GrimJack: "Blood Sport"
It's been a while since my last GrimJack update. And I know how much you all have been missing them. Not a day goes by that I don't receive three or four hundred emails demanding the return of this incredibly popular feature. Well, your wait is over, you lucky ducks! Cover date: September, 1984. Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Timothy Truman. From GrimJack #2, this is the 20-page story, "Blood Sport."
We begin our tale, as we so often do, in Munden's Bar, with John Gaunt getting good and liquored up, in the company of the equally liquored-up watchlizard Bob.
An adorable little urchin braves the dangers of Munden's to track down Gaunt and enlist his aid.
In issue #1, we saw the harder side of John Gaunt -- the cruel streak that feeds his loneliness and drives people away. Here, we get a look at his softer side, as the kid's sorry tale (and meager funds) win him over.
The child is Seth Bailer, and his family is in a bad way. His mother is sick, and his father has lost his job. They've had to relocate to the Pit to scrape by. And the Pit, as you'll recall, is not a nice place (click to Biggie Size):
I love that double-page panel. Truman packs a lot of grime and despair in there. (And Ostrander makes first mention of John's brothers, Nick, Jake and Joe.) He also throws in a few little jokes. Here's a street sign/personal greeting:
Here's a shout-out to Matt Feazell, master of the stick figure:
And here, next to graffiti reading "Howlin' Wolf lives!" is what seems to be the first appearance of Feetus, Gaunt's most reliable informant in the Pit. Kind of his Huggy Bear. We'll get to know him better in issue #7.
Anyway, Gaunt pays a visit to Seth's mom, who fills him in a bit more on why Seth came looking for him: Seth's dad, Doug, has left to do something foolish, and most likely fatal.
Doug is no fighter, and in a match like this, he's likely to get killed. The situation brings up some unpleasant memories for Gaunt.
Gaunt did not have a good childhood, is the point he's trying to make here, I think. We'll eventually learn that his aforementioned brothers had a lot to do with his misery. And we first hear about the Dancer, the greatest fighter in the history of the Arena. GrimJack only rated as number two.
Also, notice the picture of Bruce Lee on the flyer, with the text, "Kato vs. Butcherboy." Man, if Kato didn't beat Butcherboy, Doug is screwed.
Gaunt treks to the deepest, nastiest part of the Pit to locate the Blood Sport matches. And he gets a big surprise when he finally arrives -- the ringmaster is Mac Cabre, right hand man to the Dancer during his ill-fated rebellion, and a man who should be dead.
Gaunt intercepts Doug just before he's about to enter the ring, and takes his place. Click to enlarge:
Not sure why Butcherboy is a different color here than on the cover, but once you accept an eight foot genetic mutant with giant nipple rings, I guess color is irrelevant.
Gaunt spends the next three pages getting his ass thoroughly kicked. Names from the Arena float into his mind as he reels: Blacjacmac, the Dancer, the Wolfpack, Uncle Willy. We'll discover more about those names in due time.
Just as Butcherboy is about to deliver the killing blow, Gaunt turns the tables as he so often does: he fights dirty.
"Gertch!" indeed. With Gaunt back in control, he delivers an ultimatum to Mac Cabre.
"Your choice." Classic Gaunt.
Mac Cabre caves, and pays up. And he lets Gaunt know that he's not the only one who should be dead that's still alive and kicking: the Dancer is back.
Gaunt walks Doug back home, and settles up with him, again revealing his soft heart:
But Gaunt is troubled by Dancer's return, and puzzled by his motivations: why the Blood Sport matches? What was he planning? Maybe we'll get some clues next issue. For now, we take our leave of GrimJack for the week.
Oh, but not before a final phone call to good buddy Blacjacmac:
Dun dun dunnnn!!