Jeffrey Catherine Jones RIP

The Led Zepplin of Comics

From left to right:  Bernie Wrightson, Jeffrey (Catherine) Jones, Michael Kaluta and Barry Windsor Smith, back in the Seventies when everything was hairy and fun.

Catherine Jones passed away this week.  She was one of my favorite artists and painters and creators of amazing comics.  I never met her in person, though I had gotten to know her just a little bit on Facebook in the last year or so… which was a treat, but it her made her sudden passing sting a bit more.

Thirty-some odd years ago, Catherine (then known as Jeffrey, before her sex-reassignment operation) was one of four superstar artists in the comics and fantasy illustration world who shared a space in Manhattan called The Studio.  This  magical treehouse caught my imagination when I was a teenager, because I wanted to make comics someday, and these guys took this art and comics shit SERIOUSLY.

I ate this book from cover to cover. Consumed it and digested it like a four course meal.

The most eye opening thing about that book up there, was that it introduced me to the fine art sensibilities of this quartet, especially Jones’ paintings and sketches.  He was the one that leaned away from comics towards painted expressionism and pre raphelite lyricism, and was clearly the biggest influence on the other three.  But Jones always held on to his OWN influences from the great fantasy illustrators of yore,  including  Frazetta, Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth.

I adore Jones’ paintings, but I’m a comic book artist at my core, so it’s no surprise that my favorite work by this complicated individual was the delightfully hard to pin down Idyl.

This series of one and two pages comics ran in the back of the National Lampoon and then later in Heavy Metal (under the name, “I’m Age”) .  They were the most bravely unapologetic bits of pretentious irony I’d ever seen, and at first I thought they were a blunt satire of American comics – but as I read more and more of them, I came to see they were actually a subtle  satire about everything, and I fell in love with the series.  It hit me right between the eyes and spoke to my brain perfectly. And oh, the skill of those illustrations…

  You should go spend time at Catherine’s website, where you can marvel at a mere fraction of her life’s work.

Sorry to see you go, Catherine.  You made stuff worth looking at.

Ty the Guy OUT!

I stopped calling these extra bonuses the “moment of zen” a while back as I was tired of ripping off Jon Stewart…but with Idyl, there’s really no other name for it.  So here now, your Jeffrey Catherine Jones Moment of Zen…

click image to make it much larger

11 responses to “Jeffrey Catherine Jones RIP

  1. ….and fondly remember meeting Jeff Jones (as he then was) at the NY Comicon in 1971 – I recall that he had a couple of cute little kids, toddlers really, crawling and waddling about while he, the young painter with a kind of rock-star presence, stood gravely by an exhibit of his stunning oils.

  2. By the way, my apologies for missing your birthday – hope it was a great one!

  3. Like you Ty, I had the Dragons Dream book “The Studio” and had my copy out to look through again last night when I first heard the news of Catherine’s passing. Tonight I’ll look through my Idyll collection to and reflect on the fact we’ve been robbed of a great talent far to early. I’m at an age now where every year the great cartoonists I grew up reading seem to be heading off to the great bullpen in the sky at an alarming rate. Jones won’t be in that bullpen though, she’ll have a studio nearby and drop in from time to time. I can accept losing Golden and Silver Age artists but guys from comics bronze age, that’s too much of a reminder of my own mortality.

    • I think the Studio still counts as Silver Age, so your mortality isn’t under assault today. I’m not sure what age Jeffrey Catherine was a part of, she seemed to be in her own era all the time.

  4. Pingback: Rest in Peace: Jeffrey Catherine Jones (1944 – 2011) » Ragged Claws Network

  5. Correction: I read that Jones had only one child, a daughter, so the second child I saw must have been someone else’s. And the daughter would have been about four at the time, not two or so as I remembered. But after 40 years, I call these venial slips….

  6. Thanks for this, Ty. Aside from a fitting tribute, it’s also a history lesson – I’d never even heard of her until this week.

    • I know, I know…I’m getting old when the folks that I consider household names, familiar to all, turn out to be somewhat forgotten characters from a bygone era. Someday I’ll be explaining who Lee and Kirby were to these kids today. Anyway, I’m glad I could hip you to Jeffrey Jones, and hopefully to the Studio as well. All four of those guys (and semi-guys) deserve some attention, as they were some of the biggest names of the 70s, whose influence is still being felt today. We wouldn’t have the ultra-realism guys of today without the Studio.

  7. I actually find it incredible. I mean, I think I’m pretty well-versed in comics for a 28-year-old Filipino (or maybe that’s just my massive ego talking), but how is it possible that I’ve read a good number of comics history books and I’ve never even heard the Studio mentioned? Do these historians consider them too, uh, mainstream or high art for comics?

    And if so, what else is out there?

  8. I mean, to be clear, I’ve heard of Mike Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson and Barry Smith, but I’d never heard of The Studio, or that they were all working together and… oh, forget it. Sorry, Ty. It’s almost 7 and time for me to get off work. Brain’s frazzled.

  9. I used to pester Linda Lessman & Michael at the Studio, as they were the only two who would ever pick up the phone. I wrote to all 4 artists, but Michael was the only one who answered back at the time. I did get replies from a couple of emails I had sent to Jeffrey (at that time) and to Jeffrey Catherine (a few years ago).
    They were 4 of my favourite artists and they were all located in a single place. It was fan heaven for me.
    JC had mastered every technique she used. Much like one of her early influences, Frazetta.
    Although extremely sad, I hope in her passing, JC’s art will appreciated by many new fans.

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