1991: Dragon Chiang

Dragon Chiang (1991) #1 by Timothy Truman and Timothy Bradstreet.

More Timothy Truman. Sure are a lot of books from him in the last Eclipse years…

This is a squarebound “prestige format” comic, 48 pages long. The back cover promises you “18-wheelin’, Chinese-communist, truck-drivin’ action”. Hey, I’d buy it.

Truman wrote it and did the pencils, while Bradstreet is the inker here. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that these weren’t Truman’s inks. The artwork looks very Trumanish in its gritty details and dirty lines.

The story is well told, entertaining, and with more than the requisite number of action scenes. But it all feels so slight. As a stand-alone reading experience, I’m left with more questions than I am a satisfying story.

As the first issue of a new series, this would have been excellent. As it stands now, I’m mainly just puzzled why this book exists, because it introduces some intriguing concepts, but doesn’t do much with them other than drive a truck through them. Even on the final pages, we’re introduced to a preacher type character that may best be summarised as “er, what?”

Truman explains why the book is the way it is: It was designed to be serialised in a Scandinavian magazine. Which must have been an even stranger reading experience, because there’d be so little in each “episode” that there’d be nothing to latch onto. But perhaps this would help, in a way? It’d seem like a burst of “wha” and then you have to wait a month until the next piece.

If I read the credits to the left above right, that drawing was done by Bradstreet solo, and it looks super cool. Perhaps even better than the artwork in the main portion of the book. The worst artwork in the book is unfortunately the cover, where Truman has the titular character looking uncomfortably simian and unhealthy. They should just have used that Bradstreet drawing instead.

Hm… Oh, Truman discusses Dragon Chiang in an interview conducted by Gary Groth in The Comics Journal 144:

GROTH: Dragon Chiang, aside from the geopolitical extrapolation and the fun you had with That, is a real hardon adventure.

TRUMAN: Plotwise the material in Dragon Chiang is thin, but I think that there’s a lot of meat in there, impressions that I have of ongoing political situations. There’s also a lot of meat there in the way of characterization. I feel that it succeeds on that level.

GROTH: Dragon Chiang seemed to me to be one of your more minimalist efforts in terms ofcharacter and dialogue and so forth.

TRUMAN: I don’t see it that way. I was exploring a lot of storytelling techniques when I was doing that book, challenging myself. And, at least personally, I was satisfied with it.

Chiang’s a book that takes two readings. I wanted it that way. On the the first reading it’s a hard-hitting adventure story, but with something definitely Sergio Leoneish about it. You don’t know quite enough about this character. I don’t like characters that are immediately explained for you. I think with a second reading that you’ll find yourself presented with questions about the guy that aren’t readily answered. That’s sort of the ‘.vay I like to pattern all my adventure stuff.

[…]

One of the troubles that I have with Dragon Chiang is that I didn’t put that point across more vividly. I started Dragon Chiang with less planning than Scout. I wanted to do it that way; I wanted to travel with this character, and have him slowly reveal himself to me, as I reveal him to the reader. Then, suddenly, I found myself at the last chapter with a lot of questions that I’d originally wanted to solve, and a lot of plot and theme elements that I wanted to bring out, which I hadn’t. so the book, thematically, was as much of a success for me as it was a failure.

Hey, that Truman guy is perceptive.

Dragon Chiang has never been reprinted.

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