Jason Pearson, the comic book creator whose work appeared in such titles as Legion of Super-Heroes, Astonishing X-Men, and his own creator-owned Body Bags series, died in December at age 52, it has been revealed.
News of his death was announced via social media Monday, with a statement explaining that he “died last month from natural causes.” Subsequent posts from friends mention the cause being a heart attack, although that has yet to be confirmed.
Pearson first came to attention in the early '90s with artwork for a number of issues of Legion of Super-Heroes, before working on various other DC titles of the period, including Justice League Quarterly, Green Lantern Quarterly, and Starman. From there, his work would appear in occasional issues of titles from Marvel, Image, and even Penthouse — he worked on both Penthouse Comix and Penthouse Men’s Adventure Comix — although rarely for any sustained period.
Instead, the focus of his career became Body Bags, his creator-owned property that would appear periodically from 1996 through 2008. Initially published through Dark Horse Comics, with subsequent releases coming through Image, the comic followed a father/daughter team of assassins in a series of over-the-top adventures that showcases Pearson’s dynamic, exaggerated visuals. Publication was irregular, with issues delayed or outright scrapped for a number of reasons, including both illness and Pearson’s own standards.
Indeed, the sporadic and unreliable nature of Pearson’s work became an increasingly defining part of his reputation in the past decade or so; outside of cover artwork for titles including X-Men, New Mutants, and The Amazing Spider-Man, Pearson’s work has rarely appeared. He raised almost $40,000 for a new Body Bags project in 2015, but the project was never completed. Most recently, he was part of an online back-and-forth with artist Afua Richardson where he complained that she hadn’t been “vetted” before being published, and complaining that she hadn’t “earned” her place in the industry, as he had.
News of Pearson’s passing resonated across the internet Monday and Tuesday, as more learned of the news. “I loved [his work] from the start and couldn’t wait to see the next Body Bags. I miss you, my friend,” wrote Chris Claremont, while artist Shawn Martinbrough wrote, “he was immensely talented yet in so much pain and so young.” “His style was unmistakable,” wrote Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski on Twitter. “It’d been years since we spoke, but I always remained a fan.”
One of the most touching tributes came from Cully Hamner, a friend and fellow member of '90s studio Gaijin Studios. “When you’re part of a close group—a frat, a squad, a band, what have you— that focused you into who you are, you always tend to identify with those you spent those important hours with. And as life happens and you drift away, and about, and back again, and sometimes crash into each other… the deeper bond of that experience, I realize now, always remains,” he wrote. “The night I found out Jay had passed, I spent time talking to nearly all the original Gai’s and I find myself immensely grateful for that. It made me realize that we’re still Gaijin Studios underneath it all and we always will be, Jason included.”
Pearson is survived by his mother.