J.G. Jones knew this was his big shot.
A fortuitous meeting with collaborators Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti in the late ’90s had led to his landing the job to draw the “Black Widow” comic book in the fledgling Marvel Knights line.
Jones, born in Pine Grove and raised in Walker, had worked under the tutelage of industry legend Jim Shooter at Shooter’s companies, Defiant Comics and Broadway Comics, for about five years, learning to become a storyteller, not just an artist, and hoping to get a shot in a major company.
“I definitely didn’t want to leave before I got a chance to play in the big leagues,” Jones, an avid baseball fan, said. “I imagine a pitcher getting called up to the big leagues and you want to give it your best shot so you don’t get sent back down.”
Jones made sure he did not get sent back down.
His work on “Black Widow” led to breakout work as an interior artist with Grant Morrison on Marvel Boy and Mark Millar on Wanted as well as with a plethora of writers as the cover artist for the weekly series “52.”
“It was fun, it was actually the most fun I’ve ever had in comics,” he said of working on “52.” “It felt like a high-wire act at the circus. Everybody was really nervous that we could pull it off.”
His work on “Wanted” and “52” led to Jones being nominated for two Eisner Awards, the comic book industry’s version of the Oscars.
All of this from a man who nearly passed on his childhood dream of becoming a comic book artist for the allure of being a professional painter living in New York.
Born into an artistic family — his brother was an artist and his father carves intricate miniature cars out of balsa wood — Jones was constantly doodling when he was not exploring outside in the woods around his house.
“As much as I love living in New York and Philadelphia, when you’re a kid being able to go out and play in the sticks, not worrying about anything, it’s great for a kid,” he said.
Jones’ first artistic training came at the Baton Rouge Fine Arts Academy under the eye of Larry Casso.
Jones cut Casso’s grass in exchange for art and animation lessons.
Casso said the classical art training Jones received at the academy as well as his discipline at the drawing board is what separates him from other comic artists.
“He was really a young man of character and he still is,” Casso said. “I just don’t have enough accolades for the boy.”
After Jones graduated from high school and left Casso’s guidance, he went to LSU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1984, then embarked on a brief career as a newspaper cartoonist at The Daily Star in Hammond for a few years and The Brooklyn Paper in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I actually got paid for drawing for once,” he laughed.
During those years after high school, Jones eschewed the comic and fantasy books he read as a youngster as his studies pushed him more into the fine arts.
He attended the State University of New York in the master of fine arts program and began teaching in the late ’80s.
But comics books began making their way back into Jones’ life when he asked students to bring in art they liked.
One of the students brought in the latest works by Frank Miller, an industry giant who was producing groundbreaking work at the time, and Jones was hooked one more time.
He graduated from SUNY in 1989, immersed himself in the comic medium and self-published a comic with a friend before Shooter hired him in 1993.
“He taught me the ropes,” Jones said. “I couldn’t have found a better teacher.”
Jones now lives in Philadelphia working as a freelancer on the heels of the end of a 10-year exclusive contract with DC Comics.
But he still finds time to visit his homestate, dropping in on his sister, who still lives in Pine Grove, and his father, who lives in Ruston. Jones will be making appearances at Comic Con in New Orleans this weekend as well.
“I always love to come home, especially to eat,” he said. “To get that kind of food, up here, luckily I can cook.”
He fondly recalls his time at LSU and still follows the LSU baseball team.
“The thing that really sticks in my mind are all the crepe myrtles that sit around campus,” he said, adding as an art student, he saw a lot of the campus that he was able to document in his work.
In fact, his wife recently unearthed some watercolor paintings he did at LSU, framed them and placed them around the house.