Monday, May 14, 2007

Bruce Jones: The Secret Place

The Secret Place
Written and Illustrated by Bruce Jones
From Bruce Jones’ Outer Edge
Published by Innovation, 1992.
Originally published in 1982

Today, the talented Bruce Jones is mainly known as a comics writer (for Marvel and DC). In reality, he has done a little of everything, including novels, screenplays and television. His artwork is rarely commented upon. In the seventies and eighties he both wrote and illustrated a number of short stories for the Warren Magazines and later his own line of comics published by Pacific (later Bruce Jones Associates). The titles included Bruce Jones Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds. These were horror and science-fiction anthologies in the EC vein, with an even more adult slant to them.

I have always admired Bruce’s storytelling as well as his artwork. His stories work amazingly well when illustrated by some of the most skilled draftsmen in the field. Most notably, this includes his collaborations with Al Williamson and Richard Corben. Still, I find that my favorite Bruce Jones stories are the ones that were uniquely created by him. His own artwork is somewhat of a mix between Al Williamson and Jeff Jones. It’s filled with details and realism often missing from most genre strips. His characters look as if they were photo-referenced, but at the same time, they never appear stiff or staged. This adds to the psychological horror that Bruce is the master of.

This particular story originally appeared in full color in Twisted tales #4 (1982) but was later reprinted in black & white. It is taken here from Innovation’s excellent collection of Bruce Jones’ stories entitled OUTER SPACE. This was published in 1992, along with a companion volume entitled RAZOR”S EDGE. In both of these books, you’ll find a good dose of psychological horror, dinosaurs and half-naked women (some of Jones’ favorite subject matter).

The Secret Place was a real standout for me. While it tends to be more wordy than the usual Jones piece, the narration really draws you in similarly to a classic Al Feldstein story. The big difference here though is the subject matter. The idea of a youth as an outsider who may be prone to violence is a topic more relevant now than ever. I love the twist at the end that appears so unexpectedly.

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to search for some of those PC gems from the 80’s. You won’t be disappointed. And more recently, is Bruce’s collaboration with Berni Wrightson: Freak Show, published by Image comics. All of these stories maintain a heightened level of suspense. Other graphic novels include Somerset Holmes (Eclipse) and ARENA (Marvel). Bruce also wrote several episodes of the Hitchhiker (a horror anthology for HBO, that are now on DVD. Check those out too…you’ll enjoy seeing how well Jones’ writing translates to film.

I wish Bruce still drew comics (well maybe he still does, but in secret!). I don’t blame him if he’s not though, he certainly seems to have his hands full with writing projects recently. Still, for the record, as an artist Bruce is tops in my book. It’s rare that such a skilled artist had this much technical ability that amounted to, in my opinion, a true elevation of the horror comic into something worthy of respect for a more mature audience than just children. I don’t think I’m alone in these thoughts. In the 80’s several of these stories were reprinted in hardcover volumes and translated into French. Here’s hoping that at least he still has a cult following there!


Freckled Derelict said...

Thank you so much for posting all these amazing comics! I love this one.

Steve Freelance said...

Don't worry Dave! If the cult of Jones' storytelling no longer exists in the States, it will have to be reinvented.