Tagged: Timothy Truman



It’s a good time to be a comics fan of my age – someone in his thirties who started reading comics in the late 1980s – since there’s been a continuing wave of reprints of the better comics of those days in more permanent form. A lot of things that I hadn’t read in a decade or more, because the original issues are bagged up in longboxes now buried under other things in a messy basement, are coming back into print on slick paper with square covers. It’s very nice to have these things in a form that fits on a shelf, but I do sometimes worry that some things that I loved at eighteen won’t be as compelling to me at thirty-eight.

I think I was on board for Scout when Eclipse started publishing it in 1987; I’d been following comics for a year or so then, and I knew Truman’s work from GrimJack, which he illustrated over John Ostrander’s scripts. I know I loved it immediately, and have been known to grouse, in the years since, about wanting all of the sequel series that Truman had sketched out, way back then. (Scout: Marauder and Scout: Blue Leader, which I’m still waiting for…but I’m also waiting for Ty Templeton to return to Stig’s Inferno and Zander Cannon to pick The Replacement God back up, so I may just not know when to give up on things.)

I was a bit apprehensive to go back to Scout after twenty years. On the one hand, I was pretty sure I’d still be happy with Truman’s art, since the recent GrimJack reprints (on much nicer paper than back in the day) showed off all of the little details of his line work, and that still thrilled me. But I remembered that Scout was a post-apocalyptic story, and I’ve developed an allergy to those since having kids. (It’s just one of those things – if a book is set in the near future, I work out how old my sons would be in that world, or how old I might be, if I’m not dead yet, and try to figure out what I or they might be doing. Stories that slaughter my family and I, especially as part of megadeaths off-stage for cheap pathos, aren’t things I’m as interested in any more.)


MICHAEL H. PRICE: Conan the Oilpatch Roughneck

Devotees of comics and the high-adventure pulp magazines know the story almost by heart: Before he had turned 30, Robert E. Howard, of Cross Plains, Texas, had staked out several prominent stations in American literature. He was a poet of Homeric promise, for example, and a contributor to the H.P. Lovecraft school of cosmic terrors – and a prolific South-by-Southwestern regionalist and steward of cowboy lore. And then some.

Had Howard lived past 30, he likely would have outgrown the shirtsleeves-fiction arena to find formal acceptance as a major literary figure. But the pulps – those cheaply produced mass-market publications that thrived during the first half of the 20th century – made an ideal proving ground, and a lasting monument to a talent too big to confine to a category.

A constant element is a sense of Howard’s nomadic upbringing in rural Texas, during a time when the first oil-and-gas booms were transforming much of the state into a barbaric land of violence and mercenary opportunism. In a recent book called Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard, Austin-based scholar Mark Finn makes plain the influence that the boom-town phenomenon, with its brawling new breed of citizenry known as roughnecks, worked upon Bob Howard. 

Had he lived to become a more seasoned artist, Howard (1906-36) probably would not have outgrown his appetite for rambunctious adventure, whether or not he might have left behind the characters who had earned for him an eager and widespread readership. Such recurring characters include a trouble-prone Westerner named Jeopardy Grimes and the Puritan avenger Solomon Kane. To say nothing of Conan the Cimmerian, the barbaric warrior whose exploits have overshadowed the greater range of Howard’s work.

Conan remains an especially bankable attraction, 71 years after the author’s death. Dark Horse Comics offers a mounting series of new exploits, written nowadays by my old-time chum and blues-and-comics collaborator Timothy Truman. And many people still picture Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with perhaps a smidgen of accuracy in terms of his Conan movies of a generation ago.

But Howard’s restless spirit is gaining ground on his fictional creation.

Finn’s Blood & Thunder (Monkey Brain Books; $19.95) represents more than a perceptive portrait. Taken together, separate biographical studies of Howard by Rusty Burke and Mark Finn form a persuasively definitive portrait. To a Southwestern region that has reawakened during the past several years to the possibilities of oil-and-gas exploration – a consequence of mounting natural-gas play within the Barnett Shale geological formation – Finn’s book is particularly valuable as an examination of an earlier Texas in the throes of boom-town mania.

“Howard remains to most an Oedipal figure who created [Conan] as a wish-fulfillment fantasy,” as Publisher’s Weekly has appraised Blood and Thunder. “Finn quietly and expertly demolishes these and other misconceptions [and] discusses Howard in the context of a populist writer whose dyspeptic view of civilization was forged in the corrupt Texas oil-boom towns in which he grew up.”

Every fictional character must have some basis in real-life observation or experience. Finn’s persuasive argument, interpreted from Howard’s published and private writings, holds that Conan, with his air of defiance, his appetites for mayhem and his “gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirths” (in Howard’s terminology) owes much to the oilfield social dynamics of the early 20th century – the upshot of abrupt industrialization.


The Second Big ComicMix Video Podcast

The Second Big ComicMix Video Podcast

Here’s your big chance to see comics creators Mike Grell and Timothy Truman as they talk about their new Jon Sable Freelance (Ashes of Eden) and GrimJack (The Manx Cat) graphic novels — and you’ll be able to preview pages of finished art from these two upcoming tomes! It’s the second Big ComicMix VIDEO Podcast, up and at ’em for your consideration.

All you have to do, as usual, is PRESS THE BUTTON!





Truman Goes To The Dead

The Greatful Dead have a new website, Dead.Net, and our pal Timothy Truman is all over it!

Timbo’s been drawing the Dead’s comix adaptations for years and years now – he also did up the triple-gatefold cover to their latest album, Live At The Cow Palace – and their new site’s got just about all of ’em posted! Some of Timothy’s finest and most heartfelt artwork, to be sure.

And what’s Mr. Truman been up to lately, besides drawing for the Dead? Well, he’s been writing Dark Horse’s Conan series, and for the past couple months he’s been hard at work drawing the newest GrimJack graphic novel, The Manx Cat, written by fellow-GJ creator John Ostrander.

Of course, Timbo’s got his own website. Check it out.

Lyrics written by and copyright Robert Hunter.

Conan The Historian

Conan The Historian

This September (the 26th, if you’ve got a "Week At A Glance"), our friends at Dark Horse will be releasing the difinitive story behind one of their leading franchises. Paul Sammon’s CONAN THE PHENOMENON promises to offer a complete look at the mostly naked barbarian, covering Robert E. Howard’s original stories, the subsequent prose authors, and all the comics incarnations – including those produced by such masters as Roy Thomas, Barry Smith, John Buscema, and Timothy Truman.

The Schwartzenegger movies will not be ignored. At least, not by Sammon or, for that matter, by the voters of California.

One cannot produce such a tome without offering tons of illustrations, and this book promises to be up to the task. Of course, it will sport a Frank Frazetta cover (above). The introduction is being provided by Elric’s daddy, the eternal champion himself, Michael Moorcock.