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Comic Book Alphabet of Cool – O

One of my favorite writers is the pick today!

John Ostrander

John Ostrander worked in the theater for quite awhile until taking up comic book writing when he was in his mid-30s.

His first major work was for First Comics, and it was the classic series (Ostrander co-created it with artist Tim Truman), GrimJack.

When Ostrander’s editor at First, Mike Gold, went to work at DC, Ostrander soon followed, and had two very impressive debut works at DC, Firestorm and Suicide Squad.

Greg Burgas and Ryan Day both wrote extensive features on Ostrander’s Firestorm work here (yes, we’re the blog where you can get not one, but TWO extensive looks at John Ostrander’s Firestorm ;)), Greg for his Comics You Should Own feature here and Ryan as a guest spot here.

Suicide Squad was an amazing series as well. I’ve often spoken of my admiration for it here. Dave Campbell (also as a guest spot) featured the Top Ten coolest Suicide Squad lines here (#10-6) and here (his own blog, featuring #5-1).

Ostrander followed up Firestorm and Suicide Squad with perhaps his most acclaimed work to date, his five year run on The Spectre with his close friend and co-worker, Tom Mandrake (the two worked on Firestorm right before The Spectre began).

This run closely examined the iffy morality that is inherent in the idea of the Spectre, and did it all while remaining firmly within the DC Universe, even introducing the new Mister Terrific, who is currently a popular member of the Justice Society of America.

DC was so enamored with Ostrander’s work on The Spectre that they actually allowed him to let Jim Corrigan find his final resting spot at the end of Ostrander’s run. Talk about appreciation!

Ostrander and Mandrake followed this run up with a run on the Martian Manhunter that lasted for a few years.

Among Ostrander’s other works for DC were The Kents (a look at the history of, well, you know), JLA: Incarnations (a look at the history of the Justice League) and Manhunter (a series that surprisingly did not look at the history, but rather, the present of the bounty hunter Mark Shaw).

One of Ostrander’s greatest strengths was his late wife, Kim Yale. The two co-wrote a number of comics, and it was Kim Yale who inspired Ostrander to “rescue” Barbara Gordon, following her rather awful treatment at the hands of DC in the Killing Joke, and turn her into Oracle, who is now one of the most popular DC characters. Click here for a bit I did on the history of Oracle’s evolution.

Yale was a great writer, and comics are worse for her passing.

Since the late 90s, Ostrander has been employed by Dark Horse, doing their Star Wars license. Recently, he began work on the sprawling Star Wars: Legacy, a look at the Star Wars universe 125 years after Luke Skywalker fought the Emperor.

It is a fine work. Ostrander is notable in his ability to develop long-term working relationships with artists, such as Truman and Mandrake, and in the case of his Star Wars work, the art has mostly been done by Jan Duursema, who has worked with Ostrander for years (she is also married to Tom Mandrake).

I sure am glad that Ostrander is friendly with so many great artists!! It works out great for us readers!

Recently, Ostrander has returned to writing the Suicide Squad for a mini-series for DC (it is good!) and a GrimJack online comic on ComicMix that you can read for FREE!! Check out the Grimjack comic here.

18 Comments

Andrew Collins

April 7, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Excellent choice! Ostrander is hands down one of the best writers in comics and one who doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for it. I’m glad to see DC is finally starting to rediscover that and giving him some more work with their characters. Now if only they would do his and Mandrake’s Spectre series some proper justice by providing us with more than 1 trade paperback for it. Like Ostrander, that series deserves more acclaim and a wider audience. It was, along with Starman, the best thing to come out of DC’s mainstream lineup in the mid-to-late 90′s, and one of the best comics of that era, period.

Plus, there’s that elephant in the room of the Suicide Squad Showcase trade that is still sitting in limbo somewhere…

On a more positive note, how great is it to see Ostrander back working with two of his best series, Grimjack and Suicide Squad?

That cover with Oracle is great.

John Ostrander is right near the top of my list of writers I actively avoid – just behind Doug Moench

- oh and just for the record, I’m not posting comments too quickly – this is my first comment of the day! At least it’s not calling me cowboy any more

John is doing brilliant work with brand-new GrimJack stories (with art by the inimitable Timothy Truman) on ComicMix.com every week. And it’s free!

Wednesday, April 9: two days and counting until (please please please) Brian adds Quasar to the list of cool! Who else was the star of his own cake?

Carlos Futino

April 8, 2008 at 5:58 am

Great choice… His work is fantastic.

By the way… I miss his Manhunter. Mark Shaw was a great character and Ostrander made him into a personal favorite for me.

I agree with DanCJ. I’m just not that into Ostrander. I notice that this post entirely skipped over Ostrander’s time at Valiant, when he turned Rai and Magnus into incredibly boring comics.

What about Hawkworld? Granted it had problems fitting in with DCU continuity, but it was another excellent series overall, with a sophisticated look at many societal issues and great artwork from Duuresama, Truman and others.

Ostrander might be the best superhero comics writer ever. The only person I might put ahead of him is Stern.

Regardless, he’s probably my favorite.

I just wish he had more Marvel work over the years.

Ostrander is, for me, one of the all-time greatest writers at expanding the DC Universe. Every significant run he’s had for DC – Suicide Squad, Spectre, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter – has subtly added to the DC canon. He’s never flashy, he doesn’t call attention to the additions, but he’s full of ‘em.

Love that guy.

I thought Ostrander started at Pacific Comics with StarSlayer and GrimJack as the backup feature of that comic. @ other factoids. Ostrander is just wrapping up a Suicide Squad mini series and he is a columnist at Comicmix, where he also writes new Grimjack and Munden’s Bar online comics.

Andrew Collins

April 8, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Anonymous, I believe John O.’s first comic work was actually in First Comic’s Warp series. After that, he took over writing Starslayer with issue #9 (after Grell’s departure to do Jon Sable) and Grimjack came along as a backup character in issue #10, eventually proving to be more popular than the main story in the book. All of that occurred after Starslayer jumped over to First.

Excellent article

“Ostrander might be the best superhero comics writer ever. The only person I might put ahead of him is Stern.”

We obviously have very different tastes. Roger Stern is just behind John Ostrander on my list of writers I avoid

Wow. We have VERY different tastes. We’ll have to agree to disagree there and relish in the sheer novelty of our differences.

Work Hard, Live Free in Loving Meomery of my DAD Howard Ostrander on Mount Solada, California

Ostrander is near the top of my must read list. The rest include Doug Moench, Roger Stern, Dan Jurgens, Mike Grell, Jim Starlin, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Chuck Austen, Marv Wolfman & Neil Gaiman

I’m a rather recent convert to Ostrander. I just finished his Martian Manhunter run, and it was sublime. J’onn has always been one of my favorite characters, but Ostrander’s run made him so much deeper than I thought possible.
I just started his Suicide Squad, and the Spectre is next. I only wish I could give a crap about Star Wars so I could read those, too.

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