Interview: Tim & Ben Truman on IDW’s Hawken

Hawken #1

Hawken #1

The father/son team of Tim & Ben Truman bring you Hawken, a western tale of revenge, from IDW. Tim Truman’s name is familiar to comic fans for his work on such books as GrimJack, Scout, and Conan. Ben, who has done a Conan story for Myspace Dark Horse Presents as well as work in the video game industry,  may not be as well know but that is sure to change after readers get a look at Hawken. Westfield’s Roger Ash contacted Tim and Ben to learn more about the project.

Westfield: How did the book come about?

Ben Truman: The folks came out to visit me in Tucson, Arizona. We toured the state for about a week, making lots of stops from The Grand Canyon to Tombstone.

Don’t know what prompted it, but somewhere around Sunset Crater I asked my dad if there was ever a story about a man who survived a scalping.

Tim Truman: Believe it or not, that’s all it took to plant the seed. It’s very strange, but that’s how it works out sometimes — the strangest things can sometimes kick start a project.

Ben: Before we knew it, there it was in front of us, and after that Hawken was all we could talk about. Mom was stuck in the back seat, forced to listen to Dad and I create this awful human being’s ghastly past.

Tim: Well, we’ve been married for 30 years so she’s pretty used to it by now. She actually got a kick out of it, listening to Ben and me start to brainstorm.

That evening, we were walking through Flagstaff looking for a place to have dinner. Ben said “He should look like a mountain man.” I said “Yeah, and his name is ‘Hawken’” — a tip of the hat to the famous frontier rifle that all the mountain men favored. I think we came up with the idea for his dog, Caramba, on that walk, too, and the fact that Hawken can see the ghosts of all the people he’s ever killed.

Ben: Which naturally led to our coming up with just terrible ways for Hawken to have killed all these people.

As we visited spots like Tombstone and Bisbee, we came up with ideas for Hawken’s long history of occupations. It probably came from Doc Holiday being a dentist and a gunfighter. Living in the southwest demands an ability to adapt to survive, so Hawken has a patchwork past that always guarantees a trick up his sleeve.

Tim: Hawken is totally Arizona-inspired. The most important aspects of the story grew out of the history and scenery, especially the Sonora Desert country.

Hawken page 7

Hawken page 7

Westfield: Who is Hawken and what can people look forward to in the book?

Ben: Hawken is a grizzled old bastard, with little trust and a big temper. People can expect lots of big action sequences and snappy dialog. The set pieces are strange and offbeat, and once the story gets going it winds up in places that people won’t expect.

Tim: Ideally, Hawken takes the iconic western “loner” character and the “revenge quest” epic and bounces them on their heads. We use issue 1 to sort of kick down the door and get peoples’ attentions — to wake them up and get them curious about what’s going on. With issue 2, we start piling on the story, and with every issue that follows people learn more and more about the people Hawken is hunting, the reasons for his vendetta, who some of these ghosts might be, and the reason that they keeping popping up to give him unwelcomed advice.

Hawken is a tough, bloody, brutal book. But it isn’t just about bodies piling up. There’s a ton of story here, and some really subtle characterization touches.

Ben: Also, the action in Hawken is really different from the traditional fare. We’ve come up with a lot of unique action scenes, and  fun twists on old western standards. When Hawken finishes somebody, it’s going to be memorable in the same way the action scenes are memorable in an Indiana Jones film.

When you think of those particular movies, you can probably remember how every person dies because each fight ends with a very rewarding pay off. The enemies aren’t expendable in the same way another action movie might have a guy just simply shot and killed. We also mix in elements from the cinematic feel of Sergio Leone and the visceral bits of Hong Kong action cinema.

Hawken #1 variant cover

Hawken #1 variant cover

Westfield: How do you two work together on the book? Who does what?

Ben: Basically, I write, he draws. We both assembled the concept and main plot, but I do the page-to-page bits, block out the action, craft the dialog, plot the character arcs. Then Dad and I pass the script back and forth afterwards until everything seems just right.

Tim: It’s a great way to work, though pretty time-consuming. The benefit is that we each get equal input into the overall concept, and that one might catch something that hadn’t occurred to the other. Plot-wise, it’s very collaborative process.

Hawken page 21

Hawken page 21

Westfield: Working as a father/son team has the potential to be contentious. How have you found working together?

Ben: Maybe it wouldn’t have worked so well when I was 13, but at 28 it’s pretty awesome. I’m learning a lot about visual storytelling and narratology. We’ll have quibbles over small story points, like should Hawken say a particular line of dialog here or there, but we both understand the big parts of the story and know how everything needs to fall together to best serve the story.

Working together is pretty easy too, thanks to the internet and smart phones.

I’ll usually call whenever I’m walking to work to talk about the latest script ideas and developments.

Tim: We’ve been working on the whole concept for over a year now, going at it hard. We haven’t had any fights, which is surprising, because we both can be pretty hard-headed and stubborn. Working with Ben is like working with a colleague rather than my son. Of course, the fact that he is my son and that we’re having this great time together makes Hawken all the more exciting. The project is just as fresh to us now as it was over a year ago.

Hawken #2 cover

Hawken #2 cover

Westfield: If this miniseries does well, do you have more Hawken tales to tell?

Ben: We sure do. There is a sprawling back story left to explore, and an interesting future as Hawken plows forward on his quest for revenge. And, once you learn that the ghosts who follow him could be old friends, bested rivals, or somebody who just looked at Hawken the wrong way, this vast history between Hawken and these supporting characters opens up.

Tim: I’d love Hawken to just go on and on and on. We could easily do four or more arcs of material. I’ve never quite so welded to a project before. This thing is epic. We have to take it past the first arc.

Ben: The way this story started was we were just throwing ideas for scenes back and forth, back and forth. We wound up with a huge pile of scenarios, and we picked the ones that stuck out the most and started finding all the pieces where they could fit together. In the end we came up with a really solid story full of big action sequences, plot twists, cat-and-mouse elements, detective bits, drama, and heart.

I can’t wait until people have read all six issues. I think they’ll be very happy with the whole experience.

Hawken #3 cover

Hawken #3 cover

Westfield: Are there any other projects that either of you are working on that you’d like to mention?

Ben: I had stories published in each volume of FUBAR, a WW2 zombie anthology. There are huge pools of indie talent in each book. They’re both great jump off points to find other independent comics created by smart, creative folks.

Also, I’m the Story Lead for a computer game called Black Mesa Source, a remake of the popular PC game Half-Life.

And just recently, Dad and I got a chance to adapt a story for an anthology of stories written by Native Americana.

Tim: Besides working on Hawken, I’m writing Conan: Phoenix On The Sword miniseries for Dark Horse. I still enjoy doing the Conan stuff quite a bit. Tomas Giorello is drawing the miniseries.

Besides that, I still do a lot of book cover work for Subterranean Press. And starting in October people can go to the Grateful Dead website,,  and see some new work that Rhino Records asked me to do for the band. They’re doing the band’s newsletter, the Grateful Dead Almanac entirely online now, and they asked me to do some new “Grateful Dead Comix” pages for them. The new pieces will be interactive — when you click on different parts of the drawings, something will happen: a verse will play from the song that I’m adapting, the drawing might change, or there might be some sort of visual effect. It’s pretty exciting.

Other than that, I’m also writing and recording some special Hawken “soundtrack” tunes that will be available to check out online, via my website at and at IDW’s site.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Ben: Just thanks for the opportunity, Roger, and I hope you enjoy Hawken.

Tim: What my partner said.


Hawken #1


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