JANE JENKINS OLIVER, 1954-1992
by Steve Willis
It came as a sad shock to open up a recent CBG and find a notice of Jane's death last Aug. 22 of cancer.
Jane was born July 7, 1954 in Houston, Texas. She became interested in the world of bizarro comix in 1973 while attending Art Spiegelman's underground cartooning class at the San Francisco Art Academy. Her involvement with the Newave network began in 1976 when she met Clay Geerdes while studying art at Sonoma State University.
Jerry the Vampire, the lead character of her TALES OF JERRY, has had his title since 1978 and perhaps her best known work. Jane also edited several minicomic series published by Geerdes: DANCE OF DEATH, VAMPIRE VIGNETTES, and PAGAN COMIX.
Gothic rock might best describe her work. In an interview in SMALL PRESS COMICS EXPLOSION # 6 (July 1986), Jane provided an eclectic list of influences: Bob Gibson, Art Spiegelman, Larry Todd, Dan O'Neill, Carravaggio, Durer, Goya, Delacroix, Gericault, Daumier, The Beatles, Jim Morrison, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, and DARK SHADOWS.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Jane, but we traded letters over the years. She talked me into contributing to a few of her minis, and I badgered her for a self-portrait for OUTSIDE IN. She managed to send in a self-port for the last issue of that title before I handed it over to Michael Dowers.
Jane was a subscriber to CLG and sent me Beatles trivia, since we shared a love of their music. Like many other Newavers, Jane was also very interested in music. Many of her comix revolve around musical themes, some of them using lyrics also performed by the rock group Felix Culpa.
In a reply to a question about audience during the 1986 interview, Jane responded: "That's what I like about publishing my own books, I don't have to please anyone but myself. I know that as I keep publishing, I'm bound to improve, I can't help but. I regard my art as something I'll be doing when I'm 75 (look at Milt Caniff), so I've never thought that I was in a rush."
Goodbye Jane. You were too young to leave us. She is survived by her husband, Phil Hirsch, and Justin Jenkins Oliver, a son from a previous marriage.
[© Steve Willis. Originally published in City Limits Gazette # I can't get the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song out of my head, October 1992. Republished with permission.]