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!
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.
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.
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.
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!