Welcome to the Western Fictioneers blogsite! If you're joining us for the first time, Western Fictioneers is a professional writers' organization that focuses on promoting and preserving the traditional western genre in its many forms.
A couple of years ago, we enlisted a panel of experts to compile a list of the all-time Greatest Western Comics ...it wound up being the most popular blog post we've ever had. So now that we're expanding the site's content, I have decided to use one of my segments to focus the spotlight on western comics. Our first installment will feature John Ostrander -Jeff Mariotte has agreed to come join us next month.
Grimjack Omnibus at amazon
Ostrander has also worked on several western titles. In 1997-1998 he wrote a 12-issue miniseries for DC called THE KENTS, with art by Timonthy Truman/Michael Bair on issues 1-8, and Tom Mandrake in issues 9-12. The story focused on the Kent family of Kansas -ancestors of the Ma and Pa Kent who would one day adopt Superman, or Clark Kent. The Kent brothers Nathaniel and Jebediah navigate through the major events of 19th century Kansas, widing up on opposite sides of the Civil War and later the law. Along the way they cross paths with practically the entire stable of DC's classic western characters.
In 2000 he wrote a four issue miniseries for Marvel called BLAZE OF GLORY: THE LAST RIDE OF THE WESTERN HEROES (art by Leonardo Manco.) The story brings together the whole pantheon of Marvel western heroes, culminating in a confrontation that leaves only a few standing (you'll have to buy the trade paperback to find out which ones.)
BLAZE OF GLORY
Ostrander and Manco followed that one up with APACHE SKIES, featuring the Rawhide Kid.
John Ostrander was gracious enough to join us today and answer a few questions...
1. Do you have a favorite western comics character? Is there one you haven't written for that you'd like to?
A: I’ve written most of the ones I’d like to write. One of my faves was Caleb Hammer. I always liked the look of GHOST RIDER. I think I would have liked a stab at BAT LASH over at DC. There was a feel of TV’s MAVERICK to it and I liked it a lot.
2. 2. There is a lot of historical detail in your work, especially THE KENTS. How do you approach historical research, and the role of history in your writing?
A: Some of my westerns, like THE KENTS, are more historical westerns and the ones at Marvel are more what I call “movie westerns”. But there’s some history in all of them, In APACHE SKIES there’s a chase on a railway at the end. I looked at actual routes until I found one that worked for what I was planning. Of course, THE KENTS involved TONS of research. I checked chronologies, histories, first person narratives. It was a fascinating era and I really enjoyed both the work and the result. Always wanted to do a sequel.
3. You've included many (most, even) of the western characters from both Marvel and DC in your stories. Do you have any thoughts about the differences between the "West" of those two publishers?
A: Mostly a difference in tone. The Marvel characters reflected their approach to superheroes so most of the characters had deep flaws, angst, and a certain melodramatic approach. They’re sort of Sergio Leone type characters. The DC characters, for the most part, were more stand alone. More John Ford type characters. Both reflected the eras in which they were first written.
4. What writers have influenced you the most?
A: In terms of Western WRITERS, I’m not sure. I’ve read some Louis L’Amour and so on. Movies influenced my Western writing a lot more. Ford, Leone, Hawks among many many others. Charlier and Giraud’s BLUEBERRY series influenced me as well but so did Stan Lynde’s RICK O’SHAY.
5. How does writing western comics compare to writing about superheroes or science fiction?
A: Story is story no matter what genre. Each has its own conventions and you have to know them and respect them. Even if you’re going AGAINST convention, you need to know what it is and why you’re NOT using it.
My thanks to John for participating... needless to say, I highly recommend all the works we've talked about. If you are a western fan but have never experienced the genre in four-color format, these books are a great place to start.
Troy D. Smith