From The Charlton Bullseye vol. 1, no. 1 (1975), here’s “The Guardian Spiders,” with art by Jeffrey Jones and script by the great unknown:
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]
According to the authors of Jeffrey Jones: The Definitive Reference, Jones drew “The Guardian Spiders” for King Comics in 1967. Unfortunately for the artist, however, King failed to publish the story before they closed shop for good in December of 1967 and sold various titles and inventory to Gold Key and Charlton. And thus it was that “The Guardian Spiders” languished unloved in the files at Charlton for seven years or so until the editors at The Charlton Bullseye arranged for its first publication in their zine.
A few months ago, I picked up a couple of “bales” of National Lampoon Magazine — thirty-two issues, in all — from a local bookseller for cheap. It was only when I got home with my bales and cut the strings that I found out that all but one of the issues were from the 1980s and 1990s, which was okay because, at the very least, it gave me quite a few terrific comic strips by M. K. Brown, R. Crumb, Shary Flenniken, Rick Geary, Buddy Hickerson, Mark Marek, Rodrigues, Gahan Wilson, et al., to read. The lone exception, however, was an issue from November 1975, which — o lucky me! — includes the second-last Idyl strip by Jeffrey Jones that ever appeared in the magazine.
Now, if all you’ve seen are reprints of Idyl, you might be interested to know that the strip first appeared in a newsprint section of the Lampoon called “Funny Pages” and that, in the November 1975 issue, all of the strips in the “Funny Pages,” including Idyl, were overprinted in light blue with only the word balloons left uncoloured. To give you an idea of the sombre, twilight mood that the blue colour lends to Jones’s strip — which begins with the words, “It’ll be dark soon” — I present to you the following scan:
[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
The effect is so appropriate to the theme of the strip that one can’t help but wonder if the art director didn’t choose the colour specifically to complement Jones’s work…
“Idyl was intended as satire and whimsy. One art director and one editor, who met me each month with puzzled faces, continued to remind me that National Lampoon was a humor magazine, ‘As long as YOU laugh,’ they finally said. So each month I would go in laughing. I also must admit that I love to draw nude women.” — Jeffrey Jones, interview, 2001
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:
I don’t have any dates for the drawings; however, the first pencil drawing below was likely a prelim for Jones’s well-known covers for Wonder Woman #199 and #200 (1972), while the second looks to me like it’s from much later in Jones’s career, perhaps around the time of the story I Bled the Sea.
From Boris Karloff: Tales of Mystery #21, here — more for the sake of historical interest than for its intrinsic merit, which is slight — is “The Screaming Skull,” with art by Jeffrey Jones:
Published in March 1968, “The Screaming Skull” must have been among the first freelance jobs that Jeffrey Jones landed after he moved, with his wife and daughter, to New York in the winter of 1967 to look for work as an artist, and frankly, Jones’s inexperience shows. But keep in mind…
“Beginnings are always messy” — John Galsworthy
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth — not going all the way, and not starting.” — Gautama Buddha
The first page here is by Esteban Maroto. It is from a story called “Idi and Me,” written by Bill DuBay, that first appeared in issue #4 of the Warren magazine, 1984, way back in 1978. And though the script is junk, it’s an attractive page. Only problem is, all of the female figures are very clearly swiped from Jeffrey Jones’s celebrated comic strip, Idyl, which ran in National Lampoon from 1972 to 1975. See below for the ocular proof:
For those who haven’t read 1984 #4, which would be almost everyone, the woman in the DuBay-penned “Idi and Me” is the brutal dictator, Idi Amin, whose chromosomes have been jumbled, just for laughs, by the American “Department of Dirty Tricks” (DDT), thereby turning “the former gorilla-faced leader of Uganda into this heavenly image of white Anglo-Saxon femininity,” Idi, who nonetheless retains a male psychology and sex drive and is thus seeking an operation to change back into a man. (And the final line/moral of the story? “I guess no matter what form you’re in… the world just isn’t ready for Idi Amin!”) All of which seems very odd, given Jeffrey Catherine Jones’s own difficult journey; however, the story did appear way back in 1978, as I noted above, which is about 20 years, more or less, before Jones decided to take definite steps become a woman. So what’s going on here? Seems most likely to me that it’s just a coincidence — though if it isn’t, if DuBay is taking a shot at Jones’s sexuality based on industry rumours, private confidences, or whatever, it’s an incredibly crude commentary! I mean, why would DuBay have done it, and why on earth would Maroto have participated? It doesn’t make sense to me, though, of course, even if the sex-change theme is a coincidence, it doesn’t mean that the story of Idi wasn’t intended, in part, as a parody of Jones’s Idyl. That would certainly explain the blatant swipes, except that Maroto has swiped from Jones (and others) before. So maybe the simple answer is that Jones’s work on Idyl was so skillful, so sensitive, so gorgeous, and — perhaps it seemed to Maroto — so obscure, that it was ripe for the swiping… or not… because the fact is, I’m not sure what to think…
Over at Atomic Surgery, blogger Staq Mavlen has posted scans of Jeffrey Jones’s short story, “Harry,” from Vampirella #85, in crisp black and white. What Mavlen doesn’t mention is that “Harry” was originally published in Vampirella #32, with day-glo colours by none other than Richard Corben! To compare the two versions, simply click here to read the black-and-white reprint and scroll down on this page to read the original colour publication: