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Year of the Artist, Day 212: J. G. Jones, Part 1 – Dark Dominion #7

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is J. G. Jones, and the issue is Dark Dominion #7, which was published by Defiant and is cover dated April 1994. Enjoy!

As far as I can discover, this is the first published work of J. G. Jones’s career. The Internet says so, and in the editor’s page in this issue implies that it is. So that’s kind of neat. Jones, as you’ll see, had quite a lot of growth to do before he became the artist we know and love, but this is a pretty good start!

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Dark Dominion stars some dude named Michael Alexander who can move through the “quantum substratum” and fight weird beasties. I only own this issue, so I really have no clue what’s going on, although Len Wein, who wrote this, keeps it pretty simple. We can see on this page that Jones’s work was pretty rough, but it’s certainly not terrible. He uses a more basic line for drawing Michael when he’s in the “field,” while inker Mike Barreiro, I assume, cross-hatches somewhat frenziedly to imply that Michael is no longer on “our” plane of existence. Jones draws the small beasts well, with their misshapen bodies and the nice spot blacks on their bodies, and the New York subway platform is nicely seedy. This is painted by Tim Perkins, and the colors are quite good, with Michael’s bright blue and yellow helping him stand out on the platform, while the people still in “our world” are just painted with outlines. It’s a neat choice.

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Michael is an author, and he writes about his experiences in the quantum substratum, which doesn’t make his editor, a “two-bit Maxwell Perkins” (ooooh, editor burn!!!!), too happy because Michael claims it’s not fiction. This page isn’t too exciting, but it does show that Jones was doing some interesting work with blacks early in his career (unless it’s all inked in by Barreiro, of course). Panel 2 puts Amos in darkness, with just white paint in his glasses, giving him an eerie, insect-like look. He remains backlit during the scene except in close-up, so he becomes a bit more sinister as he tells Michael that he’s not going to publish the next book. Jones (or Barreiro) puts Michael in a bit of darkness in Panel 6, but it’s clear that they’re contrasting him to Amos – he’s much lighter, and Perkins even gives him an aura, making him look a bit more heavenly. Jones’s characters are solid, but nothing too special, but it’s clear that early in his career, he already had a good sense of moving readers across the page.

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Jones’s figure work is better in close-up, as he spends some time with “Peaches” (really, Len Wein?) and does a nice job in Panel 1. She’s a classic beauty, with arched eyebrows, a slightly turned-up nose, and full lips, and Jones gives her some personality with the pointier-than-usual chin. He puts her irises in a place where we can see her desperation that “Glimmer” (which is what people call Michael when he’s moving through the quantum field) believe her. Jones stretches her neck, which makes her seem more fearful, and he and Barreiro do a good job with her clothing, as the fringe looks silky and the part covering her breasts is inked more thickly, implying a heavier fabric. Jones places Michael’s hands on her in crucial places, holding her still and conveying his rage (he believes she’s a villain, but as we can see, someone was impersonating her), while Barreiro, I guess, inks them a but roughly, showing his age. Notice that Jones lays the page out so that Panel 2, which shows Michael’s head, is just a separate section of Panel 1 with Panels 3 and 4 intruding on the flow. It’s kind of clever. Panels 3 and 4 are nicely done, as Jones and Barreiro give us a good contrast between Peaches the young woman and Michael the old dude, and Jones continues this with Panels 5 and 6. Peaches loses her irises and lowers her head, as she’s no longer in fear, and the way Jones draws Michael’s hands, still clutched a bit but also stretching out, is very well done, as it shows without showing his face how apologetic he is. The best panels are the ones that readers can imagine moving, and while this panel is relatively simplistic, we can imagine Michael’s hands slowly opening as he realizes his mistake. Jones, of course, knows to put Peaches on the right side of Panel 7 so she can point us off the page.

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Michael meets some dude who calls himself Galahad, who wants him to assume the role of champion against the forces of the dark dominion (hey, that phrase would make a cool comic book title!). We can see again that Jones has a pretty strong line for being so new, even though his depiction of Galahad in Panel 4 is a bit stilted. He draws a precise airplane in Panel 1, and he does a decent job with Galahad’s streaming hair in Panels 4 and 6. Perkins is the star of the page, though, as I assume he painted the background in Panel 3 (really, the whole page, as every other panel is overlaid on the big image), which is very nice. But Perkins also does nice watercolor work on the clouds, as we see clearly in Panel 4. The coloring in this book really helps raise Jones’s skilled but somewhat rough pencil work to a higher level.

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Jones shows that he’s pretty good at facial expressions, as Michael appears in Thea’s apartment (when he’s moving through the quantum field, he can walk through walls and is invisible to normal folk) and tries to solicit her aid. In Panel 1, Jones does a nice profile of Thea as she does a double-take on the locked door, and then in the bottom row, we get three pretty good drawings as she explains her predicament. The first panel shows Thea as slightly angry, which doesn’t match the words very much, but is still a good drawing. Jones narrows Thea’s eyes, turns up her nose, and she raises her head a little, somewhat haughtily. Then she melts a bit in Panel 2, as she tries to explain that going against her boss would not be a good idea. Jones drops her face, makes her double chin a bit more prominent, and either he or Barreiro adds a few worry lines to her forehead. Her mouth is open a bit more, pleading, and Jones brings her hands up in a gesture of helplessness. In Panel 3, she’s a bit more resigned, as Jones closes her mouth, lifts her head again, and brings her eyes a bit closer together, effectively shutting off communication with Michael. These faces aren’t perfect, of course, but they do show that Jones thought a lot about how a person would look as they try to get through a difficult situation, and for the most part, it works.

Jones drew a bunch of small comics over the next few years, but we’ll catch up with him on a book that seems to have cachet that far outstrips its sales. Come back and see what it is! In the meantime, I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the archives!

12 Comments

tom fitzpatrick

July 31, 2014 at 5:10 pm

My first Jones exposure is MARVEL BOY that he collaborated with the GOD-OF-ALL-COMICS (when he first wrote for MARVEL).

Then after that, WANTED with Millar.
Both books were awesomely drawn and written.

It is hard to believe that Jones was so good when he first started out. That’s pretty rare. Usually an artist builds up to it.

This is pretty interesting stuff. It’s easy to see all of the stuff that Jones would get even better at but you can also see some of the tics that would get more obvious in his later work. I think he’s very good at panel design and has the ability to draw a pretty wide range of facial expressions, as seen here. Sometimes, though, his work bothers me because the facial expressions he draws don’t always match up with the script or because his faces cross over into the uncanny valley. His style is pretty “naturalistic” for the most part, but his efforts at making faces expressive often make them a weird hybrid of portraiture and caricature. I really get that from the bottom left panel of that second page.

Very Ditko-esque,

Jeff Nettleton

July 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

@Turk
My thoughts exactly.

The Ditko influence might not be a coincidence, since Ditko did some work for Defiant. (apparently Shooter was a) willing to give him work that Ditko would actually do, and b) could get along with him)

Defiant had some really interesting books, but between the speculation bust of the 90s and Marvel’s vindictive BS lawsuit against them it crashed them pretty hard. Too bad.

I was also thinking that this was rather Ditko-esque, but that is not too surprising as Steve Ditko was the co-creator of the Dark Dominion series.

As others have said, it’s interesting that J.G. Jones started out doing such good, solid work. I mean, yes, obviously he has grown tremendously as an artist since then. But for an example of someone’s first professional work, this looks great.

I’m a fan of Jones’ work, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Greg spotlights from his career over the next four days.

There are already the typical Jones features, I don’t see such a difference between this and his later work. What sticks out is the colouring, but the Jones faces are here, the heavy shadows. I like his work very much, I think my first of his work was the Black Widow mini.

While Ditko didn’t draw any issue of Dark Dominion past the 0 issue/trading card set, his influence stuck on the book for the rest of its run, right down to the fact that most people seemed to still dress like it was the 1960s.

I’m curious to see if any of J G Jones’ Crusade work gets a shout-out here. That’s where I first saw his work.

Jeff Nettleton

August 1, 2014 at 8:38 am

@Josh I don’t think you can put it down to timing or legal issues. I gave the books a try but didn’t care much for the story in any of them. I saw some reviews with similar sentiments. The energy and creativity that Shooter had with Valiant seemed to be missing. He didn’t help himself with things he said in press releases and interviews, while publicizing the launch. I kind of felt he was his own worst enemy, with Defiant. I think he soured a lot of people who might have otherwise been interested, at the start, and many who gave it a try didn’t care for the finished product. It certainly wasn’t for lack of publicity because the company was hyped everywhere, in the comic press (Wizard, CBG, etc…). Launching Plasm (Warriors of Plasm) as a trading card gimmick didn’t help him at all. By the time he tried Broadway Comics, it seemed like he was totally burned out.

Weird. I should have seen the Ditko influence without knowing that Ditko was involved in Defiant, because now that people are mentioning it, I can see it pretty clearly. Thanks, everyone!

Dimo1: I think you’ll see the big difference is in his smoothness as he gets more experienced, plus he and his inkers begin using more blacks than we see here. And we’ll see Black Widow soon enough!

Josh: There was work Ditko wouldn’t do?

Jeff Nettleton

August 2, 2014 at 8:13 am

I can see Shooter getting along with Ditko; he wasn’t exactly big on compromise, either!

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