John Paul Leon, also known as JP Leon, the co-creator of “Earth X,” “Batman: Creature of the Night,” “The Winter Men” and more, passed away after a 14-year battle with cancer on May 2, 2021. He was aged 49, and is survived by his wife, brother and daughter.
Leon studied at New York SVA, earning a bachelor of fine arts in 1994, two years after his comics debut. He had an active career in the field for 29 years, making his debut in Dark Horse’s “RoboCop” comic, creating the four-issue miniseries “Robocop: Prime Suspect” alongside writer John Arcudi and inker Jeff Albrecht. From there he went on to produce iconic works for the major publishers, pencilling the first ever “Static” series for Milestone Comics in 1993, and the Alex Ross-inspired series “Earth X” with writer Jim Kreuger. Both went on to be prolifically recurring works, with both series receiving revivals of some form last year.
John Paul Leon went on to craft a versatile career, working as a guest artist on books like “Ex Machina,” “Grendel,” “Animal Man” and “Scalped.” He was arguably even more well renowned for his prolific cover art, which brought his ink-heavy style to the forefront in titles like “Sheriff of Babylon,” “DMZ,” “Lake of Fire,” and “John Constantine: Hellblazer.” Later in his career he and Kurt Busiek created the prestige format series “Batman: Creature of the Night,” which imagined a world in which a child named Bruce Wayne becomes haunted by a demonic vision resembling the Batman comics he read as a child. His most recent works include “Mother Panic,” the Eisner-nominated short story ‘Black Death in America,’ and the upcoming “Batman/Catwoman Special.”
John Paul Leon was incredibly well renowned as a draftsmen in comics, using a heavily technical and geometric style to highlight the accuracy of his heavy inks. The balance between high fidelity articulation and minimalist reductionism in his work emphasized both the emotional and artificial elements of art in a way rarely seen in comics. “John Paul Leon had all the genius of Alex Toth, Milton Caniff and David Mazuchelli combined,” said “Death of Superman” co-creator Jon Bogdanove. “His visual storytelling was ingenious and sophisticated, but also clear and lively. At 20, he was already one of the greatest masters of chiaroscuro Impressionism who ever lived … JPL was a bona fide genius who raised the bar for every comics artist. He was as humbling and awe-inspiring a person as he was on paper.”
Many other peers reached out to share their condolences and stories about the life and works of John Paul Leon.
“I remain in awe of both his unrivaled draftsmanship & his stellar designwork – both of which were simply unparalleled & technically just so precise & perfect,” said Jim Lee. “But what really made me a fan was how he still squeezed in every bit of emotion & life in every image he created.”
“John Paul Leon was a comic book humanist,” said frequent co-collaborator Tom King. “He grounded the inherent absurdity of conveying myth and story through inked panels by insisting the emotional struggle of our lived experience be in every line, every picture. And he was a joy of a man, kind and funny, to the end.”
“Working with JP just might have been one of the longest professional relationships of my career. Every minute of it was a joy. I’ve never worked with anyone as kind, as thoughtful, as dedicated,” said senior DC editor Chris Conroy. “[He was] one of the greatest draftsmen in the history of comics, the kind of artist that EVERY artist revered.”
Tommy Lee Edwards and Bernard Chang have organised a memorial fundraiser for John Paul to help fund his daughter’s education and the wellbeing of his family. You can contribute here.