Grimjack (early comics)




Grimjack was part of the First Comics stable. This indie, early 1980s comics publisher released a number of notable and influential, if not always famous, series. It was pretty good stuff. Grimjack first appeared as a back-of-the-book feature in Starslayer in 1982, then went on to have his own series in 1984+.

Grimjack came from two notable creators, writer John Ostrander and artist Tim Truman. It was well-received by comics enthusiasts looking for something more original than Marvel and DC fare. The book also excelled at catching many themes and moods of then-contemporary comics/sci-fi geekdom.

This writeup covers the period up to, and just after the death of his original body. So it’s up till #38 of the original series, including the two recent mini-series, Killer Instinct and The Manx Cat. There are S P O I L E R S.



  • Real Name: John Gaunt.
  • Other Aliases: Joe Chaney.
  • Former Aliases: Grinner, Jacknife, John of the Dead.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: “Old” Nick (father, deceased), Anya Laughton (mother, decease), Maite (“Mouse”, aunt/step-mother), “Young” Nick & Jake (brothers, deceased), Joe (half-brother, deceased), Blue Boy (Katar, son, deceased), Jack (uncle, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: None; formerly Wolfpac, Lawkillers, TDP (Trans-Dimensional Police), Cadre, Grey Wolves.
  • Base Of Operations: Munden’s Bar, Cynosure.
  • Height: 5’11” Weight: 180 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black (grey streaks).


The huge pan-dimensional city of Cynosure abuts on a number of dimensions . These move in and out of phase with Cynosure in distinct cycles. Some are almost permanently accessible, others can only be reached for a few hours every century or so.

These dimensions abut all over the City, and their different physical laws can hold sway over portions of the city. So one side of a street may negate any technological devices, while the other side may prevent magic from having any effect.

The city can also affect the abilities of the more powerful entities. Gods travelling there can find their divine powers greatly reduced. It’s also possible for inhabitants of Cynosure to discover divine powers when visiting certain dimensions, and become gods to the inhabitants. But they will lose that power when returning to Cynosure.

In DC Heroes RPG terms, Area Knowledge of Cynosure allows awareness of the general areas with different dimensional laws. That enables the character to navigate strategically around them. It also allows knowledge of the more common ways of travelling to the better known dimensions.



While a government exists, Cynosure is primarily a mercantile enterprise. It is run so as to ensure the corporations can carry out business. This changed slightly after the Dancer’s second failed coup, but the government’s increased independence is still expected to support the free market that the conglomerates prefer.

Many large goods have to be transported along Eternity Road. This is a paved dimensional portal through the outlands surrounding Cynosure, which leads to a number of dimensions. The outlands are pretty much just policed by Nolenski, an anti-social motorcycle officer who enjoys his privacy.

Time travel and precognition are possible from Cynosure. But they are heavily policed by the Chronos Marshal’s Palace, since manipulation of the timelines could severely disrupt business. Such crimes can carry the death penalty. Bounty hunters known as Hardtimers are dispatched to hunt down those illegally active in other time periods.

Powers and Abilities

A skilled and experienced fighter, Grimjack is familiar with a range of weaponry. He has access to caches containing most things he could need for dealing with the various dimensions to which he travels.

He has training in magic. But he lacks the necessary calmness to do more than a few of the more simple tricks he’s learned.

He also has a resistance to psychic attacks.

The Dark

“I’m going to look for a man. And when I find him, I’m going to kill him.”

Grimjack portrait with smoking gun

Grimjack occasionally falls prey to a deep mood which he calls the Dark. This usually occurs when obsessing over something (such as gaining revenge for Feetus’s murder). Unlike normal DC Heroes RPG Rage, these moods come on over time. They generally last until he’s achieved his goal, allowing temporary relief from the Dark.

During these periods he lets nothing stand in the way of his goal. He will even attack allies should they get in his way, or just too close, as he pays their presence no heed. Most of his friends are aware of these moods, and recognize when he’s in one. They will maintain a safe distance and watch his back for him.


John was born in the Pit, the slum area of Cynosure. His mother died while delivering him, for which his eldest brother, Young Nick, blamed him. His father married his late mother’s sister. They had another child, Joe, the only brother John really cared for.

Their father, Old Nick, was a violent man. Young Nick had manipulated him into sharing his dislike of John. As a consequence, his father attacked eight-year-old John with a broken bottle. That gave him the scar across his left eye he bore for the rest of his life. The fight ended with Old Nick falling into the fireplace and burning to death.

The brothers fell into petty crime to survive. This ended for John when they were discovered by a merchant while robbing his house. Jake killed him. As they fled, Nick knocked John unconscious, leaving him to be arrested for the crime. He was found guilty and sentenced to fight in the Arena.


In the Arena, he was inducted into one of the child warrior gangs known as ’Wolfpacs’. These were trained by one Uncle Willy. Gaunt became the second best fighter the Arena had known, despite never playing to the crowds he despised. He was second only to the Dancer, who had retired before John’s time.

Grimjack grinning with paired pistols

While few of his contemporaries survived the Arena, John did take the younger Blacjacmac under his wing, helping him survive. The pair maintained a strong friendship for life. Blacjacmac went on to form an independent mercenary company John occasionally works with.

His time in the Arena complete, John was released. He began searching for his brothers. After being badly wounded in a street fight, he stumbled into the dimension of Pwydr, where he was nursed back to health by, and fell in love with, Rhian.

He stayed there a while, studying magic under Rhian’s father, Maethe Mathonwy. But John lacked the inner peace to achieve the necessary control for working true magic.

Demon Wars

When attempts were made in Cynosure to program a computer to work spells, a demonic intelligence possessed the computer. This began the Demon Wars. Learning that Cynosure had been invaded by the forces of Hell, John was recruited by Major Lash to help fight for his home city.

Rhian begged him to stay. But he refused, and they parted on crossed words.

The forces of Hell were eventually repelled, and demons banned from entering Cynosure.

Returning to Pdwyr, John found it hadn’t escaped the Demon Wars, as all its inhabitants had been slaughtered, including Rhian and her father. He buried the dead and left Pdwyr.


Soon after, he was again recruited by Major Lash, this time into his Lawkillers, a group of bounty hunters who hunted those trying to alter history.

Grimjack fighting aliens

At 30, John was finally reunited with his brothers in a violent confrontation where Nick tried to kill John. Joe came to John’s aid, but when the fight ended only John still lived.

Leaving the Lawkillers, Gaunt joined the Trans-Dimensional Police. He was partnered with Roscoe Schumacher. John had trouble fitting into their system, though.

The Dancer rebellion

He finally quit in the aftermath of the Dancer Rebellion. The Dancer had used his fame from the Arena to gain a following among the disenfranchised. He’d built into an army with which he tried to overthrow the Cynosure authorities.

The Rebellion failed. It ended with John, the Dark having overtaken him, chasing the Dancer into some burning ruins. That meant ignoring Roscoe’s peril, and costing his partner an eye. John regained control in time to save Roscoe’s life. He carried him out while the Dancer apparently died in the burning building.

Confronted by his superior officer immediately after, John punched him as resignation.


He was approached soon after by Colonel Mayfair. Mayfair recruited him as the first member of Cadre, a secret organization maintaining Cynosure’s security. This was done using covert, and often messy, means, including blackmail, coercion, and assassination.

Schematics for Grimjack's hand prosthetics

Initially it was a small group of highly capable operatives, known as the Grey Wolves. But it eventually became a much larger organization, still under Mayfair’s control. John, by then the last of the original Grey Wolves, was still a part of it.

His association with Cadre ended when he learned Mayfair had tried to kill him. This was part of a fake assassination attempt on a political stooge. Which was in turn part of Mayfair’s attempt to gain control over all of Cynosure’s law-enforcement organizations. Acquiring proof of the plot, John forced a détente, protecting himself from Cadre’s influence.

During the mess he also gained possession of Munden’s Bar. It then became his base of operations as a mercenary and private investigator.

Private dick

One of his earliest jobs was recovering the Manx Cat. It had been stolen from the monastery of the Sleepless Monks. The Cat was actually a sentient entity, a chaos god, which could manipulate sleepers. It had chosen a target who could steal it so that it could free itself and destroy Cynosure.

John foiled its plans, and returned it to the Monks. He’d have to recover it a number of times over the years, but it never again got close to truly unleashing its power.

Taking a Hardtimer job, John travelled back to the Wild West to hunt down Spook, an agent for an illegal trans-time dealer. Spook was an unquiet ghost who’d attained physical form when she stumbled into Cynosure. Spook had been recruited into Major Lash’s Lawkillers, only to later flee them.

John captured her. But the Lawkillers ambushed them before they could return to Cynosure, demanding Spook. They escaped, stranding Major Lash and his men there. John handed Spook into TDP custody, but wasn’t surprised when she escaped moments later.

Learning that the Dancer had survived, John began investigating, but was unable to find any real leads.

Trade Wars

When a job uncovered information that one of the corporations which basically ruled Cynosure (in an uneasy alliance with the other prominent business institutions) had been making moves to covertly gain control of the bureaucrats overseeing trade, he attempted to use the information to force the company to stop, leaving incriminatory letters in the safekeeping of his friend Feetus.

Grimjack's hand prosthetics

A deal was made. But Feetus was killed by Katar, an agent of the Dancer who hated John for killing his father. The information was made public, using John’s reputation for honesty to support it, initiating the Trade Wars.

The corporations, their uneasy détente broken, went to war. Cynosure itself actually shrank as parts of it were destroyed. John learned that Mayfair had allied Cadre with the Dancer’s plans to take control of Cynosure. He also realised that the Dancer planned to use technology which would enable him to control access to other dimensions.

As he was obsessing over Feetus’s death, the Dark overtook John. He snuck onto the flying fortress on which the machine was based, where he faced Katar. He fought and killed Katar, then crashed the fortress, ending Dancer’s scheme.

John survived the crash, but lost his most of his left hand. He had it replaced with a prosthetic weapon attachment. This was later replaced by a prosthetic hand.

New order

A coalition government was formed by agreement with the conglomerates, with William Hanesworth as its head. Grimjack became an enforcer for the new administration, on a case-by-case basis. He was basically replacing the Cadre, which had gone underground after their actions were revealed.

Grimjack grinning with a shotgun

Gaunt continued to act as a mercenary and investigator while fulfilling these duties.

John was approached by an old flame, Shari. She revealed they had a son, who’d gone missing. Seeing his picture, John recognized him as Katar, whom he’d killed. Shari cursed him, and hired the Lawkillers to take her revenge.

John had become involved with Spook. When she felt her home dimension moving into conjunction with Cynosure, calling her back, he accompanied her. Returning to her home dimension, she reverted to an unquiet spirit. As such she haunted and killed the family of the lover she blamed for her death.

John tried helping her find peace, but she was too tormented, and when she threatened an innocent life, he destroyed her.

The death of Gaunt

Returning to Cynosure devastated from the encounter, he found Munden’s shot up. A number of patrons had died at the hands of Lash’s Lawkillers, and Shari was accompanying them. She regretted her rashness and tried to stop them. But Major Lash killed her, just to further wound John. John killed Lash’s men.

When he had Lash at his mercy, Gaunt turned his back, unable to stomach any more killing. Lash shot and killed him.

John’s spirit lingered in Cynosure for a while. He almost was pulled into a younger clone body that had been prepared for him by an ally. But he resisted, ready to move on. He ascended to Heaven, where he was reunited with Rhian and Maethe.

He learned that Spook was in a kind of purgatory, awaiting resurrection. Before they met, she had been bound for Hell.

When he learned that Dancer had reanimated his corpse, and sent it to kill Blacjacmac, John forfeited his peaceful afterlife. He returned to inhabit the clone body prepared for him, and saved Blacjacmac’s life.


Gruff and hardened, Grimjack presents a stony face to the world at large.

While there is a slightly soft, romantic side, within, there’s also a lot of violence in his soul. He won’t stand by and let the helpless be victimised, and will take a job from a child to help save a parent for just a few pennies. But if someone gets on his bad side, he wouldn’t have much hesitation in killing them.

He’s slow to make friends, and can keep the friends he has at arms length sometimes. He’s lost so many close to him that he’s afraid to lose any more.

Once he accepts a case, he’ll continue until he’s learned the full truth. This occurs regardless of whether the client changes their mind. If the snippets of truth he finds in the course of the investigation prove too much for them, they still have to face the full truth when he learns it.

Following the fall of Pdwyr, John lost all confidence in his own judgment. He became dependant on the orders of others, such as Major Lash or Colonel Mayfair. This ended when Mayfair betrayed him. John decided that from that point on he’d be his own man, serving his own conscience.


“The name’s John Gaunt, a.k.a. Grimjack, and I’m the guy you hire when you need an asshole on your side.”

“The girl was curious about this city she had landed in. I told her it had different names. Some called it Nirvana. Some called it Hell. One poor mook thought it Tanelorn . The city’s real name is Cynosure. Sweet cynical Cynosure, built where the multiverse meets. Cross the street, and sometimes you’ve crossed a dimension. The laws of physics change from block to block. Magic works here, science over there. And then there’s the Pit. That’s where the dregs of Cynosure congeal. I should know. I was born there.”

“Move or die. Your choice.”

“She was wrong, of course. I use half-truths and lies as much as anyone. But give me any glimpse of the truth, any shade of it at all, and I have to have it. The truth kills only what’s rotten. Lies fester and rot the soul and destroy what little hope we have for the future. You can ignore the truth if you want. But first you have to know it. I know no other way that’s worth living.”

“I was breaking all my own rules here. This was really none of my business. Nobody was paying me a cent. And I completely ignored some other rules. One: when in doubt, kill ’em. It’s easier to guard your back that way. Two: just because they’re down doesn’t mean they’re out. Three: if you’re going to ignore the rules, you can expect to pay the price.”

“Dammit, but I hate when they get this stubborn. Feels like I’m looking in a mirror.”

Grimjack: “There are standards. If you can’t see one, you make one and stick to it come hell or high water — until you see a better one.”
Lillian Seffington: “A trifle artificial, no ?”
Grimjack: “What standards aren’t ? They’re still necessary.”

Cowboy: “How’d you get her ? Don’t think you walked and I don’t see no horse…”
Grimjack: “I got a horse.”
Cowboy: “Yeah ? Where ?”
Grimjack: “You’re sitting on him.”

“It was supposed to be a piece of cake. It was turning into a pile of crap.”

“We can put down the knife and step back or we can get a buckshot enema. Our choice.”

DC Universe History

Cynosure is accessible from the DC Universe via Crossroads Coffee Bar, although the Monitors regularly make attempts to limit such breaches.

Marvel Universe History

Cynosure abuts onto Marvel Earth at the Nexus of All Realities, in the Florida Everglades. Grimjack has encountered its guardian, the Man-Thing, but was unaffected by its touch.

The demon who possessed the computers to initiate the Demon Wars was N’astirh, following his apparent destruction during Inferno (when he arranged for similar magic working computers).

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats


Dex: 08 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Seeking Truth
Int: 08 Wil: 07 Min: 07 Occupation: Mercenary
Inf: 06 Aur: 07 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 024 HP: 070

Mind Field: 02

Acrobatics: 07, Charisma: 07, Martial Artist: 07, Military Science (Danger Recognition, Tracking): 07, Occultist (Identify Artifact, Occult Knowledge, Ritual Magic): 07, Thief: 08, Vehicles (Air, Land, Space): 07, Weaponry: 08

Area Knowledge (Cynosure), Confined Headquarters (Munden’s Bar), Iron Nerves, Languages (Demon Tongue), Schtick (Weapons stash).

Blacjacmac (High), Det. Roscoe Schumacher (High), Nolenski (Low), Cynosure Government (Low), Street (Low) .

MIA (The truth), Catastrophic Rage (see The Dark below).

Omni-Ritual: 07

He has access to an array of weaponry, but these are his most common ones:

  • Grell 110 handgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 04, Ammo: 15, R#03].
  • Valarkye 9mm automatic [BODY 04, AV (Projectile Weapons against target with body heat): 09, Bomb (Grenade Drawback, activated if separated from Grimjack for XAPs of time): 06, Projectile weapons: 04, Ammo: 15, R#03]
    A custom made Valarkye 9mm automatic with Qwikdeth heat seeker bullets calibrated to 98.6 F. and a recoilless baffle built into the grip. The gun is keyed to his aura — separated from him for too long it self-destructs (the time limit is unknown, and up to the GM).
  • Sword [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Descriptor: Slashing, piercing].
  • For a short while his mostly missing left hand was replaced with a prosthetic slab. It contained a knife, pistol, and grappler with a 25 foot line. This was soon replaced by a prosthetic hand formed from the remains of the robot Kalibos. PROSTHETIC STUMP [BODY 06, EV 05, Claws: 05 (06 w/STR, 08 w/Martial Artist), Projectile Weapons: 05, Snare (Slingline Only): 02]

He also has a number of caches available to him from which he arms himself with what he needs for specific situations. Here are some that he’s been known to use (or he can have an appropriate 7AP C Omni-Gadget):

  • A-Rad Serum [Sealed Systems (Only protects against radiation, lasts for 2 hours): 08]. This serum provides the character temporary protection from radiation.
  • Gas Grenades [BODY 04, Fog: 05, R# 02, Grenade Drawback].
  • Grenades [BODY 04, Bomb: 07, R# 02, Grenade Drawback].
  • Vamp Dust [Neutralize (Vampire’s shape-changing Powers): 10, Poison Touch (Vampires only): 05]. This garlic dust hurts vampires caught in it, and prevents them changing shape for a while thereafter.
  • Hunter Chronomaster [BODY 04, Radio Communications (Scrambled, Combined Power Usage with Time Travel): 25, Time Travel (Combined Power Usage with Radio Communications, RC signal only): 40]. This device allows the wielder to communicate with Cynosure at the time of their departure, no matter when in the time stream they are.
  • Miller Medallion [BODY 05, Magic Sense: 06]. This allows the wielder to sense magical effect or beings within the area. However, it isn’t much good if there’s a lot of such stuff in Range. It also seems to have indeterminate plot device powers allowing it to serve whatever role the GM needs it to.
  • PRG [BODY 05, Defensive Adaptation (Against dimensional effects only): 12].
    Portable Reality Generators allow the wearer to operate free of the localized reality effects in Cynosure or it’s adjacent dimensions. For instance, their guns would work even in a dimension where they normally wouldn’t. These are hard to get hold of, and illegal to possess unless working for the authorities.
  • Re-Breather [BODY 03, Sealed Systems (Only protects against inhaled substances): 04]. This small half-mask protects against simple gas attacks
  • St. Elvis’s Vial [BODY 05, Energy Absorption (Magic energy only, Absorbed Energy Adds to Power Reserve): 10ML, Energy Blast: 0ML, Power Reserve (Fuelled by Energy Absorption, powers Energy Blast): 10ML].
    This relic is filled with silver nitrate. It is magically inert in itself, but able to absorbs magic energies directed towards its wielder, allowing them to redirect it in a blast of magic energy.
  • St. John’s Knives [BODY 06, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 05), Sharpness (EV) (Only against vampires): 02]. These silver blades were originally used by St. John of Blades, a rebel against the theocratic overlords of Cynosure in his time. Grimjack inhabited his body at one point, learning that he was a reincarnation of St. John.

By Gareth Lewis.

Source of Character: Grimjack comics (created by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman).

Helper(s): Wikipedia, Sébastien Andrivet.

Writeup completed on the 7th of Febuary, 2010.