Year of the Artist, Day 74: Kelley Jones, Part 1 – The Micronauts: The New Voyages #1
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Kelley Jones, and the issue is The Micronauts: The New Voyages #1, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated October 1984. Enjoy!
When I started doing these posts, there were certain artists I wanted to do but wasn’t sure if I would. Kelley Jones is one of those, because the earliest Jones work I owned was his Deadman comics, which came out in 1989 and already featured the kind of art that he still does today (with some modifications, of course, but still). So there wasn’t much that I owned that showed his development too much. I have some artists like this, where I own a lot of their work but it’s largely unchanging. I would probably show a few days of that artist’s work, but not a lot. Since these posts began, however, I’ve actually bought comics specifically so I would own other examples of artists’ work, and today (and tomorrow) I’ll feature those. Yes, I bought issues of Micronauts specifically because Kelley Jones drew them. How about that! I couldn’t find his work on the first series at my comics shoppe, so let’s start with volume 2, which is, as far as I can tell, either the 9th or 10th comic he ever had published. That’s early enough in his career, right?
Jones was 21/22 when he drew this (he turned 22 in July 1984), and he’s quite good for being so young. Notice that his art is more “traditional” than his later work, but there are hints of the stylist that he would soon become. Bruce Patterson inked this, and I wonder if Jones noted where to use the spot blacks, because the black areas are very Jonesian. This is also a bit more cartoony than his later style, but where some artists become more realistic, Jones became even more abstract. It’s an interesting evolution.
Anyway, the blacks are dominating on this page, as Rann’s face in Panel 1 is shaded heavily and the group shot in Panel 4 is a nice example of using blacks well. Mari, the woman, his almost all black, as she’s shielded from the light sources by the bulky bodies around her. We can already see the way Jones draws women – Mari’s hair style is very close to Calliope’s from Jones’s Sandman story, which was drawn six years later. Check out the ribs on Huntarr, standing on the left side of Panel 4. Some of it may be due to Patterson’s inks, but those are Kelley Jones ribs if I’ve ever seen them.
Jones has always drawn big, bulky men, as we see here. This would become more ridiculous over the years, but we see a bit of it here – Rann and Acroyear have muscles on top of muscles, but they’re still proportioned somewhat normally. Jones gives Acroyear and Huntarr really tight buns, too. The inking is once again heavily black, although Patterson doesn’t use thick lines on everything Jones draws, which allows him to use a lot of nice details on Rann’s helmet and in hyperspace in Panel 4. Hyperspace is cool, too – Jones uses simple designs, but a lot of them, and some good Kirby Krackle (which might be Patterson’s contribution), and colorist Bob Sharen gives it that sickening, pink hue to separate it from the “real” world of the spaceship.
This is a good early example of the “Kelley Jones woman.” Marionette has the flouncy, curly, long hair that so many Jones women have, with the part right down the middle and the wing-like bangs that travel down her face, framing it. Jones was obviously influenced by late-1970s ideals of beauty, especially in hair, but while his hair has become less detailed in the years since, a lot of his women still sport this kind of style. Mari has an hourglass shape, with wide hips and large breasts, but her breasts don’t seem out of place on her frame. The pose in Panel 1 borders on “brokeback,” but it’s not, as Mari only turns about as far as we’d expect someone turning in that situation to go. While Mari isn’t heavily muscled, she’s still built solidly, so she fits in fairly well with the muscled dudes on the spaceship, like Acroyear there.
Jones could be ridiculously detailed during his “middle period” – think Deadman, Sandman, and Batman – and this is a nice example of it. His fluid style makes the strange room look even more goopy and liquid, while once again the spot blacks help create a slightly menacing feeling to the entire thing. In later Jones work, we see how well he could do horror, and the powerful curved lines he uses in this panel go a long way toward that, with the circular, unstable shapes implying the horror of nature gone mad, overwhelming man’s straight, hard-edged lines.
This is another good example of early Jones foreshadowing later Jones. One again we get the exaggerated ribs on Huntarr in Panel 1, and again, while it might be because of Patterson, given that it became a staple of Jones’s art, I have to believe Jones told Patterson he wanted blacks there (unless he saw Patterson do it and liked it so much he adopted it as his own). There are more spot blacks on Huntarr than we’ve seen even in this very issue, making his huge muscles stand out even more. Panel 2 shows something that would bedevil Jones for his entire career, and that’s the anatomy of characters in certain poses. Huntarr is standing with his right foot bracing him as he examines the pods (which are eggs, by the way). Jones twists his upper body slightly, so it appears that he’s straining a bit to keep his position. The right leg is ridiculously short, which, based on perspective, is how it should be, but the proportions are really off. Huntarr’s knee disappears, and his thigh appears to be extending right out of his well-toned butt. Obviously, the leg is supposed to be bent forward, but because Huntarr’s muscles are so thick, we can’t see the leg bent forward at all, and the whole thing becomes rather awkward. As Jones got more experienced, he would get better at this, but not as much as many other artists. He would compensate by becoming more ridiculous in some poses, stretching the perspective so much that it’s clear he’s doing it deliberately, which might be a way to cover up the fact that he never got too good at doing stuff like this. But that’s just my speculation!
So that’s pretty early Kelley Jones work. Tomorrow, I’ll check out some of his art from later in his Micronauts run. Don’t forget to look at the archives in case you came to this party late!