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Year of the Artist, Day 75: Kelley Jones, Part 2 – The Micronauts: The New Voyages #14

02-17-2014 11;50;02AM (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 #14, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 1985. Enjoy!

When I’m doing these posts, I don’t love to use the same series over and over, but the change in Jones’s art from the first issue of Micronauts to the fourteenth is dramatic, and this is much more like the Kelley Jones we’ve come to know and love over the past 25 years. So let’s check out some samples!

02-17-2014 11;47;19AM

Two things stand out in this sequence as opposed to yesterday’s example. One is probably due to inker Danny Bulanadi, as Mari’s hair is slightly finer than it was yesterday. Jones still draws a lot of locks, and on the top of her head, the inks are still fairly heavy, but the curls dropping from her head are inked slightly finer, so that there’s more texture to it. Jones seems to draw more curls, rather than waves, which makes the hair look a bit more “realistic.” Then there’s Huntarr in Panel 3, who has become more monstrous. These are the only two issue of Micronauts that I own, so I have no idea what happened to Huntarr, but he looks much more Jonesian in this issue than he did in yesterday’s. His face is flatter, his nose is even less non-existent than it was yesterday, his teeth are more pronounced, and his head and neck slope backward to join his back, slouching him and making him more horrific. Jones is very good at drawing monsters, and this is an early example of that.

02-17-2014 11;50;02AM

This is a nice page showing Jones’s development. In Panel 1, his lines and Bulanadi’s inking keep things fine, as we saw yesterday, so that the details in Jones’s spaceships remain clear. Even in the “enigma force” in the sky, we can see the thick features that are beginning to define Jones’s art. Then we move on, and in Panel 2, we get more heavy blacks that obscure the face of the character. In yesterday’s post, we saw that Jones/Patterson used spot blacks effectively on faces, but here they encompass even more of the face, obscuring the features but also highlighting the insectivorid’s eye, which is the center of the panel (figuratively) and draws us into his sadness. In Panel 5 we get a better look at Huntarr, and that’s a prototypical Kelley Jones monster. The beetled brow, with antennae that arch over his face, the thick blacks all over Huntarr’s face and neck, the heavy muscles, the tiny and hooded eyes set way back in the face, the giant and mismatched teeth – all of that screams “Kelley Jones.”

02-17-2014 11;52;05AM

Even when using negative space, Jones’s ever-idiosyncratic art still stands out. I don’t know what happened to Commander Rann, but he looks nothing like the dude we saw yesterday. However, the face Jones draws in Panel 1 is what was becoming a fairly standard Jones face, with heavily furrowed brows, crow’s feet, and, of course, a lot of blacks. Again, it’s tough to determine how much of this is the inkers’ prerogative and how much it’s Jones showing where the blacks should go, but it’s still interesting to see how much Jones relied on blacks even this early in his career.

02-17-2014 11;54;12AM

I wanted to show Mari again, because she’s changed slightly from yesterday’s post. Apparently she was paralyzed in issue #10, so here’s she’s trying to crawl and not getting very far. Jones still gives her a good form – she hasn’t become too skinny and her breasts haven’t grown – but once again, note that her hair is less heavily inked, making Bob Sharen’s yellow stand out a bit more, so she looks blonder. It appears to be the same hue from yesterday, but because Bulanadi didn’t ink it as heavily as Patterson did, it seems brighter. Of course, in the close-up in Panel 2, Sharen uses orange, which he didn’t do yesterday, and that gives the hair a bit more nuance. In Panel 2, Jones has slightly elongated Mari’s face – it’s not too obvious, but it’s there, and that is leading slowly to his more abstract facial designs as he experimented with different shapes. Mari’s heavier eyebrows in this issue (again, it’s subtle but there) make her appear slightly more serious, as if she’s experienced some terrible things and has been forced to change. I only know that she was paralyzed, but not what else happened between issue #1 and this one, so I can only guess. If this was deliberate by Jones and not just an affectation of Bulanadi, it’s a nice move.

Jones went on to do some Deadman work in Action Comics, plus some other stuff, none of which I own. Sorry! I couldn’t find it when I looked, so I’ll just have to skip ahead. Tomorrow we’ll check out some of his more “mature” work – what I would say is the middle period of Kelley Jones. What will it be? Ah, that would be telling! As always, feel free to check out the archives!


Two from the same series?

Don’t own any Kelly Jones Deadman? I feel a little bit sorry for you. The Action Comics Weekly issues are on comiccollectorlive.com and atomicavenue.com for a dollar or less, and Deadman Love After Death and Exorcism are 1-3 dollars an issue.

On the otherhand, I might track down some Jones Micronauts. Yesterday and today have both been more ‘Kelly Jones; like than I would have expected.

Okay, now I seriously want to start reading Micronauts. Have they ever reprinted the series in TPB format?

Anonymous: I’m crazy like that!

kdu2814: Yeah, I worded that awkwardly. I meant I don’t own his Action Comics work or something like Comet Man, but I do own the fancy prestige format Deadman mini-series that he did with Baron. I think those were the first Jones comics I ever bought. So I own some of his Deadman stuff!

Acer: I don’t think so; I imagine there are some rights issues, like with ROM.

@Acer —

The original series by Bill Mantlo is tops. The second volume ain’t no slouch, but it pales in comparison to the classic original series.

Well I feel better now. I really loved Deadman Love After Death.

tom fitzpatrick

March 16, 2014 at 7:44 pm

You should check out Jones’ version of the Dark Knight. Especially the Elseworlds trilogy that he did with Doug Moench (not to mention the run on the regular Batman title – I forget which ones).

It’s a very gothic version.

tom: Don’t you think I already own all of his Batman stuff????? :)

Chris Schillig

March 17, 2014 at 6:20 am

The original Micronauts series was reprinted in a series of slick-paper floppies in the late ’80s, I believe, but other than that, it’s never been given its due in trade paperback. It’s probably a licensing issue: Marvel no longer has the rights, and the original series features appearances by Man-Thing and other Marvel characters. Plus, doesn’t Marvel own Bug?

interesting not only a revisit from an artist for this colum but also finding out just from that last pannel mari was paralized never knew that of the character too bad Marvel can’t due to not only no longer owning the rights to micronauts just only the characters they created like bug.but other legal rights issues. marvel can reprint micronauts for Johnes art alone is worth having the series

@Chris Schillig —

The legalities for ANYONE to reprint either Micronauts or (especially) ROM are INSANELY complicated. Like 10x beyond Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver movie rights level bullshit.

Jones had quite a run as a “toy series” artist. He did Air Raiders for Star Comics, then took a break from Marvel to draw all 2 issues of a book called Terraformers from Wonder Color Comics. After his Action Comics Weekly Deadman run, he popped back over to Marvel to reunite with Danny Bulanadi for 3 issues of Dino Riders.

But the above listing is how the books were released chronologically. Style-wise, the Dino Riders art looks more like a bridge to his Deadman work (not as dark or abstract), and seeing as how the Dino Riders cartoon started up in the beginning of ’88, he may have done the work before he did Deadman.

I’d forgotten how depressing this second series got! I believe that at some point all of the main characters were dying of radiation poisoning, except Huntarr who continued to morph into more monstery forms, the roboids were destroyed yet again, Mari was crippled, Rann was a mumbling one-handed hobo, Acroyear cried a lot and Bug became smaller and less funny each issue. And eventually they all sort of commit suicide by jumping into a world-pit to help create a new galaxy or something.

The final reveal of The Makers was cool, though it contradicted Mantlo’s earlier “origin of the Microverse” storyline featuring his pet character Prince Wayfinder (from a completely different earlier non-Micronaut story). Second series writer Peter B. Gillis did some interesting things in trying to avoid having a big fight featured in every issue, but overall the book was a huge downer.

Currently rights to the Micronauts name have reverted back to Takara/Tomy, Takara having first released the Japanese Microman toys, some of which were sold in the US as Micronauts. The Microman line was first based on a Japanese knock-off (Henshin Cyborg) of the 12″ GI Joe figures that were too big for tiny Japanese apartments. Smaller size led to more vehicles and robots, and eventually, the Transformers line. Micronauts toy size eventually was adopted by the smaller modern GI Joe toys and Star Wars action figures. Big weird full circle!

And Hasbro has recently applied for a trade mark for ROM.

It’s probably not a horrible time for Hasbro to TM Rom. When the book first came out, few people were aware of what ROM stood for (as an acronym. It was quite the topic in the letters pages). Now in the digital age, we’ve gone full circle, and ROM is a thing of the past…

tom fitzpatrick

March 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Nah, I don’t think you do! ;-)

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