Writer / Artist
idyl review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Dragon's Dream - 90-6332-671-8
  • Release date: 1979
  • Format: Black and white
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Fantasy, Humour, Underground

There was a time when Idyl was held up as the pinnacle of comic art, and it’s true enough that Jeff Jones was considerably ahead of most contemporaries in the mid-1970s, setting his sights above superhero publishers, pretty well the only game in town back then. A gorgeously delicate line and all that time spent in life drawing classes paid off artistically in this series of single page strips about a naked woman who wanders a world talking to animals amid magnificently gnarled trees. Jones is strongly influenced by Charles Dana Gibson’s turn of the 20th century illustrations, by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta’s 1950s SF comics, and is talented enough to work with their techniques. The mastery of ink shines through.

While the art remains wonderful, any accompanying script was rarely more than the merest wisp to accompany Jones’ figure studies, and that’s a major let down. A combination of slapstick jokes, ethereal ramblings, and free associations feature an occasional exception offering something poetic. In most a naked woman wanders on panel, offers a few thoughts and wanders off again, maybe talking to a floating fish or another naked woman along the way. An unintentionally hilarious introduction by Eric Kimball twists into verbal contortions attempting to attribute meaning to Jones’ meanderings. However, the ethereal wisps struck a chord with a young Neil Gaiman, who incorporated a more reader friendly version into the Sandman cast. In the later strips the naked woman is pregnant, and although innocently intended, the depiction of naked children might be taken differently now.

A major production problem also afflicts this edition. Publisher Dragon’s Dream used thick, matt paper stock, but didn’t adjust the camera properly when copying the art. Lines have dropped out all over the place, making the pages difficult to look at. It still conveys Jones as a phenomenal artist, but isn’t the reproduction the exquisite line needed.

As the art is so good, it’s fortunate that there’s now an alternative. Jones liked a pun for titles, and in 2015 an oversize art edition combined the Idyl strips with the I’m Age series from the early 1980s, most reproduced from the original art, properly this time, so looking crisper. It’s a better bet.