Kelley Jones – 300 Comics to Change Your Life
Welcome to part 2 of our epic journey with Kelley Jones. Hear the story of Kelley getting a sweet comic collection when he was younger and how this changed his life, or at least laid the ground work for ultimate nerddom.
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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
Theme music by Good Co Music:
Kelly Jones Interview Part 2
[00:00:00] Kenric:are when, to me, when people talk about comic books and if they are a, what’s the word I’m looking for? Like, if, if they don’t get the medium, right. Cause they haven’t given the time to read something. Cause there’s a comic book for everybody. There is something out there that will make you love the genre or that medium in some form or fashion, if there just is.
But it’s the people that don’t consider it. Cause to me, it’s high art, you know, I put on the same festivals, anything Picasso has ever done.
Kelley:Yeah. But see the diff I think what it is, what makes comics so wonderful to me is I’m alone. I’m alone in my little studio drawing it, and you’re probably alone in your den or wherever I’m reading it. It’s a one on one it’s it’s not like I go to a, I’m not going to a big gallery. I’m not in a big theater.
I’m not at a big concert hall with a lot of other people or,
Kenric:You’re personally talking to me. I love it. Yeah. That’s how I’ve always felt about him.
Kelley:and, and comic [00:01:00] books, comic books. If I were to correct anything about them, cause everything’s there, they’re fundamentally at their core. Perfect. I don’t need a battery to make them work. I don’t need, I don’t need anything.
The sun comes up. I have enough light to see it. There you go. On a full moon. I can knit. It’s really close. I can see it. I don’t need anything and it’s tactile and it’s, it’s wonderful. There’s a romance there to it beyond just the, the, the characters.
Kenric:Kelly. I even like going, being extra careful and not creasing anything and grabbing my corners very carefully to read through my book. But then at the same time, I love it. When I buy a book that’s that is a quote unquote reader copy, and I can just grab it and open it up and just tear through it and, and have fun looking at
Kelley:Well, I still have my collection. I still have my collection from when I started in the seventies. Right.
Kenric:good for you. I don’t. I wish I did.
Kelley:well, I was [00:02:00] lucky in that. There was a sky old books, a regular old used bookstore. And for whatever reason, he’d gotten a big bunch of books that he wanted an in, it was about 3000 comic books. And he said I was in there and I was just, and I was probably 15 or 16, 15, 15. And he said, he says, I think there’s about 3000 in their account, or just a few, just a few over 3000. I’ll sell them to you a dime a piece. If you want, you just go through and pick out
Kelley:And I said, all, I want the whole thing. And he said, well, that’s 300 bucks and I didn’t have 300 bucks on me. I said, if you hold this, if I don’t come back in a few hours, sell it. But if you, if you hold these don’t sell any of them, I’ll come back with the money. He says done, puts it in the back. I go home. And I have maybe $150 lawnmowing money.
And I go to my mom [00:03:00] and I said, mom, you’ve got to front me.
Kenric:Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Kelley:And she looks at me for a minute and she can see that this isn’t just, I want to, you know,
Kenric:sees the passion.
Kelley:some units. So she goes, and don’t even just miss a beat. She goes, okay.
Kelley:And she goes, where is he? Where, where is this at? And I tell her where I said, no, I can get there.
I’ll I’ll get over there. She goes, no, no, no, no. If you’re going to do this, I want to make sure you get there and want to make, you know, at that point, I’m, I’m this little kid carrying 300 bucks, right? So she gets in the car, we go there. she goes, and we can just drive him home. I give the guy 300 bucks.
He gives me the comics and in there are like the first 70 Avengers,
Kelley:the first, I don’t know, 50, 70, 80
Kenric:Oh my God. No, no, wait, Kelly, start over and tell me [00:04:00] slowly. Oh my God.
Kelley:of the first 50. X-Men the first 50 daredevils the first. Oh, it’s everything. It was a perfect. Now when. I didn’t know, those were not, I didn’t go through them all. I just saw the ones on the talk. They were like the first silver surfer and some fantastic force and stuff like that. I didn’t know that was, yeah.
I just bought them because I was instant collection. It was everything, it was all of them. Right. And, I went home. I still have all these
Kenric:Oh, you’re so lucky.
Kelley:And so I. You know, and then at that point, my friend who took me down there, it was in the comic book store, took me down to see Marshall. I would go pick out the ones I, I liked, you know, at that point, cause I was all excited.
There was tales of suspense and tales to astonish, which were my favorite books and all this great stuff. The thing that makes it special. And I always try to tell people it’s impossible now. I can’t say yeah, you got to go buy them. If you can get them in a [00:05:00] reprint, whatever. When I buy reprint books, I try to go by the old Marvel reprint.
Because that’s the actual colors. Now they have to recolor everything. But so I always tell people, Hey, just go by the old Marvel fantasy masterpieces or, Marvel’s greatest comics or Marvel’s, first issue, classic, whatever those things are, because those are the actual correct colors. Those are the actual metal plate prints.
They’re they’re exactly the same. So you don’t get it recolored you don’t get it. You get it as Spiderman. Number five was if you get into marvels, whatever the reprint books were, then it’s the same stuff. There’s no difference. So I always tell him, you get them, you get them accurately. And you’re only paying like three or four bucks a pop or whatever.
They are still to this day. They’re not expensive, but, but what happened is I had all these books for all these years. [00:06:00] My wife had never one way or the other, you know, she’s a girl, right? Hey comic. and about a year and a half ago, a year ago or so, where I had them stored, she says, do you know what you have?
Do, you know? And I go ag, I know what I got. I vaguely, you know, I they’re all in these
Kelley:So she says, you know, you should know what you have. So she goes, you know, I have some extra time now during this, the pandemic
Kelley:she just has, she, you know, does her work, but she goes through them and she was putting them in order and putting them on a database.
So I would know what I had. Right. So she, and she’s like really anal about it. So it’s like, who drew it? When it came out? Who wrote it?
Kenric:come over and do mine.
Kelley:it’s like, it’s like, wow, I never even thought like that. So you could just hit it on a program and there it all is, you know, well, what happened, this is very cool. What happened is she started reading them
Kenric:Oh, that’s cool.
[00:07:00] Kelley:and she started getting into them. And now like, she’s really into like all these Marvel B-level characters. Like she’ll, she’ll tell me how much she loves Tuma Dracula. And it’s so funny to hear ago. I really liked gene Cola. You know, he did a grid. I made me go look at dr. Strange. And then she became a big fan of these old doctors and I’m
Right. She starts all of a sudden, she gets mad at me because I don’t have every issue with spider woman. Cause she started reading it and she goes, you don’t have issue 13,
Kenric:Oh, what a great girl.
Kelley:Right. So she gets online. She gets in finds these comic books. You know, one of the good things is I think there’s some comic book stores that are doing.
Better than they were before, because she’s buying all these old books from every day. A pile of books comes that she’s ordering that I missed here or miss there, you know? And, she got really into, like I said, the B level, she goes, Hey, I really liked son of Satan. These are good. And I really, [00:08:00] really like,
Kenric:glad she likes it. No one likes that book. I love that book.
Kelley:she, well, I told her, I said, I used to love the B level books because that’s where the next generation of writers and artists came from. So, so, and Marvel could test you and not, you know, get yelled at because Avengers was being done by people that were weird to them or
Kelley:so you can find all this good stuff, but what happened was then the thing, the magic of an old book is she then wanted to, she was enjoying reading the letters pages then because that’s kind of the enthusiasm was there, the enthusiasm she’s feeling.
She’s connecting with these people who wrote letters. God knows how long ago, loving these books. So, you know, and she’s telling me like right now, she’s all excited because, she’s gonna read all the ghost writers and all the werewolf by night. Cause they’re kind of, you know, Marvel spotlight on. And she’s now knowing more about this stuff than me.
Cause I’ve kind of forgot it all by now. You know, I know what I love, but she really she’s reading them like [00:09:00] and telling me. Like she wants to talk about what happened in spider woman or how much she liked the old Carol Danvers, captain Marvel, you know, old captain Marvel to captain, to Starland to then, to ms.
Marvel, you know, that whole thing. She loves those things and it kind of, when you’re around that, it, it reinvigorates your enthusiasm yourself. And I kind of laugh. I said, you know, those things have been sitting there for a couple of decades and you didn’t do anything. And now it’s like, she’s yelling at me because I don’t have an issue of man thing that she wants to read.
Kenric:I love it. I love it. Hey, I’m having heavy influence from Lynn ween and Bernie Wrightson. You know, what was it like being able to not only be an influence them when you’re young and having that swamp thing, number two, experience and looking back and going, Oh my God, these guys are amazing too fast forwarding, you know, 15 years and not, but being peers and friends with those guys on a career level,
[00:10:00] Kelley:Well, it’s surreal. And I think, I think not to overstate it, but it’s, I was listening to two Oh several months ago. I was listening to, I forget who it was. It might’ve been some major rock guy. I forget who it was. And he was saying how, when he met John Lennon, he was a kid. didn’t know what to say. He just babbled and he just sat still and he listened.
And then, you know, and that’s what it was kind of like, cause when I met. when it met Bernie, it was probably about, I don’t know, seven, eight years ago. I met Bernie and, just, and, and I’m not, I D I did a lot of promotional. Shows in the nineties, but I didn’t really do anything after that because I was working all the time and raising kids and the whole thing.
So I didn’t really go out and do too much. So Steve Niles had, was very good friends with writes in and he says, Hey, Bernie wants to meet you. And [00:11:00] we’re going to be at the show and he’s, he wants to sit next to you and just, you know, he really wants, he digs, you wants to meet you and. I go, Oh God. And he says, because you know, he’s thinking he, like, he says, you know, burning things, are you afraid to meet him or up?
Or like, you know, I go, Nope, I’m there I’ll go. So I go and I’m thinking the whole time I’m in the airplane. Well, what am I going to say? What am I going to say? I’m at the airport. God, I got to think so I can’t just go up and go, you know, I don’t know what the,
Kenric:You don’t want a fan boy out on him?
Kelley:yeah. What can I say? What can I say that no one else has said, you know, blah, blah, blah.
And, I’m driving in the, get to the hotel, do the whole thing. And you know, that morning I go to the show and I know where I’m going to be in. And I’m thinking, okay, I’ll get there before Wrightson and no rights since they’re already. Okay. And I’m walking up and Steve Niles is there and Steve goes, Bernie here comes Kelly.
There’s Kelly. And I’m trying to say something and [00:12:00] God blessed writes in his heart. He puts down what he was doing. He gets up. And he kind of, I don’t want to say he runs, but he takes, he moves quicker and he just hugs me
Kenric:Oh, nice. Wow.
Kelley:and he just, and I don’t know, I have back, but I don’t know what to do. he says, I am so glad to meet you. He says, I first want to tell you how much I love what you do and I’m stunned. I’m still not seeing anything yet. I’m like, Hit in the face. And I go, you’re seeing everything I should be saying. I should be saying, I’m going to say, and I tell them, I’m going to say all this. So we sit and we talked for awhile and he says, can we go afterwards?
If you’re not doing anything, if you’re not doing anything, do you want to go get a drink? Well, yeah.
Kenric:yeah, no, no. Mr. Wrightson, I’m good.
Kelley:And we go out on this [00:13:00] patio, we go out on this patio. And he’s the first thing he does is he tells the guy one of the waiters there, he says, go get us a couple of beers. I stole the glass, he bought a beer for me. and brought it home. And it’s in,
Kenric:you’re a fan boy. I love this.
Kelley:it did my wet bar right now in my rights and glass. So anyway, he says, and this is wonderful. He says, before we say anything, I’m going to tell you, I just. Cause he knew, he knew I’m just sitting there and he, at that day, I’m sitting there signing books and whatever
Kelley:on I’m in.
Okay. And he decides to, he decides to knock that away and he proceeds to spend the next two hours telling me everything that he really likes about what I do and how he wouldn’t. He would have never thought of it that way and that he really enjoyed it. And I, I, it was. And [00:14:00] it was what also a gentlemen is because whether he meant it or not, he knew I absolutely adored him and he wanted me to relax. And, and so he did this now. was, that’s where I got teary.
Kelley:Luckily, luckily we were in kind of a dark place and he couldn’t see it, and I was just, I just, you know, And, and I said, look, then I’m going to have to tell you some stuff. And I said, it won’t just be, I told him to swamp thing to story.
He loved that
Kelley:that they loved that. But I also went and told him this story of an art teacher who told me comics, wasn’t art. You know, they all sing song that illustration and comics are not art. Art is, you know, Van Gogh or Rembrandt or something. And it’s, and I, and I, and I said, my argument with my teacher was that she didn’t know what [00:15:00] she was talking about.
And I said, I didn’t bring in. I brought in his stuff. Right. I brought in his, eerie and creepy stuff. I brought in his Frankenstein portfolios. Cause they’d, hadn’t come out in the book yet. I brought, I brought. These great examples of his incredible work I had I had is a Edgar Allen Poe portfolio. I brought that in and we’re going back and forth.
And this teacher’s still telling me no,
Kelley:no, just blah, blah, blah. Well, the rest of the class, this is, was in college. So the rest of the class figure during class and the rest of the class is listening to this because we’re really going at it. Cause I, it’s not just, I’m defending rights and I’m defending myself. my love of this is no less than her love of, you know, Matisse. So, we’re going back and forth, back and forth. And when it was all over, I sit [00:16:00] down and I’m kind of pissed off about this, cause she’s just not willing to let you
Kelley:her, I said, I’ll be honest with you.
I said, van Gogh can’t do Frankenstein like this. I’m just telling you that. And she got really upset when we were going back and forth. Well, these kids all in the class were wondering, well, who is this guy I’m talking about? They weren’t comic book people, right. They’re just regular people. And I just started spreading around.
I had a, his creepy and eerie stuff. I was letting people read that I was the I and the oohs and AHS from these people going through his Frankenstein, all these other artists, students. Ooh. Wow. Oh, It looks like, you know, there’s this great shot of Victor sitting in the rain and they’re going, you can almost hear the rain.
I remember one guy saying it let’s hear the rain and this one girl comes up and she goes, I don’t like him.
Kelley:They go, Oh, here I go again. She goes, I go, well, why? And he goes, because I read this story [00:17:00] and it scared the hell out of me. Wasn’t that the art was good. It was Jennifer. She read Jennifer. And it scared the hell out of her.
She goes, this really scares me. And it’s the reaction I’ve always wanted is that’s the reaction you want, you do a whole story. You want someone to say I’m angry at you
Kenric:Visceral, just, ah, yeah.
Kelley:the beauty of it was, and I had a look, I brought in to look back. I said, if you’re not a good artist, they don’t do a big hardcover, but it’s certainly not in those days. And in any way, the beautiful part was about two months later, I get hired by Marvel. And I had to go in and resign all my classes and that was one of them. And I went in and I said, you know, I’ve got to go because I actually, I said, I’m going to be one of the few people that ever, if not the only person that actually will do something in art who took an art class. And, and I said, and you really had nothing to do with it. It was that guy at that text, [00:18:00] that hardcover book was my textbook. So I got to tell writes in that story, he loved it. He loved that story
Kenric:Yeah, that’s an amazing story.
Kelley:It was true. And I told him I got to go from there. And then with Lynn, Lynn would always be, Len loved to hear me tell the story that I hated his swamp thing too.
And then loved it too. I was like, wait, I must have told them the story 10 times from him. Cause he would say, you have to tell me that story again. I want to hear that story. He was a blast and he had wanted to work with me on swamp thing since 1985, but it, you know, and I didn’t believe him. And so he, out of the blue, one day, I get this old magazine with an interview of him in it.
I don’t know where he must’ve dug it up his own copy,
Kelley:it to me. And in there it says. I want to do swamp thing with Kelly. It was like from 1988 and I tried to get him to do it because Bernie quit this thing and I want him to do it. And Paul said, no at Bernie doesn’t do it. No one does it. And da, da, da. [00:19:00] So he says, see there, I’m telling you the truth
Kenric:I got proof, buddy.
Kelley:approved, but Lynn and I used to talk all the time. And you know, the sad part is when he passed a DC had approved a new series to be written by him and drawn by me with swamp thing. Cause the mini series we did had done extremely well. In fact, they just reprinted it again for Walmart.
It’s like it’s
Kenric:the dead don’t die.
Kelley:Yeah. And she had hold me for, this is what I love about lamb. It told me before he says, I know he says, I want you to trust me because we’re not going to do a, you know what, obviously Alan did and, and subsequently. stuff with something he says, cause he didn’t know where I stood on swamp thing.
So he just tells me and he says, but I, to me, it’s Alec Holland. He’s still that guy who, you know, the chemical spilled on him and he fell in the swamp and then he’s a monster now want to get back to [00:20:00] that? And he says, I, I edited Allen. I love those things, but that’s Allen’s I just want to do lens. He says nothing. He says, no, if you don’t, if you’re not. Cool with that or whatever I get it. And I said, I’m totally cool with it because I’m kind of the same way. I love what Alan did. But to me it’s still Alec, you know, and he’s a swamp monster guy and, and he’s connected to the green and all that stuff, but he’s still Alec the monster guy that just cause it’s Frankenstein and whatever.
So we connected on that and then he just went to town and he would always say to me, what do you want to do? And I’d say, you know, this, that, or the other thing, and he would, he would do it. And I, I have to say it was one of the most absolute fun I’d had, and that was Lynn’s credo. He’d always finish a phone call with me by seeing and remember Kelly, before I go, this is all about having fun.
Kelley:having fun, they’re having fun. [00:21:00] And that was it. Just all about fun.
Kenric:well, Kelly, I think that’s an amazing note. The cap, they put a pin on this for the day because we’re like 90 minutes in. Can you believe it?
Kenric:I absolutely love having you on. I hope we can convince you to come on again because wow. I mean, all the stuff that you’ve been through and all the stuff that you’ve had happened with all these amazing people is it’s awesome. I want to hear it all.
Kelley:the thing that I think the thing with me is I, I don’t do a lot of shows. I don’t, I mean, I know people, but I don’t know everyone and I, not one of those, but I’ve been fortunate enough and, and the luck of my eye, man, if I were to sit down and just write. The weird coincidences and luck things.
It would, it would cause it it’s creepy sometimes, but like my parents thought Bernie [00:22:00] Wrightson was somebody I knew from school. I talked about him so much.
Kenric:why don’t you complete with that? Nice Bernie boy.
Kelley:yeah, cause I would just sit in the back of the station wagon. I would tell him how great Bernie was and this great.
That’s great. And they didn’t know what I was talking about. And one day my dad just says, well, you ought to have him come over for lunch. And I’m like, I said, well, no, dad, it’s he’s this guy. So when Bernie passed away, my dad called me cause he’d seen that it made regular news and she was really broken up over it because he remembered all that
Kelley:that, that, you know, and I said, well, you know, dad, that kid, that, that teenage young teenage boy in that bedroom, in your house, Still has those posters up in his adult son still has those same Bernie writes and posts and stuff, you know, they just went from place to place, but it’s those kinds of things that I’ve been very lucky.
I got to be with Lynn and Doug mention, obviously Bernie, that I was [00:23:00] connected to these guys. Who’s who, what makes them amazing is their work still stands.
Kenric:Oh dude, Bernie writes in his work he’s been, he has been and will always be because of what he meant to me as a kid. My favorite artist.
Kenric:Because he’s just so good. And it was those, they released that Frankenstein set as, as, like baseball cards. And I that’s how I got introduced. I knew who I, I knew Bernie rights has worked for.
I knew who Bernie Wrightson was. Right. Cause heavy. Cause he, he did stern on heavy metal. I love that movie.
Kelley:Stern on heavy metal. Okay. Stern in heavy metal, like, okay. I can tell you that there were people gasping at the comic book store when that issue came in and they were just turning each page and it was like, because he colored it himself. I think Bernie was the finest comic book colorist of all time.
Maybe Michael Golden’s right [00:24:00] up there too. But. God, when he would water, hand watercolor these things and you look at it, it just stunning.
Kenric:It’s. Yeah, he’s amazing. But that, that like set, well, it was like a full Bernie rights and set and they had like the, that amazing werewolf with the moon in the back. Ugh. And then, and it was the scene there there’s one card where the guy is like, he’s got a bloody ax and there’s a head on a post or on a table.
Kelley:Yeah. It’s it’s a poster called momentos.
Kenric:the detail and it’s just scary to even look at it. You could see the insanity and it’s just like, that was it. That was it. I saw that card collection. I had it. That was it.
Kelley:Bernie. Momentous is great because Bernie realized it’s not anything more than the guy is pure. Have it, he’s experiencing pure joy.
Kelley:He got that [00:25:00] across that. He enjoyed doing that. So you see these he’s been doing it a while. Cause some of those heads are very decayed and then there’s that fresh one from some woman he just
Kenric:Yeah. Oh God. He’s his work is so visceral and
Kelley:and he told, he tells a story in it. It’s on a fence. So it must be outside. It must be nobody’s found it. So asked me really isolated.
Kenric:No, these are great points.
Kelley:Wonderful. No, I think, I think what, what you’re saying is, is the same and rights and being discovered like that is, is the way it should be. Aye. I discovered him, like I said, in swamp thing too, and then various house of secrets house and mystery covers and things like
Kenric:see I’m of the age, swamp thing. The movie is what made it is the first thing that introduced me to swamping Lee majors as the swamp thing, you know, and then.
Kelley:Look, I just took a heavy metal job. Right. And it was for heavy metal, [00:26:00] 300. And I took it because of Wrightson. And because of that movie of the heavy metal movie. And they had asked me if I would do a sequel to the be 17 episode in it, where, you know, the guy, the world war II thing, the
Kenric:Yeah. And the zombies come out. Oh yeah, that’s great.
Kelley:he said, what would you want to do it?
And I said, well, let me see the story. And the story was excellent. So I just said, okay. But I really took it. So I could say I it’s, it’s getting close to Burnie. It’s ha that’ll it isn’t captain, sir. But it is it’s heavy metal. it’s a horror story. rights and stern was in that movie. Mike designed that the 17 stories, I did the storyboards for it.
So it’s that thing where I can connect that kid who, where we were all just amazed at the, at his work,
Kenric:it’s your Marshall Rogers for Bernie
Kelley:it is, I will look, there were the two guys who I thought did a perfect Batman,
Kenric:I [00:27:00] believe it. Oh,
Kelley:I was drawing Batman, I couldn’t even look, I did not look for the three years. I drew it as a monthly.
I didn’t look at REITs and I didn’t look at Rogers because it would make me freeze. It made me think, I,
Kenric:I’m doing rights and I don’t want to do rights and I want you to Kelly and I’m doing rights
Kelley:well there’s too, it’s too big of a shadow
Kenric:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kelley:And, and you gotta remember, I am not. And I don’t mean this with false humility or humble or whatever I am. I am at my core, a total fan. I’m not a professional by any stretch. I don’t even what I have the, okay. I know how to do this. I know how to do the, the, the. The hard work of getting it in making deadlines transferred. I know to do that, but I’ve done it. That’s just by repetition and over and over. Because when I
Kenric:That’s the job aspect.
Kelley:Marvel, I had only done maybe 20 pages of art in my life.
Not even publish it, maybe where I penciled it and inked it. [00:28:00] Okay. I drawn a lot. And in those 20 pages I did, I’d sent to, to Marvel. They should probably, they still have those pages somewhere if they didn’t throw them out already. and.
Kenric:we get them back?
Kelley:I got to be a fan. Yeah, really. I got to be a fan that got hired.
So I had a front row seat, you know, so to meet these guys, it is, I, you know, I always tell him that I go, jeez, you know, with Lynn, I said, Lynn, I, I know I’ve done this a long time, but you don’t know how long I, I read all your hopes with her. Crimpy I. Yeah, I still go back and read them. You know, I read all this stuff.
These guys did, with rights and I, I told him the excitement I got when I found his a poster series, the Christopher enterprise poster series. And I was able to find those. I said, you don’t know what electricity that was. Bastard turned around and he pulled out. He had one left of, one print left of his, [00:29:00] great.
Print of the long legged that you ghosties and things that go bump in the night. And he had one left and he brought it to give to me and he signed it and I don’t know how he knew, but you know, but it’s those kinds of things. and it’s, that’s what makes, that’s what makes me excited. It’s not it’s that I get to as a fan to express myself like that.
Kenric:you know, what’s nice too, is that you’re meeting people that love the interactions like that with the fans, you know? Cause I’ve met there’s some artists and writers and creators out there that just, they just don’t want
Kelley:No I’m going to, I’ll be, I’ll be perfectly honest. I think eight out of 10 usually are disdainful. that’s my experience. I’ve never been because I, I, I still am the guy who remembers standing in line. I remember standing in a line
Kelley:get gas, to, to get John Byrne, to sign some of my books. And I bought a page from an
Kenric:must’ve been amazing.
Kelley:it was, [00:30:00] I was a long, it was a whole page or something from a, from a Hoke annual or something from ninth. I this a long, long time ago. Anyway, I was in that line and I totally loved every minute of it. And it, the best part of it was I got to sit with him at a store and I was signing Batman. He was signing everything else that he, you know, 10 billion books he drew, but I got to tell him that.
I said, you know, the best part of my career is that it gives me so I can sit next and talk to you while we’re having
Kelley:drink. And I can ask you and do all the goofy stuff and you have to answer me.
Kelley:So it’s, it’s the chance to talk to these, all these people look I’m like you guys, these guys are, I I’m totally in awe of them too.
Kenric:I can feel it. I know it. I, I, I’m loving talking with you because I could tell that if you and I were sitting in line, we’d be bullshitting about something of a book that we have, and that we’re so excited to meet this person. Yeah.
[00:31:00] Kelley:I all the way. And, and that, that’s the reality of it because I came to this as a fan. I more enjoy it as fan. I’ll tell you that this is God’s honest truth. I don’t, sometimes I, I would go to these things. I didn’t take who I was. I didn’t get into it. I wasn’t a guest or anything. I go pay my ticket, go in.
Put on my little thing so I could get around, but I’d make it to the Oregon seat. So I could go pay my due diligence rights. And it said to me rights, and it said to me, how come we’ve never met? And I said, Bernie, we did meet, but you didn’t know it was me. And I came up and I introduced or came up and said, hi, and how much I loved you and bought something of yours, bought some stuff and you signed it.
And I walked away and he says, why didn’t you say who you were? I said, because you were owed that
Kelley:were owed this, that Kelly. Needed to talk to you. Not this fake, I’m not a peer. I, you said you’re you’re you’re you’re you. And, and, and to prove it, I had, I had a copy of the Polaroid. A friend of [00:32:00] mine took a picture of us together,
Kelley:this, this is like 1985 or six or something.
I was like just, I was just like three or four years into Marvel. Right. And he looks at that and he goes, Oh my God, I go, yeah. I said, I was at Marvel. I could’ve said that. Who gives a shit? Right. I said, I just, I hadn’t done anything of note. I said, this, that that’s what it was. And he loved it sadly when he became ill. and he had called and asked if. I would finish Frankenstein. He didn’t say I’m ill. He didn’t say none of that was said. He didn’t say it to Niles either. You just knew, you just knew nobody, no artist quits, unless they have to.
Kelley:And obviously if she had just said, let’s say he was totally healthy and he was going to go, I don’t know way, man, that’s your baby.
You finish it. And then you retire.
Kelley:But at that point I go, I can’t, you [00:33:00] have to,
Kenric:Yeah, well, it’s one of the greats asking you for help. How do you say no to that?
Kelley:You don’t and it was the greatest, I would say the greatest honor I’d had. I mean, it was, they were both very close. It was Bernie asking that and Lynn saying, would you do swamp thing with me out of just calling and saying, you’re the guy waited 25 years? Would you do it?
Kenric:got it gives me chills that you had both of them talking to you near their end, asking you to help them with their work. And it’s just like, fuck. How do you say no? And what does that mean?
Kelley:wife, my wife said that to me. Cause she knows, you know, she doesn’t until just recently she knew comics only through me talking about it occasionally because I normally don’t, she’ll see me do this with friends of mine who come over, like what we’re doing right now and she’ll and she’ll go, wow, that’s a Kelly.
I don’t really see that Kelly, you know, where I just go get into it. But she, but Lennon Marshall and burning, I spoke about a lot. And so when that happened, I [00:34:00] remember on both occasions, she would sit there and go, I think we need to go have a drink.
Kenric:sure. I think I need to have a drink.
Kelley:yeah, I think you need that. And she goes, I want you to talk about that with me. And so I would tell her that’s when I would tell her those things. Cause my kids, for example, my kids didn’t even know I do drew comics until they were 12 or 13 years old.
Kenric:Oh, wow. What’d they say? When you found out, they were like, Oh my God. That’s cool.
Kelley:thought they, they, no, they, they just were like my, my son, my oldest, when he found out he shook my hand, dad, congratulations, you have a job. he thought, I, I just sit in this room and watch movies all day and listen to music. And his poor mother has to carry my sorry ass.
Kenric:That is awesome.
Kelley:And so he did not know. So he’s just congratulating me for having a job and add. Because, you know, you don’t, you want your [00:35:00] kids to be kids. You don’t want them to be, fans are aware of this, or, but I just never talked about it.
Right. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t talk about it. And, so when those things come out that now it’s like my first thing, my wife says that she goes, well, I wonder what he’s been saying to the like teachers and our friends all these years about you. Like, you just, he just sits around and that poor girl has to carry him.
so. I know it’s amazing. It’s amazing, but I’m always grateful for that because they have a distance to it. So,
Kenric:Well, they know you for you. Not that they’re not looking at it through a different lens, right?
Kelley:Oh, and, and where they started to get, it was when they got older. And then there were people who would know what I did in, you know, where they go to school. Like I have a son, both my sons have had teachers who were huge Batman or Sandman fans, and that that’s. That’s where they recognize like, Oh, there’s a power to that.
What, you know, there’s, there’s a thing that then that happens. So, [00:36:00] so that, that that’s there, but I’m, I’m glad it’s been that way because they don’t, you know, to them it’s, it’s like, I’m still the guy who says mow the lawn,
Kenric:Yeah. Yeah. And they do it.
Kelley:And we’re the ones who, I mean, we’ll go to the movies and stuff and just, it’d just be regular.
And I don’t know any more than they know, and that, it just, it’s more fun that way. they went to a few shows, a few conventions now since,
Kenric:They see the line of people trying to get your sign off cover
Kelley:Yeah. It wasn’t like, I thought they would react like, wow, dad, I’m so proud of you. There’s 300 people online or something. It was like, it was like, yeah, that’s weird.
Kenric:yeah, I bet. Yeah.
Kelley:And then when I got done, what they were excited about is we would just go to all the vendors and buy shit, you know, that’s, that’s what they would really dig is. Cause we, we liked the same kind of science fiction things and game thing, whatever they are. And that’s why they would dig that.
But, but they, you know, and now at the HDR they get it. Now they, now they get it. They get
Kenric:It’s a love and a job and it, and it’s, [00:37:00] and you’ve been lucky to have that.
Kelley:Right. And you know, but they don’t, you know, it’s like my wife never read anything I did. And so it’s weird. No, she’s into comics cause I’m going to him. Not too sure. I want to now she’s going to complain how long Batman’s years are to me
Kenric:Right. She’s gonna have this critical eye she didn’t have before.
Kelley:she’s going to come at me and say, you’re not as good as gene Colan
Kenric:Ah, that’s hilarious. Hey, what artists out there today have, you know, there’s a lot of new breeds that have come up in the last, cause I kinda feel like 2010 to now there’s been a really good amount of writing and even the art seems to have jumped again.
Kelley:Well, I think, I think what you look for in any artist is there’s a lot of good artists. that, that I find and I’ll look and I’ll see that, but, but where you look, what I’m looking for is, and I don’t know if this will come back again, but where artists, I think, cause this happened to me and it’s happened to other people [00:38:00] it’s when you do a long run is when you really develop you, you, you learn the intangibles then.
And, and that happened to me because, Not so much, it was set as a challenge, but obviously, hopefully you’re familiar with Doug wildly, the guy who created Johnny quest and great comic book artist, but he’s the inventor of Johnny quest and stuff. And he would, he was doing these fabulous
Kenric:a lot of Johnny quest as a kid.
And he had done this fabulous Western for dark horse. And this is some years ago and I had done alien. For dark horse. And I was over at the dark horse booth just saying hello. And Mike Richardson had said, Hey, do you have a minute because Doug wildly wanted to meet you. And I went well. Yeah. And so she comes around with his wife and he says, do you have a moment for a cup of coffee?
And so I go, absolutely. And we go have a cup of coffee. And he tells me, he [00:39:00] says, he didn’t really understand what was going on in comics sin, but he really liked what I had done in aliens. And. He could see the connection of what I did to the earlier artists that I was influenced by and whatnot. And, but he said this thing that he said, well, how long did it take you to do this?
And I got, I hadn’t really thought of that before. And I go, well, I don’t know. And I told him whatever I thought it was then, because I was doing a couple of different things at the same time. And he says, well, I’ll tell you what he says, my advice to you. Is you try to get on something and do it for two or three years and monthly, and you make those deadlines and rain or shine.
You do it. He says, because that will teach you how to be an artist. And I go, okay. And he says, how not to repeat yourself, how to come up with something new, how to, how to work when you come up with something [00:40:00] good. When you have no ideas or you have a cold. How to work through all the adversity will streamline and focus your mind, not you won’t worry about you.
Won’t sweat the little things basically.
Kelley:And you’ll, and you’ll, and it was all this great stuff. And it stuck with me cause he’s cause he finished with, and then you’ll know at the end of say, two years, don’t you won’t judge yourself by your first few issues of a book. You can judge yourself by. Not one, two and three have a run, but 30, 30, one 32. That’s how good you are. And he says, but you’ll learn. And I’ll tell you, the three years I did on Batman were brutal and it was wonderful at times, and really rough at times. But you, cause it’s like, you know, you have to get it done. There’s no excuses. You have to be on time. Because you’re going to affect their publishing schedule.
You’re going to affect other people’s livelihoods. You’re going [00:41:00] to affect store owners. And most importantly, the people who show up on Wednesday or Thursday to pick up their books. And so it all, so I can’t be in the mood. I have to draw whether I’m in the mood or not. He that’s the stuff he meant, but out of it, he says you’ll become something. So I thought it was pretty good up to that point. But then. That made me think. I’m not that good. I’m spending all this time on a book of, like you said, of course it should be good. So what I look for now is the guy who can do maybe 10 issues, 12 issues or something that crucible, and then see what you get because that’s a comic book artist.
That’s not an art. That’s not an artist who does comics. It’s like Doug said, that’s a comic book artist, and those are a rare breed. So I went, okay. I wasn’t. And at that time I said, okay, I’m not a comic book artist. I got to do something like that. [00:42:00] to sit down and do that. Cause now I’m not I’m, I’m just this artsy fartsy guy to him.
So I’ve got to do some, you know, but he was right. It’s a very blue collar.
Kenric:well, it’s a, it’s a blue collar, point of view. And it’s definitely that brute force of, working through something that, you know, you’re working towards that where they say 10,000 hours to master anything, you know, and that’s what you’re working towards. And David Lee Roth had a great quote about the 10,000 hours.
He says, that’s a lie. It’s really a hundred thousand hours.
Kelley:It is. And, and, and I’ll tell you what, it never stops because I still sit here. I still like today I sent some stuff to a friend of another artist, friend of mine, and I said, I’m too close to this. I don’t know if I like this sequence or not. And I’m going to have to turn it in, but I don’t know if I like it cause I’m so close to it.
So even after all this time, I couldn’t see. And I, and I’ve said, I’m not asking, you know, and he knows the film, Tara, we don’t do it for compliments or anything. It’s like, tell me what you [00:43:00] think. Cause before I go on stage, I want to make sure my voice is working and, and that’s how it is. So, and at that point we go back and forth, but you, you always are trying to get better.
You’re always trying to get good.
Kelley:And, and, another friend of mine is getting back into it. He was an editor for a long time and he wanted to get back into doing regular freelancing. And he asked, he asked me my, what advice he could give, because he had been out of it for so long. And I said, well, I gave him a bunch of things that were more practical.
I said, but the number one thing I told him, I said, the number one thing you do is you don’t look at people now. Or the current climate now and say, I’m going to Pete with that. You pick your very favorite period, the period that made you want to be a comic book, writer, artist, whatever, that’s the period you can feed with.
Kenric:that’s interesting. Yeah. That’s a great way to think about it.
Kelley:Yeah. So I’m still trying to get a job with George Orlando and see if he’ll hire [00:44:00] me to take over swamping after rights and quits. You know, that was my thing. I’m wondering if Roy Thomas will hire me to do Conan after Barry leaves. That’s how you,
Kenric:We had a Jim Starlin on, just a couple of days ago. And you know, he talked about Thanos being as his dad was quest being his favorite book he ever did. And do you have a favorite like that? Because I was shocked. I, I always, every time I talked to her creative, I always think, you know, someone who’s very creative and in working in this industry, I always think that their favorite book is whatever.
The last one they just did. You know, and this part of me is like, nah, that could be a cop out. They might just be trying to sell it, but it could be 100% true as well. You know what I mean? Like this could be it
Kelley:know, I agree. And in my first thing, if I were to say a favorite book, it would be the dead man prestige books I did in 87, 88, whenever they
Kelley:not. And I don’t know, and I’m not talking about the finished product. I’m not talking about that because there’s a lot of things I could [00:45:00] have done better.
There’s a lot of things I got better at that’s not, it, it was a perfect period. It was it’s it, that whole experience made me love what I do not want to do it, not just be here and happy to be here, but love doing it. Meaning, huh. I w I was returned to that 12 year old
Kenric:Oh, I love that.
Kelley:and, and it, because of the circumstances.
I had been very frustrated for six years, not being able to do. I mean, the first few years, I can’t say that I was just happy to be there, but subsequently I wasn’t allowed to be myself and I didn’t and not, no one is being mean to me. It wasn’t that it’s just, they were saying, Kelly, you’re better suited doing this.
They saw who I was and stereotype me and that’s it. And so I was never going to get those kids that I wanted. I was
Kenric:Here’s the Kelly box. It’s going to take a lot to break out of the Kelly box.
Kelley:And that Kelly box wasn’t horror. It was science FIC. [00:46:00] They saw the scifi artists. And, okay. So when I got over to D C Sam, Keith had went over to DC and he had known I was frustrated and he says, Hey, I’m over here.
I’m doing a book. I’m not really crazy about doing, would you want to help me on it? And then you’ll get to know the editor. And I said, well, if the editor will have me, I can do that. Now I was under contract. Marvel and I shouldn’t have done it, but I was so frustrated. I figured, well, what, what’s the worst that can happen
Kenric:You got to take that chance. You’ve got to take that leap.
Kelley:right. So I said, okay. And it wasn’t a very good book that he got, he was inking. It, it wasn’t very good. And we worked on it, but we worked our asses off to make it as good as we could. And it wasn’t good. Not because the art wasn’t good. It was different than what he and I wanted to do, but it’s all we could get. Well, he goes off to go do teas. He goes off to do Sandman and I go off to do dead [00:47:00] man, because that editor, he went off, you know, and got hooked up through Karen, whatever. And I got hooked up through, Barbara, Barbara Kiesel and, she not knowing I wanted where I didn’t tell her I wanted a horse.
She just said one day. I kind of like what you’re doing on this books, isn’t it. I know your pencil. Do you, could you do these a eight page action comic weekly with dead man? And it wasn’t. I never told her, I liked her, never told her I wanted, and of course I jumped at it. And even though it was a book that nobody was care about a character nobody cared about.
I had more fun on that than the high exposure stuff I’d been on and thoroughly loved it. And. When she called me about it, I thought it was to fire me. Cause that’s when I changed him without T I’d never asked, I just did
Kenric:Yeah, you just did it.
Kelley:just did it. And, and when I thought they were going to, and she didn’t, she, but she didn’t call him, praise me.
She [00:48:00] didn’t say it’s one of, she goes again. I’m not really crazy about how you do it, but I see you care about what you do. And I think that that resonates. So I want you to do more of what you’re doing. Which is better than someone who says, I love you.
Kenric:I love what you’re doing so much. I care about what you’re you can tell when you, when, when someone’s passionate about something and they care about it, it comes across.
Kelley:she, she liked more mainstream, standardized art. And here I am doing wacky weirdness, but she knew I cared about it. And she said, I know there’s a market for this. I know this is going to resonate. Well, that’s all I needed to hear. And then. A few weeks later, she goes, I want to tell you how many people in the officer coming by and looking at this and making copies of it just for themselves, other artists
Kelley:And so at that point, she goes over to Richard Bruning and says, do you want to do the graphic novel? She says, I’m going to insist you do it with him. She [00:49:00] got me the job and Richard Harmeet, but all he did once they gave it to me guys, they just said it’s due in a year. Here’s the script go to town. They were busy with more important things. You know, Batman, Superman wonder woman, Aqua man, justice league, those kinds of things, not dead man being level character that we do once every seven years. so I was left alone and nobody there’s no hype. There’s no content. I wouldn’t hear from editors for six weeks, seven weeks, two months. And I would just, but I was enjoying it.
It was like, I was that kid after school I’d come home, I get my pencil out and start drawing and I got to do that every day. And, it was so when I love that book, it’s really, I it’s wrapped in that. I love doing salmon. I loved red rain.
[00:50:00] Kenric:Oh, rhetoric is so good. I have that on. I have the hard cover that,
Kelley:Okay. I love, I love the three years on Batman. I loved those three years on
Kelley:but if I had to pick something, it would be dead, man, because it was at that moment. There’s a purity. It was, I was, I was an absolute, pure situation of anything can happen. Nobody’s caring what I do. I’m the one who cares.
I get to the total freedom because no one cares and it, it, it just, and when it came out, it was as big a thing that happened to me. I went from no one to all these award nominations, all the main crew, all the main line creators
Kenric:Eisner and everything.
Kelley:And I remember that’s when I would, They had me come down to San Diego, DC had, and pulled me off into a corner and said, we want you to, what do you want to do?
[00:51:00] Cause we see you doing all this scary stuff. Do you want to do it? Absolutely. I mean, that was what I wanted the stereotyping, but I didn’t want it to be science fiction. I want it to be this kind of stuff. Kind of horror, film noir kind of stuff.
Kenric:Oh, I love that story, Kelly, because that just shows the passion that you have for what you’re doing. And that was like your quintessential time for Kelly to be Kelly and not any nothing else was no, no surrounding no, no ulterior motives going on. Just do what you want to do with this character.
And you took it to the limit. I love it.