JG Jones - Going Inside Final Crisis

JG Jones - Going Inside Final Crisis

The last time we talked to J.G. Jones in detail about Final Crisis, he was working so much he barely had time to leave the house. Penciling, inking and designing the character-filled interior pages and variant covers for DC's mega-event meant he was figuratively chained to the drawing table.

According to Jones, not much has changed, as the workload even prompted DC to announce that artist Carlos Pacheco will help out with art chores on the seven-issue Final Crisis. But last weekend, DC let the Eisner-nominated Jones unlock the chains to attend San Diego Comic-Con, where he talked to fans about his work on the mini-series as it ramps up the intensity heading into the third issue.

Newsarama caught up with Jones to discuss his work on the series, what he's drawing in upcoming issues, and how he came up with the design for the latest covers.

Newsarama: Now that readers have been able to look at a couple issues of your art on Final Crisis, what do you think of people's response so far?

J.G. Jones: You know what? I'm not really paying attention to people's response. I don't have time to sit on the internet and look at my own press. I mean, obviously, people come up and ask me about it, so I guess people are reading it. I'm doing the best I can, and I'm really interested in the story. I don't know how much of the response is good or bad because I've got better things to do. I have to draw a book and buy groceries sometime.

NRAMA: You had said last time we talked that you were chained to your drawing table. Is that still true?

JGJ: [laughs] Yeah. Pretty close to it. I've been putting in some pretty long hours lately.

NRAMA: There's been a lot of talk about Carlos being brought in to help out. Is that a case of the penciling and inking taking longer than you thought?

JGJ: Penciling and inking at least 30 pages an issue and painting two covers has gotten to be a bit of a bear. The kiddies want their comics, of course, and we all want our monthly hit, so something had to give.

NRAMA: Are you always going to be doing both covers?

JGJ: I'd like to, but I think I might be turning over the sliver cover to Mr. Pacheco, which would make sense. I don't know that we've decided that one yet. But it would make sense for me to paint the icon cover, but turn over the sliver cover.

NRAMA: Is Carlos just doing covers?

JGJ: A lot of that is being worked out, but our goal is to make whatever he does as seamless as possible.

NRAMA: Let's talk about some of the characters you've been introducing in these issues. In Final Crisis #2, we saw the debut of that new group of Japanese superheroes, the Super Young Team. Will we see them more?

JGJ: Yes. Definitely. They show up in issue #3 again along with Sonny Sumo and Mr. Miracle, and they're a lot of fun. Grant's had these characters in his back pocket for a long time. He was going to use them in 52, but they didn't quite work into the story. He actually had notebooks full of character designs for a lot of these characters. I fleshed them out a bit for him. And he loves them. He writes them with great care.

NRAMA: On the page where they were introduced, you had a pretty unique layout.

JGJ: Yeah, the Rising Sun. I liked how that turned out. I thought that we would actually color all the panels a sort of red, like the lighting in the club was red lighting, which would play off that rising sun motif a little more. But [colorist] Alex [Sinclar] wanted to go for a club feel where every panel was like the lighting changed with each beat of the music in the club. That actually worked out pretty fun. It was really, really hard to draw that progression, though, and make it all work sensibly and have the word balloons work all the way around so that it wasn't confusing. I think it came off OK.

NRAMA: Can you tell us anything that's coming in future issues?

JGJ: There's evil Mary Marvel having a giant battle with Wonder Woman. It was pretty way cool. The last page of issue #3, I just love. I had a lot of fun drawing that. We're going to address the Flashes a lot more. And in issue #4, Grant just starts hurling all these DCU characters at the readers. I have to be honest -- a lot of them, I had only heard of them tangentially. I keep having to get [DC editor] Adam Schlagman to send me tons more reference. Every issue, Grant has more and more and more characters. I'm going to go find some Hawaiian shirts so I can channel George Perez before long.

NRAMA: You mentioned the Flashes being addressed a lot in issue #3, and Barry's on the cover for the upcoming issue. How is it drawing all the Flashes, and can you tell us anything we'll see with them?

JGJ: We're still trying to find out why he's back. There's a scene in the third issue with all three Flashes and the Speed Force. Grant delves into it a lot more. And then he shows up again at the end of the issue when all hell's about to break loose. The Flashes running together is always great -- you have to make sure you get the costumes right or you're going to hear it from the fans.

I liked drawing that scene where Barry shows up at the end of Issue #2. And I like drawing the Black Racer character now -- the guy in the black armor. He's sort of the stand-in for the Grim Reaper. And as much as I love and idolize Kirby's work and love the New Gods, I always thought the Black Racer character was lame. I mean, why does he need ski poles? I gave him a reason, that they turned into scythes.

NRAMA: How many New Gods have you had to redesign?

JGJ: Oh, I don't know. In issue #3 there are four or five more characters from the Fourth World who show up in their different forms.

NRAMA: Is it difficult to design all of these characters as you go?

JGJ: Yeah, I have to do a lot of design work on the fly. Characters, locations, vehicles -- anything that sprouts out of Grant's brain, I have to be prepared to hit that pitch.

NRAMA: Knowing what other creators have said about what sprouts out of Grant's brain, that has to be a challenge.

JGJ: It's never easy, but the easy things are boring. I like the challenge.

NRAMA: We've seen the Supergirl cover now. How did you approach that character?

JGJ: I love that painting, and I generally don't like my covers or my art that much. But that one, I thought, turned out really well. I really wanted to portray Supergirl as what she is -- a 17-year-old girl. Not, you know, some sex bomb with boobs popping out all over the place. I worked really hard on the pose and that sense of wonder on her face. That's actually why I turned her head away from the viewer. The first two characters are looking straight out at the viewer, more or less, addressing their body language to the viewer. And she's more turned in space, looking up and away at the light source so we don't really know if something's approaching or what's going on.

NRAMA: Is that also kind of a lack of confidence? That she's not looking the reader right in the eye like that?

JGJ: Yeah. That's exactly how I was reading it. She's new here, she has a lot of power, but she's also trying to figure stuff out. I also have a panel in #3 of Supergirl petting her cat Streaky, getting ready to leave her apartment. Grant likes those superpets.

NRAMA: How many superpets are going to show up? Do we know yet?

JGJ: I've heard him threaten to bring all of them back [laughs], but I don't know, because I think they show up toward the end.

NRAMA: We've seen the Wonder Woman cover, but also this Darkseid cover, which is pretty unique. Hw did you come up with the design for this one? Obviously, he's staring right at the reader.

JGJ: I had seen a movie poster for an Asian film that had this guy with his fists together, and I thought, that's such a great image. I had it in the back of my mind when I was thinking about this Darkseid cover. I thought his fists together would be really cool, especially since, when Grant and I had redesigned him last year, he wanted those Omega signs on his fist. I wanted to make those Omegas really prominent. I just thought it would be a really cool image with the Omega on his chest and the Omega on his fists together.

And then the coloring -- I did it in pretty much naturalistic purples and grays and a black background. And Mark Chiarello has been tweaking the color on all of them afterward, because we had talked about turning them into sort of Andy Warhol pop icon images almost. So when I do them, I expect Mark to play with the color a little bit. And he sent me this one back, and the tagline of the email was, and I don't know if we should say this, but it said, "How big are your balls?" [laughs] because the color was so extreme. But you know what? At first, I thought, "What is wrong with you?" But then I had it on my screen, and every time I'd walk back into the room, I'd go, you know, that's kind of cool. And I love old neon signs and stuff. So in the end, I was like, "They're as big as it takes, Mark. Let's roll!"

NRAMA: You say you haven't looked at reactions, but there are people who have questioned what's going on. You mentioned a lot of new characters being thrown in there, and I think people have felt a little unsure of what's coming.

JGJ: You just have to trust Grant.

NRAMA: Well, you know what's coming down the line. Should they trust Grant?

JGJ: I don't know everything that's coming. Every script I get, Grant's worked on some more since I talked to him. And there are things in there that surprise me. That's always the way with Grant though. I remember with the Invisibles, which was one of the first things of his I ever read, and each issue seemed to -- just when you get settled in and think you know where things are going, he'd start on something completely different in the next issue. But if you read the whole body of work, it all comes together and pays off at the end. So I just have to trust him.

NRAMA: Finally, Jeff, when looking at this interior artwork, there are a lot of people saying this is some of the strongest work you've ever done. Since it's such a high-profile project, are you trying to make this the best work of your career?

JGJ: You always want to up yourself. You don't want to just sit back and hack it in. Maybe that's why it's so difficult, because I make it difficult on myself. I always try to improve. You don't ever want to repeat yourself again. I don't want to do another Wanted. I don't want to do Black Widow again. I don't want to just fall into hacking out something with a set way of doing things. I have to keep challenging myself, which of course makes it harder. But anything worth having is worth working at.

Final Crisis #3 is due in stores on August 6th. 

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