Courtesy of IDW Publishing, here's an exclusive seven-page sneak peek at Hawken, a new Weird Western miniseries written by the father-and-son team of Tim and Ben Truman. Comic fans will know Tim's art from cult classic science fiction books like Scout and Grimjack, and we're plum tickled to be able to debut his new work here.
Hawken hits stores tomorrow, Wednesday November 15. Here's the issue synopsis:
Hawken #1 (of 6)
Tim & Ben Truman (w) • Tim Truman (a & c)
Tim Truman returns to the Weird West! The industry legend teams with his son, writer Ben Truman, for a violent new tale of the supernatural! In the land of the lawless rode the soulless! Scout, hunter, raider, killer-for-hire: Kitchell Hawken has been many things-most of them bad. Scalped, tortured, and left for dead by the mysterious order called the Ring, Hawken returns, seeking vengeance… but surrounded by the ghosts of every person he's ever killed! Are the phantoms real, or illusions from Hawken's blood-soaked past?
Additionally, io9 had the opportunity to speak with the Trumans about this upcoming book. Here's what we learned...
In Hawken, you're definitely channeling a Weird Western vibe with hallucinatory corpses. What sort of strangeness can readers expect from the book?
Timothy Truman: A sense of strangeness and mystery is something that permeates the entire story. We wanted to create this full tilt, amped-up adventure tale, but to take certain western stereotypes and conventions and twist them inside out. Just when the reader feels comfortable and think they have something figured out we turn them upside down and give them a shakedown. By conscious design, everything isn't spelled out from the onset. Readers learn more about Hawken, his vendetta, and the people connected with him as the series proceeds. The challenge and fun part for us is constructing it in a way so that the reader is engrossed and involved in the story and wants to learn more.
Ben Truman: Ben Truman: One of our core ideas for Hawken was to send this old bastard through the strangest corners of the wild west. We've created a unique cast of characters that reach far back into his past-living and dead. Kit Hawken has lived a long, eventful life. He's killed a lot of people and there is the promise of an ever increasing body count in the future.
We've created a unique cast of characters that reach far back into his past-living and dead. Kit Hawken has lived a long, eventful life. He's killed a lot of people and the promise of an ever increasing body count in the future. As a result, he sees these hallucinatory corpses - the gruesome specters of every person that he has ever killed.
Tim: The ghosts aren't arbitrary. He can only see the phantoms of people whose deaths he's personally responsible for. As a result, his relationship with them is...complex.
Ben: They are bound to him and his quest, but they aren't necessarily there to help. They know his weaknesses, his flaws and his fears and seem to try to find loopholes that will allow them to manipulate or mislead Hawken. At least, they try to.
When his quest for revenge is over - whether he lives or dies, wins or loses – it seems that the ghosts will be free from him. They never miss a chance to remind him of that fact.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear Hawken was scalped, tortured and left for dead by the men who he once worked for, the Tucson Ring. However, are the ghosts something that brought back with him from the other side after his brush with death, or simply illusions hatched in a brain that was exposed and boiled by the Sonoran sun? We leave that answer less clear.
What sort of Western and supernatural influences went into Hawken? What were the creative origins of this miniseries?
Tim: My influences are probably pretty obvious to folks who know my past work. I'm a history buff, and as the result of that and some of my past work I've amassed a pretty large library of historical material.
For the visuals and storytelling, I've been inspired by a lot of different things for this one-European western graphic novels by folks like Jean Giraud, Alfonso Font, Victor de la Fuente, and Corrado Mastantuono, in particular. The spaghetti western influence is undeniable, of course. And the irreverence of the old underground comics. In fact, early on I used to refer to Hawken as an "underground spaghetti western".
One of the prime influences, though, was just the US southwest area itself. The Sonora Desert. I have a great affinity for the place ever since I used it as a setting for my Scout comic series. There's some sort of alien magic there for me, creatively. I can't go there and not come out filled with ideas. Visiting Ben in Tucson in 2010 and touring Arizona with him was the catalyst that brought the whole project about.
Ben: I think we've cast a wide net. There's certainly a lot of samurai story influence in there, and lots of Sergio de Leone. American Werewolf in London has one of the biggest influences in the story, too. Once we figured out the ghost idea, that's the first thing piece of work we started talking about.
I've also gotten a lot of influence from video games, especially the Half-Life series, China Mieville books, as well as shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire, the middle seasons of Lost and a lot of cues from action movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Die Hard.
What's it like working as a father-and-son team?
Tim: Remarkably easy. One of the things about Ben, is that he's by no means a "Yes, dad, whatever you want to do" type of guy. He's a really tough audience— as am I. Despite that, there are very few disagreements. As one might expect, we have similarities in our interests and our approach to the fundamentals of storytelling in many more ways we each come at this thing from different angles. Not conflicting, mind you, but different. When we pitch each other ideas, those ideas really have to stand the test. In the end, only the best ideas survive and we chose the path that best tells the tale. As occurs with the best collaborators, the results make for a more far-reaching project than either of us might have been able to by ourselves. Its certainly been a rewarding experience— one which goes beyond any sort of fatherly pride. Ben is simply a good collaborator, period.
Ben: It's rewarding on many levels. We've always got along, but developing this project has done a lot for our relationship.
He was always the guy drawing comics in the basement. I knew how much he had influenced me, but I never knew how much of an influence he had on other people until I was out on my own. I know I'm getting a great education and getting to further develop my own story telling style with a great mentor.
There's a lot that goes into writing a story, but realizing what stays, what goes, and what can be fixed is the most important. And working with someone who's made a career on keeping deadlines and producing work steadily helps a lot when it comes to letting go of an idea that might be less-than-perfect and moving past it.
It's also great working with a collaborator whose ideas I know I can trust. When I hit a brick wall, it's nice to be able to call him or send the script over to him to springboard an idea back. Any kind of hurdles are easily overcome when you have somebody you can just talk to. It's cool. We're building something.
Tim: I've been blessed with having some remarkable collaborators in my career— John Ostrander, Joe R. Landsdale, and others. But the work I'm doing with Ben feels like I've hit some sort of new level. Like the governor is off the engine and for the first time in my life I've tapped into aspects of my drawing and storytelling style that, for some reason. I've never hit before.
I had some really important realizations about my own artwork and storytelling style once this project got underway— ones that probably wouldn't have occurred with anyone else except Ben. When we first started talking about Hawken, we were envisioning it as a sort of side-project— a place where Ben and I could experiment with storytelling and art. We envisioned it a these compact little 4-8 page tales— free, online, between other projects. However, it soon became apparent that the project was bigger than that. I found myself sitting around drawing pictures of Hawken when I was watching TV. We were calling each other every day with new ideas. We became absolutely Hawken-obsessed— and still are.
Tim, some of your famous work has been within the Weird Western genre. What's the appeal of these kind of stories for you?
Tim: Because they allow me to combine so many interests and elements. The work I'm most attracted to and influenced by were things that were the result of this kind sort of cross-pollination. Robert E. Howard mixed popular genres of his time with his own interest in legend, mythology and history to come up with Conan and Solomon Kane. Sergio de Leone combined Japanese samurai flicks with American westerns and created the man with No Name. Feed political and pop-culture commentary into a meat grinder with traditional comics and Disney cartoons and out pop underground comics. Feed British folk songs and American blues through Marshall amps and you get Led Zeppelin.
Thus, Grimjack wouldn't have happened if John Ostrander and I hadn't taken our love for swords-and-sorcery and hard-boiled detective genres and welded them together. Scout was the result of mixing my interest in Apache culture and history to my love for those old Hells angels B-movies and post-apocalyptic fiction. Joe R. Lansdale and I helped put the wheels on the weird west wagon by tossing our mixed and sundry combined interests into a barn and taking a sledge hammer to them. The things that I love and the work that I do are almost always the result of these bizarre fictional gene splicing experiments.
Because Hawken had its beginnings as an experimental thing, I discovered that it had broke down certain barriers in my drawing and storytelling techniques that I hadn't even realized were there. It brought me in touch with the reasons I was attracted to comics medium in the first place. It's been a very liberating experience. I can't wait for fans of my past work to see the results. It's strange, but in some ways, I feel as though, for the first time, people are seeing the "real" me.