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Year of the Artist, Day 12: Mike Mignola, Part 2 – Rocket Raccoon #2

10-19-2013 03;31;17PM (2)

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mike Mignola, and the issue is Rocket Raccoon #2, which was published by Marvel and has a cover date of June 1985. Enjoy!

Less than a year after his work in Marvel Fanfare, Mignola was tapped to illustrate Bill Mantlo’s wacky mini-series, Rocket Raccoon, which has recently enjoyed a renaissance for some reason (I blame Bendis, but that’s just because it’s fun to do so). I don’t know if this was a big deal back in 1985, but Mignola drew it, and both he and the character became much bigger in subsequent years, so it’s fun to go back and look at his work!

10-19-2013 03;26;21PM

I wanted to show this because it’s a good early use by Mignola of negative space to create a mood, in this case a dire one. The use of blacks in RR’s flashback helps make it more sinister, as Lord Dyvyne hovers over the abduction of Lylla by Blackjack O’Hare. It makes Lord Dyvyne look infinite, which is a pretty cool effect.

10-19-2013 03;27;48PM

This is a great page, and it shows a lot of Mignola’s strengths. The storytelling is well done. Mignola leads our eye well, from the upper left to the bottom right in Panel 1, and then across the top row. In Panel 4, the clown in the background is the first thing we see, and RR’s laser blast moves us to him and then to the lower row. It’s nicely done. Meanwhile, we see his use of negative space again, as the drakiller is all black, with just white whiskers and a red mouth and eyes to highlight its evil. This makes Panel 3, when it falls to its death, a cool panel – Mignola uses a lot of inks, and Christie Scheele adds some tinges of orange and yellow to highlight the black form. In the bottom row, Mignola does this again, as the destroyed clown in Panel 6 is all shadows, and Scheele just adds some yellow smoke rising from it. Notice that in Panel 7, Mignola uses solid lines to delineate the clown, which is a bit different from Panel 6.

10-19-2013 03;29;39PM

Ken Bruzenak letters this comic, but I’m not sure if he designed the lettering for the “Red Breath” on this page. It feels more Mignola-esque, as he’s showing a bit of his love of the Gothic, but perhaps it really is Bruzenak. Anyway, Mignola and Scheele doe a nice job on this page, saturating the page with that bright red that slowly dissolves that poor dude. We’ve seen a bit of Mignola using slightly fewer lines and altering his cartoony style just a little, and it works well in Panels 3 and 4 as the dude disappears. He’s still using his more intricate and cartoony style, but he’s able to do a few different things as he gets better, and this is all part of his evolution.

10-19-2013 03;31;17PM

Here’s some more use of heavy inks to create a tone, as Mignola places the Bunny Brigade in shadow and Wal Rus (yes, that’s his name) in the foreground, out of the shadow. In Panel 1, he and Scheele backlight the bunnies so that we can see Wal blasting into the room, and when he shifts our point of view, Wal’s laser blast illuminates the middle of the room, leaving the rest of it in darkness, so that Lylla is lit while her kidnappers are darker. Mignola uses lighter lines to draw the bunnies as they scatter, which makes them look more damaged by Wal’s blast. I’m not sure if Mignola drew in the explosion and Scheele colored it, but notice that Mignola uses some jagged lines at the top of the panel, which of course became more evident later in his career.

I don’t own much by Mignola over the next few years, so tomorrow, we’ll see some of his later artwork that is much closer to the way he draws now than this early work. What will it be? Come back tomorrow to find out! And don’t forget to spend some time in the archives!

14 Comments

I’m not sure what you’re going to be doing later this year since you started with Kirby, Ditko, and Mignola. I’m sure there’s some more good artists, but these guys are hard to top.

I remember this series from the 80s but not having gone back to it since, I didn’t realize it was Mike Mignola and Bill Mantlo.

It has the mix of dark humor, horror, and whimsy that he’d become famous for. I must go back and read it again.

It seems like he’s much more conscious of his choices here than in the Namor story. It’s complex storytelling but none of the flourishes get in the way of the flow of the page.

P. Boz: I know you’re joking, but don’t worry – I’ll run out of days in the year before I run out of interesting artists to feature!

Derek: I wonder if because the Namor story was fairly short, Mignola was consciously being more ornate, while this is four issues, so he needed to tell the story better. You’re right, though – it’s a fairly big leap forward, artistically. It’s cool to see!

Interesting feature. Are we allowed to suggest artists to be covered?

The contrast that’s used here–both chromatically and tonally, what with the very subject matter and all–is really great. It definitely feels very Mignola-y to me.

On a note about Rocket, I don’t like Bendis’ version so much. He’s not a lot more than a pair of guns and some wacky catch-phrases. I prefer previous incarnations of him a bit more, but that’s just me. Like you say, it’s fun to blame Bendis!

kdu2814: Sure! I’m only about a month ahead, so I still have plenty of time for requests. Of course, I have to have the artist’s work, but I’m perfectly happy to take requests!

Anonymous: I haven’t read Bendis’s version, so I can’t speak to that. I did like RR in Abnett and Lanning’s Annihilation work, though.

I wanna see John Romita Jr featured. That is the most drastic change of styles ever in comics IMO. But he’s still a great artist.

S/N: Mignola’s work on Cosmic Odyssey has to featured in this series or I’m gonna consider it an unfinished column. Also DnA’s Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy is far superior to Bendis’ version.

Cosmic Odyssey, Gotham By Gaslight, X-Force #8… oh so much amazing stuff to showcase!

I first read this story as a backup comic in Transformers UK and it made a big impact on 6 or 7 year old me. I think it ran at the same time as the Smelting Pool storyline, if memory serves. Marvel in the 80s was awesome…

I was in one of my “not really into comics” phases back in ’85, so I don’t remember how big a deal this was, but having read it later, I have to say I really wish Mantlo and Mignola had done an ongoing Rocket Raccoon series – because now we would be getting some kind of lovely omnibus editions of it. As it is, I have the slim RR hardcover, which I absolutely love. I’ve really got to reread this…

Thanks for the answer.

How about Kelly Jones? That will give you an excellent excuse to get out Comet Man and Action Comics Weekly.

Keith Giffen would be a good subject also I think.

One I would not formally request but might be interesting is Bryan Hitch. I wonder how many people out there know he used to be a really nice Alan Davis clone…

I was eleven when this came out and I can tell you that I was the only person I knew who collected them. Even then, I was a little too young to really get it. It was a far cry from my usual diet of Spider-man and X-Men.

kdu2814: I’m already planning on Giffen, because his art style has changed so much. I’ve thought about Hitch, and I’ll have to check how much early Hitch I own, because I know it’s not a lot. I’d love to do Kelley Jones, but I don’t own anything from before he started doing Sandman and Deadman, which is when his style really kind of solidified. This feature is making me want to track down back issues, so if I grab some of his earlier stuff, I’ll definitely check him out, because he has such an interesting style!

My earliest Kelly Jones is Marvel’s Comet Man from 1987, before I started noticing artist’s styles. I just started rereading it, issue #2 had two panels that looked like later/current Jones.

Action Comics Weekly 618-626 is where I first took note of him (except I did not notice at the time that Vince Giarrano filled in for him.

I first noticed Hitch on Adventures of Superman Annual 3, an Armageddon 2001 crossover.

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