Interview for Toon Zone News: 3rd November 2003
As the Justice League animated series continues its second season, Justice League Adventures #25 heralds the title's first two part story, "Strange Days," in which the Justice League find itself transported to a distant planet where they encounter veteran DC hero, Adam Strange. Toon Zone spoke to Justice League Adventures penciler Chris Jones about the story and his work for the comic. Chris has kindly contributed some pencil work from this issue.
TZ: You have just finished working on Justice League Adventures #25, which is the first in a run of Justice League Adventures comics you are penciling. How many are you scheduled to do at this time, and can you tell us a little about them?
Christopher Jones: Well I keep doing them on a semi-regular basis -- as often as they'll give them to me. The reasons for how they arrange the stories given to me and other artists in the production schedule is a bit of a mystery to me. I've been working pretty steadily since my last published story, which was Justice League Adventures #18, but only now are more coming out. The new story is a two-parter, so I'll have two issues back-to-back. After that, I've got three more issues penciled already and am in the middle of a fourth, but I'm not sure when they'll be scheduled.
TZ: Despite your relatively regular participation on the title, is there a particular character in the comics you still find requires more attention to get entirely accurate?
Jones: Of the Justice League characters I find Wonder Woman the trickiest to get just right. I find in general that female characters are less "forgiving" than the male characters of having a line just slightly out of place, throwing them off-model.
TZ: "Strange Days" is the first two parter in the comic and heralds the return of Adam Strange. What input did you have in designing the character for his Justice League Adventures debut?
Jones: It's a pretty traditional Adam Strange design, actually. Just giving him the slightly angular body shape of the "animated" drawing style was the largest concession to changing the character. The only minor tweak I made to the costume was giving his pistol holster a thigh-strap. I just thought it not only was a realistic touch but helped emphasize the holster which along with the jet pack helps give the costume its retro flavor.
TZ: You worked with Dan Davis on JLA #18, and you work solidly with him for the next few issues. Do you get to communicate much when working together? Do prefer a close relationship with the inkers you work with?
Jones: I prefer a close relationship with my collaborators, but often the opportunity isn't there. I've never even spoken with Dan Davis.
TZ: You've turned your hand to writing in the past. Do you wish to remain predominantly a penciler or are you tempted to do some more comic writing?
Jones: I haven't done any writing for DC, although I've dabbled as part of my work for smaller publishers. It's something I enjoy, but I'm content with concentrating on specializing in penciling for now. I've always got lots of ideas (as my editors can attest), and try to really think about things I can do in the visuals that enhance what's already in the script. Maybe the ideal situation might be an assignment where I could do some brainstorming or even co-plotting with the writer, but they would still handle the scripting while I stayed primarily concerned with the visuals.
TZ: Do you prefer penciling assignments to inking? What tools do you use for each?
Jones: As much as I prefer at the moment to concentrate on the penciling, I still have a hard time letting go of the control that comes with inking my own work. I tend to use mechanical pencils for my penciling work, just because it keeps the pencil line consistent in density and sharpness without constant re-sharpening of the pencil. If the line varies it's by my choice, not because I wore the lead flat and hadn't re-sharpened yet.
When I do ink, I'll use the standard #102 pen nibs and brushes, but I keep catching myself inking with tools that weren't intended for such purposes. There's a Pentel fountain pen I keep using lately that lays down a really smooth, flexible line that I just find really nice to work with. But I don't know that I'd recommend that approach.
TZ: The Burger King Batman/Superman comics had over 35 million copies printed. How does it feel knowing so many people have seen your work?
Jones: That was funny. I penciled two of the eight comics that came with the Justice League toys that were in the Burger King kids' meals last year. They had a print run of 35 million copies, which I guess makes me the penciler of the most widely circulated Batman and Superman comics of all time. Not that I earned royalties off of that or anything.
The comics were these little mini-comics and so I was doing the original artwork at a significantly smaller scale than a typical comics page, and it's even more simplified than the work I would regularly do for the comic. And in spite of all that, I'd go to touch the pencil to the paper and think "THIRTY FIVE MILLION COPIES". It was a little intimidating.
While I was pretty stunned when I was told what the print run would be, it really sank in when I visited a Burger King to pick up a set of the toys and saw the boxes behind the counter with hundreds of these bagged toy/comic premiums. And then you multiply that in your head by all the Burger Kings out there... it's pretty cool.
TZ: Any other assignments or projects you would care to tell us about? Any hints as to what to look out for?
Jones: Well, I've got lots more issues of Justice League Adventures coming up that I'm pretty excited about, including one with the Phantom Stranger as guest star. I'm also working on a comic based on Gerry Anderson's TV series UFO. The debut issue of that has just been pushed back, so I'm not sure when that will be out, but keep an eye out for it. We've got a great creative team all the way around, and I really believe we have a better comic book that most TV show adaptations.
TZ: Finally, which Justice League member would you prefer to share a desert island with and why?
Jones: Ironically, while Batman is my favorite character, it would have to be almost anyone else, since Batman is the only one who couldn't get us off the island under his own power.
[JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES #25, written by Ken Rothstein; art by Chris Jones and Dan Davis, was released November 2003].
Interview copyright: James McLean