L’interview publiée dans Ganesha « Super Héros » a été réalisée le 7 aout 2016 et traduite par l’association. Par soucis de transparence nous avons décidé de mettre à votre disposition la version originale :
Kelley Jones hello, thanks again for your contribution. When we asked you for the cover, you told us that you often worked for fanzines; did you start your career in fanzine’s publications?
No… Though I was a voracious reader of fanzines. Comic book fanzines and horror film fanzines. I was so in need to know that there were others like me, and fanzines let me know I wasn’t alone in my passion for this odd material! There was no internet then, and few if any comic shops, so fanzines were the only source for news for those genres. I was able to get them at the local used book store, where I also bought old comics and the horror and science fiction paperbacks I loved. I still collect DAW yellow spined paperbacks that were so popular then!
You live on the west coast and work for publishers based in New York. Nowadays, it’s easy to exchange with internet, but when you started working wasn’t it too difficult to communicate with your editor?
In those days, it would have been easier to break into the comic business if I went back east, but I didn’t have that kind of money. Luckily, Marvel Comics had a tryout, I sent in my samples, and was one of four people out of thousands that they hired.
I was assigned to the Micronauts, as Butch Guices inker, then I had to only keep the same hours my editor, Ralph Macchio, kept. I worked on a east coast time table, meaning I got up three hours earlier, so to answer the phone or call when they were in the office. Since there was no FAX machines then as well, the editors made detailed notes and called a lot to make sure everything was done right the first time. I think now how lucky I was, as that was the best training to learn the art of comic book making, not just comic book drawing.
The first time I saw your pictures, they made me think of the works of Bernie Wrightson or Wally Wood, did they had an influence on your own work?
Very much, I was attracted to the style of inking they both did. The way they inked was something extra to the art. The lines and textures they put down couldn’t be done in pencil, only with a brush. I wanted to get the same effects. I also loved the science fiction and horror subjects both Wood and Wrightson explored. The atmospheres they created were, and still are, exciting.
You often work a long time with the same author, Peter Gillis, Mike Baron, Neil Gaiman, Doug Moench, Steven T. Seagle. Is it important for you to know well the people you work with?
Not especially, but I became friends with all of them, and in that friendship extra good things came out in my art. Like music, one plays off the other, and that relationship creates something unique, something that separately we couldn’t achieve. Deadman came from that kind of energy. Mike wrote it as a horror story rather than a superhero story,and I made Deadman horrific to match, and then the stories evolved to showcase that aspect of Deadman. Sandman became a more human character because of Neil riffing on how I did Sandman far more as a fragile person in the art, and the elements of horror and black humor greater because we both loved James Whale. Dougs Batman became much more a Film Noir interpretation because I drew it far more gothically. All this came from good relationships. I respected all of there work, so I wanted to get the most out of the scripts…not only make the deadline. These writers deserved that much I thought.
When I read your stories, I feel like watching Hammer Movies from the 60’s, where they an inspiration for you?
I’m a big admirer of Hammer films, they took the horror and fantasy material seriously, and presented it with much artistry. It is only now, the last several years or so that Hammer films are getting the respect they are due. Terence Fisher is one of the great directors in cinema, and his work has become greater as time passes. I loved the cinematography and the color. The greatness of Hammer was that beyond the horror element, the films were period pieces…and as such felt from a different time, more mysterious and fairy tale like. Hammer films have nearly achieved the status of the great Universal horror films period of the 1930’s, or Val Lewtons from the 1940s.
I always tell the colorists to watch those films to understand better how to color my work.
Your last publication with DC Comics was a Graphic Novel of Swamp Thing, written by one of his creator, Len Wein, how was it?
To be able to have worked with Len on Swamp Thing has been one of the great moments in my career. Swamp Thing, by Len and the great Bernie Wrightson was the comic that made me not only a fan comic books…but want to make comic books. It was the comic book that taught me to look at the men who made them.
Were you impressed?
Impressed wasn’t the word…knocked out is more like it. When Lens story outline was sent to me, I was so amazed because it was the Swampthing I had always wanted to do…the Karloff type, tragic and monstrous. Mysterious locales and events that are unique to Swamp Thing, stories that wouldn’t occur in any other comics. Also…Len hadn’t missed a beat, and picked up a few more. He wrote perfect comics for me.
I am still stunned, that the 12 year old boy who Wein and Wrightson cast a spell over all those years ago…that boy was getting to walk that same path with one of Swampthings creators. That is rare, and precious gift. I could go home again…
After Len Wein, will you Work with Alan Moore? 😉
I would always like to work with Alan, and almost did on a comic book about Dracula around 97, in honor of the hundred year anniversary. That didn’t come through, but we had a fun talk about what the old blood sucker would be doing now!
Every year there’s a new crossover with his amount of dead and rebirth heroes. What do you think of the evolution of the Comics industry those last years?
I think we don’t need to redo or revamp the characters as much as respect them and carry forward who they are. I believe in creating new ones to fit the current needs of our times though. The continuities of comic books and the characters are places that we can mine stories from forever. There is much magic when one hears, « This is a job for Superman ».
Comics should never succumb to nostalgia, but they shouldn’t also break every thing for a passing fancy.
Your stories are usually out of continuity, is it a choice?
I would say that seems to happen because I’m not an artist that cares for reality, for hyper realism. As Stanley Kubrick wisely put it…I don’t want a photograph of reality…I want the photograph of the photograph of reality. The more something is revealed…the less magic it processes.
What will be your future publications?
I am doing several Batman projects right now, as well as more Swampthing. I’m also working out some independent ventures that satisfy that need in me to tell weird tales.
I don’t remember seeing you in a European Comic Convention, will you come soon?
When I have so free time in my deadlines and raising two sons! I would love to see europe…it has been the inspiration for so many things in my comics…Gotham city…and lots in Deadman and Sandman…I need to see it…I will see it!
The colors of the cover were made by Michelle Madsen who lives in Baltimore with her 3 black cats and her husband.
She is known for her work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars with Dark Horse and she mades the colors of many Kelley Jones comics like Criminal Macabre, Batman or Swampthing.