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Biographies of the Stars

Interview with Kelley Jones (1994)

COMIC-ART.COM: Kelley, in looking over some of your work on The Sandman, I was struck by how original your vision of Hell was and I just thought that perhaps we could talk about that.


COMIC-ART.COM: Well, to begin with, what gave you your ideas for what Hell looked like visually?

KELLEY: Some of that stuff was just, you know, little things that have always kicked around in my head, in terms of what that would be like. I mean what make that really frightening. And a lot of times it was never was just big, horrible, ugly, monstrous things, as much it was just immensity, that it went on and on and on, it was kind of dull and colorless, and it certainly, you know, there's horrible things going on, but there's also, nothing going on, and so visually you try to get across a lot of that, you know, just, I mean I wanted the gates, I remember in particular wanting the gates to be nasty. And I wanted a lot of, you know, I wanted to go from it being extremely, you know, sophisticated, to almost primitive, to reflect all different times, that they didn't necessarily, in Hell, they kind of just built as the new incoming came, they kind of kept up with what we were doing, you know? And that's how I saw it, a just sort of conglomeration of what was going on in the world of the living was going on there.

COMIC-ART.COM: One thing I noticed was that the gates of Hell looked distinctly Gieger-esque.

KELLEY: I was thinking along the lines of a living thing, that the gate itself was this, not so much that maybe it was living and breathing and had to be fed, but that it just grew and grew and grew, that I believe when Hell started it, to me it wasn't like Hell was this huge place, it was, you know, as many people were there, you know? It was like very small, and it just grew and grew and grew as more people came in, as it gained in its own power, and so I wanted that to be reflected, like that this, the gates themselves would be this, you know, rather than rebuilding it, they just, more organic in that sense, and just sort of stretched as necessary to take the inflow of that. A lot of the stuff, I don't think it was, you know, really heavily discussed, it was just sort of, I think my tenure on Sandman was always kind of my interpretation rather than anything more than, you know, ooh, we got together and worked it. It was just sort of much, you know, do it as it came.

COMIC-ART.COM: Did Gaiman give you much direction as far as how things should look?

KELLEY: Well, yeah, as I remember, there was a, he would mention like certain places and certain things as he described it, but he was very, he was very good about just not, you know, if I went in this direction or that direction, that was fine.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, so he was pretty flexible?

KELLEY: Oh, yeah. I think at that, in that period, though, you know, when you're doing a monthly, and whatnot, I think that, as I remember, they were very impressed with what I was doing. And I was, I think at that point, they were just letting it go. I mean they didn't know what, you know, I would sometimes do a change here or a change there, but they were liking the results, so...

COMIC-ART.COM: They didn't mess with it too much?

KELLEY: No. Not at all. As I remember, not anything.

COMIC-ART.COM: And in another story in the same run of issues I see the Silver City and it looks very much like the Hawkmen's city in Flash Gordon.

KELLEY: Actually, I was thinking of, it to me it was just, you know you always think of those great Roy Krenkel cities.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, is that more what your inspiration was?

KELLEY: Yeah. I was thinking of those great Roy Krenkel cities that you know, that were just sort of floating in the void, you know? And, I mean in a comic book, how can you really draw Hell or Heaven or anything that is so awe-inspiring that, you know, I remember a great thing Jack Kirby and Stan Lee did and they were, it was during the Rigel colonizers stories years ago. I think it was in the 130s of Thor, and in it, I mean, there's this one panel thing, it is so awesome and so incredible and so wonderful that you know it's incapable of being drawn. Obviously Jack didn't have time to draw this thing that Stan had wanted, but they nailed it. So, in my head I always thought, man, that must have been really cool, but you're actually asked to draw something like that, you know, it's difficult, so at that point I tried to not show as much as I was asked to show, to give the atmosphere of it.

COMIC-ART.COM: More implying things?

KELLEY: Right, because there's no way to, you know, I'm not a great architect, so you know, it's like, I don't think God would come to me and say design something. (Laughs)

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well, I noticed you did a lot with color, and like, as you said, just suggesting things.

KELLEY: Well, that's to me, see I always treated Sandman as clearly a horror title. I didn't see it anything but horror and so at that point I think it lent itself well, I mean when I sat down and did it, it was just pure atmosphere, and the suggestion of it. I mean I'm big on Val Lewton and to me, if they made a film of Sandman, they would use Val Lewton.

COMIC-ART.COM: If he was alive, of course.

KELLEY: If he, well, that makes it even better, if he directed it if he was dead. But the suggestion, those films were so powerful, and that style is so powerful, I think it worked really well, using that same feel works real well.

COMIC-ART.COM: Interesting. Yeah, and your conception of Lucifer was quite beautiful, you know, quite beyond the cliche of the fellow with the red skin and the horns and all that.

KELLEY: Well, Neil had mentioned that he had always thought of him as kind of a Bowie-esque character and so I started with that and then thought in terms of Apollo. The whole time I was thinking more of Apollo, or all the sculptures of Apollo that's beautiful, perfect figure, and considering that Lucifer was, you know, before his fall, the most beautiful of the, you know, of all of the angels and whatnot, that just seemed like a natural.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, and now that you mentioned Apollo, that really does ring with the image you drew.

KELLEY: Well, and that's what was directly influencing me, more than anything else was the idea of Apollo.

COMIC-ART.COM: And the character Mazukene (sp?) with the sort of half face, did you have to study any anatomy texts and stuff?

KELLEY: I, well, you know, that's the silly thing. I, before I got into doing this all the time, I had taken a pre-med forensic class, so I know anatomy inside out and backwards, having seen it and studied and whatnot, and that was always my jumping point, I mean I think it's really funny when people come up to me and they'll say, `Geeze, you have such a wonky style,' and you know, they assume you don't know it, but it's by knowing it that I can, you know, exaggerate here and there, and comics lend itself to that, so when you're asked to do something like that, it's good to be able put a lot of that stuff to use, because a lot of people were horrified by the non-exploitive way of doing that. I mean, she's just there with a half a face. It's not grabbing it or holding it or anybody, and no one's making any particular mention of it, it's just the way she is. You know, no more than a wart, I guess.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, and I think that's intrinsically more horrible. You know, if you make it more matter-of-fact.

KELLEY: Yeah, and to me, that's what makes anything really work well, if you're doing stuff like this, is that certainly you want, you know, at a horrible moment you want everyone to notice it, but sometimes it is doing something where everyone's looking by it and you notice it, and that has always stopped people, when they look at something like that. I had the same thing happen in Deadman, with the fat lady sequence, where it was just this matter-of-fact thing and you know, she quite nicely consumes a person, and a lot of people always stopped at that one, or where Deadman, there's a scene where Deadman kisses the beautiful woman and everyone's grossed out by that, which is really nice because it is an axe murder going on, and that's what stops them, rather than an obvious piece of violence.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. Another thing I was struck by in looking over your run on the Sandman was the story with the cats. And I was just wondering if you're a cat person at all?

KELLEY: Well, yeah. My, I had one, my cat Knuckles was the model for most of the cats in it, you know because I had a lot of pictures of him, and he was put through his paces to like pose for a lot of that stuff, so Knuckles you know, it helps having a cat. I mean he generally sits on my lap when I'm working anyway.

COMIC-ART.COM: Did he ever lose patience with you?

KELLEY: Oh, constantly, I mean, he's a pretty, he's a big orange tabby, so he can put up with a lot, you know? They'll sit there a lot, but after a while I was having a friend of mine come over and actually hold him in certain positions I needed.

COMIC-ART.COM: I'll bet he loved that. Yeah, and what gave you the idea for the field of bones in that same issue?

KELLEY: I believe, I believe something Neil had asked for, all these, like all the little things they eat.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, it looked like a lot of little bird skulls.

KELLEY: Yeah, so I just went and thought, well, little rodents and birds and things like that. You know, they eat that, so it seemed to me like that would make a nice image.

COMIC-ART.COM: Do you ever keep that kind of stuff around your studio, Kelley, skulls, and...?

KELLEY: Yeah. Uh-huh.

COMIC-ART.COM: What kind of things do you have?

KELLEY: I have the gamut from, you know, I have dinosaur bones to Roman and Greek stones from temples. I have, you know, like all different kinds of sculpture, from Pre-Columbian and, uh, all types of bric-a-brac like that, and you know, an old opium kit from the turn of the century, a Chinese opium kit that's kind of neat. God, just all, I had some people come by about three weeks ago to read religious tracts and I invite 'em in, and you know I'm always nice and will listen and I think they were upset for about five minutes when they started, their eyes adjusted to the dimness of my house and saw all these little gargoyles and things peering at them, you know, so I don't even think about it, see? And then I started feeling, oh boy, I have some oddball stuff in here, you know?

COMIC-ART.COM: A fellow I knew once got rid of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They came to his apartment door and he was naked, and he invited them in and they quickly left.

KELLEY: Well, yeah, they will. And, I mean I'm always polite and will listen to them, but having read up on a lot of that stuff, I'll always ask them about certain things, not in any effort to dissuade them of their belief, but to, you know, kind of call to the fact that they've walked in my house and are telling me I'm going to burn somewhere, you know? (Laughs) In a very nice way. They're always so polite about it, but then I always question them and say, `Well, do you know that the beginning of, say, the Mormon church is also considered a UFO event to some people?' So, you know

those kind of things, although I don't have a problem with Mormons per se, or Jehovah's Witnesses or anything, but if they walk into your house, you know, they have to hear some too.

COMIC-ART.COM: Uh-huh, well, that's reasonable. Well, are you religious at all?

KELLEY: Not really, I mean I'm not, I can see the value of it, so I mean, not in a condescending way, But I can see the value of it, so I don't really rail against it, so I don't really rail against it. I don't, I think there's a lot of positive things to it, that I see a lot of people complain, you know, about, I see no real distinction between someone fervently religious and political as someone secularly fervent and political, you know what I mean?

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, I do.

KELLEY: It makes no difference to me. If I see people who are angry about, you know, furs and clothing or something or eating of meat, they're no different to me than someone who's really, really religious. I mean, that's just the way it is. I mean, they believe in what they believe and they're going to go out and do something about it. Good. You know, as long as they don't tell me I can't do what I want to do, more power to 'em.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, because in looking over a lot of your work, it always seems like there's more there under the surface than you actually draw, I mean.

KELLEY: Well, I put in a lot of little things, and it makes a long day, but I do put in a lot of things that are intended for the people who go back and look, they'll find stuff. Or, to me, it's always been, if I'm successful at it, if I wasn't doing it, they would notice it. But if I do it right, they generally don't notice it, it's just, it's like a good soundtrack or something, or a good, you know, some good backbeat, you know. If it's really good, and it's doing it's job it sets a good tone and atmosphere. And, I, to tell you the truth, get really bored by it. The trick to me is finding a panel or a page that's transitional or really kind of dull that most people don't consider interesting as an artist, and making it interesting, doing something with it to make it interesting, because anyone can do the other stuff, I mean that's what we're paid to do. It's the other stuff, like I said, the boring, transitional stuff, you know, that to me is truly interesting, I mean challenging I guess is a better word.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, a way to make a bland scene come alive.

KELLEY: Uh-huh. It stretches you a little bit. And then, when I'm doing the other stuff, you know, it's trying to do it in a way that's maybe different than what people have seen. Not just to be different for the sake of it, but to be interesting for the sake of it.

COMIC-ART.COM: I suppose that's where your interest in film comes in handy.

KELLEY: Yeah. Yeah. Well it does. That's where I learned symbolism and that's where I learned foreshadowing, and that's where I learned how to, with pictures, get across things that would really, really add, and lend a quality to the work, whether you want it to be light, or whether you wanted it to be ominous, it's something that I really, personally have always enjoyed in other peoples' work, so it's something that I felt, you know, film did a lot, and you know, you can look at that and use it, and it makes for the memorable sequences that you don't really find in comic books too much anymore.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's true. Not these days.

KELLEY: There aren't, there aren't, I don't hear people talking about sequences in comics anymore because you don't have sequential storytellers anymore. And, so now they just, you know, when you see a two-page spread of people watching a monitor, you know, I'm, it's amazing that that is what passes now.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well, it seems like in film, too, a lot of the visual storytelling and the writing, there'll be good scenes, but there's no flow, like in a lot of the old movies, where the story builds to a definite peak. You see that in comics, too.

KELLEY: Well, I think that's because a lot of times you don't find people writing with an ending in mind. I think they write with a stretching it out for as long as they can in mind. I always took exception, I mean I've lost interest in books when subplots weren't resolved, because I was looking at that and then it would get to the point, I'd go, `But what about this guy, or this situation?' And nothing ever happened, or, you know, or I mean, it seemed to me a lot of cheating, a lot of cheating's going on right now, and no one's really thinking about, you know, what it is they're doing, more than they're worried about their own personal, you know, how they're received, or how many times they're mentioned somewhere or whatnot, rather than thinking about how good of a book it is that they're really trying to do. You know?

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, I know. I see the same thing you were just describing in novels, in film, in comics. It's just there's no narrative thrust.

KELLEY: No. And it's really disappointing. I think what you have happen is, man, I hate to say this, but you do have a lot of people, if it's not there, they don't know how to look for it, so when you do it, they don't know what it is you're doing, and they end up confused. And unfortunately, we're having more and more people, whether it's in comics or other forms of entertaining media, not knowing their basics, and I don't mind, I'm certainly guilty of it, going off and kind of changing things to my own way of seeing it, but I certainly came from a point of having learned some of this stuff. You know, it isn't necessary to know every little detail, but you've gotta know how to, how to get what's in your head on paper, and into somebody's heart, I mean and that just seems to be not even, I mean I say that, and people's eyes glaze over. So, you know, it's just the way things have turned out to be, although if you do it, you know they seem to really respond.

COMIC-ART.COM: And probably don't even know what they're responding to.

KELLEY: That's the way the best art works, the best music, the best anything, I mean, it just hits you and for whatever reason I've always said that for me, the best stuff that gets me going, whether it's, and particularly in horror comics, is the relatability of it. If you can relate to it, then it's scary. But I used to sit through all those, you know, the whole glut of slasher films and didn't give a shit. I mean I just sat there, and ehhh, it doesn't mean anything.

COMIC-ART.COM: Just once I would love to see, you know, the scared girl in the negligee rummaging through the tools, she says, `Gee, am I going to take the flashlight or the .357 Magnum?'

KELLEY: Well, or you'd like it be her who's the killer, you know?

COMIC-ART.COM: That would be a nice twist.

KELLEY: And you know, where she's the one who's doing something, or anything, but you know, that's why, people have always wondered well, if you go back and look at some of the great films that were considered gory at the time, they're not gory at all. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not gory, Night of the Living Dead certainly isn't gory, and those films, I mean for years, captured people in a way that, you know, I can remember, just people wouldn't see it at all, not even if they were into it because it was too horrifying, but now, I mean, it's so, it's just I don't know. You watch them now and you go, `What were they so scared of?' Because you've seen the most incredible gore in the world going, and with no thought, so it's meaningless, and to that extent, you can translate that to what goes on in the "superhero comics" that are just endless fight scenes and armored guys and it means nothing now.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, it's sort of like a plastic replica of Jack Kirby.

KELLEY: Uh-huh. Well, Jack was always, you always knew the character while that was going on. That was always forefront. I mean I always knew that Thor was a big, you know, a big do-gooder and he had a real, naive, simplistic, heroic way about him no matter what he was doing, whereas you knew Ben Grimm was a guy who had a real, a real sadness to him. And I mean he got that across all the time, and it's, and you know that it doesn't just come from a remarkable drawing skill because there's a lot of people who have that. It came that he was thinking about it, I mean when he drew it there was a different thing going on while he did that.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well, something like Captain America's fight scenes, that wasn't just a mindless punchout, there was a real kinetic quality.

KELLEY: He was fighting for America.


KELLEY: And you got that across, and it wasn't this jingoistic thing, it was he honestly believed in what he was fighting for. And you got that all the time. He couldn't lose. He was Captain America. You know, he couldn't lose. Everything would fall apart if he did. I mean that was wonderful.

COMIC-ART.COM: Talking about fight scenes. Have you had a chance to do any good ones in Batman yet?

KELLEY: Yeah, actually, it's funny you mention that in that the very first I did one, and I worked it, when it comes out, I mean, if people read this and see that, they'll see what I'm talking about with the cinematic point of view, because I did it very much in terms of film rather than comic book, you know, one image meets another image. I've always felt that in comics I wanted to feel, I wanted to see the bruises and bleeding and the soreness afterwards, too. And a lot of times you just don't see it.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's true. People go through these hellacious combats without a scratch.

KELLEY: Oh, any fight I've been in, I don't really remember the fight, I just remember not wanting to do it again because it didn't feel very good.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, getting punched in the face hurts.

KELLEY: Oh, and, or punched in the stomach. I can always watch a fight and I go: `How can those guys...?' Oooh, one punch in the stomach, I'm down. You know, I've had it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. Yeah. Well, what are some of the great film fights you recall?

KELLEY: Well, probably, if I'm to think of one offhand, certainly the fight scenes in Raging Bull, but that's pretty obvious. I always liked the fight scenes between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, in the Dracula films.

KELLEY: And they're always running and kicking and punching and grabbing and hacking, and it looked like real fights to me. Someone's always thrown down and scrambling to get out of the way, and it was like real time. I also enjoyed the fight scenes with Sean Connery in any James Bond film.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, yeah. That one with Robert Shaw on the train is a classic.

KELLEY: Oh, that one, and the great fight scene, I forget which one it is, but I know it was a big, in editing, which is brilliant because I believe it was in You Only Live Twice and the fight scene's just brutal. I mean they were cutting out frames of it, but man you really felt the punch. So, I'm trying to do things like that.

COMIC-ART.COM: I was wondering if you've ever seen Marathon Man. The karate fight with Roy Scheider in the hotel suite was a classic.

KELLEY: That was great. Yes, that is great, and I've always enjoyed, to that end, I've always enjoyed for example the little things. When Bogart would hit someone he would always rub his hand because it hurt. And I love it because here's a big tough guy, like in The Big Sleep saying he's scared. And actually the film turns, gains a moral sense when Elisha Cook is killed, and he doesn't know he's being killed but he feels like the whole thing he has to do for Elisha Cook, so he's willing to sit there and be terrified because this guy, in an odd way, died for him. And so the fighting at that point, and everything he does, it's just to be mean or whatever, it has a righteousness to it, and so you try to put that in.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, going back to choreographing a fight for Batman, when you were doing it would you have some basis for how you structured the fight? Perhaps pacing, a piece of music, something like that?

KELLEY: Well, yeah. You think along those lines and you also think, for me I always think about, you know, not so much even the realistic nature of it, but for me, I never, I never really believed a guy getting hit and flying sixteen feet. Then I always thought, well, then you have to run up and hit him again. Whereas I, so I keep them in close quarters. I keep them very close to one another. They may roll around a bit, but they're not going to go flying, splattering, which does not mean that you have a fight that's not exciting. It just means that you've got to think about it. And in fact, thinking, you have a much more brutal, much more intense fight.

COMIC-ART.COM: Right. Right. So, do you see, do you see Batman fighting in terms of a sort of murky Warner's B-movie?

KELLEY: Well, I see him fighting, yeah, I kind of see him fighting like a, you know, Cagney or Bogart. It was always like: Bam, Bam, Bam, over with. You know? He was always pretty quick about it and if he was outmanned or outgunned, then he always uses his gimmicks, then, but generally I try, I do try to make him as frightening as possible before I ever get to a fight, so he is really intimidating, like you would think, if I'm reading it, I want to think that boy, this guy is crazy for even taking on Batman, because his real power is in doing that.

COMIC-ART.COM: Speaking of Batman, were you in on the re-design of his costume at all?

KELLEY: You know I wasn't, but I wasn't involved in the book while that was going on. It came up to me, they had made that decision some months before I came on board, so I really had nothing to do with it. And I'm kind of grateful because I would have done a really crappy one. I liked his old costume a lot. They did, the one they do now is pretty much the same, but...

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, I think one of the only major changes was they eliminated the sort of swimsuit over his tights.

KELLEY: Yeah. I couldn't really tell any, I mean, and that was only, that was even after we had drawn it, so I know that changes were going on through that whole, through that whole time, but to me, making it a black costume was fine. That wasn't so, to me, sacrilegious, you know, because I just, he's a great character the way he is, because I draw him with his cape as, almost wraithlike to that extent and that's part of his intimidation to me, so it didn't really get in the way. My fear would have been if it had been something as ostentatious as the whole thing going on with Azrael and whatnot.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh yeah, the sort of armored costume?

KELLEY: Well, that's the reason I wouldn't have done it then. I can't, I can't believe in that Batman. And then it's not, you know, I do believe that at certain times you've got to have change and stuff, but that's not the direction I would have went in.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, yeah. Well, in doing Batman, how are you enjoying working with Doug Moench?

KELLEY: I love it. I love it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Tell me, are Doug's scripts very detailed?

KELLEY: Where they need to be, but generally they're pretty, they're pretty, I mean they're succinct. They tell you what you need to know, they tell you, they're very visual, in a very brief way, and, so it's obvious you can tell this guy knows how comics work, what can work in a panel. I mean he doesn't say, I need a silhouette shot of a guy in the dark, blah, blah, blah. I mean he knows how comics work, so he asks you for things, but he always leaves it like, creatively very free. It's an odd thing, because generally, if someone's very visual, it can lock you in, but it's not. I mean he leaves it, the interpretation never is stilted by what he's asking for. He's generally character-motivated, and I really do think that, you know, at least in our working together, that's the thing that always hits me, and really, if it doesn't hit you as an artist, it's not going to work, because a lot of the stuff he asks for may not sound exciting on the surface, but when they're in a comic book, they're, I can't imagine not having it in there. You know, it's what makes the whole thing work. So, that when you see all these wonderfully character-driven little moments happening, these things where you get to see people, when you do get to the big conclusion or the big conflict, all that stuff's working in your head. You know where they're coming from, you know why they're doing what they're doing. I do not see why people who do comics do not find that interesting. And I'm not talking about the readers. I'm talking about the people who do it. I cannot see how they cannot get into that. That's where all the, that's where the grist is, and when you get it down, and then you get to that fight scene or that conclusion or whatever it is, oh, it's, it's completely cathartic, and for them not to do that, it's just, it's why comics are as dull as they are.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, yeah. I agree. Well, did you find it intimidating at all to take on such a famous character?


COMIC-ART.COM: Did you think, `Oh my god, the fans'll kill me for this?'

KELLEY: I thought more in terms, I thought more in terms of the people who had done it before, you know? I had always thought in terms of the Dick Sprangs and the Jerry Robinsons and the Marshall Rogers and Neal Adams and people like that. There are people who have done this character brilliantly. And a lot of people have done it, but very few get known for it, so coming on to it like that was pretty, pretty stiff. I mean I remember that, fifteen minutes into the drawing I'm fine. But that week or so before the script came and I was sitting there, it was a pretty long week.

COMIC-ART.COM: Tell me, is there much pressure from the DC administration?

KELLEY: Not that I've felt. Not that I've felt. Not from any higher-ups. There might have been some confusion over the cover, the costume, but that had nothing to do with me. So, but as far as I've really been involved in it, you know they sent me, there were some screwups in the beginning about the reference, but once they got me the reference, everything's been fine.

COMIC-ART.COM: Okay, let's wrap up talking just a bit about your hammer thing for Dark Horse. Mike had wanted a little more info on the Hammer.


COMIC-ART.COM: Just a little greater detail.

KELLEY: Have you seen any of it?


KELLEY: Did they fax you any of it?


KELLEY: Okay, good.

COMIC-ART.COM: I'm going into this totally blind. I haven't seen any of your pages or what the character looks like other than just my mental picture from your description last time.

KELLEY: Right. Uh-huh.

COMIC-ART.COM: So, you're working on Batman now. Are you working on the Hammer at all?

KELLEY: Yeah. I work it on, you know, I do a page, I'll draw a page. Batman will certainly will come first. And since I do my own inking on the other one I don't have to draw as detailed. I basically do a breakdown.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, did you get John Beatty for Batman, as you wanted?

KELLEY: Uh-huh.

COMIC-ART.COM: Okay, so you're inking your own work on...

KELLEY: On The Hammer, and John's doing the Batman, so everything's worked out really well as far as that all goes. Because I feel very taken care of with Beatty, you know, if I make a screwup, or if there's something that he can handle that and in terms of him finishing me off as well as I would like to be finished, he does that to. So, I'm very pleased with him being on there. It's very hard to find a guy who has as much skill as he does, but maybe that's because he's a pretty good artist in his own right, you know, as pencilling goes, he can draw, so he knows what he's doing, so I don't have to worry about that.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, so that kind of frees you up creatively to concentrate on The Hammer?

KELLEY: Yeah, because I can sit there and then kind of, and also, it gives me the chance to do some experimentation without having it, you know, go through DC, where they're going to go: `What are you doing?' You know? They can, they can breathe easy and know that I'll work it out somewhere else.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, with saying experimentation, are you referring to, like page layouts, storytelling?

KELLEY: Well, stuff that might be, yeah, a little left of center, because certainly on Batman, I'm, I've changed up on him pretty good. I mean I've pushed that pretty far in terms of how I interpret him, how I make the whole book a lot darker, a lot of things that generally, they might have problems with, but they're allowing me because I'm kind of known for that. But when I talk about further, I'm talking about sometimes subject matter and whatnot. You know, I can, I would certainly not in a book like Batman, want to see some of this stuff, so I'll put it in, I'll put it somewhere you know, where it's perfectly applicable.

COMIC-ART.COM: What kind of subject matter do you mean, specifically.

KELLEY: Well, I like misdirection, and so, in it, you know my version of what a gory book would be, or my version of what violence would be, you know. That's sometimes a bit far.

COMIC-ART.COM: One thing I got from talking to you last time was, I got an impression that The Hammer is going to have a lot of real dark humor, things that are basically pretty nasty.

KELLEY: Yes, very, very, well, and that's the biggest thing, and that's what I was getting to, at least on the writing end, is that it's a very sarcastic, very, very black humor, black comedy. It's, I mean it is, in a certain sense, takes things that everyone talks about as maybe being, I mean the whole thing to me is, it would be very easy to say, `Oh, it's not politically correct.' What it is is just when you have a lot of things that are perceived as truths, people don't look any further than this, take it on face value, and with all the spin control that goes on nowadays, I think it's, to me it'll be refreshing, it'll just be refreshing. To have something that when you read it, you'll go, `I didn't know that. That can't possibly be true.' But, you know I finally have a place for all this history and anthropology.

COMIC-ART.COM: Uh-huh. That's interesting.


COMIC-ART.COM: So, is that going to be sort of woven into the fabric of the story?

KELLEY: Oh, there'll be things that I would imagine would piss people off because it flies in the face of everything they're being told. And I'm not making it up, so if they don't like it, they can, I'll tell them where they can find it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Okay. Well, when do you expect we'll see any of The Hammer?

KELLEY: I'm working towards trying to have that out by the summer, but it will be out in '95, but of course now watch, it'll be 96 or something and I'll be hung for it. But...

COMIC-ART.COM: Famous last words, right?

KELLEY: But, I'm working furiously on that. It took a long time to get that first one done, not so much to get it done in a drawing sense, but to make sure with my editor that some of this stuff was going to be the right direction and...God, I don't want to get them in trouble and maybe I'm making more of it than I should but there's some pretty nasty stuff in there that isn't even in, you know, I'm not talking about visual depiction, I'm talking about what these people are saying, and why they're doing what they're doing. And then of course I have some lighter moments in there, too, but I'm doing this with a genuine feeling, not just to rant and rave and scream.

COMIC-ART.COM: And this is something that sounds like it's definitely going to be intended for the adults.

KELLEY: Well, you know, I'm making a point that it's, that you certainly get ahold of it. I'm not...You know, to me, it won't be by them yelling profanities at one another, it'll be by them yelling basically these ideas, to, in a certain sense, do the ends justify the means, and in other ways, you know, in certain areas of our society we vilify and sanctify without really going any further than because we say, because we feel guilty or whatnot and never go any deeper, you know? We have a, it's very easy in our culture to say, this person's guilty, or this person's innocent, or, this is black and this is white. And I don't like that. I always feel that you can dish it out, the good and the bad, equally pretty much to everybody in every segment, even Mother Theresa.

We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript

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