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January 4, 2010

Tim Truman talks Conan the Cimmerian!

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ComicAttack.net guest journalist, Jimmy PS Hayes, had the opportunity to interview writer/artist Tim Truman about his run on Conan the Cimmerian published by Dark Horse Comics. The series began in 2008 and features pencils by Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben. Issue #17 will be released this Wednesday at comic shops everywhere, so consider this interview a taste of what can be found inside the pages of Truman’s Conan the Cimmerian!

From Conan the Cimmerian #18

COMIC ATTACK: Tim, you’ve had a long and successful career in comics. You’ve done everything from creating famous independent characters like Scout and Grimjack to working on top-selling mainstream characters like The Lone Ranger & the Star Wars property. Why Conan and why now in your career?

TIM TRUMAN: It was offered to me after I did some fill-in art work when Kurt Busiek was writing the book and I jumped at the chance. I have Kurt and Mike Mignola for suggesting to Dark Horse that I take over the writing. I’ve been on the book a while now– actually longer than Kurt’s tenure, at this point.

CA: In your current run on Conan, you’ve done the art for the framing sequences. Given the chance, would you ever consider penciling the book full-time?

TT: My spirit says yes, but my confidence says no. I’d need a better command over anatomy drawing to do the book as I envision it. Tomas Giorello is AOK with me for the time being! He just turned in some pages for Conan #19 that are absolutely Frazetta-esque. He took a two month break and it really gave him a shot in the arm. Maybe I can get a break one of these days, too!

I’ll be too busy next year to even consider it, even if they were to offer it to me. I just finished art for huge portions of Conan #16, #17 and #18 so that Tomas could take a vacation. It was a back-breaker. Art-wise, I’m anxious to go full-steam into a massive graphic novel project with my son Benjamin– a very heavy science fiction project called “The Inner Station.” That’s where I’m goig to be pouring all my drawing energy for the time being.

CA: Do you find sticking to the stories of Robert E Howard & the time line for Conan more of a help or hindrance when writing?

TT: A help. Absolutely. It keeps things in perspective. Also, it’s really fun piecing together all the little bits of miscellanea that Howard drops throughout the Conan stories– little story threads that I can expand upon. That’s one of the most enjoyable and challenging parts of the book.

The Dark Horse approach is to do Conan as one huge, expansive novel, thousands of pages long, relating the saga of the warrior named Conan. the saga is broken up by little side-episodes here and there, whenever one of us needs to take a break or is falling a bit behind with deadlines. Conan is a pretty time-intensive effort.

From Conan the Cimmerian #18 (click to enlarge)

CA: Keeping on that subject, do you deal directly with Paradox, or is all communication done through editors?

TT: I have very little contact with them, actually. Most of the go-betweening is done by the editors.

CA: Do you find that they’re easy to work with?

TT: No problems so far. They’re very helpful when I need them, and they seem to like the work that I do.

CA: How often do you have to change/alter your scripts?

TT: Every danged script, especially in the outline stages. Scott Allie is a very tough editor. If I feel strongly about something, though, I’ll stand my ground.  Sometimes we have very different visions concerning how things should be handled, but usually it works out without too much blood being spilled. To be absolutely frank, the stories that stick closest to what I want to do are the ones that get the best fan reaction and reviews, it seems like. So there you go.

CA: Besides hugging, is there a set list of “Things that Conan would NEVER do?”

TT: Tons of stuff, really. He’d never betray a friend, for one thing. Conan is like that kid we all knew in grade school who, in the playground or on the ball field, seemed to be able to do anything. The guy that everyone chose first for their team. Know what I mean? I went to a lot of grade schools when I was growing up, and every school I went to had “that guy.”

More from Conan the Cimmerian #18 (click to enlarge)

CA: Howard fans are known world-wide as real sticklers. Does this weigh on your mind at all when plotting out a story?

TT: It’s the toughest part of the job. Absolutely.

CA: How much fact-checking do you have to do?

TT: A ton. I still get things wrong from time to time, but luckily not too often. Sometimes someone complains that I’ve done something really wrong and I have to quote Howard to them to explain why I did what I did. Doesn’t happen too often, luckily. Any time you work with an iconic character like Conan, you’re going to run into that– especialy when adapting a prose story to a visual medium. Working on Conan has given me a greater appreciation for what screenwriters do, and the problems they face when adapting stories from books or short stories. It’s a tough racket.

REH fans are more rabid than most, though. That’s a certainty. You really have to watch what you’re doing and where you’re going. In the end, the person that I’m most concened with pleasing is Bob Howard. I pretend that he’s standing over my shoulder, watching every word.

CA: Prior to writing the series, what was your knowledge of Conan? Had you read the books?

TT: Every single one– and just about every REH character, in just about every incarnation, especially in my grade school to college years. Howard’s work was a huge influence on everything I’ve ever done, professionally.

CA: Seen the movies? Cartoon show? Television show?

Art from Conan the Cimmerian #19 by Tomas Giorello (click to enlarge)

TT: Didn’t care much for the first Arnold movie, even hough I like John Milius. Didn’t even see the second one. Loved the Savage Sword of Conan mag and the early Marvel color comics. Never saw the cartoon or TV show, that I can recall.

CA: Speaking of the movie, given the chance, would you adapt the upcoming Marcus Nispel directed Conan live action feature film? Or would you rather stick to writing original stories?

TT: Can’t say. I don’t know much about the plot. I’ve really been too busy to keep up with it.

CA: What inspires your Conan stories? Howard’s work? Your own experiences?

TT: Both. Howard’s work, primarily, but we actually have some surprising similarities in our backgrounds. I was from a rural, Scots-Irish labor class family in West Virginia. My friend Joe R. Lansdale and I have often compared notes about Texas and West Virginia cultures. Lots of overlap.

CA: Does writing Conan ever influence your musical work? If so, then please tell us in what way?

TT: The other way around, actually. For instance, I was taking an evening  walk a few months ago with my iPod plugged into my head, blasting some old Led Zeppelin acoustic tracks. There were a few lines in their song “Battle of Evermore” that inspired the intro sequence of Conan the Cimerian #19. Nothing specific– the words just kicked off some very spooky imagery that started things rolling.

Other projects influnce my music, though. I’ve been writing some prose stories set in West Virginia in the 1920s, during the Coal Miner Rebellion. (The first of these stories, “Pretty Green Eyes”, is part of the hardcover anthology Son of Retro Pulp Tales, from Subterranean Press.) These have led me to doing acoustic-electric “roots rock” arrangements of a lot of old 1920s and ’30s Appalachian labor and “hard times” songs. I go down to the recording studio when I need to get away from the drawing board and keyboard and clear my head. (You can hear one of the tunes at my website, www.timothytruman.com. When you get there, click on “Timbo’s Juke Joint”.)

From Conan the Cimmerian #19 by Tomas Giorello (click to enlarge)

CA: “Writing for the trade” (writing stories in 4-6 issue arcs designed to be collected in a trade paperback) has become very popular in comics today. Do you practice this formula when writing Conan or just go where the story takes you?

TT: No, Dark Horse is heavily into doing outlines and planning things out. Sometimes a bit too much for my liking– I like things to stay a little more organic. But in the end it’s a good approach and I can appreciate the motives behind it. We’ve decided that, following the current arc, the arcs are going to be shorter. Things were getting a little too drawn-out between storylines. I think it’s a great idea. It will keep storylines a bit tighter and direct– like a good pulp tale.

CA: What happened to the once proposed Grimjack statue? Is it something that Dark Horse might produce in the future?

TT: I have no idea. Dark Horse wouldn’t produce it, anyway. Grimjack is under contract with IDW Publishing.

CA: Ok, every fan wants to know: Conan vs Grimjack – Who wins??

TT: Neither. They size each other up, then decide to go to Mundens and throw down some ales.

CA: So what’s next for you and Conan?

TT: We’re pretty excited about the new arc (Conan #16-#21). It explores things that Howard suggested but never really got into himself– mainly, the rather brutal massacre of Conan’s legion of mercenary raiders, the Free Companions. It’s a heavy tale. Conan is hunted, starving, hiding in the swamps, thinking back on the events that put him there. He’s fighting some rather non-Conan-istic pangs of guilt, that he’s responsible for the slaughter of the Free Companions. It’s been a very challenging tale to write– to get deeper into the Cimmerian’s  and still stay absolutely true to REH’s vision. Folks are responding quite well to it thus far. I do the art for the bulk of the first three issues, with Tomas doing the framing sequences depicting Conan as a fugitive in the the swamp. By issues #19-#21, Conan is pushed to the very ends of his endurance. How he recovers from it should come as quite a surprise.

CA: Thanks Tim!

TT: Right back ‘atcha. Have a good Holiday…sorry for the delay. I was busy killing alligators.

Artwork from the Inner Station series by Tim and his son Benjamin. Inner Station TM 2010 Timothy Truman & Benjamin Truman. Artwork copyright 2010 Timothy Truman. All Rights Reserved.

Be sure to check out Conan the Cimmerian #17 this week at your LCS (local comic shop)!

Jimmy PS Hayes
contact@comicattack.net

Note: Conan is a TM and Copyright protected property. All rights reserved.

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6 Comments


  1. Decapated Dan

    Awesome stuff man!


  2. infinite speech

    how can anyone NOT love Conan!


  3. billy

    Great interview. Conan is cool but Sonja is better. lol



  4. […] with much fanfare) I am a virgin of the Cimmerian’s exploits and ventures. But after reading the interview published on Monday with Tim Truman, the writer and artist of Conan the Cimmerian, I was genuinely […]



  5. […] this origin series.  I’d recommend giving it a try especially if you are a casual fan of Conan and Red Sonja like myself or even you hardcore guys and gals that love a little bloodshed, nudity, […]



  6. Yeah, excellent interview Jimmy!!



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