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Year of the Artist, Day 74: Kelley Jones, Part 1 – The Micronauts: The New Voyages #1

02-17-2014 09;07;59AM (2)

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?

02-17-2014 09;05;12AM

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.

02-17-2014 09;07;59AM

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.

02-17-2014 09;10;43AM

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.

02-17-2014 09;13;08AM

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.

02-17-2014 09;15;13AM

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!

18 Comments

Kelly Jones! What a pleasant surprise. I look forward to seeing what other works of his get the spotlight.

I do not have any Micronauts, so I have never seen his art look like this. As far as I know Comet Man is the earliest of his work I own and it looks quite different from this (Gerry Taloc inked Comet Man, and I think his influence on it is very strong). I agree that Hunter shows the later Jones a lot.

This will turn out to be so interesting

kdu2814: I couldn’t find Comet Man when I went looking, so none of that. But I’m going to try to avoid his biggest works, although I can’t avoid Batman. NO ONE CAN AVOID BATMAN!!!!! :)

Kabe: Dang, put more pressure on me, why don’t you! :)

Oh man, I remember this issue. I didn’t remember it was Kelley Jones because that name didn’t mean anything to me at the time. I seem to remember not liking the art as much as previous Micronauts artists, though it wasn’t a deal-breaker or anything because I was so invested in the series.

Sorry you weren’t able to find any Comet Man. It would have been especially interesting coming so close on the heels of another Bill Mumy/Miguel Ferrer collaboration (after featuriing Dreamwalker in the Gray Morrow retrospective).

buttler: I have plenty of comics like that! It’s only later that I go back and think, “Oh, hey, that dude went on to be someone!”

Erich: I didn’t see that those same guys wrote it! That would have been interesting. I might have to track it down somewhere, but too late for this series!

I think Jones was somewhat aping early Jackson “Butch” Guice at this point. Guice got his start on Micronauts and was a hot artist when he did the book. Guice’s style changed after he left the book, and he became more of a Marvel-style artist after that. Capable, but uninteresting. When Jones took over, there was a similarity to Guice’s work that I didn’t see in his later stuff. Patterson was, to me, an under-appreciated inker. I always liked the work he did. I wish he was more prominent. Perhaps he was too slow for monthly books?

Aping or not, I think I really like this early Jones style.

Huntarr was a good character who should’ve been used more after Micronauts ended, not being based on a toy like some of the others. Wasn’t Bug in Guardians of the Galaxy for a while? I liked Jones’ work on this book, except for some of his freakish over-musclization and the way he drew the ends of Bug’s antennae so hugely swollen, which later artists kept in place, unfortunately.

Ooh, Kelley Jones stuff. Neato. I think I just heard that something of his might be coming back (I won’t mention what yet in case you use that later on).

Based off MJ’s comment, you could probably do a pretty interesting run of Butch Guice. From (apparently) Micronauts to X-Factor to some DC stuff (Superman and Resurrection Man come right to mind) and even later on to Bru’s Cap would show a pretty interesting change, I’d think.

I got this one as a kid and just remember Rann grabbing for that tool without thinking. Eeeeee….

If you feature Butch Guice remember his stuff from Chiarascuro for DC and Coyote for Epic/Marvel.

On the subject of Micronauts: I actually thought The New Voyages was solid entertainment, even if it was utterly dwarfed by Mantlo’s run/series.

tom fitzpatrick

March 16, 2014 at 6:48 am

@ Ganky: Sorry, but Butch Guice never did any Chiarascuro, you’re thinking of Chaz Truog.

@ Mr. Burgas: The Micronauts was one of the first two series that I started out collecting comics (The other was Star Wars). So I was exposed to artists such as Michael Golden, Pat Broderick, Steve Ditko, Butch Guice, and lastly (but not the least) Kelley Jones during the two volumes.

Who’d thunk it, that Mr. Jones turned out to be SUCH a prolific artist? ;-)

Something else that I hadn’t noticed before, now that you’d shown these pages: How much similar Mr. Jones’s portrayal of woman is to Bill Willingham’s. Go on, I dare you, compare them!

The Micronauts was my one must-purchase title during those years, no matter the quality of the stories. I loved the Mantlo/Golden issues of the first series so much that I had to buy it regularly, just to see what was happening. Like buttler, I hadn’t realized that these New Voyages issues were Kelley Jones, but that makes this pick all the more interesting.

I suppose we’ll never see any of these stories collected, but I wish that Marvel would put more effort into getting the rights again. It was nice to see some elements of The Micronauts (and ROM) pop up “more recently” in the Earth X universe, as well as Captain Marvel, but I need more than that!

Tom: ah, yes, Chaz Truog!

Ganky: We’ll see wild antennae today, you can count on it!

Travis: I know what you’re talking about, but I didn’t use it. I had to narrow it down somehow!

I have Guice on my list (I’m keeping a list!), but I’ll have to see if I have enough of his artwork. I probably do, but I haven’t checked.

Seth: Yeah, that’s a neat moment.

tom: Well, Willingham is also on my list, so we shall see, won’t we?

babytoxie: As someone who has never read any ROM but would like to, I agree!

When I was a kid i thought it was Michael Golden who had drawn those Micronauts issues.

I agree with ‘tom fitzpatrick’ about the Bill Willingham comparison, too.

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