'Deadly Class': What is 'Grimjack?'

One of the things that's always fun when watching comic book TV shows is trying to suss out whether the comic books characters themselves are reading might be important...or even real, rather than in-universe fiction.

Such was the case tonight on Deadly Class, when fans found themselves freeze-framing, rewinding, and otherwise trying to capture the comic that Willie (Luke Tennie) was reading during an early scene in the episode.

Little did they know that later, the comic -- an issue of the '80s indie masterpiece Grimjack -- would be much more prominently featured, rendering all that scrambling moot.

So what's the deal with Grimjack?

As noted, it is indeed a real comic -- and a pretty good one, at that. The series was created by Suicide Squad writer John Ostrander and Conan artist Timothy Truman, although it was published before either of them were known for those works.

(Caveat: while those two are the credited creators and told the first published stories with Grimjack, Ostrander had been developing the concept with another artist, Lenin Delsol, before Truman came on board.)

The series was originally published at First Comics, a publisher that was founded in 1983 and went out of business in 1991. Despite its fairly short lifespan, the publisher attracted high-profile talent and, by giving them broad leeway to create, churned out a number of comics that would remain relevant long after First was gone. Those books included Howard Chaykin's American Flagg; Grimjack; Mike Baron and Steve Rude's Nexus; Baron's Badger; Jim Starlin's space opera series Dreadstar, and Mike Grell's Jon Sable.

First was later revived, in a publishing partnership with Devil's Due, in 2015.

As for Grimjack itself, the series was a trippy, cosmic mercenary tale. It centered on

John Gaunt, a sword-for-hire, ex-paramilitary, war veteran and former child gladiator. He operates from Munden's Bar in the Pit, a slum area of Cynosure, a pan-dimensional city to which all dimensions connect.

The series vanished for a while after the collapse of First, and some reports suggest that it was because while Ostrander retained the copyrights to Grimjack himself, trademark elements of the series, including Cynosure, were owned by the now-defunct First Comics. Nearly 25 years after First Comics folded, the rights were apparently sorted out, and both collected editions of the classic material and new comics were published through IDW Publishing.

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So while Willie might have been worried about ceding ground to Marcus by reading some of his "indie s--t," as he told Maria, it is still a pretty accessible read for superhero fans.

Deadly Class airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SYFY.