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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!