Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down over Skype with comic book artist Christopher Jones! We chatted for quite a while about all things comics, from his work on Doctor Who: The Third Doctor for TITAN Comics, to his animation tie-in work, which includes Young Justice and The Batman Strikes! for DC Comics. Below you can check out the full transcription, as well as a short audio clip at the end!
Dark Knight News: First of all, thanks so much for doing the call!
Christopher Jones: Not a problem! Happy to be here!
DKN: And I mean – professionalism aside for a second – I’m actually a really huge fan of your work!
Christopher: Oh! Thank you so much! Is it still weird for me sometimes and hard for me to gauge the level to which I have a cache out there as far as having fans and such. Cause I go to conventions and people meet me and they seem excited to meet me and I’m very flattered! But so many of the books I have done – a lot of the animation tie-in stuff – just because of how the industry treats those, it doesn’t get the same kind of promotion and fanfare that some other books get. It’s kind of interesting actually; the last project I did was a Doctor Who thing, and the next one I’ll be doing is also Doctor Who, and it’s fun to work on cause I’m a big Doctor Who fan, but it’s just interesting to be on something that – in terms of reviews and how it’s been covered online – is completely free from all the trappings I had gotten used to having done so many animation tie-in projects in a row. It was never something I set out to specialize in – it’s just one of those things where you do a couple of them and that’s what you get known for, so that’s what people offer you.
DKN: I actually found you through your work on Doctor Who, because I myself am a huge Doctor Who fan. Pertwee is actually my favorite (arguably). I may or may not own every single episode he’s ever been in.
Christopher: Well, I love the Third Doctor! Obviously, when you do a Third Doctor project, all the people who say that the Third Doctor is their favorite come out of the woodwork to tell you that he’s their favorite. But boy, there are lots of Pertwee fans out there – which is great cause I love that era.
DKN: If you’re able to talk about it, are you going back to Pertwee for your next project, or will you be working with another Doctor?
Christopher: Well…(laughs nervously)…I will say that it is another Doctor…I won’t say who it is because they haven’t announced the project yet. I can say: it’s not Pertwee – and it’s classic series – but I can’t get more specific than that yet. I would love to do more with Pertwee though. A lot of people were saying “you and Paul Cornell should do more together” and I would love to…except I managed to connect with Paul Cornell on that project right as he made the decision for himself that for the foreseeable future he doesn’t want to do anymore licensed properties – he wants to focus on stuff that he created and owns himself – which is totally valid as a choice! We’ve actually talked about trying to work on something creator-owned together because we really enjoyed working together, but unfortunately in the short term, that rules out any more Doctor Who, which is a shame because, boy, did I have a blast working on that miniseries with Paul!
DKN: It was really fun to read too! I personally feel like it really just captured the essence of that era and… look I could sit here and talk about this for hours…but I won’t.
Christopher: That is absolutely fine!
DKN: Moving on from that – and I’m sure you’ve been asked this a number of time – but you’ve drawn a lot of characters over the years…do you have a favorite character to draw?
Christopher: Well… part of the fun of doing what I do is the variety. Every time I just start to get a little tired of drawing somebody, there’s something new to work on! It’s the same with Doctor Who: whenever somebody finds out you’re a Doctor Who fan, their first question inevitably is “who is your favorite Doctor?” and I honestly do not have one! My brain does not pick favorites! I don’t have a favourite color! I don’t have a favorite food! I mean, I have favourite colors, but my brain just doesn’t do that thing of like “here’s the singular one favorite thing.” One of the few exceptions to that – just because it was the runaway favorite of childhood – is my favorite comic book character, which is Batman.
So I am very fortunate that I’ve gotten to draw a fair amount of Batman in my career. The Young Justice series that I did: Batman wasn’t in it all the time, but it was a particular treat whenever Batman did show up in that because I really liked that show and our comic’s depiction of Batman, as far as how to portray the character narratively. I like the fact that he was a Batman that was stern, somebody who you didn’t want to disappoint, and who could be very intimidating, but who wasn’t a psychotic jerk. A lot of depictions of Batman I see seem to play him that way, which is not only different to the Batman I grew up on, but it’s two-dimensional and gets old real quick. You look at Young Justice and, of all the Justice League members, he was probably the most supportive of the younger heroes, so that was great.
But even shifting gears from all the superhero stuff I’ve done to now doing Doctor Who, it’s such a great, refreshing, change of pace not just to be drawing all the iconic things – the Doctor, the TARDIS, and all of that – just even getting to play around with drawing likenesses of actors. One of the things about doing the Third Doctor series was Paul, in writing it, decided he was going to limit himself to only put three or four panels maximum on a page, which allowed me to do these big detailed background that I was trying to use to evoke… you know when I think of the Third Doctor era, I think of location shooting and going out in the real world and bringing these fantastic alien elements into a very contemporary real-world setting, or, now looking back, 1970s setting. So I was trying as much as possible to have that feel as real world and detailed and photo-real as I could, which is a big change from doing not only superheroes, but a comic book based on an animated TV show version of superheroes. And yes, these are the kind of long rambling answers you can expect.
DKN: Oh, that’s perfect! Just means I don’t have to say much! But no, I love the Pertwee era and I definitely think you captured it well. Coming off that idea though, you had to find photo reference when drawing Doctor Who – was it a similar process for comics like Young Justice and The Batman Strikes?
Christopher: It varies so much from project to project! I have done books before dealing with actor likenesses, and if it’s something where it’s based on a live-action property and we have the rights to use the likenesses of the actors, I want to make the experience of reading the comic feel as much as possible like if you’d seen it as an episode of a TV show, and in order to get that, that requires a photo-real quality to the art that certainly at the speed with which you have to produce comic art to get an issue out in a month, I cannot do without following photo reference. Comparing that to superhero art…sometimes its stuff that I’m drawing out of my own head. Other times, when it is based on a animation property, then you’re not having to pull from photo reference in the way that something like Doctor Who does, but you are having to follow the animation models to try and keep the comic looking like that particular visual incarnation of those characters, which is a whole separate challenge.
DKN: I think we both knew it would reach this point in the conversation, but I mean, I’m sure you’re more than aware of the news that Young Justice is coming back for a third season!
Christopher: Oh yes! Oh goodness, yes! I have been helping campaign for that and trying to be a cheerleader for it! Not to suggest though that I was in any way a huge factor for its return – I’ve just been trying to stand on the sidelines yelling “hope is still alive! It can happen!” I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s coming back! Greg Weisman and I are still very hopeful that we might get to bring the comic book back as well which not only would be great for me personally, but it means more stories get told! Even with season three getting made and continuing the story line forward from where we left off, there’s only a finite number of episodes that are going to get made (and then fingers crossed, we’ll be hoping for a season four!) What Greg and I have discussed about the comic book is that it’s a good opportunity to further explore backstories of different characters and other events that – in the timeline of the show – have already occurred but we never saw. So we would love to see it come back but, like so many things, that decision is not up to anyone involved with it creatively – that’s completely a DC Comics call! So we’re hopeful, but we’ll see what happens!
DKN: Here’s hoping! I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the announcement! Just jumping back for a second, although you said you don’t pick favorites, you mentioned that Batman was your favorite comic book character growing up. Was there a particular Batman comic that stood out to you or maybe inspired your work?
Christopher: I don’t know that there’s an individual one. I grew up on the Batman comics that were coming out in the late 70s/early 80s, so not only do I love the work of artists like Neal Adams and Marshall Rogers, but the one that was usually my go-to purchase with my limited comic-spending-dollars was The Brave and the Bold, because that was when Batman teamed up with some other DC Comics superhero, and that had art by Jim Aparo, whom I liked at the time. But what I didn’t realise when I was discovering his work at the end of The Brave and the Bold and moving in then to Batman and the Outsiders was that his style had changed so much from his earlier stuff. It wasn’t until I got older that I discovered his earlier stuff, and I fell in love with it. If I could somehow channel him and be the 21st century’s version of Jim Aparo, I would love to do that, but it’s not in me. My stuff comes out looking like my stuff, which I think is a good thing…but getting back to the question, I don’t know that there was a single issue. One of the things I loved as a kid were those big oversized treasury editions where the art was reproduced as close to the original size of what the original artwork would’ve been, which, as a kid who loved to draw and already knew I wanted to draw comics when I grew up, it was just great to get to see the art that big and be able to clearly see the line art and what the artist was doing in a way that the smaller comic book didn’t really convey. It was really amazing.
Towards the end of the interview, Christopher shared with me a really nice story about growing up and wanting to draw comics and how he got his start at only ten years old, but I thought it was so nice in fact that I didn’t transcribe it! So below you can check out a short audio clip from that section of the interview! Apologies in advance for the brief audio interruption about halfway through – the Internet here in Australia is appalling and decided to drop out momentarily in the middle of this story! But nevertheless – enjoy this (potentially) Dark Knight News exclusive anecdote! All of us here would like to lastly just extend the biggest thank you to Chris for sitting down and being a part of this interview! It was a wonderful experience, and we all eagerly await his next project!