It’s a big week to be J.G. Jones.
Not only did Wednesday see the release of “Final Crisis” #1, the kick start to his and writer Grant Morrison’s highly anticipated and scrutinized DC Comics summer event series, but the artist is also learning what fans thought of the book first hand as Guest of Honor at this weekend’s Wizard World Philadelphia convention. In a quick conversation with CBR News between his morning coffee and his first panel of the day, Jones took a moment to muse on the evolution of “Final Crisis,” his artistic collaboration with Grant Morrison and the first issue death that has convention jaws wagging.
CBR: When you got asked to do this show, when was the moment when you realized, “Oh. I’m about to do a convention three days after ‘Final Crisis’ #1 comes out”?
You know what? It didn’t even register with me. I’m so busy with so many balls in the air, it’s like, “OK. Convention? Put it on the calendar.” I didn’t pay attention to it until it came up. I didn’t even know the ship date really. I’m just working. It was kind of a neat surprise to roll in and the book’s out. I didn’t have to keep saying, “You’re going to like it. You’re going to like it.” Now they either know they like it or don’t.
Have you already had some signings on Friday where people were bringing you the issue and giving you their take?
Yeah. I had one guy come up to my table. He had this little light bulb go off above his head, you could see it on his face, and he turned around and ran away. 15 minutes later he showed up with the book and went, “I forgot it came out!”
One striking thing about the art for issue one is the more dark and warm tones the line art shares with the color. Have you been working with colorist Alex Sinclair from the pencil stage on to get that effect?
I penciled and inked it all first, and then sent them off. Alex and I worked together on “52.” He did all the colors for my black and white paintings, so we have a really good working relationship. I keep gigantic reference files and burned a disc for him of reference…like, page by page. [Laughs] So he gets that and looks at it, and then we talk on the phone for about half an hour, and then I let him go do his thing.
When the “Final Crisis Sketchbook” came out, it was a bit vexing because we know Grant Morrison does a lot of sketching himself and obviously you’re doing a lot of design work on characters on the book, but none of the sketches were credited to one or the other of you. Were those pieces a bit of you, a bit of Grant and some you did together in Scotland?
Yeah. That’s exactly what it was. He had a lot of these new designs ready to go in a sort of amorphous kind of area and wanted me to flesh them out, so we sat down and spent a number of days just drawing together.
It was like you had a big coloring party.
[Laughs] We had our crayons out.
There’s a lot of material in that sketchbook, but for all we see, there must be pages and pages of discarded ideas. Do you save a lot of that and have stacks and stacks of sketch ideas lining your apartment?
I usually do all of that stuff in sketchbooks. I fill up a sketchbook and just stick it in a box. Then I fill up another sketchbook and stick it in a box. So long as my house doesn’t burn down, it’s OK.
Do you ever stumble upon one of those sketchbooks and say, “You know, this was a pretty good idea. I’m going to use this?”
You know, I actually pulled a cover out that way. The first cover for “52” happened that way. I had done a sketch for “Villains United” that we didn’t use, and I couldn’t think of what to do for the first issue of “52” and was going through an old sketchbook and saw this sketch. I thought, “All I have to do is change the villains in the background to heroes, and we’re set to go.”
For the “Final Crisis” covers split between hero shots and story-based strips for each issue, and the trade dress is kind of elegantly laid over top. Did you work all those design elements out in concert with DC, or did you just turn in the drawings and let them take it from there?
Well, Grant initially had the idea of doing a hero cover, but his first idea was to have a different hero on each issue, but have them in exactly the same pose. I guess that seemed like…seven..same pose? We didn’t really want to do that, but we did want to keep that iconic single image for at least one of the covers. Then I think [DC Senior Story Editor] Ian Sattler or somebody had the idea that we do a second, more story-specific cover, but most of the design work was done after I had drawn the first cover, and [DC Art Director] Mark Chiarello had a lot to do with the final look of the book. We talked about it, and we wanted to go for a real pop art look like an Andy Warhol silk screen thing with the contrasting colors.
So all of them won’t keep that shade of blood red that #1 had?
No. They’ll all be different every time.
Let’s talk a bit about the story. Obviously, the big news of #1 was the death of Martian Manhunter. When you were working early on the story, did the idea of killing a major character because this is a “Crisis” come up to help raise the stakes a bit?
Grant’s had this story worked out a long, long time in advance, and I’m sure there’s some negotiation that he had to do with [DC Executive Editor] Dan Didio and the other editors at DC. But they had pretty much hashed this all out before I got it.
For your part then, when you were staging the death itself did you think about classic deaths in the DCU like the Superman holding Supergirl image from “Crisis On Infinite Earths” and try to make yours have its own impact factor?
I kind of took a sideways approach to that. We’re used to the standard comic book death with somebody tilting their head up into the raining sky and going, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” But Grant had talked a lot about how that death happens in pretty much one page. He comes onscreen and “Boom!” he’s gone. It’s something that’s shocking almost because of how mundane it is. So the shot I picked instead of going for a super melodramatic shot was almost street-level, when you weren’t paying attention you turn your head and somebody’s been hit by a car. “Oh! Martian Manhunter’s just been killed!” So I was trying to make the shot match what Grant had in mind for the immediacy of the death. He thought it might be more shocking than building up to something.
Now discuss this story in CBR’s Final Crisis forum.