Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

R.I.P. John Paul Leon, 1972-2021

John Paul Leon, a superb artist whose work you should all know, died yesterday at the age of 49. You can read more about it here. Leon first came to many fans’ attention in the early 1990s when he worked on Milestone comics, but I first recognized his stuff on Earth X, the alternate history of the Marvel Universe comic from the late 1990s (I probably saw it before, but that was the first time I really looked at the art closely). He recently worked on Batman: Creature of the Night, a “Batman in the real world” comic by Kurt Busiek, which is typically beautiful. For me, I think his masterpiece is The Winter Men, about which I just wrote six weeks ago. He had been diagnosed with cancer some time ago, and some places are confirming that that’s what killed him, although other sources say the cause is not known yet. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Leon was a tremendous talent and was far too young. Drag out your old Static comics and give them a re-read in his honor!


  1. He started really young, and he amassed an amazing body of work. I’m looking at the GCD listing, going, ‘oh, he did an issue of Scalped?’ ‘He did that?’ Etc.

    One series I liked, from what I recall, was the late ‘90s run of Challengers of the Unknown he did a fair amount of.

    He will definitely be missed. I’ve got a whole lot of his work to dig out and look at.

  2. Terrible-D

    I recall buying the single issues of Earth X as they were released because of the sketch-book feature that ran in Wizard magazine. My initial reaction was that the art was not as good as what Alex Ross created for the concept piece and covers. It took me a few years to come back to the series, but by the time I did my taste had matured enough that, between Leon’s art, and the story, Earth X remains one of my favorite series.
    After reading your article on Wintermen, I managed to find all the issues cheap, online. I’m looking forward to it, even though it seems bittersweet now.

  3. wilcan

    I just read DC’s 2010 First Wave revival of The Spirit–after the Darywn Cooke series–and I was pleasantly surprised to see John Paul Leon’s artwork on issue 16. It is mostly a series of splash pages to tell the story of a Spirit imposter, and Leon always includes the Spirit title integrated into the background in homage to Will Eisner. It’s a beautiful issue where Leon mixes the realism he is known for some creative design work. Here are some examples: https://www.ha.com/c/search-results.zx?N=790+231&Nty=1&Ntt=john+Paul+Leon+The+Spirit+%2316&ic10=ArchiveTab-071515 What a terrific artist!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.