Comics You May Have Missed: Scout, by Tim Truman

by louis whiteford on July 06, 2014

Happy Independence Day weekend, boys and girls!  Let’s put away those manga collections and those beautiful painted Moebius books and read something American for a change!  Let’s read something so ingrained with America and American culture it could only come from America itself! (Or the pages of Judge Dredd, but that’s another article for another writer.)  Let’s read a comic built on dread, paranoia, and fear.  Fear of an apocalyptic future and a negligent present.  Let’s read Scout, the story of an America on the brink of collapse and the lone soldier who decided to take some hallucinogens and murder a bunch of people he thought were demons.  It’s really, really solid stuff. 

Scout was written and drawn by Tim Truman, who you may know from his work on Conan, Hawkword, or Grimjack.  Truman first became a hero of mine when I encountered one issue of Scout last year, and since then, I’ve been trying to dig up the rest, along with other Truman projects.  I’m 14 issues deep into Scout now, and enjoying every minute of it.  Atmosphere goes a long way into my enjoyment of a story, and Scout is dripping with it.  The apocalypse was just so much more stylish in the 80s.  This could speak to the cohesiveness of Truman’s vision as much as it could be a sign of the times. 
Modern apocalyptic fiction is mostly attempting to be bleaker than the last hopeless future, and I think that’s a really defeatist attitude to take.  In the 70s and 80s, this stuff was all over the place, and people had a sense of humor about it.  The apocalypse was used more to change the things that made us comfortable, than to remove them entirely.  In Scout, characters still play music.  There’s still celebrities, there’s still television, and most importantly, it’s only America that’s dying.
You see, the other nations of the world have had enough of America’s shit.  They’ve had it with all the pollution, war, and stealing of resources, so they’ve crippled the former superpower through a series of sanctions.  America is now forced to take responsibility for its actions.  Although instead of starting vegetable gardens and recycling more, most characters are getting busy hoarding weapons and clinging to their trash heaps.  it’s Americans at Americans throats, looking for someone to blame, and Emanuel Santana, the protagonist of the comic, is no different. 
Santana’s cause may seem noble, but he’s a driven man, dead-set on his own goals, disregarding the care and concern of other people.  His Apache heritage may inform him about the demons that other people can’t see, but his visions are constantly questioned.  The villains are indeed quite villainous, but killing them doesn’t matter much.  Every monster reverts to a human form upon death and another crooked bureaucrat always rises to take their place.  The questionable justification keeps the reader at a distance from Emanuel Santana, and turns his stoic demeanor into far more than another noble savage.  As far as cultural appropriation goes, Scout is considered one of the most accurate and respectful portrayals of Native American characters in comic books.  Truman is a great researcher.  He always knows the appropriate objects and effects needed to make the comic seem real. 
Truman draws in a style somewhere between Frank Frazetta and Tim Bradstreet.  If you like skull imagery, this comic is for you.  Truman does these beady little eyes in particular that I find interesting.  Guy really knows how to make things look sinister.  He chooses to make characters ugly, and a bit grotesque.  It’s a choice I wish more artists would take.  He’s still getting there in Scout, but the griminess is starting to form.  The way characters transform into monsters is wonderfully grotesque, and even subtle at times.  With on confrontation in issue #6, the change happened so slowly, I wasn’t sure it was even happening, at least until it reeeeeeeeeeeeally started happening.  Truman was already a master of craft, and an early pioneer of the widescreen style popularized by Bryan Hitch on The Authority.

Published  by Eclipse Comics from 1985 to 1987, Scout comprised 24 issues.  Truman would return to Scout periodically over the next few years, with two separate four issue miniseries which he oversaw, but neither wrote nor drew.  In 1988, Truman debuted a second series, Scout: War Shaman, which lasted 16 issues.  I can’t tell you much about those later comics. I haven’t read them. They’re not just out of print, they were never collected or reprinted.  This is one series that may still be gathering dust amongst the back issues at your local comic shop.  They could use a nice rescue, as it’s a shame this series has fallen through the cracks.  It’s just as good as anything that’s come after it.  Scout could easily stand alongside anything Vertigo published in the 1990s, or the so called “Image Revolution” that’s happening now.  Scout is a very political book, and clearly a piece of it's time, but it deserves wider recognition.  Give it a shot if you get the chance.  You won't leave dissapointed.



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nayabluett's picture

Why is everyone going crazy about comics? My classmate has draw a comics and handed it to the teacher instead of doing homework and writing an essay. He was asked this task again. He ordered an essay from my essays lab and drew a comics again. Madness.