On 30 May 2011, I received a private message from Rotomago — co-creator, with the Serb artist Vuyacha, of a forthcoming graphic novel inspired by the pied piper of Hamelin, creator and maintainer of the Alberto Breccia Bibliografía, and a sometimes visitor to Ragged Claws Network — who made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. After confiding to me, in very personal and moving terms, his thoughts on the recent death of Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Rotomago wrote:
As a way to bring my little rock to the cenotaph, I have a curiosity you may like to put on your website. In the Jeff Jones site, the story THE BELIEVER by Jones and Wrightson is featured. It is mentioned that: «unfortunately the two colors were printed in reverse». The same version is reproduced in the recent book on Jones but it was published in an other way in France, in a four color process printing, in the magazine Special USA n°14/15 in June 1985.
So there it was, out of the blue: in tribute to Jeffrey Jones, a fellow I didn’t know and who didn’t know me wanted provide my blog with scans of “The Believer,” by Jeffrey Jones and Bernie Wrightson, as it was published in a French magazine in 1985, with the colours printed in a way that brought the piece more into line with the intentions of the artists.
I immediately accepted the offer. But it didn’t stop there. The next day, Rotomago emailed me another note, which read, in part, as follows:
Please wait one more day for the Believer. Since both versions are flawed, the original with reversed duotone, the French in four colors with an addition of blue and yellow, I’m actually building a third “virtual” one.
Since I hadn’t yet seen the French version, I had to take Rotomago’s word that it was flawed in some way, but I definitely was intrigued by the promise of a “virtual” version of the story. I did, however, email Rotomago to ask him, please, if he would, to send me the flawed French version as well as his new and improved version. I explained that my plan, hatched at that very moment, was to display the two versions that he would have in hand once he was done together with the original version, which I already had on display here at RCN, in a single post. I said I thought it would be instructive.
This morning, I received the files, and now here I am, ready to share them with you.
But please note: if you wish to share the “virtual” version of “The Believer” with others — I know I can’t stop you — I hope that you will acknowledge Rotomago as the wizard who has brought the story as close as it has ever been to the original intentions of Jones and Wrightson and perhaps even give credit to RCN as the source of the files. Or better yet, don’t just take the files and re-post them but instead simply link to this post.
Anyway, that being said, let’s take (another) look at “The Believer” as it originally appeared on the inside-front and inside-back covers of Vampirella #33, way back in 1974; notice that, although most of the panels look okay despite the printing error, one panel in particular, the last panel on the first page, is extremely difficult to decipher:
Next up is the version of “The Believer” that appeared, in French, in Special USA #14/15 in June 1985, just over ten years after the story’s original publication; notice that, with four colours at their disposal rather than two, the powers that be at Special USA took it upon themselves to tart up the art with obtrusive swatches of deep cerulean blue and acid yellow:
And now, at last, here’s Rotomago’s reconstruction of “The Believer,” with the colours as they ought to have been printed way back in 1974:
In the message that accompanied the files, Rotomago shared the following observations, which I will now share with you:
It surely would be feasible to make a decent reconstructed version fitted for publication. It would require multiple high-quality scans of both versions, a subtle balance of the colors layers, some alteration in the place of colors layers as the overlapping of colors is not always correct in the French version, a very long pixel by pixel cleansing (especially to remove the green stains [probably added by the French color engraver] in the background of Wrightson’s Page2 Panel2), as well as a slight increase in the size of pages to avoid blurring.
But for the web view, I hope that this far from perfect version, will do the job.
Note that after having spent some time studying these two pages on my screen, my fancy for them has even more increased! Such delicate and subtle pictures!
Although I, for one, sort of miss the fiery red-orange cast of Wrightson’s horned-god panels as they appeared in the original printing, I’m sure that fans of Jeffrey Jones and Bernie Wrightson will want to thank Rotomago for the terrific work he has done to reconstruct “The Believer” that should have been but wasn’t. But even if they don’t, I know that I personally want to thank him, again, for his surprising, unsolicited contribution to this site and for going the extra mile to enhance our appreciation of a story that many have admired over the years but none have seen reproduced in exactly this way before, ever.
Finally, one more time, here are the links to Rotomago’s blogs: