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BEYOND JILL
From SANDMAN to KINGDOM COME, one face keeps coming back. By Andrew Wheeler and Christopher Butcher.

One of the things that make artist Jill Thompson so very unique is that there are just so very many of her. Ms. Thompson has the great honour of being one of the few creators to serve as a model for a wonderful variety of characters. Every month in PopImage, our Beyond feature explores one of the great mainstays of comics fiction, such as vigilantes, femme fatales and talking animals, and the iconic variations thereof. This month, we present a one-off exclusive in honour of the many faces of Jill Thompson.

MADELINE - When Edgar Allan Poe wrote the short horror story "The Fall of the House of Usher", it was generations before Jill Thompson was ever born. Even so, when Berkley/First Publishing launched a series of CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED books -including ROBINSON CRUSOE, DON QUIXOTE and MOBY DICK - it was Jill whom artist Jay Geldhof used as the model for Madeline in his adaptation of USHER. The character of Madeline Usher is a mad, tragic, haunting figure, and probably the most severe and unflattering depiction of Jill Thompson to date.

Jill Thompson as Queen of The Night, from 'The Magic Flute'. Art by P. Craig Russel. QUEEN OF THE NIGHT - Artist P. Craig Russell clearly regards Jill Thompson as a favourite muse. He has used her as inspiration on a number of occassions, including as a villainous scientist in a BATMAN: ELSEWORLDS story featuring Poison Ivy. Any time a tall, thin redhead appears in a Russell comic, it is probably in some way inspired by Jill. In Russell's wonderful operatic adaptations, for example, she appears as the wicked and vengeful Salome, and as the Queen of the Night, Melisande in Eclipse's adaptation of Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE.


Sandman's Delirium. Art by Jill Thompson. DELIRIUM - Although rumours still persist that the original model for Delirium of the Endless was singer Tori Amos - a close friend to creator Neil Gaiman - she's actually a composite of many ideas and people that Neil Gaiman had encountered. However, the character was more frequently drawn by Jill than by any other artist. It was therefore quite natural that Delirium should come to look like Jill. In the words of Neil Gaiman, from the Sandman Compendium; "[Jill] put a lot of herself into Delirium, in terms of body language, facial expressions, and so on. ... Lots of Delirium's mannerisms, the way she holds her body and so on, are things that Jill does."


Etain of the Second Look, from Sandman: Brief Lives. Art by Jill Thompson. ETAIN OF THE SECOND LOOK - As the principle artist on SANDMAN: BRIEF LIVES, Jill Thompson ended up making a brief guest appearance almost by mistake. When Neil Gaiman told Jill there would be a three-page scene in issue 43 in which a lady's house blew up, Jill decided she would use her own house and its contents as the model. Neil took the idea a step further, and suggested Jill draw herself as the woman, Etain of the Second Look. In Neil's words, "Jill has a cool, unique face".


Ragged Robin, from the Invisibles. Art by Jill Thompson RAGGED ROBIN - Jill denies that she was the direct inspiration for the Invisibles' time-travelling harlequin witch, but the original physical resemblance is striking. Robin and Jill are both slender-faced women with auburn hair, and a greater resemblance crept in while Jill herself was pencilling the book. The resemblance diminished under the supervision of later artists Phil Jiminez and Brian Bolland, but even today Robin remains a recognisable part of the Jill Thompson catalogue.


Brian Azarello as 666 and Jill Thompson as Joker's Daughter, from Kingdom Come. Art by Alex Ross. JOKER'S DAUGHTER - In Alex Ross and Mark Waid's KINGDOM COME, the DC universe is portrayed a generation hence, and includes a cast of hundreds. In among the many faces is Jill Thompson, as the daughter of the famed Batman villain the Joker. Jill is friends with KINGDOM COME artist Alex Ross, and they're both alumni of the same art school. It's also worth noting that Alex painted in Jill's husband, 100 BULLETS author Brian Azzarello, as villain 666.


The Scary Godmother! Art by Jill Thompson. SCARY GODMOTHER - In Jill Thompson's wonderful creator-owned children's series SCARY GODMOTHER, a little girl named Hannah befriends the monster that lives under her bed and crosses through her wardrobe into the Fright Side. The story of a child who can enter into a fantasy world is a common concept, but SCARY GODMOTHER has a Tim Burton twist, in which the creator tries to take some of the horror out of scary things. The central figure in the Fright Side is the eponymous Scary Godmother, a sassy, glamourous witch, based on Jill herself. The Scary Godmother is espescially notable because she's the only Jill Thompson-inspired character that Jill created. The Scary Godmother is also the character closest to Jill's own thoughts, as (being the Queen of Halloween) she shares Jill's love of Halloween (and a good scare!).


Jill Thompson, in the flesh. Uncreditted Photograph. JILL THOMPSON - The original. Jill's personal bearing is energetic and friendly, which makes her a great person to meet and to talk to. Her energy comes through in both the work she does, and the characters that are inspired by her, and we're very grateful she allowed us to do this feature. To find out more about the real Jill Thompson, check out our ProFile interview!

This month's regular Beyond feature in Gutter Press looks at the role of death gods in comics.


Andrew Wheeler is Consultant Editor of PopImage. Christopher Butcher is Columns Editor of PopImage.

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