Jesse Marinoff Reyes:
The Quest of Kadji
Illustration: Jeff Jones (1944-2011)
The late Jeff Jones (or Jeffrey Catherine Jones) was one of the best of the paperback cover artists working in sci-fi and fantasy, especially after his work matured and gained the deft elegance and mastery of paint that informed his work by the 1970s (his early work in the 1960s was not as polished, but you could see even then where it was heading). Frank Frazetta no less had called Jones the “greatest living painter.” Like Frazetta, Jones was equally adept at comic book art and lent a sophistication to the medium that was nigh-unheard of outside of Europe at the time, as anyone who followed his one-page strip, Idyl, in the National Lampoon “funny pages” (1972-75) as I did. he later had a recurring strip in the adult comics magazine Heavy Metal in the early 1980s, I’m Age.
However, what cemented my admiration for Jones the most was the revealing look at the work he produced during the time spent as part of The Studio, where he shared a Chelsea (NY) work space with fellow-generational comic book and fantasy art masters Michael Wm Kaluta, Barry Windsor Smith, and Bernie Wrightson in the years 1975-79 (and collected in the softcover omnibus, The Studio, Dragon’s Dream, 1979). The Studio provided “a dedicated workplace that would allow for the coercive influence (of) one artist to another (that) has been carried over into very nearly ever cartoonists’ collective space initiative since” of the group upon each other’s work, as Tom Spurgeon remarked in his obituary for Jones in the Comics Reader in 2011. Jones stood out like a Wyeth—and mind you, my admiration for the lot of them was and remains nearly equal—so one could easily see the root of Frazetta’s admiration.
… she (for those not in the know, Jones was a transsexual, though sadly unhappily) passed away back in the spring, of “severe emphysema and bronchitis as well as hardening of the arteries around the heart.”