The Private Life Of James Jean

imageJames Jean, known amongst us folk mostly for his comics cover work for Marvel and DC Comics, gave an interview earlier this year to Juxtapoz magazine, headlined about his dilemmas over being regarded as a fine artist or an illustrator. But he also took the opportunity to lay out his troubles of late…

The fact is I've been neutered by a divorce that has lasted for years. It has no foreseeable end because the respondent is incapable of settling, and I've run out of money to take it to court for a final decision. I've come to experience the absurdity of the law, and to be fooled by the fiction of justice.

I've conceded everything, and it still isn't enough, because she won't let go or move on. Since I was 23, I have helped this person through depression, disorders, and neuroses, and in return have endured so much abuse, violence, and deception, but since I was the sole earner, the law has done nothing to protect me, and has done everything to enable her. And while I'm bleeding, the lampreys and sharks encircle and eat what's left, inciting further conflict as I beg for mercy and peace. I've awoken in a Kafkaesque reality where she can demand $55k from me for an unspecified "medical emergency," and then give it all to a West Hollywood psychic for a spiritual cleansing. I thought I had conducted my life with honor and compassion, but my kindness has been used to against me, and now I lay mutilated on the ocean bed. I've been able to find peace by dreaming of being an invertebrate, descending into a primitive deep ocean trench, dimly lit by my own bioluminescence. There is a shimmer of solace in that weak light.


I never made art for those reasons, but since it has been converted into a commodity, it has given nourishment to a great cancer in my life that has metastasized and consumed everything that I have diligently nurtured and saved the past ten years. The only cure is to destroy what has fed this insatiable mutation.

As my lesions healed, little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long, gradual descent into the morass of family law and the delusions of someone I needed out of my life.


When I first moved to LA from NY in 2003, I couldn't drive. The stress and trauma of my marriage fed into my phobia, and I avoided driving for many years due to the anxiety generated by the erratic behavior of the other person behind the wheel. But when she left, that fog lifted and I was suddenly able to drive like a normal fucking person and enjoy the city I had lived in for so many years.


My business partner was excited to introduce my work in Japan and had plans to create a pop-up store in Tokyo to feature a whole line of products, all supported by animation and interactive projects. But as my divorce progressed, that fell apart when it became clear that I wasn't able to match his investment, since my income was being diverted to spousal support and legal fees.


In addition, the lawyers required me to spend valuable time cataloging, categorizing, dating, and compiling my artwork. I had created a 700-page document representing all of my finished and presentable works, but it wasn't enough. They wanted further disclosure and cataloging of every computer file I ever created, every scrap of paper I ever marked, and every sketchbook page I ever scribbled in.

Meanwhile, the respondent does not work, and spends her time extravagantly indulging the very compulsions and disorders that have been so destructive in her life, and claims ownership over the art and business that I solely created in spite of the impediments she created in my life. I've proposed three written settlement offers, but there has been no acknowledgement, no negotiation, or counter-offers; perhaps she knows that I would accept any counter-offer, and then the divorce would be final. Looking back, my best work was created during periods of separation in the marriage. Most of the work for my first solo show at Jonathan LeVine was created while she was living abroad for seven months in 2007 and 2008, and much of the best work for Martha Otero and the designs for OVM were created after our second separation in 2010 when she was out of the country again. I used to think about what I would have been able to accomplish if I didn't have these impediments in my life, since my best work has always happened when I was free and at peace.


Everything I had worked for and saved in the past ten years is gone. Squandered among charlatans, exorcists, phrenologists, luxury goods retailers.


As for the near future, there is no reason to move forward. Progress means sustenance for the lampreys, the sharks, the cancer. The only progress is backwards, a de-evolution into a more primitive state, a state of being without desire, creating nothing to be desired, oozing into a place without inertia.

No one show this to Dave Sim okay? He'll be unbearable…

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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