John Gaunt was born in the pan-dimensional city of Cynosure which phases in and out of contact with other parts of the multiverse. When he was a child, his abusive father cut John across the face with a bottle during a drunken rage, leaving John with his signature scar across his left eye, only to die when he subsequently fell into the fireplace and burned to death. Gaunt and his brothers survived as thieves, until his vindictive eldest brother, Nick, deliberately set John up to be the fall guy for a murder committed by the second oldest brother, Jake, during one of their robberies.
Gaunt was sent to the Arena by the authorities to be a child gladiator, joining a "Wolfpac" of other similarly sentenced youths. Known as Grinner because of the rictus grin that came over his face during combat, he grew up to be the Arena's second greatest gladiator, only bettered by the Dancer, whose showmanship Gaunt lacked. While in the Arena he became friends with Blackjac Mac, whose own father had sold him into slavery.
Released when he was 22 Gaunt stumbled into the peaceful pocket dimension of Pdwyr, where he fell in love with Rhian, and studied magic under her father, Maethe Mathonwy; this idyllic interlude into Gaunt's otherwise troubled life ended when another visitor from Cynosure, Major Lash, discovered Pdwyr, and revealed Hell had phased into contact with the city, and an army of demons had invaded. To protect Pdwyr, John returned with Lash to Cynosure and fought in the Demon Wars, unaware that Lash, who had literally lost his soul long ago, subsequently betrayed Pdwyr to the demons, who slaughtered its inhabitants in Gaunt's absence. The war lasted years, and Gaunt was reunited with Blackjac, now a fellow soldier. When the demons were ultimately repelled Gaunt returned to Pdwyr, discovering the devastation and the corpse of his beloved Rhian.
Feeling dead inside, Gaunt returned to Cynosure, and joined Lash's Lawkillers, becoming a "Hard Timer," a temporal bounty hunter. However, after several years riding with the Major, Gaunt realized he risked becoming as heartless as his boss, and quit. He finally tracked down Nick and Jake and killed them, and subsequently joined the TDP (Trans-Dimensional Police), partnering with Roscoe Schumacher, but found it hard to play by the TDP's rules. The Dancer led a gladiator insurrection, hoping to conquer and rule the city, and John fought to stop him. Though defeated, the Dancer faked his own death and went underground. A new covert agency, Cadre, was established to prevent such an event ever happening again, headed by Mayfair, and Gaunt left the TDP to become one of its first group of operatives, but as time passed Mayfair's own ambitions grew, and he began using the agency for his own ends. Gaunt quit, ensuring he had leverage to keep Mayfair from retaliating, and became a freelance private detective and troubleshooter, nicknamed Grimjack, sometimes working with Blackjac, who had become a mercenary. He purchased Munden's Bar, using it as his unofficial office, but found his past often sought him out. Mayfair duped him into discrediting CADRE's rival agency, the Shadow Corps, while Dancer used him as a pawn in Dancer's plot to initiate what became as the Trade Wars, where the city fought against the forces of corporations that had been trying to covertly take over the city council, a conflict Dancer expected to weaken the city enough for him to take over in the aftermath.
Gaunt ultimately thwarted this plan with the aid of friends including Blackjac, though he lost his left hand to injury and had to replace it with a prosthetic. Gaunt finally learned that Major Lash had been behind the demons finding Pdwyr, but also discovered that Katar, one of the Dancer's lieutenants he had killed during the Trade Wars, was his own illegitimate son, and was forced to slay his ghost friend Spook. Plunged into a black depression, Gaunt was thus secretly wanting to die when he finally confronted the Lawkillers, and Lash killed him. Gordon Munden, Gaunt's barman, tracked down the Major and killed him in revenge (though he would be raised again by the creatures who had taken his soul), while scientist Professor Mueller, who had worked with Gaunt during the Trade Wars, tried unsuccessfully to clone him; she grew a new body, but was unable to animate it.
To Gaunt's surprise, he found himself in Heaven, as, despite a life of killing and deceit, his honorable intentions throughout had won him a reprieve. He was reunited with Rhian and many other late friends, but when he learned that Dancer had raised Gaunt's own corpse as a zombie to kill Blackjac, whose soul Gaunt was told would be bound for Hell if Blackjac died at this juncture, Gaunt chose to leave Heaven, unaware that Heaven would not take him back. Entering the clone Mueller had grown, Gaunt intercepted and destroyed his reanimated corpse, coincidentally ending up with a scar virtually identical to the one on his original body during the fight.
As clones lacked civil rights, Grimjack had to lay relatively low over subsequent months, using the alias Chaney, though he returned to operating out of Munden's and taking cases on the quiet. Dancer and Mayfair struck a deal with Hell's demons, agreeing to give them access to Cynosure once more; the demons betrayed Mayfair, consuming his soul and co-opting his form, but Grimjack and his allies learned of the plot and intervened. Gaunt slew Dancer, who, though once the better fighter, had lost his edge through years of letting his lieutenants handle the dirty work while Gaunt's fighting skills had been refined by his experiences since the Arena, and Gaunt's ally Jericho Noleski sacrificed himself to close the gateway to Hell the plotters had opened.
Soon after this Gaunt took a client who proved to be his own reincarnation from the far future, and learned that, barred from Heaven and unable to go to Hell when he died because his final judgement had already been determined, he was doomed to be perpetually reincarnated, each time recalling his past lives, so long as Cynosure endured; his future self had come back in time to trigger events that would, in centuries to come, destroy the city, just to end what had become a perpetual torment.
Two centuries after Gaunt finally died under undisclosed circumstances, he was reborn as Jim Twilley. He lived his childhood unaware of his past incarnation, but when he was forced to kill a man in self-defense, the memories began to return. Haunted by thoughts he didn't fully understand, Twilley looked at his own reflection in a shop window, and, feeling there was something missing, used his dead attacker's own knife to cut Grimjack's distinctive scar into his face, which finally fully unleashed the locked memories. Twilley ran away from home, and, after spending some time training his new body to be able to use his old body's fighting skills, re-established himself as Grimjack, taking over Munden's Bar once more. During the course of several cases he discovered that Jericho had become a demon during his time in Hell, and ran into the Major again, finally slaying his old foe permanently. Initially having rejected Twilley's life as a falsehood, he came to accept that it had been as valid as his time as Gaunt, which ultimately led him to sacrifice his second incarnation to save some of Twilley's family and friends when his enemies targeted them.
Powers and Skills
Grimjack possess great magical power, however he lacks control. He trained under the wizard Maethe Mathonwy, but Maethe told him he had a warrior’s soul, one filled with anger and violence. A sorcerer needs peace of mind, but Grimjack’s traumatic past prevents him from achieving this. A times the power manifests accidentally as when he is drunk he sometimes summons shades of the dead. He does have a substantial knowledge on the workings of magic, however. After his first death, Grimjack found that he had greater extra sensory perception, being able sense emotions. He seems to have lost this upon his second death.
Grimjack’s time in the Arena and service in the Demon Wars has given him great combat skills. He is well-versed with firearms at ranged combat and swords at close combat. This is a necessity in Cynosure where firearms might not work depending on where you are.
Grimjack’s knowledge of Cynosure has often been key to his survival. He has been known to draw opponents into areas where the conditions are favorable to him. He also has many contacts on the street and is good with tracking down people and items
Grimjack was created by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman. Though he made his first full appearance in the back-up strip of Starslayer #10, Gaunt first appeared in the back-up strip in Warp #5, sitting in shadows unidentified when the story's protagonist visited Munden's Bar.