Warning! NSFW images ahead! Click on the links below at your own discretion!
Thanksgiving of 1969 was memorable, not for turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce, but for a two-day drive out, a wedding, and a two-day drive back home to Nashville.
On Thursday, November 27, we piled into my mother’s 1967 Ford LTD, a great lumbering land-barge of a car more than adequate to convey two adults and four children ranging in age from one (my sister, Amy) to eleven (myself) across half of Tennessee, all of Arkansas, a sliver of Oklahoma just to say we’d been there, and most of Texas to Plainview, where my dad’s youngest brother Allen was due to marry one Jeannie Mallow of that region. Being of sound mind, they declined to procreate and were happily married until Allen passed away last May at the age of eighty-one. I still talk to Jeannie as often as I can, for she is a delight to converse with regarding the various topics of the day, upon which we enjoy much common ground.
Somewhere along the route, a stop was made during which I was allowed to purchase for the grand sum of thirty-five cents some reading material; to wit, the first issue of a magazine entitled Web of Horror, which attempted unsuccessfully to challenge the primacy of Warren’s Creepy and Eerie. It was published by Major Magazines, home of the second-rate Mad imitation, Cracked. Despite containing some lovely work by soon-to-be-legendary illustrators, it only lasted three issues. Which is a shame.
It was the cover painting that grabbed my attention – a barbarian shielding a barely clad young lady from spectral tentacles. I had recently discovered a Conan the Barbarian paperback in the library, so my appetite for Sword & Sorcery was already whetted. The artist was new to me, but within a few years works by Jeffrey Jones would be hard to avoid.
It was only after Jones passed away in 2011 that I learned she had transitioned to female in 1998, and taken on the middle name of Catherine. I’d wandered away from some of my various fandoms and hadn’t kept au courant. I’m still trying to catch up.
Jones never was a major contributor to four-color comic books, but did considerable work for the black-&-white magazines of Warren Publications and Skywald. The bulk of her efforts over the next decade consisted of over 150 paperback book and genre magazine cover paintings. She performed said duty for Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser collections, for instance, and was a frequent cover and interior illustrator for Fantastic Stories, during those years when Ted White was editing the best fantasy magazine available on the newsstands.
Jones had a one-page strip in the Funny Pages section of National Lampoon for several years. “Idyl” appeared alongside Gahan Wilson’s “Nuts” and Vaughn Bode’s “Cheech Wizard”, among other features. She did a gruesome little two-part story in the fourth and fifth issues of The Monster Times called “A Gnawing Obsession” in 1972, and had a solo showcase in the single issue of the underground comic, Spasm, published by Last Gasp the next year.
Later in the 1970s, she did covers for Zebra Books’ series of Robert E. Howard fantasy and adventure tales, including one for The Lost Valley of Iskander, which had interior illustrations by Michael W. Kaluta. My copy was autographed by both artists before I acquired it. Thanks to whichever previous owner arranged that.
Kaluta was one of the other artists Jones shared a workspace with, along with Bernie Wrightson and Barry Windsor-Smith. They called themselves The Studio, and over the next decade the collective produced some remarkably imaginative illustrations for any medium willing to meet their price. A piece on The Studio in the May, 1980 issue of Heavy Metal featured art by Jones and her compadres. She was thereafter a semi-regular for the next seven years, contributing a frequently appearing one-page strip similar to “Idyll” called “I’m Age”.
Jones gradually turned to fine art, and was called “the greatest living painter” by Frank Frazetta – high praise indeed. She passed away at the age of 67 from emphysema and heart disease.
In 2012, a documentary on her life and works was produced. Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffery Catherine Jones is very much worth tracking down and watching. There are also several videos on YouTube about her, as well as The Studio. I endorse them all.
In our next edition, we’ll be taking a look at the eight issue run of The Arkham Sampler, the preview magazine disseminated by legendary genre publisher Arkham House in 1948 and 1949. Join me in this space then, won’t you? Until that time comes to pass, ye wraiths of the weird, be afraid…
Be very afraid.