John Watkiss was a British artist and painter, who has worked on several American comic book series since the 1990s. He has also worked extensively in the advertising and movie industry.
Born in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, he grew up in the British Midlands. He graduated from The Faculty of Arts and Architecture of Brighton University in 1982 and began his career as a portrait painter and illustrator in London, while also working as an advertising storyboard artist through the Saatchi & Saatchi agency. He had his own painting studio space in the eclectic arts complex "The Diorama" in Regents Park, London. His first one-man exhibition was at The Royal Festival Hall in the autumn of 1984, while he worked with English film director Derek Jarman on the short experimental film 'Imagining October' (1984), which was controversial because of its anti-capitalist undertones. He was furthermore an anatomy and fine arts teacher at the Royal College of Art, where one of his students was the animation director Richard Williams.
His early comic book art was for the two issues of the British comic book series 'Kiss of Death' by Acme Press in 1987. By the early 1990s, he active in the American comic book industry, starting with the four-issue graphic novel series 'Ring of Roses' with writer Das Petrou for Dark Horse Comics in 1992. Watkiss and Petrou later made the story 'James Bond: Light of My Death' for several issues of the comic book Dark Horse Comics in the following year. In the period 1992-1994, he was drawing issues of the Marvel titles 'Conan the Barbarian', 'The Savage Sword of Conan' and 'Conan The Adventurer'. He worked from stories by Roy Thomas, who had turned Robert E. Howard's pulp sword and sorcery hero into a popular comic book hero in the 1970s.
The largest part of Watkiss' comic book production was for DC Comics and DC/Vertigo however. Starting in 1992-1993, he drew issues 39 and 52 of Neil Gaiman's epic 'Sandman' title for Vertigo. He later provided art to issues 4 to 8 of the spin-off title 'Sandman Mystery Theatre' (1993) by Matt Wagner. He provided the art to the 'Werewolf' storyline by writer James Robinson in issues 71 through 73 of DC's 'Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight' in 1995. He was the artist of the six-issue series 'John Jakes' Mullkon Empire' by Kate Worley for Big Entertainment in that same year. He provided cover art to DC's 'Human Target' by Peter Milligan and Cliff Chiang (2004-2005) and subsequently was the artist of DC's sci-fi/crime 'Trigger' (eight issues with writer Jason Hall, 2005) and the supernatural fantasy series 'Deadman' (thirteen issues with writer Bruce Jones, 2006-2007). His final comic book work was the series 'Surgeon X' with writer Sara Kenney for Image Comics in 2016.
Ever since the 1980s, Watkiss had been active in the movie industry. Among his earliest work was pioneering with CGI for an unreleased movie with director Francis Ford Coppolla in 1984. He has created visual development art for the Disney films 'Tarzan' (1999), 'Fantasia 2000' (1999), 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' (2001) and 'Treasure Planet' (2002). He additionally worked for Twentieth Century Fox, Steven Spielberg's Amblimation, Dreamworks and Ridley Scott Associates. He was notably a key frame concept artist for the live action movie 'Captain Sky and the World of Tomorrow' (2003) by Dino De Laurentis, and a storyboard artist on the 'Sherlock Holmes' movie (2009) directed by Guy Ritchie. He also participated in the proposed 'Sandman' movie adaptation by Warner Bros, and did postproduction concept art for the TV series 'The Walking Dead'.
As a gallery artist, Watkiss is especially for his images of women painted in a modern style but in costume and compositions influenced by Victorian painting. A selection of his commercial and fine arts work was collected in the 'Sparrows' collection of IDW in 2009. John Watkiss died of cancer on 21 January 2017, at the age of 55.