Wednesday, June 1, 2011

42nd Street Picasso: An interview with Nat Jones

Interview by indrid13

Nat Jones’s art is like the best Grindhouse movie you’ve ever seen, only amped up a thousand fold. Equal parts grit and refined detail, his art seems to jump from the printed page to terrify and titillate. Nat recently spoke to me about his incredible work, and how he creates such ghoulish delights!

Being unfamiliar with your artwork at the time (and having really enjoyed Liam sharp's run on the series) I was unsure of what to expect of your run on Spawn: The Dark Ages, but when I saw your work (complemented by the inks of Kevin Conrad) I was completely blown away. What was it like taking over such a high profile series, and what was your primary inspiration in your (re)designs of the series characters and world?

Nat: First I have to say thanks! Spawn: The Dark Ages was a huge milestone in my career, I was 23 years old and landing a Spawn gig was definitely huge for me. I was a fan of Liam's work coming into the series, he always delivers top notch work so I knew I had bring everything I had to the table. Spawn:tDA was my first mainstream work and was also where I met Steve Niles, Steve and I have done a huge amount of work together since as well as becoming great friends.

How did you come to work on Rob Zombie's The Nail? Was it challenging working with someone with as strong a visual eye as Rob, and were the world and characters fully fleshed out before you came on board?

Nat: I met Rob through Steve Niles one year at SDCC, from there The Nail was brought up and I couldn't pass up the chance to work with Rob Zombie. Working with Rob was great, he is definitely a horror fan and he brings a lot of excitement and passion to the table. The Characters for the book were pretty loose when I came in; visually they are almost all my designs, especially the bikers.

Your art on The Nail displayed a grittier element than the style used on Spawn, that really made your work take on a fascinatingly visceral quality that really fit the mood of the story perfectly. Did anything other than the story inspire this visual shift?

Nat: From the first time Steve, Rob and I started talking about the story I knew that The Nail had to have that dirty, gritty feeling like a low budget film from the 1970's shot on grainy stock. The Nail was also the first series that I handled all of the pencils and inks so I had freedom to play with my art in ways that I hadn't explored in earlier books, I think that is a lot of the change you see in my work on The Nail. I really try to change my art to fit the mood and style of the story I am working on, the "feel" of a story is something I think you have to pay attention to.

One of the main elements of your work that I enjoy is your ability to take established concepts such as Spawn or 30 Days of Night and truly rework them in a way that makes them fresh and unique. Do you find it difficult to take concepts that are already fan favorites and give them that dynamic stamp that makes them your own, and how much does the Omni-present specter of fan reaction weigh on your decisions?

Nat: I think my fans know to expect a different take when I am on a book, they know that I am going to have fun with it. You want your work to be successful and you want the fans to like what you are doing but in the end you have to draw characters the way you see them.

Your work on the late Frank Frazetta's character Death Dealer is stunning. How did the series come about? How involved was Frank in the stories inception, and did the poor reception of past Death Dealer adaptations factor into any creative decisions?

Nat: Death Dealer all started when my partner and longtime friend Jay Fotos contacted the Frazetta’s about getting a sketch from Frank, Jay and Ellie Frazetta began talking and things just fell into place. The story was originally developed by Jay and I with Frank doing approvals all along, we then brought in writer Joshua Ortega to do the final script. Earlier attempts at a Death dealer book definitely played a role in how we approached our story. Frank and Ellie were both unhappy with how the character had been handled before and wanted us to start completely fresh, they wanted an epic story, Frank wanted his "Lord of the Rings". In the end Frank was very happy with what we created, it is the only Death Dealer story approved by Frank Frazetta, which is something to be proud of.

Your current work '68 looks to be a horrific view of the Vietnam War. Can you fill us in a bit on the series?

Nat: The new '68 series is something I am really excited about! Mark Kidwell, Jay Fotos and I have been talking about returning to '68 for years following the original one-shot and we finally all decided it was time. '68 begins with a zombie outbreak in 1968 just as the Vietnam War is really heating up, these guys are already deep in hell and then you throw zombies in the mix, this is every horror fan's wet, bloody dream. There is so much you can do with the world of '68, it was such a pivotal and interesting time and has given us so much great material to play with. The scripts that Mark has been turning in are absolutely amazing, you really don't want to miss this book!

I know each work is probably a different experience from the last, but can you walk us through the steps you take to create a page and what materials do you prefer?

Nat: I do change my approach quite a bit from project to project so it is a difficult question to answer. Generally after I have a story or concept established I start sketching layouts traditionally using pencil and paper, from there I work in inks. After an ink piece is finished, which are sometimes still very loose, I decide if I am going to finish the art traditionally or scan it in and go digital. I still like getting my hands dirty with traditional painting, you are definitely going to be seeing a lot more painting from me in the future.

Having worked in a myriad of creative mediums (movies, comics, album art etc.) do you have a particular favorite, and if so, what makes that one stand above the rest?

Nat: No matter what medium you are working in it is always the other creative people you work with that make a project exciting. I have had great experiences in every medium, I have been extremely lucky to work with the amazing people that I have collaborated with throughout my career.

As an artist, what inspires you the most to create, and conversely who would you say is your greatest artistic influence?

Nat: Other artists inspire me, be they painters, musicians, filmmakers, writers, or comic book artists, I love art and I love the creative people behind it. My influences are all over the place, but masters like Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, Gene Colan and John Buscema had a huge impact on me early on.

What do your fans have to look forward to in the future from Nat Jones?

Nat: A lot more creator owned work!

Definitely grab the new '68 series from Image Comics, we have a website set up at so be sure to check in for updates.
Check out my website at or catch me on Facebook and twitter @natjonesart for news on everything I have coming up!

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