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!
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.
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.”
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.
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!