Chatting with Artist Casey Jones

Tue, March 2nd, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Will Allred, Contributing Writer

Casey Jones is a name that should be recognizable to quite a few comic fans. Combine his stints on several long-running series for both Marvel and DC Comics with his uncanny ability to work with the best writers in the industry, and you get books like "Excalibur," "Birds of Prey," and "Fantastic Four," all of which received both fan and critical praise. Casey had a chance to slow down for a few minutes and talk about where he's been, where he's going, and just how fun a ride it is.

"I got my start by going to Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina in my early teens," Jones told CBR News. "Each year I'd put together a new portfolio to show around and get advice from all the different pros who were at the show. Eventually, I met some guys there who got me started doing some small-press stuff, and I kept busy doing that (and constantly sending out copy packs to every editor in comics). Bob Schreck at Dark Horse gave me a break when I was 19, and I've been working full-time ever since. My break was a story serialized in 'Dark Horse Presents.' I was just a kid when I drew that story. Lots of enthusiasm, but not enough skill! I worked so hard on those pages, though. It was great working with Schreck and Steve Niles, and they were so nice to me."

Next up, was a whirlwind of work for the young artist. "'Excalibur' was a very scary experience!" Jones said. "I was working about 100 hours a week, at least, trying to make those monthly deadlines. But, I didn't care -- I was getting to draw Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Colossus with great Warren Ellis scripts! This was also when I hooked up with Rob Haynes, which was a big turning point in my development." Haynes later would team with Casey on Marvel's "Quicksilver." "I couldn't be prouder of the work Rob, Jason Martin, and I did on this book…but the book sucked. Nothing against the writer, but it just didn't have anything to do with Quicksilver."

If you check the comic racks, it looks like Casey Jones disappeared for a few years. No, he wasn't sipping Margaritas on the beach. Far from it, Marvel tapped him to work in a different medium…the Internet. Marvel dubbed them Cybercomics. "This was a no-brainer after getting totally burnt-out from working all those hours for years. I got to draw Spider-Man and the X-Men full-time for rate-and-a-half. Good times! Rob and I even got to write the X-Men!"

Recently, Casey's name has been back in the credits on some rather high-profile books…"Birds of Prey" for DC and "Fantastic Four" for Marvel. "'Birds of Prey' is the job that got me back into comics after several years at Disney," explained Jones. "The chance to work with Gilbert Hernandez and getting to pencil and ink my own work was too good an opportunity to pass up. Lysa Hawkins was an absolute dream to work for, as well. Unfortunately, Gilbert had his hands tied and a lot of his story was blocked by DC, but it was still a great experience." This led to a stint with Mark Waid on Marvel's flagship title, "Fantastic Four." "These were some of the best scripts I've ever gotten to draw," continued Jones. "Mark Waid deserves all the praise he gets. Most books I've drawn are now cancelled, so to be a part of an actual run with iconic characters like the Fantastic Four was really pleasing. The fact that those particular issues were great stories by a great writer was a nice bonus.

"Currently, I'm putting together a new project with Mario and Gilbert Hernandez for Marvel. Can't talk about it yet, but hopefully we'll have it going soon. I still do lots of work for Disney, so it's a nice luxury to only do projects that I believe in. I'm a huge fan of the Hernandez brothers, so twisting their arms into bringing something new and different to the Marvel Universe is something I'm really, really excited about!"

No artist creates in a vacuum and Casey is no exception with his influences running the gamut of comic artists. "One of the biggest influences was John Romita, Jr. I had a subscription to 'Amazing Spider-Man' when I was a kid, and he was the artist at the time. That was his first run with Foolkiller, Black Cat, and the Sandman/Hydro-Man stuff. I loved it! A few years later, I discovered the X-Men, and John Romita, Jr. just happened to be the artist. That stuff just blew me away! So from age 6 through 12, almost everything I read was drawn by John Romita, Jr. I think it had a big influence on how I draw, but it wasn't something I was conscious of until later. I think some guys have this experience with Byrne, some with Kirby... what you grow up with really forms what you think comics should look like. I still love JR's stuff! It's great to see him getting the respect he deserves these days.

"After that foundation was put down," continued Jones, "there's a bunch of different guys that had an impact on me... P. Craig Russell, Bernie Wrightson, Michael Golden... just tons. It's strange these days, because a lot of my influences are people I'm friends with. Rob Haynes, Andrew Robinson, and Adam Hughes are the 3 guys who I think are doing the best work in comics today. These 3 guys can just draw like nobody's business, and their work really pushes me to get better. I also really love Ronnie del Carmen's stuff -- it just has a charm to it that's incredible. Claire Wendling and Olivier Vatine are two more that just scare me. This field is full of people who are just incredibly good artists. It's an exciting time to be involved with comics. Joe Quesada has saved Marvel; Dan DiDio is trying to do the same thing at DC, and comics have more mainstream readers than ever thanks to movies and trade paperbacks. The momentum just keeps growing and growing, and the amount of great comics coming out just keeps growing, too. It's good times."

When asked what a typical workday was like, Jones responded, "It's never typical-it just depends on where I am on a deadline. A perfect day is waking up at 10:00 a.m., working until 6:00 p.m., family time until 10:00 p.m. At 10:00 p.m. Loveline comes on the radio, which gets me back at the desk where I'll work until around 3:00 a.m."

 
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