Kelley Jones Batman Gallery Edition
Pencilled by Kelley Jones, Written by Doug Moench, Inked by John Beatty, Lettered by Todd Klein, Colors by Greg Wright, Original Series Editor Dennis O’Neil
Design by Brainchild Studios/NYC, Edited by Bob Chapman
248 pages 12×17 trim size
NOTE: I have included photos from the book that will give you an idea of what the book looks like but it really doesn’t show you how great the book looks like when you see it. Hopefully it will give you a taste of what the book looks like.
It all started back in 2010 that IDW started the Artist Edition series of oversized hardcover books that did high quality scans of the original artwork and put them together in high quality books that retailed for $100.00 and up. After that many other publishers like Dark Horse, Titan, Dynamite, and Genesis West have jumped into the game with their art reproduction books with varying success. Now Graphitti Designs has teamed up with DC Comics and has released their first Gallery Edition of Kelly Jones Batman. The description of the book from Graphitti is;
Graphitti Designs proudly launches their new, large-format hardcover book series with BATMAN: KELLEY JONES GALLERY EDITION. For the first time ever, Dark Knight fans and collectors will have the opportunity to see and own museum-quality reproductions of memorable Batman art…as it was originally conceived by the artist.
Printed in color from high-resolution scans of the actual original art, this first entry in Graphitti Designs’ new Gallery Editions line replicates the look, feel and attitude of the artwork. Every page is reproduced at original size on heavy paper stock, capturing the artwork stray pencil marks, whiteout, coffee stains and all! The pages are alive with all of the subtleties and nuances one would expect from BATMAN: KELLEY JONES GALLERY EDITION is the first in a series of deluxe, hardcover books from Graphitti Designs that faithfully reproduces the original art from select, key DC Comics series.
This inaugural volume contains the covers and interior pages from BATMAN #515 through #525, minus the interior of issue #520, which Kelley did not draw. These stories are
Written by Doug Moench, with most pages inked by John Beatty. Graphitti Designs’ Gallery Editions reproduce the look, feel and attitude of the original art as it was Access to original art is an absolute must for the originally created by the artist. Though it appears to be printed in black and white, the contents of remains in the hands of the artists, most stories have these books are sourced from high-resolution, full-color scans taken directly from the artwork. Each high-quality, Smythe-sewn hardcover book captures every detail of the art at actual-size, and are printed at 200 line-screen on a rich, heavy paper stock. Replicating the original art experience is our goal. Our Gallery Editions are the next best thing to holding the original art in your hands and easier success of future Gallery Editions. Though some art been split up and scattered to fans and collectors across the world. Knowing that we have our work cut out for us, Graphitti Designs’ approach is both pragmatic and practical while retaining our focus to produce the best, most definitive editions ever. We at Graphitti Designs pledge to always do our best to pack each Gallery Edition with the best source material available. With the help of the comics fan and collector community, we’re confident you’ll be very pleased with the books we produce.
Unless noted otherwise, the images in this book were scanned in color at 600dpi from the original art. Printed actual size at 200 line screen on 160gsm, acid free paper stock, this is the firs book in the Graphitti Design ongoing, large-format, hardcover book series. The art in this book is presented in the context of the complete original stories. Graphitti Designs has made every effort to locate and obtain scans of the original art represented in this book. With the passing of time, most of the originals that still exist have been dispersed and sold and individual pages to fans of the medium worldwide. Original guides by colorist Gregory Wright, photostats and copies created for actual production were used where the original line art was unobtainable.
Let me start off by talking about the elephant in the room. This book is going to be compared to the IDW Artist Editions because that is the current standard for this type of book. I will use the Walter Simonson’s Manhunter Artist Edition as a comparison to the Kelley Jones Batman.
Walter Simonson’s Manhunter
178 pages (8 pages shot from photostats)
List price $125.00
Kelley Jones Batman
248 pages (54 pages shot from photostats with 26 from color artwork)
List price $125.00
To be a little fairer Walt Simonson kept all of his original artwork and the 8 pages from the Manhunter book were lost by DC Comics. In the case of Kelley Jones the artwork was originally split between him and inker John Beatty. Neither Jones or Beatty kept much of the original artwork for the issues. In the case of the Batman Gallery Edition there are 54 non original artwork pages that is about 22% that is not shot from the original artwork and that is a reasonable number. There are two upsides to this. 1) you are able to read the entire story and while this is a book to look at Jones’s stunning artwork the story that drove that artwork is there to enjoy along with the art. 2) The inclusion of Greg Wright’s gorgeous original color guides is a real treat. So they stack up pretty even as far as inclusion of original artwork ratio to photostats.
With the technical stuff out-of-the-way how is the book itself? First I am a huge fan of Kelley Jones art and his work on the 3 year Batman monthly book run is what I consider seminal work in the Batman mythology. Moench and Jones first teamed up on the 1991 Elseworlds hardcover book Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, and later the two sequels Bloodstorm (1994) and Crimson Mist (1999) along with Batman: Dark Joker The Wild (1993) but it was there run on Batman from issue #515 to #522 (with fill in issues for 520/526/533/534/550 had art by J.H. Williams III and Jones) that was very daring for a regular monthly book at the time. Jones was a very adventurous artist for Batman at the time and was far from the normal fare that usually did artwork on the title. Jones had been the cover artist on Batman for a while before taking on the book and is probably best known for his cover for Batman #497 where Bane breaks Batman’s back. He brought a style of art that had been long absent from comics at the time. His artwork is deeply rooted in classic EC and DC mystery books and obvious Universal Monsters and Hammer films that bleed into is artwork. He’s an artist that really knows how to use the layers of black and white to evoke a mood that is very difficult to pull off let alone master it.
This Gallery Edition you are not only able to see the work that went into the artwork but I dare say you are seeing the book in a way that they could have been done. Jones art is perfect in black and white and nothing against the colorist on the run, but seeing his art in that pure form is like reading the story for the first time again. It would be years later that DC did the Batman in Black and White books but seeing Jones art in black and white is simply stunning. It gives the stories a different mood and feel that is rarely seen in a Batman book let alone back in 1995. The other great thing about this book is that it really shows the detail of both Jones’s and Beatty’s work that went into the art. When you see the unfiltered original artwork you are able to appreciate the detail of the work on a whole new level. The reproductions from the photostats is pretty impressive considering the limitations of them and are good quality considering the source. The thing that really blew me away about this book (beyond the actual artwork) was the reproductions of Wright’s color guides from Wright. I am a big fan of really good color work and Wright’s contributions to the run were really good. When the book was done this was before computerized coloring and all of the coloring was done by hand. This is a very rare opportunity to see the color design for the art and it was a very bold approach for the time period. Jones artwork really excels in black and white but Wright task of adding color was a very delicate job and as you can see from the raw original work that it really complements it. It really needs to be noted the incredible contribution of inker Beatty to the book. Jones is an incredible artist and Beatty really was able to complement his pencils but add that detail that a really great inker can bring to the table. The other contributor to the look and feel of the book was the great Todd Klein. All of the lettering and sound effects are all done by hand and there is simply very few who did it well. Klein was and still is one of the best in the business and you can see why in this book.
This is one of those books that really fired on all cylinders so perfectly and is a real gift to any fan of the original run. Graphitti has done an outstanding job on the book but there are a few very minor observation. I wish that there had maybe been a forward and a possible afterwords for the book. I always like to read what an other professional thought of the run and of Jones’s artwork. It would have also been nice if Jones, Beatty, Moench or Wright had been asked for their thoughts on this edition and their run on the book. It might have been nice to see some supplemental material like house ads or raw pencil artwork from Jones. These are not really issues in the scope of the project and there may have not been access to those type of materials for this edition and due to the age of the original run on the book. There are many nice touches that the book did. The overlays with vellum paper for the covers was a really impressive because it allowed you to see both versions of it, the finished and the clean artwork for it. The one that is really impressive is the one for issue #521 that has three layers of artwork for the cover. The paper quality is really good and the sewn spine is nice feels really sturdy. The spot varnish front and back cover adds a nice touch to the look and feel of the book. I really liked the design of for the spine of the book. The rounded spine adds some real class to the book and really makes is stand out from the pack of other artist books on the market. Bob Chapman has been doing high quality hardcover books long before anyone else was. He had set a pretty high bar to start this line of books with. The thing that impresses me the most about this book is that Chapman must have had to convince DC Comics to do a Gallery Edition based on Jones artwork. On the surface marketing wise he is not necessarily the choice that a lot of people would have chosen. I applaud Graphitti for making the bold choice to highlight not only Kelley Jones but the stunning run of Batman that this edition is derived from. I think that it really shows the types of books that Graphitti is looking to do with these Gallery Editions. I also liked that the book had complete stories so that not only you got to see the stunning original artwork but because of the photostats and color guides you are able to read the entire story from the issue. This is really important because a great comic is the melding of both great story and great art. This book is a look at not only the stunning Kelley Jones artwork but the story that makes the artwork work so well. It’s the collaboration of all of the contributors that is the reason that there is a Gallery Edition of the book in the first place.One really nice touch was on the front and back inside cover artwork there are the DC logos over the years and it’s a real nice node to the history of DC Comics.
There are a ton of wish list stuff from the DC catalog that could be given the Gallery Edition treatment. But it will be dependent on the availability and access to the original artwork. Lets be honest the market is becoming saturated with these artwork editions and it’s getting harder to purchase them all. The good news with the Gallery Editions is that they will have a list price unlike the IDW artists editions that don’t have a MSRP that is really problematic. I hope that Graphitti will not flood the market with these editions. Consumers only have so much money to spend on these upscale books and we are already starting to see edition that are a bit questionable.
In the end there is no question that this Kelley Jones Batman Gallery Edition is well worth the $125.00 cover price. This book is not for everyone but for those of us that have fallen in love with the chance to “own” some of our favorite artwork by some of the greatest artists that have ever graces the comic pages, this book is a great addition to your collection. For me this is a real dream come true. I was a huge fan of the run back when it came our originally. The book was way ahead of its time and now is finally getting some of the recognition that is truly deserves. While nowhere nearly the quality of this edition DC has started to reprint the first part of the run in hardcover (you can read my review of that edition HERE).
I will be doing an interview with both Bob Chapman and Kelley Jones next month to talk about this book, the past and what the future holds for them. The book is due in comic shops this week but if you are having trouble finding it here are two links for you to buy the book.
Cheap Graphic Novels has the book at a discounted price.
Graphitti Designs has the book for list price
I will leave you with a little tease of the next Gallery Edition, Frank Miller’s Ronin. I was able to look at a temporary sample of the book and it looks and sounds as good as you think it will be.
Below is some more shots from the book.