One summer day in 1986, I crossed the Armstrong pedestrian bridge spanning the railroad yard connecting the West End of Lancaster City to the straggled bits of what becomes Manheim Township. Built to transport industrial workers to their jobs, I regularly used the expanse as a shortcut to the Golden Triangle shopping center, then home to The Comic Store. On this particular day, I was off to meet and greet comic book illustrator Timothy Truman, who autographed a copy of his book, Killer, “TO MIKE!” in decisive strokes with a purple pen. I was 13.
Now well-worn, having been read dozens of times and presented as evidence for tales of my youth, I produced the volume as I walked into Tim’s Lancaster County home 31 years later. It was a blast from the past for both of us.
As a child growing up in central West Virginia, Tim found he had an innate ability to tell stories through drawing. Starting out by doodling on the back of his sisters’ graded homework, he soon needed a bigger canvas. His mother disassembled brown paper grocery bags, giving Tim the area he needed to create sequences of car chases, western scenes inspired by TV, and spaceships attacking people.
“My mom and sisters tell me that as soon as I could hold a pencil I was putting marks on paper,” Tim says, with twinges southern draw still hanging in his voice. “We started running out of paper.”
After drudging his way through school, he moved onto what he loved at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey. He earned his first pay for his drawings through a work study program with Scholastic Magazine, earning $30 per page.
After college, he started creating art for role playing game companies, including TSR, makers of Dungeons & Dragons. But, as an artist, punching a clock and pushing out pages in a windowless office in Wisconsin didn’t suit his active personality. His experience in gaming led to a Chicago comic book convention.
“At this point the independent comics movement was just starting,” says Tim. “I had all these science fiction mercenaries in my portfolio.”
The bulk of Tim’s comic work came with Eclipse, a strong, independent publishing force of the 80s and 90s. Their offshoot packaging group published the titles The Spider, Prowler, and (one of my personal favorites) Airboy. At Eclipse, he found a home for his character Scout, an Apache and ex-Army Ranger in a post-apocalyptic United States.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a writer, an artist, or a musician. Scout gave me the ability to meet two of those goals,” says Tim, backdropped by a painting of a Native American in his living room.
While Scout is the character closest to Tim’s heart, most fans associate him with Grimjack, a sword-for-hire, machine gun-toting war veteran working out of the multi-universe city of Cynosure, which was published by 1st Comics. Tim went on to work with DC Comics where he revamped Hawkman.
“Grimjack launched my entire career,” says Tim, smiling under his worn baseball cap. “I might do things a little differently if I had to do it over again. I was penciling and inking two books, as many as five pages a day, which is an astronomical amount of work. These days, I’ll take two days to pencil a page and two days to ink a page. I hate to look at that old work because it is bashed out.”
That “old work” is still in demand. Back at The Comic Store (at its current location on McGovern Avenue), Tim’s work is still for sale. In the stacks of graphic novels, fans can find volumes of Scout and other titles; there’s even a Grimjack adult coloring book for those who want to take a couple days and ink their own page.
Little known fact about Timothy Truman: He has worked extensively with The Grateful Dead, creating artwork for t-shirts, albums, and posters. Music is his second passion. His guitar collection hangs in his studio, melding with illustrated works in progress and an extensive collection of alphabetized CDs.