Artist John Paul Leon passed away this weekend at age 49, following a 14-year battle with cancer. Leon was universally admired as an artist and a person; this is a true gut punch.
His family and studio mates released the following statement on his passing — and a GoFund-Me has been set up to fund his teenaged daughter’s future endeavors.
John Paul Leon, one of the most revered and masterful artists and storytellers in the comic book industry, passed away Sunday morning at 10am, May 2nd, 2021, after a 14-year battle with cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends in his last moments, fighting for his life, much like the many superhero stories he crafted over his celebrated career spanning three decades.
John Paul’s bold and dramatic work was best exemplified in the critically- acclaimed EARTH X, a maxi-series which redefined the Marvel Comics universe; as the original artist on STATIC, which laid the foundation for the Milestone/DC Comics universe; his creator-owned THE WINTERMEN series about cold war era super soldiers; and BATMAN CREATURE OF THE NIGHT, a passion project deconstructing the iconic dark knight.
He started drawing comics professionally at the age of 19, while he was studying illustration at School of Visual Arts in New York City, on ROBOCOP : PRIME SUSPECT for Dark Horse Comics. JP’s first published work however debuted in the pages of TSR DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS when he was a high school student at the New World School of the Arts, in Miami.
While at SVA, John Paul studied under one of his childhood idols, Walter Simonson, “I am honored to have JP’s RAGNAROK cover framed and hanging in our front hallway,” says Walter, “It’s a constant reminder to do better every day and to try to make myself into the best artist I can.”
John Paul’s work was impactful and expressive, and in his personal life he was very private and humble. To him, his ultimate goal was to build a body of work that would earn the respect of his peers. To his peers and friends, it was how he lived as a human that was most inspirational. As a teenager, whenever you rode with him in his car, he forbid the radio being on, so that you could appreciate to the true sound of the engine.
JP is survived by his wife, daughter and older brother.
In lieu of gifts, a GOFUNDME page has been set up to fund his daughter’s future educational pursuits…
Leon was an SVA graduate, but by the time he was a junior he was already penciling Static Shock — a tribute to his immense talent and professionalism, as recounted by his teacher, Walt Simonson.
Among his other signature works: Earth X, a 12-issue Marvel AU; and The Wintermen, written by his classmate Brett Lewis, a unique and haunting maxiseries. And Static Shock and Batman and Superman and just about every other hero.
As the tributes poured in, all I could think is how amazing his work is — truly, he was one of the best cartoonists of this era, every panel perfectly composed, perfectly balanced between light and shade. John Paul Leon learned from the masters — Toth, Simonson, Moebius — but infused every line with his own unique humanity. His Static was bursting with a youthful energy that was perfect for the book, but he never lost that freshness and enthusiasm.
That he wasn’t more lauded (although his art colleagues all held him in the highest regard) was probably due to the fact that he was so humble and down to earth. I hung out with him at cons many times over the years, and he was just one of the nicest, most considerate people I’ve ever met in this industry. An inspiration, in short, and someone who was still turning out the best work of his career despite more than a decade of health struggles.
His friends and colleagues flooded Twitter with tributes.
Hard to say enough great things about John Paul Leon and his art. An example to follow for everyone who thinks they can draw or do comics. So sorry for his family and fans. Truly an enormous loss. My very heartfelt sympathies to all.
— Klaus Janson (@klausjansonnyc) May 2, 2021
Dwayne McDuffie, Robert L. Washington III and John Paul Leon are all gone now. Not one of them lived to see 50. This is so unbelievably cruel. pic.twitter.com/L35v6hNhR5
— Joe Hughes (@JoeHughes28) May 2, 2021
My favorite story John Paul Leon ever drew. When I read this in the DC offices, I nearly cried. Every panel is perfect. pic.twitter.com/2VQQ3u2QdO
— Joe Hughes (@JoeHughes28) May 2, 2021
John Paul Leon passed away yesterday at the way too early age of 49. One of the greatest artists of our generation, he was also one of the nicest & most talented creators one could be lucky enough to have met. So young & still creating the very best work of his career. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/HqMTqW1q1k
— Jim Lee (@JimLee) May 3, 2021
JP Leon was a legendary artist & a kind, generous man. His gritty, noir style grounded his work in a medium that pushes the boundaries of belief. I was lucky as hell to work w/ him on my comics debut. His art hangs above my desk, an inspiring window I gaze through every day. RIP pic.twitter.com/B9wwXd0sih
— Benjamin Percy (@Benjamin_Percy) May 2, 2021
I spent every penny I made writing and coloring that story on buying a few of JP's pages. When I lift my eyes up from my monitor they're the first thing I see. They remind me that my work has meaning, that it's good enough, and that there is a place for me in comics. pic.twitter.com/y67tJ7RBma
— Nathan Fairbairn (@nathanfairbairn) May 2, 2021
Literally the best of us, and I wish I'd known you better. Your art, your storytelling are so admired (definitely a favorite of mine), and your friends and peers think the world of you. Peace, John Paul Leon. https://t.co/sNBEQwsTlO
— Cully Hamner (@CullyHamner) May 2, 2021
Probably the best tribute of all was this Facebook post from his fellow Milestone artist CrissCross:
The Beat sends our condolences to his family and friends.