GrimJack is back!

GrimJack came onto the comics scene in 1983, from writer John Ostrander and artist Timothy Truman. It became one of First Comics most popular series, ran for 81 issues plus an original graphic novel. Then, with the collapse of First, it disappeared from the stands, but not from the memory of its fans. Now, at last, GrimJack returns from IDW in a series of collections and a new mini-series by its original creators. So, why bring GrimJack back now?

"John and I have been aching to do a GrimJack tale for years, but the character was enmeshed in several bizarre legal entanglements," says Truman. "John worked on negotiations for years but nothing ever seemed to work out. Finally we brought in Mike Gold to be our agent. Mike really came to our rescue. Now John and I are full partners in the character. On the creators' rights end of things, it's a fantastic arrangement. Plus, we finally get to do the character again. We're very excited about it. It's like coming home after a war."

"And the fans kept asking," adds Ostrander. "Not a month has gone by since GrimJack was last published that people didn't ask when he was coming back. Not if. When."

How does it feel to be working with GrimJack again? "Wonderful," states editor Mike Gold. "This is just about the most fun I've had since, well, since the three of us did GrimJack originally. We all go way, way back, and we share a lot of common interests and points of view. We've been together through births and deaths, through moves and life changes. Of course, I've worked with both John and Tim separately since GrimJack and we even worked together for a short while on Hawkworld, but this is something else. This is GrimJack ."

"It's amazing," declares Truman. "GrimJack was always one of my very favorite projects. I really, really missed him - and I missed doing him with John Ostrander. I have a soft spot in my heart for the character. GrimJack introduced my whacky, cold-filtered, broken jawed, bloody-fisted drawing style to the unsuspecting comics world. Poor things."

For those unfamiliar with GrimJack, who is he? "GrimJack is usually John Gaunt, a mercenary private eye type working out of Munden's Bar in the pandimensional city of Cynosure," explains Ostrander. "The city sits at the nexus of realties; sooner or later every dimension comes into phase with Cynosure. It is the greatest trading place in the multi-verse. The laws of physics can change from block to block. One of running lines is that science works here, magic works there, and swords (and a bad attitude) seem to work everywhere.

"Gaunt himself has walked a hard path. He was born in the Pit (where the dregs of Cynosure congeal). He fought in gladiator games when he was a boy (where he acquired the nickname of GrimJack), was a soldier in the Demon Wars when Hell invaded the city, became a temporal bounty hunter, worked with the city police force (the TDP), and then with a CIA type group called CADRE. Now he's a merc for hire, a problem solver, a detective, and - in his own way - a seeker of truth. Somebody once asked me what GrimJack was about and I said it was how to make moral choices in an amoral world. That's GrimJack . Along with a lot of action, humor, and attitude."

GrimJack is usually John Gaunt? "Technically, there have been two," continues Ostrander. "There was the cloned GrimJack but then, about issue 55, we drop kicked the entire series 200 years down the timeline to reveal that GrimJack was re-incarnated. Same soul and with all the memories of having been John Gaunt, but this time he went by the name of James Edgar Twilley. This incarnation of GrimJack was more, shall we say, "psychologically disturbed," perhaps even more violent. It was a radical retooling of the book and our artist, Flint Henry, was almost as crazed (and I mean that in a good way). Tim himself recommended Flint. It was a fun ride."

So what about the books themselves? What can readers expect in Legend of GrimJack Vol. 1 ? "The stories that are reprinted are from GrimJack's earliest appearances in Starslayer ," says Ostrander. "Originally, GrimJack was a back-up feature. Just about all the major characters and themes were introduced during those back-ups. We've also included the two-issue crossover GrimJack did with the lead feature as well.

"There's also a new 8 page "bookend" type story, intended to introduce new readers and re-introduce old readers as well to GrimJack and his world. GrimJack always has had a first person narrator so I thought we should see who the stories were being narrated to. It's really a "thank you" to the long time fan who has waited so patiently as well as being a good intro to someone who hasn't read GrimJack before.

"One point I would like to make clear about it (because some fans have asked) is that the material in the trade paperback has no bearing on the mini-series. It's not like a "prelude" or anything. It stands by itself as part of the first trade paperback as a "thank you" to long time fans."

"It also gave me a chance to show how much my art style has developed over the last 19 years - indeed, over the last four years or so," adds Truman. "It's going to be exciting to hear folks' reactions, especially when they have the older material to compare it to."

What can people looks forward to in the new mini-series, Killer Instinct ? According to John Ostrander, "It's set before the stories in the first trade paperback. It's meant to be satisfying to old fans and completely accessible to new readers. It's a prequel in a way; it's the story of how John Gaunt left Cadre and began working for himself. This is the start of his working on his own - he doesn't yet have that same street rep we see later so he has to work harder. His relationship with his supporting cast may not be what it later becomes. There are things that even the long time fan will learn about John Gaunt; questions you maybe didn't think to ask. This really is designed to be the story for newbies and seasoned fans alike."

And there are more characters returning than just GrimJack. "BlacJacMac makes an appearance, Bob the Watchlizard, Roscoe has a big role, Grimjack's old boss at Cadre, Col. Mayfair has a primary role, and some more," says Truman.

Editor Mike Gold says that making the new mini-series new reader friendly was a priority. "We were quite concerned about this when we were plotting the story arc, but as it turns out, it was a no-brainer. What needed to be established was easy to establish, and quite frankly it would be no different than if we'd been doing the series every month since Siegel and Shuster were puppies. You always want to create opportunities for new readers to jump in, both in a monthly comic magazine and in a trade paperback or hardcover that reprints an entire arc."

Truman adds, "One of the things we always heard about GrimJack is that people could jump aboard with almost any issue, without knowing much of the character's back-story."

How does the team of Ostrander, Truman, and Gold put together an issue of GrimJack ? "Oh, it's an ugly sight," states artist Timothy Truman. "John usually comes up with the basic story or plot idea. Then there's a blinding exchange of emails as we come up with different little things we can do to pump the story up more: new characters, motivations, locations. John works up an official plot and emails it to Mike Gold and myself. At this point a few more ideas usually come up - weird twists on what's already there, for the most part."

Editor Mike Gold picks up the story. "During the production of the story, I act as the readers' representative, to make certain that the story that we want to tell can be understood by those who are likely to pick it up. The trick is not to go for the lowest common denominator; we won't idiot-proof our stories. Given my familiarity with GrimJack and my 22 year working relationship with both Tim and John, they make it quite comfortable for me to make any suggestion I desire. I have no capricious veto power; if I believe something won't work, it's my job to explain why - and 'because I don't like it' usually isn't good enough. 'Because I don't get it' might be."

"We feed off each other's imaginations. I've used the comparison to a really good rock band with this collaboration and I think it absolutely holds water," continues Ostrander. "I include John Workman's letters and Lovern Kindzierski's colors as well. We all do our number and send it to each other and it's such a jolt of energy. Tim and I working together strikes sparks and it gives the work life. This isn't an exaggeration; you look on the pages when they come out and you'll see it there."

Once the plot is finalized, that's when Truman starts drawing. "I pencil the art, pacing it out, sort of acting like a film director," he says. "John gives me all the liberty I need because he knows that any changes I make are done mainly to enhance the intent of his story. I send JPEGs of the penciled pages to John. While he's writing dialogue, I start inking the stuff.

"When I'm done, I scan the inks, making sure the line weight and blacks are what I want them to be. I love this new digital era, by the way. The original art never leaves my house and I have more control over how my art looks. In the past, art directors have tended to shoot my stuff too "light." These days, since I'm scanning the work myself, I can make sure all of my linework stays intact.

For the covers, I'm doing all the color work myself, painting them with a watercolor and graphite technique that I came up with over the last couple of years. I do a tight, fully-toned graphite pencil illustration and then add color to it with Peerless photographers' watercolors and gouache. I'm really proud of the technique. I paint the book covers that I do for Subterranean Press and the CD covers that I do for Jim Lauderdale, Grateful Dead, and others using the same technique."

A favorite feature of the previous GrimJack series were the Munden's Bar back-up stories. Is there any plan to revive this feature? "We're going to bring back Munden's," replies Ostrander. "Given the page count of books these days, we can't do it as a back-up so we'll have to look at an anthology on its own. Personally, I'd like to see a trade paperback of some of the best of Munden's and then a new large book or maybe a mini-series than can be gathered into a trade paperback later. Not only do I want to do some more Munden's, I want to know what stories Tim might write. And there's a whole bunch of writers out there who I'd love to see play in Cynosure as well as outstanding artists, old and new."

Everyone involved is set to bring you more GrimJack if the interest is there. "I've got a backlog of stories to tell," says Ostrander. "We've done two incarnations of GrimJack thus far; at some point, I'd like to see what the next incarnation looks like. If sales show that people want more GrimJack , we'll give 'em more GrimJack ."

If you like what you see, there's more work from Ostrander and Truman to be found. "I have to mention what I'm doing over at Star Wars Republic ," says Ostrander. "Jan Duursema and I have been doing that for some time now and Jan's work just gets better and better with each issue. These aren't just good Star Wars comics; they're good comics. Anyone who likes GrimJack would, I think, like our character of Quinlan Vos - a Jedi caught in the shadows during the Clone Wars. Also, I have some projects I'm developing with Ian Gibson and Tom Mandrake. I've also done two issues of Aquaman and, while the penciler Chris Batista may want to kill me for what I threw at him, he came through like a champ and really delivered. Whether you like Aquaman or not, you should see what he's done."

"I'm really excited that Dynamic Forces and I will be doing deluxe reprints of my Scout series. The first will be out in the summer," states Truman.

"Besides taking care of what's been needed for the Scout and GrimJack projects, I've been keeping my hand in the illustration field doing covers for Subterranean Press. Next month, I'll be completing the third book in a trilogy of new Joe R. Lansdale projects. The first was for a collection of Joe's short stories, Mad Dog Summer and Other Stories . The second was a cover for an anthology called Retro Pulp Tales , which Joe is editing. And the latest is Flaming London , a brand new novel.

"I took a few years off from comics to work on more single illustration projects - role playing game art, book covers, CD covers, and concept art for a new computer game being developed by Sigel Games.

"It's great to be chatting with Westfield subscribers again! I always thought that Westfield provided a fantastic service. In fact, I was a subscriber myself once, when I was working at TSR Hobbies in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, right before I started working on GrimJack !"

"We've received tremendous support from fans and retailers alike since we've announced that GrimJack was coming back," concludes Ostrander. "I really want to thank them all. We're doing our best to make sure that the wait was worth it and initial response from the pages that have been on the Internet makes me think the fans are going to respond. This isn't just GrimJack as you remember him - Tim and I and everyone are more experienced and better at what we do now. This should be better than before. If the GrimJack fans are serious about wanting him to stay around, spread the word -- nothing beats word of mouth! GrimJack is back - and we're planning on a long stay!"