BACKSTAGE – INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPHER JONES
Christopher Jones: It varies. A work day can typically mean working 10-12 hours, but there are days where I only get a few hours of drawing in, and days where I work from the minute I get up and don’t take much of a break until I go to bed. It depends on how pressing deadlines are and how much I’m “in the zone.” I’m something of a nightowl, so I’m usually working late, late into the night and sleeping away much of my morning.
WF: Following that, what are you reading and/or watching?
CJ: I’m following very few monthly comics out there – not because there isn’t good stuff out there, but because my comics reading has shifted more and more to collected editions – and once that happens it’s easier and easier to focus on stuff that isn’t necessarily current. On TV I love Doctor Who – original series and new. For any Who fans out there looking for more good British SF, may I recommend Misfits and The Fade. I just got back from the Butt-Numb-a-Thon film festival in Austin, Texas – a 24-hour marathon of film, which this year included four vintage films and 8 sneak peaks at films not yet in release. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol are both fantastic, and I predict that people are going to lose their mind over Cabin in the Woods.
WF: How long do you plan on staying on the Young Justice book? What are your long-time plans?
CJ: I don’t currently have any plans to go anywhere else. I love the book – it’s great source material and we’ve got a fantastic creative team. Longer term I hope I can move onto a project that isn’t animation-based. While I love those books and I feel I’m good at them, it’s just too limiting for my opportunities and for my career in general. We’ll see what happens.
WF: Who’s your favorite character to draw, Young Justice or otherwise?
CJ: Well my favorite comic book character overall is Batman so it’s always a treat when I get to draw him or characters associated with him. Of course that means I had a blast drawing Young Justice #11 which features Batman and Robin clashing with Ra’s al Ghul, Talia and Ubu! As far as the Young Justice team I like drawing all of them. The stories have seemed to have been rotating through characters to single out for the focus of each story, so after getting a lot of experience drawing Artemis the latest stories have given me a lot of opportunity to play with Aqualad so he’s been my most recent favorite. It’s nice that with the ensemble cast we keep having new characters come through so I always have new ones to play with and I never can get too bored. I really enjoyed having Captain Atom as a guest star and I’m a huge Captain Marvel fan so I hope he turns up in the comic soon.
WF: Are there times when you disagree with a character design and try to tweak or fix it? Has that situation come up and what do you do?
CJ: I wouldn’t presume to change how a character looks from what’s been established by the show, and I think the character designs are fantastic so there’s not been much of anything I’ve wanted to “fix.” But there are things that need to be adapted for comic art from how they’re drawn on the show. The way Captain Atom’s metallic skin is treated on the show wouldn’t cut it in the comic. Batman’s drawn as close to a silhouette on the show, with the black parts of his costume being completely black with no highlight at all. That looks great when he can be moving against a background, but in a line drawing on a comic page that can look really flat, so I’ve had to adapt that a little for how I draw him in the comic.
WF: For The Batman Strikes! you were the only artist on that book but here with Young Justice you are the second. Is it different to inherit a book as opposed to starting out at the beginning?
CJ: On both books the main characters, props, and locations were all based on existing designs from the respective TV shows, so it didn’t really make much of a difference. Because of the storylines in Young Justice, I’ve actually had more opportunity to design new characters ( or produce the animated-style design of an existing DC Universe character) in the few issues I’ve done so far of Young Justice than all 44 (out of 50 total) issues I drew of The Batman Strikes!
WF: The Young Justice fanbase is intense. How different is it from the The Batman fans? Is it better or worse?
CJ: I think there’s more internet chatter by Young Justice fans than I remember seeing about The Batman, but the nature of the conversation is quite different. Most of the talk about The Batman seemed to be driven by backlash against the show for not being the previous Batman series. People hated some of the villain designs, and really weren’t happy that there was a version of Batman out there where Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammill weren’t doing the voices. A lot of the Young Justice talkback seems very concerned with mapping out the continuity… maybe that’s a result of how many characters are featured and the fact that the show has a very specific timeline of events. But especially when you get to conversation about the comic, a lot of the talk seems to be about what speculation about character’s backstories have been confirmed or other trivia. I’d love to here more reaction to the stories themselves – the drama, the humor and the artwork.
WF: Any chance you’ll get to do some specials for the Young Justice series such as a new Free Comic Book Day issue, an Annual issue, or expanding the current offering of the show and comic to a third – webcomic?
CJ: No idea. Those things tend to be driven by the powers-that-be at DC deciding they want to do them, rather than by anything the creative team pushes for. I’ve heard of no such plans, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.
WF: Have you had the chance to pitch ideas to Greg Weisman and Kevin Hopps then incorporate them into an issue? How does the dynamic between writer and artist work?
CJ: I haven’t had any ideas incorporated into what’s come out of been scripted so far, but that seems to be changing. I was part of a story session for issues #16 and #17, and it sounds like some ideas of mine might find their way into the book for stories after that. That’s very exciting for me, of course, and it’s great to feel like I’m part of the creative team behind just drawing a completed script that’s been given to me. I’ve written comics on my own, and co-wrote an issue of The Batman Strikes!, but I’ve been mostly just a penciler at DC so it’s a real thrill to have a voice in what story ideas will be explored in the comic!
WF: Can you run us through your blog/website? What will fans of your Young Justice work, or even your older The Batman Strikes or Justice League Adventures, expect to find there to enhance their reading experience?
CJ: Well blogging is a new experience for me – it doesn’t come naturally, but now that I’m doing it I seem to be getting new features up on the site once or twice a week. I’ve been plugging stuff as it comes out but also trying to do regular features on the creative process of my comics work. I’ve been continuing to do page-by-page “Commentaries” of issues of Young Justice as they come out, but I’ve also been doing a series on the title pages I did for The Batman Strikes, and the process of designing covers. There’s a lot of stuff there and the articles are tagged, so I encourage people to poke around and explore. There’s also a ton of artwork in my gallery, which not only includes my comic book art, but artwork I’ve done for CONvergence – the SF convention I helped start over a decade ago here in Minnesota – and other prints and miscellaneous artwork, featuring other comic book characters, Doctor Who, the Green Hornet, and more! It’s all at www.ChristopherJonesArt.com.
WF: What else are you working on? How are things shaping up for CONvergence 2012?
CJ: Young Justice has me pretty busy at the moment. I’ll be inking interior pages for upcoming issues in addition to the cover inking I’ve already been doing.
CONvergence is going well – I’m still contributing creatively to the convention in various ways including creating artwork, but this will be the first year since the convention started that I haven’t been one of the directors in charge – I chose not to run for another term after 13 years doing it. So I’m still involved but not doing all the things I’ve done previously. It should be a great convention again this year, and anyone who can get to the Twin Cities the first weekend in July should come! Read more about the convention at www.CONvergence-con.org.
Check out the “Young Justice” monthly series from DC Comics! “Young Justice” #11, the December 2011 issue of the acclaimed comic, hits shelves December 21st, 2011.
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