Two stories behind the story: JG Jones and J. Michael Straczynski

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A couple of interviews out now clarify controversial comics news stories of the past and more recent past; both are a reminder that what you read on CBR or Newsarama is rarely the whole truth — and that’s it’s not always our business to know the whole truth.

§ Back when FINAL CRISIS was all the rage, there was much fan outcry over the piecemeal nature of the art in the book as it progressed — penciller JG Jones started out strong, but by the final issue, Carlos Pacheco and Doug Mahnke had been brought in. Now, in an interview at Newsarama, Jones reveals that some of his deadline problems on the book were due to an undiagnosed blood disorder.

I definitely had to slow down. I was undiagnosed when I was working on Final Crisis, but was really not feeling well, was chronically tired, and couldn’t focus or concentrate. I finally went to the doctor, and, after a bunch of tests, got a diagnosis of polycythemia vera, a blood disease where the bone marrow makes too many red cells and platelets, which, in turn, can cause many other complications.

I’ve been getting treatment for that, and now I’m feeling much better. Now I’m pacing myself and slowly adding more and more work.

So yeah, I had a few things going on the last couple years. I moved to Philadelphia, set up a new studio, and I’m getting married to a wonderful woman that I met there.


While not exactly a secret, Jones’ illness has been a private matter, but it does cast some of of the fan rage over FINAL CRISIS into a decidedly different light. The rest of the interview covers his new career writing things like Doc Savage (a perfect fit, above) and a graphic novel called DUST TO DUST. JG is one of the most awesome people in comics and it’s good to know his health problems are under control.

straczynski_joe.jpg§ JMS’s talk with Alex Zalben doesn’t have quite the same kind of revelation, but Straczynski does expand upon any topic broached, including his turn to writing GNs over periodicals, and the reason he has slowed down on so many books: He felt he just wasn’t able to give it his all:

The flip side of this is that comics cost a lot of money to buy for the average reader. Whether that’s $2.99 or $3.99, that’s a good chunk of change when you’re buying five or ten comics a week, especially in this economy. So when people buy my stuff, they need to know that they can expect a certain level of quality in the storytelling, that I’m never phoning it in or giving anything less than my very best. They deserve no less than that for their investment of time, effort and money.

If I feel that I’m not able to do my best work – whether that’s my own fault or as a result of an editorial situation – then I need to stop doing it. I would rather not do something than do it badly or ineffectively. It’s the only way I can live with myself and do right by the fans in the long haul.
[snip]
That process takes time. So ultimately, I decided to take a three-to-five-year sabbatical from monthly comics. Graphic novels, where there’s the time and space to get as detailed as I like in the writing, are more suited to the way I work. Yeah, in the long run, it means taking a huge pay cut, but again, it ain’t about the money. It’s about telling good stories.

In a few years, if I feel I’ve learned enough to improve my storytelling in monthly comics, I’ll give it another shot. If not, then the sabbatical may become permanent. So we’ll see.


There’s much else in the chat, including JMS’s explanation of all his supposedly abandoned series, and an update on SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE #2, and THE TWELVE (which will be finished as a GN, he says) and the news he’ll be writing a Samaritan X graphic novel for DC. Also a great anecdote about George Miller and Joseph Campbell. And his insistence on reading reviews:

When I was at a Marvel retreat one year, one of the editors passed me at the table during lunch break and saw I was on one of the more toxic websites, where they were just trashing my latest issue of Spider-Man. “You really ought to stay away from those things,” he said…but again, that’s how you learn. As I write this, I listened the other day to a half-hour podcast of guys just dumping all over S:EO, and while I didn’t agree with all their points, there were a number of areas where I thought, they’re right, I can do better in these areas, and by the end I was taking notes.

Yeah, it got pretty brutal at times, but I’m a big boy. If you can’t handle the heat, stay away from the bitchin.


It’s safe to say JMS is a big boy.

Comments

  1. Mikael says:

    Oh. So the Final Crisis debacle had nothing to do with JG and Jan Jones splitting up?

    And that JMS article is just regurgitating news we already knew. Nothing new in that article that wasn’t already said in another article.

    Beat – stop trying to cast doubts on normal comic news sites. You are no different.

  2. @Mikael: Did you read the initial commentary where it was stated there was “nothing new” in the JMS interview, BUT that he did elaborate on recent issues?

    Elaborate would be the key word here.

    chris

  3. Man, what’s goin on with that image at the top? Can barely make it out heh.

  4. Greg Geren says:

    “The Twelve (which will be finished as a GN, he says)”

    Does this mean that in order to get the end of the story, I’ll have to buy the parts I already have again?

    Way to appreciate that reader loyalty Marvel!

  5. Adam, it looks to me like Our Fine Editor has grabbed a low res scan from the web. Who knows, maybe it was the only image available on short notice.

    BTW, Thanks for these two bits. They certainly add to my understanding of the world.

  6. TonyJazz says:

    I agree with Greg. Why buy limited series at all when the conclusion requires repurchase of all of the currently-existing-as-floppies pages?

  7. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Mikael–

    “Oh. So the Final Crisis debacle had nothing to do with JG and Jan Jones splitting up?”

    You know, you’re right. Just because you buy a comic, you have every right to poke at a creator’s personal troubles.

  8. The Beat says:

    I think this is one of the great myths of the Crisis Age, so just for the record: The Joneses broke up well before Final Crisis.

    Illness, divorce, drug addiction, new babies, video game dependency…these are all reasons for late comics books. They may not be any of our business, but they are sometimes the real reasons. As a “journalist” I don’t feel the need to reveal anyone’s personal business…but I don’t feel the need to parrot fake, phony reasons either.

  9. JG and Jan Jones were together? I had no idea. I guess that solves some of the vague data in my mind from years ago (from Bleeding Cool) that came out about JG and his then significant other and something about how she was whisked away from him…none of my business, either way.

  10. Since pt 1 of the Twelve is already out in hardcover, I imagine pt 2 will be a seperate hardcover?

    And if JMS is talking about the Spider-Man stories “Sins Past/Sins Remembered” then he deserves that heat. Just like Meltzer deserves any heat he gets regarding Sue Dibney, just like Lucas and Spielberg deserve the South Park lambasting for their Indiana Jones 4. When you ruin a character for no reason, you piss people off. Seems like a little internet heat is getting off easy.

  11. Rob J. says:

    @Mikael: Another instance where you needed to read more closely, Heidi wrote that the Newsarama interview revealed that “some of his deadline problems” were due to the disorder. It’s worth noting that nowhere in the actual interview is it even implied that other problems Jones might have had at the time that contributed to his lateness on and departure from Final Crisis, but the phrase I quoted that Heidi used to characterize the interview *strongly* suggests that she knows the nature of other contributing factors to Jones’s departure from the book.

    Geez, just because something isn’t directly referred to doesn’t mean it’s being ignored, that it had “nothing to do” with Jones’s departure from the book. To the contrary, Heidi’s careful description of the Newsarama interview indicates that what Jones was going through with his then-undiagnosed disorder was the *primary* reason (among one or more other possible reasons that were wholly unnecessary to go into) for the problems with the book.

    Now, the timeline on when Jones was finally diagnosed with the blood disorder is unclear. Was it during Final Crisis’s production, likely toward the end of Jones’s participation? Or was it only diagnosed after his departure, likely shortly after his departure? That nuance in the timeline is *almost* a moot point, but I think it’s worth noting if only for the sake of using Jones’s story as an example of why artists need to get a check-up sooner rather than later when their health starts getting out of whack.

    While there’s no guarantee that a check-up would have caught the disorder months earlier and prevented that many months of delays in FC’s schedule, it certainly would have been worth the shot. After all, once fandom found out about George Perez’s massive health problems while he was doing JLA/Avengers, fans forgave the delay and IMO, the news of Perez’s health likely *prevented* a more massive loss of sales for the last two issues than otherwise would have happened from disgruntled readers dropping what would otherwise have been an iexecusably late book.

    But, y’know, DC and Marvel have both been in editorial disarray since a few years *before* Final Crisis — I mean, editorial disarray related to putting titles on the schedule waaaay too early in its development cycle, ensuring habitual lateness even when an artist doesn’t get sick. And resulting in an artistically compromised book when multiple pencillers and inkers have to be brought in to pinch hit. Even “holding the line at $2.99″ with 2 fewer pages on regular books (as opposed to the longer issues of FC) isn’t going to do a bit of good when the editors are clearly scrambling around at the last minute to pull out of their asses under-developed books in over-extended product lines.

    In that context, I suspect that Jones’s marital problems had less to do with FC’s scheduling problems than you appear to want them to be.

  12. Rob J. says:

    Ooooo, thanks, Heidi, for the clarification on the shouldn’t-have-been-an-issue timeline of the end of the Joneses’ marriage.

  13. Goofball814 says:

    “While not exactly a secret, Jones’ illness has been a private matter, but it does cast some of of the fan rage over FINAL CRISIS into a decidedly different light”

    NOPE! Fanboy doesn’t care about such! Fanboy is self-centered and doesn’t care about others and their problems, only about one-self. Fanboy demands an apology from JG Jones for being a wussy and not sticking to his obligation to Fanboy and his money!

  14. “Yeah, it got pretty brutal at times, but I’m a big boy. If you can’t handle the heat, stay away from the bitchin.”

    My respect for JMS just skyrocketed. With all the creators these days bitching online and treating fans poorly, it’s nice to see a guy who not only accepts the fact people may not like his work, but seeks the feedback of such people. Even if his writing is flawed, as least he is open to suggestions for improvement. Can’t hate a guy for that.

  15. Is it that much of a personal intrusion when a comic that is to be delayed due to personal problems of any kind for the publisher to put out a small press release saying: “comic X was supposed to have come out by xx date, but due to personal/medical problems to the artist/writer we’ve had to re-schedule it to xx date. Sorry for the inconvieniance but stick around!”

    I don’t think so and it would give the publisher brownie points from Fanboy because of the honesty.

    Delays happen because shit happens. Fanboy knows this. Just acknowledge the fact that shit happened.

  16. Goofball:

    Fanboy would have probably been far more less complaining of the situation if all Mr. Jones ever said was “I’m sick.” and never went into any detail other then that.

    Same thing with Adam Kubert. He apparently had a bad illness that delayed his run on Last Son and never bothered to tell anyone until long after it had passed, and would freely tell this to people who asked at conventions. He could have just as freely given a very quick notice to the news sites to stop the complaining without a need for details.

    Everyone loves to think the fanboys need to know every reason why a book is running late but sometimes just little simple statements that do not go into excessive detail can do the trick just fine and prevent us from rampant complaining.

  17. hmmm_hmm_hmm_hmm_mmph says:

    Honestly how can anyone take JMS seriously at this point?

    Sure he built his way up with a great run on Thor and denouncing Brand New Day. Fraction will have his hands full trying to equal it, although the Thor movie will probably make it easy for him.

    The Superman/Wonder Woman fallout does very little to support a strong case for the man when it comes to writing new monthly titles.

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