A Review of “Better Things”

By James H. Burns: I just spent a rather extraordinary 83 minutes watching the 2013 documentary about artist Jeff Jones, Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones (available on DVD).

Jones first earned attention for a series of fantasy and science fiction illustrations, and paperback covers.

Better ThingsTo me, it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces from the 1970s and 1980s. (There’s a plethora of terrific photos from the fantasy and comics scene of the time — including a lovely, unexpected pic of the great Roy Krenkel — as well as some endearingly evocative shots from 1960s New York City.)

I’m a bit surprised that the film seems to have gained only partial notice, for surely any fan of the artist — or devotees of Michael Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson, or Moebius (also featured herein) — might wish to check this out. (There is also much information about Jones’ early contemporary, the late Vaughn Bode.)

But beware: this is a sad, and sometimes disturbing tale, with a couple of participants not coming off particularly well.

For those of us who only met Jones years ago, it can also be a surprise to see the artist here as a transgenderd woman. But truth be told, Jones doesn’t look all that different than one might have imagined if there had been a traditional aging process, albeit with the results of what the film reveals were clearly some stressful times. (Jones passed, in 2011.)

Could the project be considered exploitive? I hope not. The filmmakers, it seems to me, aspired to be gentle.

2 thoughts on “A Review of “Better Things”

  1. I also should have mentioned there’s some nice material with Charles Vess, who, of course, also just won ANOTHER World Fantasy award! Charlie, unless my memory’s off, was an occasional part of that circle of folks who seemed to circulate between Bill Morse’s Village Comics Art Shop, on 6th Avenue, and Dave Miley’s comics and book store, around fhe corner, on Carmine, in
    Greenwich Village, in the lafe 1970s and early ’80s.

    http://file770.com/?p=16509

    I can remember a very pleasant late afternoon drink with Vess, roughly halfway between the two locales (!), at the old Emilio’s, right there on 6th Avenue… In the spring and summers, Emilio’s would have a great setup of tables, right on that enchanted boulevard, near Bleecker..

    (And whenevef I think of that place, I do kind of wonder whatever happened tk Bruce, “The Mayor of Carmine Street….” (Or, was it “The mayor of Sixth Avenue…”?)

    We were both doing some work for Mark Gasper’s THE COMIC TIMES, not particularly remembered today, but a terrific early attempt to do a kind of mainstream magazine about comics–really, one of the very first… (It also featured some spiffy columns/memoirs by Don McGregor.)

  2. Vaughn Bode and Jones worked and produced pages for National Lampoon in the Early Years of that magazine. They crossed paths and Jones used one of Bode’s girlfriends as the model for his strip IDYLL. (That was Walli Elmlark, who worked for the rock mag CREEM.)

    I was kind of taken by suprise by the notice of gender cross over for Jones, since he posed for pictures often as the hairy chested male…or was that one of the off putting symptoms?

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