bolland, Amy Chu, Andrew Pepoy, Denis Kitchen, Jack C. Harris, Walter and Louise Simonson, Joe Rubenstein, Larry Hama, Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III … we don’t have the bandwidth to name a tenth of the people I hang out with at the show. Even the (fairly) recently liberated Paul Levitz showed up as a freelancer.

Better still, the ambiance of the Baltimore Comic-Con allows me to make new friends, something that’s almost impossible to do at the largest shows like San Diego, New York, and Chicago. This year I was exceptionally lucky, spending memorable time with Phil LaMarr and Ross Richie.

ComicMix was there in full-force: Vinnie Bartilucci, Glenn Hauman, the aforementioned Adriane Nash, Emily S. Whitten, and the non-alphabetical Marc Alan Fishman – who was there with the rest of the Unshaven Comics crew, Matt Wright, and Kyle Gnepper, where they managed to sell out of their excellent indy comic, Samurnauts.

Probably the highlight of the Baltimore show each year is the Harvey Awards dinner, and this year was no exception. Phil LaMarr served as master of ceremonies, keeping the three and one-half hour show moving while keeping the audience in stiches, Ross Richie delivered an inspiring keynote address, and as usual Paul McSpadden did his usual amazing job coordinating the whole event.

The Hero Initiative honored Joe Kubert with its Humanitarian of the Year award – a decision made before Joe’s passing last month – and Dr. Kevin Brogan delivered a moving tribute to the late cartoonist and educator. As it turns out, Joe left us one more graphic novel. Their annual Lifetime Achievement Award went to John Romita Jr., in a presentation made by the team of Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Marc, Kyle and Matt there for the first time – being sequestered in that room with most of the above-mentioned folks as well as with Stan Lee, John Romita Sr. and Jr., Mark Waid and so many others seemed like a heady experience for our pals, who, I think it’s safe to say, were in fanboy heaven. Pretty damn cool. I’m proud to say our own Glenn Hauman helped in the IT end of things, and ComicMix joined Insight Studios, DC Entertainment, Boom!, Comixology, Richmond Comix and Games, ComicWow!, Painted Visions, Bloop, Captain Blue Hen, Cards Comics and Collectibles, and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum as sponsors.

And I managed to sign up a new columnist for this site. I mentioned the name above somewhere (good hunting), and this person will start out as soon as we iron out scheduling issues and the usual start-up stuff. I’m very excited about this, and you will be too when you read this person’s stuff.

We also went apeshit covering the cosplay scene. Adriane posted about 100,000 pictures on our ComicMix Facebook page, all to the obvious enjoyment of the masses. We’ll be expanding our cosplay coverage considerably, while at the same time polishing our alliteration.

On behalf of the whole ComicMix crew, I want to deeply thank Marc Nathan and Brad Tree for once again putting on the best show in comics, and to thank my dearest of friends Mark and Carol Wheatley for being our personal sponsors. We-all had a great time!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Emily S. Whitten: In Pursuit of Lunch

O.K. This is the wiseass editor typing. Emily’s not here today.

Something about near-complete exhaustion from something called “work.”

Do not fret. Emily will be back next week, no doubt because we’ll hire Deadpool to either find her or ghost her column.

And Emily will be at the Baltimore Comic-Con  September 8th and 9th, joining fellow ComicMixers Marc Alan Fishman, Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash, and Mike Gold (who always enjoys writing about himself in the third person), and artistic ComicMixers Timothy Truman, Mark Wheatley, Andrew Pepoy, Robert Tinnell and Marc Hempel. We’ll mostly be terrorizing the masses at the Insight Studios booth and at the Unshaven Comics booth.

Yes, I just used poor Emily’s exhaustion to plug a comics convention. Any port in a storm.

‘Till then, caveat emptor!

JOHN OSTRANDER: Hits and Misses

Like everyone else, I watch too much TV and see the occasional movie or read a book or two and I have my own reactions to them. Here’s some of what I’ve seen, good bad and indifferent.

Boss, on Starz starring Kelsey Grammar as a tough mayor of Chicago. I’m an old time Chicago boy and a series set in Chicago, dealing with its mayor, and using actual Chicago locations, will always attract my eye. I was so looking forward to this. However, by the third episode, I was taping it and I haven’t gotten around to watching those episodes and then I just stopped. I didn’t care. Too much melodramatic bullshit.

The main character, Tom Kane (obviously named for Tom Keane, a formerly very strong alderman in Chicago, later imprisoned), is diagnosed in the opening moments with some sort of brain disease that can’t be cured, can’t be operated on, and is going to mess him up royally before the end and, of course, he opts to tell no one. We never get a chance to see who he is without the disease; it’s part of what defines the character from the beginning. His wife is an ice queen although very supportive politically. They have a daughter who is now an (I think) Episcopal minister. The parents are estranged from her because she has also been a junkie in the past and looks like she’s going to be that way again. The mayor also has a young female aide who is pretty and has sex with inappropriate men apparently in semi-public places because, you know, ratings.

The creators have a good cast but they don’t apparently trust the setting enough to generate real material because they saddle it with all the nonsense above. You only have to look at political drama in Chicago and Illinois in recent years to find plenty of material. The prison bound Rod Blagojevitch alone could have been a stunning model for a TV series if some of his doings (real or alleged) didn’t appear so preposterous. He sounds too made up. He’s also a hell of a lot more interesting to me than Boss turned out to be.

You want something of Chicago that has real snap and bite? Max Allan Collins has released a volume collecting his Nate Heller short mysteries called Chicago Lightning. I recommended his Nate Heller novel, Bye Bye Baby, earlier and I’m equally enthused for this. It runs the gamut of Nate Heller’s career and is great reading. Highly recommended.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve gotten heavily into Westerns. I’ll plug myself by reminding folks that DC is releasing The Kents historical western miniseries that I wrote. It was originally done in twelve monthly issues and then gathered into a single TPB. This time they’re releasing it in three 100-page spectaculars, each gathering four issues (it was written that way, every four issues an arc). The first two of these are now out and the third will be out next month. Some of my best stuff, I think, and my artists – Timothy Truman and Tom Mandrake – have been my partners-in-crime for a long time.

Anyway, this is really a prelude to my looking in on AMC’s western Hell On Wheels. Another series I was looking forwards to and, again, I started taping it and then abandoned it. Very violent (which is okay but it seems violent for the sake of violence) and I haven’t gotten into the characters. You could spot who was going to be dead early on. It wants to be Deadwood which, even with its faults, was superlative. I may give it a try again at some point but I’m just not feeling drawn to it right now.

Finally, to end on an up note – Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Saw it and loved it. It’s a love letter to the movies from a master film maker who loves movies. It drew me in from the opening frames. There’s a long tracking shots (who does long tracking shots these days? How many directors can?) that pulls you right in. I’ve seen some grumblings about its length and pace, but you won’t hear that from from me. Scorsese loves movies but he also loves story and he weaves a wonderful, rich, emotional story with a wonderful cast and an eye towards detail.

We saw it in 3-D and that’s how it should be seen. Simply one of the best uses of 3-D I’ve seen, and I’m including Avatar. This is what happens when a master filmmaker gets a new tool – not a gimmick, but a tool – and figures out how to use it. Every effect is to tell the story and make it more real, more immediate.

I also know a lot of people who are waiting to see it on DVD or their iPhones or iPads or whatever and that would be a mistake. It’s meant to be seen in a theater; if I could find it somewhere near me in IMAX, I would go see it that way. I’ll own the eventual DVD but it will simply remind me of the experience I had at the movie theater. That’s what Hugo was for me – an experience and one I’m so glad to have had.

All the above are just my reactions. Your mileage may vary.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

JOHN OSTRANDER: Christmas Treasures, Part 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or so the song goes. Except when it’s not.

I have my Christmas favorites on DVD or TV that I watch every year. They include A Christmas Carol (the Reginald Owen version and the much better Alastair Sim version as well as, oddly, Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol which adds songs and does a pretty fair job of summing up the story in less than a half hour), It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and the cartoons – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Karloff beats Carey hands down) and, of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

And, a day or so after Christmas, I add in Bad Santa just to wash all the treacle away. Your choices may differ and that’s fine – these are mine.

My best Christmas was probably the one when I proposed to my late wife, Kim Yale, on Christmas Eve. I had bought the ring and I was pretty sure she would say yes but I was still nervous. Kim and I opened presents on Christmas Eve so I mapped out my strategy. My gifts included a Tim Truman sketch of GrimJack (one of Kim’s faves and part of our becoming a couple), signed by Timbo and carrying the Gaunt message: “You’ve done right by my pal so far, sweetheart. How about makin’ it permanent?”

Then she got a specially made teddy bear (Kim was huge on teddy bears) that was a  GrimJack teddy bear and he was holding a poem from me, a sonnet that would up with my proposal (I made her read it aloud) and as she finished reading it, I brought out the ring. Kim took a dramatic pause (she was great at dramatic pauses) that were the longest seconds of my life but then she said “Yes!” and we off to the races.

That was our first Christmas together. The hardest one was our last.

Kim had breast cancer and she was dying of it. I knew that but she didn’t; her cancer doctor had called me with the news but insisted I not tell her. It might make her give up, he insisted. So, for a while, I went along with that.

Kim was in the hospital a lot at that point; her immune system was in bad shape from the chemo and the radiation. She didn’t like being there alone so I spent a lot of nights there with her. It wouldn’t have been possible without our friend, Mary Mitchell, who spelled me many nights. We were joined later on by my friend Joe Edkin, who would spell us both.

It was trying some times. People would come to visit and Kim would rally her energy, putting on what we referred to as “the Kimberly Show.” This is no criticism of our visitors, who gave lovingly of themselves and were very welcome, but afterwards Kim would have no energy left for me, Mary, and Joe, and sometimes that was hard.

It came to a boil at Christmas. Holidays bring out the best and worst of us. Kim’s final Christmas brought a bit of both in me.

More next time.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

Today is Read Comics in Public Day– and we’re doing it in Baltimore!

Today is Read Comics in Public Day– and we’re doing it in Baltimore!

What started out as a joke between editors of the Daily Cross Hatch blog, Brian Heater and Sarah Morean, has stormed across the land to become a for us nerds to celebrate in tandem. Read Comics in Public Day is exactly what it sounds like. Remember to the “norms”, “muggles”, and “non-nerds” comic books are but mere childish things. While they may have heard of “Graphic Novels”, and probably have seen more than one film lately that was once based on some form of comic literature… they themselves wouldn’t be caught dead perusing an issue of Action Comics or Ghost World whilst out and about. And while hipsters flick and pan on their iPhones, iPads and Kindles, and the spinsters cling to their romance novels whilst whisking themselves on planes, trains, and buses… They look down their noses at we who de-bag our copy of Ultimate Spider-Man, and revel in the mid-adventures of Peter Parker. They don’t “get” our Hellboy BPRD patch sewn lovingly on our Messenger Bag of Holding. They scoff at our mock Blue Lantern Ring, which we wear on Mondays, to remind us to hope for a good week. And when they gaze that steely gaze… we may feel… less good about our choices.

But Not Today.

On this day, I tell you to don ALL your extra giveaway rings. Put that mock Mjolnir on your belt. Don your favorite Kirby-era 70s faded in the wash New Gods shirt. And more than any of that… pull out one of those “kitsch-rags” whilst you are in public. And if you find yourself in the Baltimore Area, take some public transportation, in full cosplay gear, and read that new Brightest Day you had squirreled away. Laugh out loud when Scott Pilgrim makes a funny declaration. Snort and chortle as loudly as you’ve ever chortled before when Deadpool breaks the fourth wall. And then when those who choose to mock you do so? Look them in the eye, and exclaim “Excelsior!” Then… get off that public transportation, and find your way to the Baltimore Comic Con! Join your brothers and sisters in arms, and celebrate all the goodness that can be had at a great convention. And while you’re there? Say hi to some of the ComicMix family in attendance. On the floor, and at their own tables are Mark Wheatley, Robert Tinnell, Adriane Nash, Mike Gold, Timothy Truman, John Workman, Andrew Pepoy, and Glenn Hauman! Shake their hands. Take their picture. Then have them snap a shot of you, reading that new Lone Justice trade you needed. Better yet… Go outside with that copy of Lone Justice, and read it in a nice public park. Snap the picture there, and then send it on to the folks at readcomicsinpublic.com.

You have your marching orders. Now go make us proud.

Review: ‘Scout, Vol. 2’ by Timothy Truman

Review: ‘Scout, Vol. 2’ by Timothy Truman

Scout, Volume Two
By Timothy Truman
Dynamite Entertainment, July 2008, $19.95

This, as you might have guessed from the title of the book, is the second collection of Tim Truman’s [[[Scout]]] series, originally published over twenty-four issues starting in 1987 from Eclipse Comics. (You young ‘uns won’t know from Eclipse, but they were one of the major “indy” comics companies, back before anybody used that term.) The first Scout collection came out last year, and I reviewed it then.

To recap: Scout is set in a world of the worst fears of mid-‘80s liberals: global warming ran riot, turning most of the US into a desert; the US government collapsed into corporate fascism; the US economy basically dried up and blew away; and everything generally went to hell. It also went to hell really, really quickly, since Scout starts in 1999, only twelve years after it was originally published. By the beginning of this volume – the eighth issue and the start of a new plotline – it’s possibly a year later than that, but everything is still horrible, and getting even worse. (It’s one of those post-apocalypse settings in which regular people, like you and me, seem to have all died off quietly, without even leaving rotting corpses or giant piles of bones behind, so that the tough survivalist types can battle it out over the scarce resources left.)

But Scout’s world is different from our own in other ways: it’s not really a science-fictional world, despite being set in the near future. Various kinds of magic and mysticism really do work, and our hero, former Army Ranger Emanuel Santana, is explicitly on a mission to destroy a series of legendary monsters that are behind the USA’s troubles. (The first storyline was called “[[[The Four Monsters]]];” in that, he tracked down and killed four monsters from Apache mythology, all masquerading as powerful humans. At the beginning of this volume, his spirit guide – a talking prairie dog called Gahn – leads Santana to the next monster, which is a part of him.)



GrimJack: He’s back!

Hooray!  GrimJack‘s back today, with an all-new episode from John Ostrander and Timothy Truman. 

GrimJack’s gone back in time, and he’s still surrounded by demons. Some things never change… In this episode, John has to share a body, and not in the fun way!


Webbed Comics


Conan Continues On

Conan Continues On

Conan the Barbarian may be 75 years old, but he can still kick the butts of comics’ youngsters all over town.

From a new coffee-table book and a growing interest in his 1970s stories to the possibility of a new feature film and an upcoming series relaunch, Publishers Weekly provides a nice look at the goings-on in the world of Conan with this recent article.

Among the notable Conan-conscious events set to take place in ’08 is the aforementioned relaunch of Dark Horse Comics’ Conan series, with the current series ending in March at issue #50 and then a new series, Conan the Cimmerian, beginning in June. The new series will be written by ComicMix’s own Timothy Truman and illustrated by Tomas Giorelloand and Richard Corben. It will be edited by Philip Simon.

“With Conan 47–50, readers will see Conan has come to the end of his carefree years as a thief. He’s about to enter the mercenary years. But first, he decides to take a trip back to his homeland, Cimmeria,” Truman said. “His first wanderings into the lands south and east of Cimmeria have been filled with all sorts of nastiness and betrayal and have left a sour taste in his craw. So, he decides to pay a visit back home—just like most teenagers after they take their first stab at the world. (No pun intended, of course.) When he gets there, he finds that he views the place with different eyes, and that people are the same all over.”

The PW crew also chats with Paul Sammon, the writer of the recently released Conan the Phenomenon, a coffee-table hardcover compendium of all things Conan, and investigates the possibility of another Conan feature film.