Simon and Kirby Cover Art for Early Harvey Comics

Al Harvey must have been a great salesman. With the failure of his concept of pocket-sized comic books you would have thought that would have been the end of Harvey’s publishing career. Instead not only did Speed Comics return in April as a regular size comic, Harvey took over publishing Champ Comics in May, and then even more surprising Green Hornet in June. Al would turn again to Joe Simon, and now Jack Kirby also, to help with the covers.

Starting with a cover date of April 1942 and ending in December are a series of 14 Harvey covers that were obviously done by Simon and Kirby (Speed #17 to #21 and #23; Champ #18 to #21 and #23; and Green Hornet #7 to #9). I say obvious, because they were done at the same time as Simon and Kirby were producing work for DC and all this work show the two forging their own unique style.

But none of the Harvey covers are signed by Joe or Jack. Instead some bear the signature of Jon Henri. Joe has said that he came up with this name. Joe used Henry as a middle name and he liked Jon so much that he gave that name to his first son. The Jon Henri signature appeared on five covers (Champ #18 and #19, Speed #17 and #19, and Green Hornet #7). While Kirby penciled three of the signed covers (Champ #18, Speed #17 and Green Hornet #7), Simon inked all of them. The two covers that Jack penciled and inked (Speed #18 and Green Hornet #9) were unsigned. So while it is probable it was Joe that actually signed as Jon Henri, it was not a pseudonym for him alone.

A new idea was used by Harvey for his re-launched comic book line. As announced on some of the covers, “read the thrilling story behind the cover”. Postal regulations required comic books to include two pages of text. In these Harvey comics the text feature would be a story based on the cover art. While in theory it is possible that Joe and Jack would read an already written story and illustrate it, that does not seem likely. Generally the story pretty much faithfully depicted the cover art, but Simon and Kirby had a long history of deviating from scripts provided. Further, the covers are typical Simon and Kirby works, it does not seem likely that the text writers would have scripted such ideal Simon and Kirby scenes. No it seems much more probably that Joe and Jack did the covers based on their own ideas and the writer then tried to fit a story around the cover.

Speed #17, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) and Jack Kirby (pencils), April 1942

When Harvey resumed publishing, Simon and Kirby were working for National. Joe and Jack’s version of Sandman was out in March , their version of Manhunter and their own creation the Newsboy Legion came out at the same time as Speed #17, and their creation Boy Commandos would come out in October. National was even using the Simon and Kirby name on their covers. It was pretty unusual at that time to use the creator names to promote the comic. Even so Joe and Jack would do covers art for Harvey. But they would not sign these with their own names. Instead some of the work is signed Jon Henri. I don’t believe that anybody in the industry or at National was fooled by this. I think the real reason that they did not use their own names is that Simon and Kirby had now become a brand name. It is one thing to give Al Harvey a helping hand, it is another to compete against yourself.

Captain America #10, Jack Kirby (pencils), January 1942

Even though published by Harvey, this is very much a Captain America cover. Compare it to Captain America #10 which even has similar hooded figures. The art style is closest to what had been done at Timely. But the typical Simon and Kirby art had already appeared and National and would also show up on all the later Henri covers. I suspect that this cover was actually done just after leaving Timely and before their work at National gave birth to a true Simon and Kirby style. The overall composition is not unlike a classic Al Schromberg. Despite all that is going on, Simon and Kirby seem to handle it well and present a clear story.

Penciling for the Speed #17 cover was primarily done by Joe Simon. But the forced perspective shown in the two figures at the top as well as the man falling down the chute is in the typical style of Jack Kirby. Although he was quite good at mimicking Jack, Joe never quite mastered Kirby’s perspective (no other comic book artist did either).

This cover there is a peculiar inking pattern in the chute and the ceiling of the room above it. A similar inking style appears on the splash page that Al Avison did for Pocket #1. I have seen it in “Red Skull’s Deadly Revenge” from Captain America #16, again penciled by Al Avison. However I have also seen something similar on the covers for Champion #8 (pencils by Joe Simon) and #9 (pencils by Jack Kirby). Both the Champion covers were inked by Joe Simon and date before he had met Avison. I have seen Lou Fine use a similar inking pattern, so it was just a inking mannerism that several artists adopted.

Champ #18, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), May 1942

Joe and Jack had done three covers for this series when it was published by Worth under the title Champions. Now the line was being done by Harvey after his unsuccessful pocket comics. Here and in the comics published at the same by National, we find the start of the real Simon & Kirby style. I believe the reason this happened now is that before at Timely there was a large crew working on Captain America. But initially there was probably only Joe and Jack at National. This really forged their collaboration. The Captain America covers were exiting but now Joe and Jack have taken it to a new level. Forget about how the Liberty Lads managed to get into this aerial fight. Who cares how one of them is able to slug a Jap off the plane with the propeller in between them? What matters is the story of the daring rescue of our capital from the Japanese menace. How could a kid possibly pass this cover up without at least stopping to see what was inside. Unfortunately the comic book stories did not, could not, live up to the cover. For that the comic reader would have to buy National’s Adventure or Star Spangled comics. However the text piece, “the story behind the cover”, explained the events of the cover. Just not in so dramatic a manner.

Speed #18, Jack Kirby (pencils and inks), May 1942

A damsel in distress. A fiend finishing off a gravestone just before performing the final act. But have no fear, it’s Captain America to the rescue. But wait, where’s Bucky? But wait again, that’s not Captain America! Captain Freedom was Speed Comics’ patriotic hero. In the hands of Jack Kirby, Captain Freedom would look even more like Captain America then he already had. It must have brought some satisfaction to Simon and Kirby that they could still show how Cap should be done.

Captain Freedom first appeared in Speed #13 with a cover date of May 1941. This was before Al Harvey was publisher for Speed. According to Joe Simon, Irving Manheimer (president of Publisher Distributing) did the publishing of Speed Comics then. The distributors loved comics at that time. Captain Freedom was created by Franklin Flagg, do you think that could be a pseudonym? Once Captain America become a big seller, copy-cat patriotic heroes became abundant. But even so, Captain Freedom seems particularly close in design to Captain America. Similar placement of red and white stripes, a circle of stars replaces a single star on the chest, and shoulder pads replace mail armor. The “skull cap” is similar particularly to the Cap in Captain America #1. And of course the rank of Captain is shared by both.

What makes the similarity surprising is the Captain America #1 was cover dated March while Speed #13 is dated May. Comics typically took about a month to create, a month to print, and another month to distribute. But that would put the creation of Speed #13 to at best a month before Captain America #1. So we seem to have a case of an obvious copy-cat patriotic hero created before the original hit the new stands. The answer lies in advertisement used to promote the Comicscope. I covered this in detail in another post (The Comicscope and Captain America).

This Speed #18 cover was primarily penciled by Jack Kirby. The inking turns out to be his as well. That is not to say Joe Simon had nothing to do with the cover, just that I have not been able to detect any contribution he may have had.

Champ #19, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) June 1942

This is one my favorites of the Harvey covers. Once again there is a Jon Henri signature, but this time it was Joe Simon doing the pencils. It is amazing to see how well all the pieces of the story are present. The robbed bank, most of the policemen ineffectively on the other roof, the single policeman in the correct location is about to be taken care of by the crooks before they make their get-away. That is except for the Liberty Lads approaching unseen from the back, about to save the day. What a masterpiece. “The story behind the cover” text fills out the story, but is not half as exciting as the cover art.

Joe could work in a style close enough to Kirby’s that to this day many are fooled. But he had his own vision too and I am a bit surprised that so many experts still attribute this cover to Kirby. I suspect many use aesthetics to distinguish the two; for them if it is one of the better covers Jack must have done it. Jack did most of the penciling and Joe acknowledges that Kirby was an incredible artist. But I am here to tell you that Joe Simon is a lot better artist then many give him credit for.

Jack Kirby was the master at this almost 3D effect and although others tried to imitate Jack I do not believe I have ever seen anyone completely succeed. So when I see such a successful job as on Champ #18 (and also on Champ #20) I feel pretty confident that Jack Kirby was responsible. The one Liberty Lad about to leap on Champ #19 is not quite an exaggerated perspective (although still rather well done). But the lack of exaggerated perspective does not mean it was not done by Jack.

The Liberty Lads on Champ #19 are not only younger they also look familiar. That is because they seemed based on Gabby and Scrapper from the Newsboy Legion. Although in the past it was generally believed that Kirby did not swipe, more recently examples of Kirby swipes have been well documented particularly by Tom Morehouse in TJKC. But why would Jack have to swipe the Liberty Lads on Champ #19 but not on the other four covers? To me the Liberty Lads swipes are more likely to be evidence of Joe’s involvement than Jack. One features that suggests Kirby is the square fist of the policeman on the far roof. Square fists are easily recognized manner used by Jack. But it is so obviously that there is little doubt that Joe Simon would see it also and it would not be hard for Joe to adopt it himself. But note the stiff, straight arm of that same policeman, that does not look like Jack’s work.

By this period Joe Simon has advanced beyond the use of just two expressions that he had learned when he started comic book work (as described in The Comic Book Makers)

Slits for eyes, unless the character was to register astonishment or horror – and then the eyes become circles. Heavier lines for the eyebrows, raised for bewilderment, slanting down toward the nose for anger. One line for the upper lip. A heavier line, indicating a shadow, constituted the lower lip.

But there are some expressions that Joe uses more frequently than Jack. One is having both eyebrows raising as they approach the mid line. The policeman trying to climb onto the roof in Champ #19 is a good example of this eyebrow rendition.

The master criminal and his diminutive partner on Champ #19 are rather unique. To me they more represent the visual humor that Joe will later show in features like the Duke of Broadway then the type of humor Jack would do. Actually the cover as a whole seems more humorous then suspenseful.

Green Hornet #7, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (pencils and inks), June 1942

I love the way Simon and Kirby make a cover tell a story. The Green Hornet is rushing to attach a killer clown. If the clown carrying a wicked knife wasn’t enough, the lady on the lower level carries a newspaper with headlines that are hard to make out completely but clearly includes “CLOWN … CRIMINAL …”. Behind her is a fallen policeman, his gun laying at his side, obviously the Green Hornet will be taking on one tough clown. The press above is printing the front page for the latest edition declaring “DIES IN ELECTRIC CHAIR” with a picture of the clown, certainly printed ahead of time because the clown escaped before facing his execution. The Green Hornet had better be careful because this clown has nothing to lose.

The Green Hornet cover for June is a bit of a puzzle. The floating head looks like it was done by Joe Simon, The killer clown and the running Green Hornet seem to be Jack Kirby’s hand. The rest of the figures have bits of both. My take on this is that it was original penciled by Jack without the floating head. Joe added the large head and maybe touched up some other parts. Truly a joint effort. Once again signed as Jon Henri.

The inking on this cover includes irregularly patterned “hay” that we have seen before on the cover to Speed #17. As discussed there, this pattern was used by both Al Avison and Joe Simon (among others). While I do not see any inking touches on the Green Hornet #7 cover that look like Avison’s hand, I do find traces that look like Joe’s inking.

The “story behind the cover” for the issue is unusual in that it is not a very good match for the cover. In it there was no confrontation between the Green Hornet and the Clown in front of a newspaper printing press. Even more important there is no mention of the Clown having died in the electric chair. Green Hornet #7 differs from the other Harvey comics in that the text story is continued in the comic strip feature “The Green Hornet and the case of the Murdering Clown”. It is the comic book feature where the Clown somehow returns from the electric chair and where there is a fight between the Green Hornet and the Clown placed among newspaper printing presses. So despite the title of the “story behind the cover”, the text story is actually a prequel to the cover and the comic book feature is actually the story for the cover.

Speed #19, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), June 1942

June is Joe Simon’s months since he did both Champ #19 and Speed #19. Both signed as Jon Henri. To me the give-a-way that this is Joe’s penciling is the depiction of the Japanese impersonator. The whole idea of the Japanese setting up to disguise himself as Captain Freedom only to be interrupted by the real thing that seem to me to be something Simon would come up with. Captain Freedom’s fist is square like Jack Kirby would do it. But Joe had inked Jack’s work and was familiar with these sort of traits. The Japanese impersonator has the peaked eyebrows that Joe seems to favor.

Harvey’s Fighting American #2, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), 1966

This Speed cover depicts a horde of Japanese soldiers coming down a flight of stairs and entering the room. Actually this is not too unusual at the time. Compare it to the cover for Speed #17 penciled in parts by both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby where it is Captain Freedom who enters from a stairway. Al Avison used it once (Speed #14) but with fewer enemies. The unidentified artist (Speed #16 and Pocket #3) also had the horde of advancing enemies, but lack the stairs. But after this period where this motif seemed somewhat popular, I don’t remember Simon and Kirby ever returning to the enemies entering from stairway motif. But surprisingly it shows up much later in art Joe Simon did which I believe was meant to be the cover for Fighting American #2 by Harvey meant for 1966. The art has a smaller number of enemies but it does show the stairs.

Champ #20, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), July 1942

The hits keep coming. So many of the covers that Simon and Kirby did for Harvey are just amazing. But this one is another of my favorites. The exaggerated perspective in the Liberty Lads are a signature style for Jack Kirby, so he is the primary penciler. Simon and Kirby literally demonize the Japanese foe. This sort of thing would not be considered politically correct today, but during that war artists worked under a different standard.

I have seen penciled on the margins of the original art that this was inked by Al Avison. But that sort of notation is suspicious. There would be no reason for leaving such notation when the art was original created and used. I have seen an awful lot of S&K art and only on one other page have I seen a similar annotation as to the inker of the work. I strongly suspect that these notes were made by subsequent owners or art dealers. In any case at this time Avison was at Timely working as their primary artist for Captain America. As such he was very busy and it is unlikely he would have time to do this inking. No, the inking looks like Simon’s work to me.

Speed #20, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), July 1942

I think this is Jack’s penciling because of his typical exaggerated perspective. Captain Freedom is a true superhero, he has super strength and can fly (or perhaps he is just jumping great distances). But on all the Speed covers that Jack and Joe did they both portray Harvey’s patriotic hero more normal, sort of like they did Captain America.

Champ #21, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), August 1942

This cover shows one of the Liberty Lads ejecting from a plane flown by his partner. I am not sure where the boy left the plane, it looks like a one seater. Nor is it clear why the plane had to fly upside down. The plane’s camouflage does not seem effective as the ship’s spot light has been trained on it. The bailing Liberty Lad is just about to open his parachute. It is not at all clear how he is going to attach the ship armed with only a machine gun and with no possibility of surprise. But this sort of logical analysis really is pointless with these Harvey covers, bravery trumps logic.

The baling Liberty Lab is not in exaggerated perspective, but still seems to have the Kirby touch. So I believe Jack was the primary penciler.

Green Hornet #8, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), August 1942

Although I cannot provide any source, the damsel in distress looks an awful lot like she was originally done by Will Eisner. It would appear that for Green Hornet #8 Joe resorted to the use of swiping that was so prevalent in the start of his comic book career. The Spirit had been published as a newspaper insert for some time so Joe was certainly aware of it. However my search through the DC archive editions has failed to reveal any possible sources for the lady on Simon’s cover. The Green Hornet’s two opponents look like Simon creations. Note their similarity of their checks and jowls with that found in the Hitler from Speed #21 (August), the smaller villain from Champ #19 (June), and the sketch of Hitler in a Zoot suit. Yes Joe used swipes for this cover, as he so often did, yet he has created a very original composition.

The cover tells a story, as just about all Joe Simon covers do. A lady is held captive, terrified of the future revealed in a crystal ball by a truly gruesome witch. But the background shows the Green Hornet arriving to the rescue. But our hero must be careful to negotiate the obstacles separating himself from the damsel in distress, a pit at his feet and a chain stretching across his path. As we follow the Green Hornet’s eyes we find it is no ordinary chain as it ends with a collar on what is the not quite human equivalent of a guard dog. A very effective guard indeed as shown by his blood stained knife. The guard is intent on preventing the Green Hornet from interfering while his diminutive companion’s concentration remains on fulfilling the crystal ball’s prediction of the woman’s fate.

Simon makes effective use of props to heighten the drama. A drip covered candle provides an eerie touch to the scene, it is a device that Simon and Kirby would introduce often for such an effect. A spot light seems to come from someplace low off our field of vision. It is a very selective spot light indeed, no shadows are cast by the legs of the two subhuman figures. However shadows are cast by the hand-held knife, the chain and the Green Hornet himself. All the shadows that would provide drama to the scene, as always realism is not as important as telling the story. The spot light also aids the composition, diagonally dividing the two darker fields occupied by the villains. The captive is not in the spot light but is highlighted by it, visually connecting her to the hero. It may not have anything to do with Joe, but the colorist use of a green dress also effectively links the damsel with the hero.

Joe Simon may not have been as talented a penciler as Jack Kirby, and some will say that he depended too much on the use of swipes. When it came to laying out a cover and making it tell a story, few at the time were his equal. Green Hornet #8 was truly a thrilling cover. But Joe was not content with just drama, he also included humor, albeit a dark humor. There is a similar touch of black humor in Joe’s cover for Champ #19. Here Simon scatters cob webs about the place as part of the effort to give a dingy look to the scene. How many artists would then turn around and attach webbing from the staff to the witch herself? My favorite piece of humor in this piece is how the beastly guard leads his small partner by the hand, as if he is taking part in a “take your child to work” day. This type of humor is an early manifestation that would fully blossom when Joe was editor of Sick magazine.

Like the rest, this issue includes a text article to tell “the thrilling story behind the cover”. What is interesting about the text story for Green Hornet #8 is not what it adds to the understanding of the cover, rather how it deviates. In the story the lady is held captive in a building across the street from the offices where the Green Hornet’s alter ego works as a newspaper reporter. Nothing in the story suggests that woman was held in the sort of dungeon that the cover portrays. Rather the story describes her place of confinement as a small room adorn to look like a fortune telling shop. In the story there is a fortune teller whose crystal ball reveals a fatal future for the beautiful captive, but without an indication that the soothsayer was an ugly witch. The short tale includes two “toughs” without giving the impression that they were almost subhuman. Neither is described in the story as small as the one shown on the cover depiction. Nor does the story mention the use of knives by the toughs. I find it hard to believe that an author presented with a copy of this exotic cover art would have written this more mundane story. More likely Joe was given a verbal outline of the story and embellished it to make a more interesting cover. As such this cover deviates from the practice used for “story behind the cover” of other covers.

Speed #21, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), with a little help from Jack Kirby?, August 1942

The pointing hand of the clown looks like it was done by Kirby. But only that small detail does. The Japanese, the clown, Hitler and the gangster in a small circle, cluelessly looking for Captain Freedom is just the sort of visual humor I come to expect from Joe Simon. And Captain Freedom towering over them, as well as all his floating heads, seem to me to have been done by Joe’s hand. So I make Simon as the primary penciler.

It is wonderful to see all the different approaches to a cover Simon and Kirby did for Harvey. But actually that was true with Joe and Jack during all their collaboration. They always seem to put great effort to make their covers stand out from the rest of the crowd on the racks.

Speed #22, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) September 1942

I once provided Joe Simon with copies of my restoration of two stories from Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940). One was signed as Gregory Sykes and Joe revealed that in high school he and his friends sometimes used another name and his was Gregory G. Sykes. But the conversation did not end there. Joe also said that as a comic book artist he thought he had used three pseudonyms. He knew two of them (Jon Henri and Gregory Sykes) but could not recall the third so he felt he might have been mistaken. As Joe did not remember these Daring Mystery stories at all, he began to read them with much interest. At one point Joe stopped and chuckled, he said that in the Phantom Bullet story he had used the name Nelson Glaven for one of the characters. Nelson Glaven was the alternate name for Ned Gibman, one of his high school friends. I immediately recognized the name Glaven.

The cover to Speed #22 was signed Glaven. I had never talked to Joe about this cover since I had already decided (incorrectly) that he did not do it. Still I always had thought it was an excellent piece of comic art and had wanted to know more about the artist. However my search for more information on Glaven always came up empty and I had concluded it was a pseudonym. Now Joe has provided the information to link him to the Glaven alias. Actually I should have known better when I previously felt that Speed #22 was the wrong style for Joe Simon. I have been saying for some time that Joe could and did adopt different styles.

Speed #22 is a great cover. The planes diving out of formation leading to a similarly diving Captain Freedom and then to a bomb is very effective. This sort of formal device and the more static layout it provides is not the sort of thing usually found in covers by Simon and Kirby. But Joe did experiment with different compositions from time to time and this apparently is an example of that. Simon seem to deliberately adopt a different style for this cover however the misty clouds are a feature that Joe would sometimes use. The inking is done with a brush in a manner very much like the inking of some of the Jon Henri covers, particularly the form lines (see the inking glossary) on the airplanes and the boots.

Champ #22, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) September 1942

This issue is unique among the Champ covers we have examined in that the Human Meteor has replaced the Liberty Lads. The cover has the appearance of being constructed from a number of different swipes. The hooded foe in the lower right corner came from Lou Fine’s Wonderworld #7 cover. The lady being thrown into the pool seems unnatural. Her hair and general pose looks more like she is lying down rather then falling. I am sure she was taken from someplace. I cannot identify other swipes but that is not to say there were not any. The Human Meteor and his young sidekick both have large ears that are not quite placed on the head correctly. This unusual treatment of ears viewed from the back is also a characteristic of Jack Kirby at this time. But the anatomy and pose of the Human Meteor just does not otherwise look like Jack’s work.

Like he did for Speed #22, Joe seems to adopt a different style for the Champ #22 cover. The design does not match that of Speed #22 but the style is similar. Joe’s Glaven pseudonym and the art style seems to be done to make Harvey’s bullpen seem bigger. Simon has spent much effort in the inking, particularly for the Human Meteor, resulting in a beautiful cover. My only complaint is that cover does not tell as clear a story as Simon’s covers usually do. It the Human Meteor leaping to save the damsel from drowning or to fight the hooded villains?

Champ #23, Jack Kirby (pencils) and Joe Simon (inks) October 1942

The Liberty Lads in action one last time, at least as done by Simon and Kirby. Some of the forced perspective, especially in the thrown Japanese soldier, have the distinct Kirby touch. More importantly the Liberty Lads have the wild hair that is very much a Kirby technique. The foreground figure turning and calling to the viewer is a rare device that shows up from time to time in work by Kirby even up to the period where he was working on monster comics for Marvel. So he is probably the primary penciler.

The art shows a good compositional touch of contrasting the foreground with the background. The Japanese soldiers with their pistols and rifles do not stand a chance against the Liberty Lads with their tank and machine gun, not to mention their most powerful weapon of all, the American flag. The US tank has just demolished the Japanese vehicle so badly that it one can no longer make out what it was. Even the cloud of smoke raised by the tank and machine gun completely overpowers the puny gun smoke of the only Japanese soldier still fighting. The Japanese do not stand a chance against the might of the US. Of course this comic came out in August 1942 at a point where America was doing rather poorly against the military forces of Japan.

Champ #23 original art with stats removed and some reconstruction of the flag

The original art for the Champ #23 still exists but without the original stats. One surprise is what there was art under the stat of the film strip showing the “exciting heroes”. Line inking of the art has been done but no spotting inking. Obviously it was a mistake to do art that would not be shown on the final cover, but the mistake was corrected before the final inking was done. Another surprise is that the original flag was replace with a differently arrange flag stat. This was probably done because the original version was crude to say the least. On the margin is a note to fix the flag and there is also a rough sketch how the flag should look. Because the flag stat was oriented differently from the original version, application of white out and some re-inking was required.

Speed #23, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) October 1942

Captain Freedom springs to action one last time, at least as done by Simon and Kirby. A striking war cover with explosions and advancing troops. A good cover but, in my opinion, not one of Simon’s best efforts.

There are a couple of errors to the cover art for Speed #23. Captain Freedom is missing his shoulder pads. This error also occurs on the cover of Speed #18, one which Kirby did both pencils and inks. Jack is famous for errors in getting costumes correct but this is unusual for Joe. However it is understandable in that it makes Captain Freedon’s costume even more like that of Captain America. The second error is actually common to all the Simon and Kirby Speed covers (Speed #17 – 23); Captain Freedom’s thighs and knees are covered in blue pants. This is surprising because previous and subsequent Speed covers get Captain Freedom’s leg coloring correct. Even the interior Captain Freedom story art is colored properly for the issues where it is wrong on the cover. Typically coloring was up to the publisher, but seeing that only the Simon and Kirby colors have the error it is quite probable that Joe and Jack did the color guides. The blue leggings also make Captain Freedom look more like Captain America.

Green Hornet #9, Jack Kirby (pencils and inks) October 1942

Green Hornet #9 is another of my favorite Harvey covers (along with Champ #19 and #20). Jack Kirby’s touch is all over this one. In it he uses the mirror to great effect. The crook is so started by seeing the Green Hornet in the mirror and has turned so quickly to confront him that his cigar and its reflection still hang in the air. Although the crook is reaching for his gun, the Green Hornet already has the drop on him. However the mirror reveals to us that yet another gun carrying foe is climbing into the room behind them. This device of a gun carrying foe, or sometimes the hero, sneaking in through a window or door was used by Simon and Kirby a number of times while working for National. But the thing is, if we can see the crook in the mirror should not the heroes?

Well the cover says “Read the story behind the cover”. From the story we learn that the crook by the dresser is the Jackal and the gun carrying foe is Dapper Dan. The key passage reads:

Just as he was gloating over piles of money in his drawers, he heard stealthy steps creep toward him. Instinctively he reached for his automatic and glanced at the mirror. It was the Green Hornet!

“Keep jour hands from that roscoe!” the Green Hornet ordered.

The Jackal scowled and obeyed. But when he looked at the mirror again, his spirits rose. Hefting an automatic, Dapper Dan was coming through the fire escape window.

Dapper Dan was just as visible to the Green Hornet and Kato as he was to the Jackal. Almost unperceived, Kato moved sidewise, and as Dapper Dan set a foot into the apartment, Kato turned around. Then Dapper Dan found himself sailing through the air toward the wall, which he struck hard with his head. He fell on the floor without a groan.

It was jiu-jitsu carried to perfection.

The original art for this cover still exists and it was up for auction by Heritage a few years ago. It reveals there was more to the art that was either covered up by stats (of the “film strip” and the title) or painted out with white-out. The now missing parts are interesting but frankly superfluous. Whoever made the decision to remove them was absolutely correct. The finished cover is much more focused.

Green Hornet #10, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), Jack Kirby (pencils) and an unidentified artist (inks) December 1942

Simon and Kirby would do the last of these Harvey cover in October (Green Hornet #9). Champ #23, Speed #23 and Green Hornet #9 would be the last of the Harvey covers that can safely be attributed to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Champ #24 and Speed #24 for November were clearly done by other artists. But I have long been puzzled by the cover art for Green Hornet #10 (December 1942). My conclusion now is that this cover was started by Simon and Kirby but perhaps finished by some other artist.

The criminal clown similar to that by Jack for Green Hornet #7. Further the costume is also a close match to the one on the cover of Speed #21 done by Joe. But the inking does not look like is was done by either Joe or Jack and so I suspect that was done by another artist. The Green Hornet and car look like they were penciled and inked by Simon but is possible some of it was also done by another inker as well. The background scenery is reminiscent of some of the Fox covers Joe had once done. It is a dynamic composition weaken somewhat by the disparate inking styles. I suspect that it was a rush job by Joe and Jack that was finished by someone else.

With the war and the draft going on, Joe and Jack knew that eventually they would have to do military service. In anticipation of that, they began to create a stock pile of work to be used by DC while they were away. They certainly had helped their friend Al Harvey to get his new publishing company going but Joe and Jack needed to concentrate on their DC work. However Simon and Kirby would return to do work for Harvey after the war.

Joe Simon Cover Art for Harvey’s Pocket-Size Comics

I stopped posting on my Simon and Kirby blog over four years ago, primarily due to pressure from my day job and the restoration work I was doing for Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library. Work on Titan’s publications have since been completed and I have recently retired. Although I now have more free time, I have no plans to resume periodic blogging. But there were some investigations that I feel remained as unfinished business. One of which are the covers that Joe and Jack did for Al Harvey early in the startup of his comic publishing company. I recently did restorations for all these covers; redoing the ones I had done earlier and finally working on the covers that I previously had not gotten around to. Some of my views about these covers have changed and besides which much time has passed from my previous discussions. I feel the best way to handle this would be provide two long posts on all the covers, incorporating those parts of my previous discussions that I feel are still appropriate. It seems appropriate to post this discussion on Joe Simon’s 104th birthday.

In his book “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon describes how his friend Al Harvey approached him to do a cover for Al’s new concept, a small-sized comic book. Joe also tells how Harvey offered to make Joe a partner for $250. But Joe was then working on Captain America. At Timely he and Jack Kirby were supposed to get a share of the profits for this very popular comic. So Joe felt the safe decision was to stay at Timely and so turned Al down. It probably seemed at the time like a no brainer, but Simon would never saw much royalty money from Timely and would leave before the year was out. As for Harvey his new comic book concept would not last long but he still managed to build up a very successful comic publishing business.

On a visit to Joe’s place, I brought him printed copies of the pocket-size Harvey covers (Pocket #1-4, Speed #14-16). Initially Joe commented that he only did a couple of pocket-sized covers. But when he looked at the cover he said that Pocket #1, #2 and #4 were his. The only question was about Speed #16. Initially he said that he thought he did it, then later he said he may not have done it. Joe commented that the feathering on the legs of Captain Freedom was not like he would do it. Note that on page 116 of his book “My Life in Comics” Joe says he did the cover for Pocket Comics 1-3. This is Joe misremembering our earlier earlier conversation and confusing doing three of the first four covers with doing the first three covers. I am going to discuss the covers that Joe said he did first.

Pocket #1, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), August 1941

Joe’s first effort for Harvey appeared on Pocket Comics #1 with cover date August 1941. This comic came out in the same month as Captain America #5. Jack Kirby was doing some great stuff at that time, but the true Simon & Kirby style had not yet emerged. The Pocket #1 cover was not in the Simon & Kirby style either, and in fact it does not show much in the way of influence from what Jack was doing. Here we get Joe doing Joe.

There are things about this cover which I find unfortunate. The field of stars gives me a claustrophobic feeling. But the biggest problem may not have been Joe’s fault as he said he was working from a mock-up. Nearly half the top is occupied by the comic’s title. If that was not enough the left side has a list of the comic’s contents. This left little room on an already small cover for Joe to work, but he uses it well. Joe came up with a terrific design which was finely executed. The scene portrayed actually is not logical, but it was not meant to be and it works.

Pocket #1, Splash page from the Satan story, unknown artist, August 1941

There are similarities between Simon’s cover and the splash from the Satan story by the unidentified artist. (The GCD says the artist was Pierce Rice, but I remain unconvinced as all the work attributed to Rice in the GCD do not appear to be done by the same artist and I have yet to find any early work signed by the artist). Both have an oversized Satan holding the Statue of Liberty rising among a cityscape. The Statue of Liberty plays a part in the story whereas the spirit of 76 does not. Therefore I suspect Joe based his cover from the splash and took it into his own unique direction.

A small diversion, the writing of the Satan story was credited to Eando Binder, which is a pseudonym for the brothers Earl Andrew and Otto Binder. According to Wikipedia they used this name for their joint writing of science fiction. But by 1939 the writing was done by Otto with Earl acting as a literary agent. Otto Binder would go on to have a long career as a comic book writer.

Wonderworld #13, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), May 1940

On the cover Simon provides a Satan that is a bit different then that in the comic itself. This is not just due to the colorist use of yellow instead of the classic red. Instead Joe has turned to a cover he did for Fox, Wonderworld #13 (May 1940). For the Fox cover, Joe was trying to work in the style of Lou Fine. His success is shown by the fact that this cover was often attributed to Fine despite the presence of a Joe Simon signature.

Silver Streak #2, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), January 1940

But there is also an even earlier version of Satan. That was the Claw as portrayed on Silver Streak #2 (January 1940). That, along with Keen Detective Funnies #14, were Joe’s first cover work. Simon gave the Claw more of a Frankenstein look in the face, but the hands are similar to both Wonderworld #13 and Pocket #1.

Pocket #2, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) and Barbara Hall (pencils and inks), September 1941

In Pocket Comics #2 the title has been reduced compared to #1 so there is more room for the art. The main scene once again depicts an oversized attaching Satan, being ineffectively fought by a miniature military (in this case some battleships) with a giant Spirit of ’76 coming to the rescue. Whereas in Pocket #1 the Spirit of 76 fought Satan on the cover but not in the story, for Pocket #2 this hero really did battle the villain in both.

On the left side of the cover is the Black Cat, seemingly not part of the scene with Satan, but oversized nonetheless. The Black Cat started in Pocket #1 just a month before, so her presence on the cover is too soon to be due to an unexpected popularity. Rather having depicted Satan and the Spirit of ’76, the Black Cat seemed more unique since the other features were the standard male heroes. The Black Cat on the cover was taken from the splash to the story from Pocket #1. The GCD attributes that story art to Barbara Hall. The story art is unsigned but there seems to be some documentary evidence to that effect. Women in Comics states:

She studied painting in Los Angeles, moving to New York City in 1940. She showed her portfolio to Harvey Comics in 1941, and was hired to draw the comic Black Cat. Her next strip was Girl Commandos, about an international team of Nazi-fighting women. This comic was developed from Pat Parker, War Nurse, about a “freelance fighter for freedom.” When stationed in India, this nurse recruited a British nurse, an American radio operator, a Soviet photographer, and a Chinese patriot. Hall continued this strip until 1943.

The work listed by Women in Comics does appear to have been executed by the same artist.

The similarity of design and execution of the Satan and Spirit of ’76 scene with that depicted on Pocket #1 leaves little doubt that this was also done by Joe Simon. Which makes it puzzling as to why the GCD attributes the cover for Pocket #1 to Joe and #2 to Bob Powell.

Pocket #4 Joe Simon (pencils and inks), January 1942,

I want to skip for now Pocket Comics #3, and proceed to #4. This is my favorite of the Pocket Comic covers. It is a great design, particularly since the text has been relegated to smaller areas as compared to the other issues. The Spirit of ’76 is a good match for that on Pocket #1 or Pocket #2. I am sure this cover was also done by Joe Simon. A new feature is the Nazi falling after being hit. It is not the way Jack Kirby would have done it, but you can tell that was the source for Joe’s inspiration. No longer do we find oversized figures. But although the design still works, it really doesn’t make logical sense. How could the Spirit of ’76 have delivered his blow if the Nazi had been standing behind him? Or how could the Black Cat jump through the window in the middle of the room and still manage to grab the arm of the Nazi in the back of the room? But as far as I am concern comics art is not meant to try to capture an instance in time. It is meant to tell a story. Without a single line of text, this cover is complete comprehensible. All the distortions of time and space were all done to advance that aim. The logical flaws are in fact its strengths.

Speed #14, Al Avison (pencils and inks), September 1941

Al Avison was one of the artist that Joe Simon hired to help with Captain America and some other comics at Timely. I suspect that his presence in the early Harvey Comics may have been due to Joe. However it came about, this was the start of a long working relationship between Al Avison and Al Harvey.

Pocket #1, Splash page for the Red Blazer story, Al Avison (pencils and inks), August 1941

Fortunately Al signed this cover and the Red Blazer story from Pocket Comics #1, so they serves as good references when trying to sort out the attributions. This was early in his career, so although he tried to use what he learned from working with Simon and Kirby he could not yet pull it off. But he matured quickly so that when Joe and Jack left Timely in a few months, Al became the head artist for Captain America for a while.

The background for the cover includes some stairs and some advancing adversaries. This theme would be repeated in a number of the early Harvey covers, although in some cases the stairs would be replaced with a long hallway. However Avison never seems to return to this theme in any of his other early work including what he did at Timely after Simon & Kirby had left.

Speed #15 Unknown artist, November 1941

Unfortunately the cover for Speed #15 is unsigned. Compared to Speed #14, Shock Gibson has gotten much younger and less bulky. Although I would hardly call the work that Avison did on Speed #14 advanced, the art for Speed #15 is much cruder.

Speed #15, Splash page for the Shock Gibson story, Al Avison (pencils and inks), November 1941

The story art for Shock Gibson in Speed #15 is also unsigned, but is a good matched for Avison’s cover and story art from Speed #14 and Pocket #1 (both signed). The GCD lists Avison as the artist for the cover of Speed #15 and previously I asserted that as well, but I no longer believe that to be true. The Speed #15 cover artist style is just too dissimilar from the Avison’s story art from the same time period.

Keen Detective #17, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), January 1940

The Speed #15 cover has wispy mists in the background. This feature, sometimes used for smoke or clouds, occasionally appears in Simon’s work both with and without Kirby. For instance it shows up in the cover for Keen Detective #17; one of the two first comic book covers that he did. The presence of the wispy mist as well as the overall Simon and Kirby appearance makes me believe that Joe may have provided layouts for the Speed #15 cover.

Speed #16 January 1942

Everybody makes mistakes, even experts. So when I say that when the Jack Kirby Checklist included Speed #16 it made a whooper, that does not diminish the value of that list. But all that needs to be done to dispel that misattribution is to compare the cover to one by Jack that came out in the same month (January 1942). There can be no question, Speed #16 was not done by Kirby.

But I have a confession to make. I included Speed #16 in the books I once made of the complete Simon and Kirby covers. I did so because I thought it was possible that Joe Simon might have been the artist. Later I attributed it to Al Avison due to some similarities to the layout of Speed #14 (a work signed by Avison). This cover is a pretty good match to the cover of Speed #15 and I do believe they were done by the same artist. But as I have already discussed, I find the art to be a too crude to have been done by Avison, especially compared to signed work done for Harvey at the same time. I may also add that Joe Simon once said that he was not the artist for this cover.

The cover art for Speed #14, #15 and #16 all have a Simon and Kirby feel to them. Speed #14 and #16 also share a theme of advancing enemies come from background stairs or hallway. This was why I once felt they were all done by the same artist. However there is a better explanation, or rather a choice of two explanations. One is that this unknown artist was working for Simon on the Timely comics and had thus learned some of the Simon and Kirby approach. That, or what I believe is more likely, Simon supplied layouts for these Speed covers. I do not credit Kirby as providing the layouts because he has not yet become involved with Harvey’s comics.

I do not believe that the humorous quality to Speed #15 was intentional. But in Speed #16 is clearly was. It is hard to believe that anyone would take seriously an attach by Hitler on the White House. But even if they did, it wouldn’t be this ridiculous Adolf carrying four rifles and three swords. This sort of visual humor would later be a Simon trademark in his comic magazine Sick.

Pocket #3, Unknown artist (pencils and inks) and Joe Simon (pencils and inks), November 1941

I have left this cover last so that it could be compared to the art for the other Pocket and Speed comics. As I mentioned earlier, Joe did not believe he was the artist for this cover. I must say that it is hard to believe that the hooded ghouls were done by Joe, his were always more threatening and not goofy. When we examine the cover, problems set in. The soldier being prepared for shipping (via C.O.D) just does not seem to lay down in the box. The Nazis are white skeletal figures in red hooded clocks. I would describe the robbed figures with the same term I would use for Speed #15 and #16 (covers that look like they were done by this artist), goofy. The track record so far for the pocket comics is that Joe did well executed covers, this unknown artist rather crude ones, Joe presents intimidating villains, this one goofy Nazis.

The action takes place in a long corridor done in forced perspective. There are more red clocked Nazis advancing from the end of the hallway. This is all similar to the tunnel in Speed #16. This suggests that both covers were done by the same artist. But as I discussed above, may be due to layouts that were supplied by Simon.

It seems clear that the figure of the Black Cat was done by a different artist than the rest of the cover. The style for Black Cat does not match any of the artists who worked on the story art but is a good match for the Black Cat that appears in the cover for Pocket Comics #4, so I am crediting Joe for her figure alone.

Al Harvey thought he had a hit with his idea of pocket-sized comics. But as Joe and Jim Simon said in “The Comic Book Makers”

The size of the little magazines made it easy for kids to slip them into their pockets, or inside the pages of a standard-sized comic book, while browsing through the comic racks. Petty crime was a big problem in the little candy stores. So Pocket Comics were dead. But Al Harvey went on to bigger things.

Pocket Comics #4 and Speed Comics #16 have cover dates of January 1942. Harvey would no longer publish pocket-size comics. Coincidentally this is the same month that the last Simon and Kirby Captain America came out.  The next time Simon and Kirby work would reach the racks it would be dated April. I will discuss the work Simon and Kirby  did for the revived Harvey in a post next week.

All Things Must Pass

I started the Simon and Kirby blog back in March 2006. There were a number of reasons that I began blogging but I always felt the main benefit to me was that writing allowed me to clarify my thoughts. Certainty popularity was not a concern which was fortunate since tracking software indicated that initially my readership was very small rising to about 35 a day. This changed when Mark Evanier’s “Kirby: King of Comics” was published. It was not long afterwards that my visits rose to about 500 a day. To be honest I am not sure exactly what these numbers mean but clearly there was a dramatic increase in interest in Simon and Kirby. There became a greater interest among publishers as well as books reprinting Simon and Kirby material became more common. One of these publishers was Titan for whom I began to provide restorations. That restoration work became a second job taking up pretty much all of my spare time. But I felt that blogging was also important and I somehow found time to devote to it as well.

However it has recently become clear to me that difficulties presented by blogging now have outweighed the benefits. While by no means have I exhausted Simon and Kirby topics to write about, I have managed to cover most of those I consider important. For reasons that I will go into now, it is very important that I finish restoration of the Horror volume of the Simon and Kirby Library soon enough that it can be published in 2013. And I want to begin planning a new project, one having nothing to do with Simon and Kirby or comic book history. There are some other reasons as well, but the bottom line is that I have decided to discontinue posting on the Simon and Kirby blog.

I will try to answer some questions that my decision is likely to bring up in the minds of some of my readers.

First off, does that mean I am no longer interested in the study of Simon and Kirby and their history? Not at all but I feel that at least while I am working on the Horror volume I can spare little time for such investigations. I am sure once I have finished with my restoration work I will once again find time to devote to this subject. I feel there is still some unfinished business. I have not had the time to properly defined the lettering of Ben Oda. Nor have I properly studied Joe Simon’s long running Sick magazine. And there are some smaller issues that I would like to study as well.

Will I return to posting on the Simon and Kirby blog? Well I do not like to use the word “never” but all I can say is that I have no plans to do so.

Will my investigations and the contents of the blog write become the subject of a Simon and Kirby book? While there is now a market for Simon and Kirby reprints I see no signs that there is one for an art history of the two collaborators and the artists who worked for them. One of these artists was Mort Meskin who in recent years has been the subject of some publications. But even Mesin’s popularity has not risen enough to get him elected to the Eisner Hall of Fame. And Meskin is the only S&K studio artist who has achieved any recognition in recent years. Others like Bill Draut, John Prentice, Bob McCarty and Jo Albistur are virtual unknowns to most of today’s comic book fans. That is the bad news, the good news is that publishing for electronic reading devices such as iPad or Kindle has made great advances. I can envision a day when I might find enough spare time to put together a book for some form of electronic publication.

What about the future of Simon and Kirby publications in general? I am sure more reprints will be done. Titan’s Science Fiction volume of the Simon and Kirby Library should be out in March. I have not seen them but Titan has proofs for the book and I have heard that they came out very nice. As I said, I am currently working on the Horror volume which I expect to be out late in 2013 but certainly no later then early 2014. After that I am not sure what to expect. I have seen a proposal for one future book, but I do not like to discuss such matters because they all too often fail to reach actual publication. I am convinced that some other publications concerning Simon and Kirby will be done and I like to think I will participate in at least some of them.

What about the future of the Simon and Kirby blog itself? The Jack Kirby Museum, who sponsors this blog, have agreed to continue to keep it up. I have mixed feelings about this because a blog is meant to be read like a periodical publication. This is particularly true in my case because my opinions on certain subjects have changed with time. It is not that unusual to find older posts with artist attributions that I later changed. Be that as it may, there seems more benefit to leaving the blog accessible compared to removing it. I will continue to allow comments however in the future all comments will be moderated. I do not want the blog to be subjected to spam, trolls and cultists. And I am reachable by email for those looking for a more private or faster correspondence. One thing I do plan to do over the coming weeks is to update my checklists and add a few more.

Writing the Simon and Kirby blog has been a rewarding experience. I would like to thank those who have read my posts or even just stopped by to look at the pretty pictures.

Addition: I cannot believe I forgot to thank the Jack Kirby Museum for hosting my blog and Rand Hoppe for all his support. The Kirby Museum is an invaluable resource that needs all our support. So if you are not already a member, why not join today!

Speaking of Art, Secondary Artists

Joe Simon had accumulated a rather large collection of art. Not surprisingly many were works that he created over his long career starting when he was a staff artist for a newspaper. Also as might be expected there are a fair number of works drawn by Joe’s long time collaborator, Jack Kirby. However that does not mean, as I suspect some people believe, that Kirby material dominates the collection. Rather much of Joe’s art collection consists of work by a variety of lesser known artists. I thought I would discuss just a few of them selected for various reasons.


Police Trap #3 (January 1955) “Tough Beat”, pencils and inks by Bill Draut

Long time readers of this blog are by now quite aware that Simon and Kirby were not just a great artistic team but also produced comic books that included work by a large assortment of artists. I have spent much time trying to identify the various artists who worked for Joe and Jack with some, but by no means complete, success. However any reader can correctly attribute the artist for a large majority of Simon and Kirby productions if they can learn to spot three particular artists. I have been fond of calling the three artists the usual suspects. Foremost among the usual suspects was Bill Draut who had a long history of working for Joe and Jack. While Draut contributed a lot of art to S&K productions, Simon’s collection only has work by Bill from three periods; from right after the war at the time S&K were producing Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Harvey Comics, from S&K own publishing company Mainline Comics, and from the 60’s when Harvey briefly tried to cash in the renewed interest in superheroes. The reason for the rather limited periods found in Joe’s collection is that Joe’s collected primarily from work on hand when a projects terminated or art he recovered years later from Harvey, Archie and DC.

Joe’s collection has a fair amount of work created by Bill Draut and the example I provide is from Police Trap a Mainline comic book. Although Draut did a lot of romance work (as did all the Simon and Kirby artists) he could be quite adept at depicting action as can be seen in the lower splash panel. What a great assortment of characters. Note the way Draut depicts the bricks in the background building; inked as simple rectangular black shapes obviously executed without the use of a straight edge and forming small isolated groups. This manner of drawing bricks was quite typical of Draut.

It is hard to tell from the low resolution image that I have provided, but the discoloration at the top of the page is not due to some odd staining but rather the yellowing of tracing paper that has been attached to the illustration board. Bill did this as a time saving device. The final panel of the last page of the story is the same street scene differently inked to suggest another time of day. Rather than redraw the same scene, Draut put tracing paper over the final panel and inked directly on the tracing paper. When finished he just attached the results to the top of the first page.


Chamber of Chills #24 (July 1954) “Credit and Loss”, pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

Simon’s collection does not include many examples of original art by the second of the usual suspects, Mort Meskin. This is not because Joe did not like Mort’s art. Quite the contrary as shown by the fact that Joe had gathered together flats* for many of Meskin’s splash pages. This was something that Simon had done for Mort and no other artist. But the absence of Meskin original art was due to the fact that Mort did not work for Simon and Kirby during the Stuntman period and did little work during the Mainline period except for some covers (where apparently Meskin kept the original art). The one good example of Meskin original art that Joe had was not created for Simon and Kirby but for Harvey Comics. I suspect that Joe had retrieved it from the Harvey inventory some years later. It was fortunate that Simon had done so because it is, in my opinion, the finest comic book work that Meskin had ever done since the war. Great control of the story telling through devices like use of the viewpoint, marvelous drawing and superb inking.

OrigArtPrentice3
Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, the Man”, pencils and inks by John Prentice

John Prentice is the final of the three usual suspects. Prentice started working for Simon and Kirby even later then Mort Meskin. Joe’s collection had some examples of Prentice’s art but perhaps the most interesting is the art he did for Bullseye. There was a time that many claimed that Kirby provided layouts for the artists that worked for Simon and Kirby. One of the primary methods that I have used to investigate that claim was the way different artists used panel shapes. From that I feel quite confident that as a rule Kirby did not provide layouts for the other artists. But there are exceptions to that rule and Bullseye maybe one of them. I am not saying that Kirby provided complete layouts for Prentice’s Bullseye work but did appear to do so for at least some parts.

Unfortunately when Simon and Kirby wanted to retell the origin story for Bullseye #3 rather than redraw it Joe simply cut desired panels out of the earlier original art and pasted them together. Because of this it is not unusual to see original art from the first issue of Bullseye missing a panel or two.


Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “The Adventures of Sheriff Shorty”, pencils and inks by Leonard Starr

Joe’s collection not only included art by the three usual suspects but other artists as well. Leonard Starr is much better known for his work on the syndication strip Mary Perkins On Stage but he also had a long career as a comic book artists included occasional work for Simon and Kirby. The example I select comes from Bullseye #3. As it was published the story appears to be unsigned but careful examination of the original art shows otherwise. The vertically oriented signature appears the bottom left edge of the splash panel. Or rather half the signature is there as the panel border now cuts through it. But enough remains to show that it is in facts Starr’s autograph.


Foxhole #3 (February 1955) “The Face”, pencils and inks by Joaquin Albistur

Some artists that worked for Simon and Kirby are pretty much unknown entities for today’s fans. Jo Albistur only worked for Joe and Jack for a little over a year but produced a fair amount of art during that time. But Albistur did very little comic book art for any other publisher and only a small number of his original art have ever appeared on the market. The gimmick used for Foxhole was that the stories were created by actual war veterans. Because Albistur was from Argentina and had not served in the U. S. military, he was not suitable to receive any credit in Foxhole. But when credit was provided in Foxhole it was not always just for the graphic artists for instance writer Jack Oleck also occasionally received Foxhole credits. For “The Face” credit is given to Jack Kirby. Now Kirby certainly was a war veteran but he neither drew nor laid out this story. Further (and I may get in trouble among certain fans) I am convinced he did not write this story either. However it is known that Jack provided plots to some of the script writers that Simon and Kirby employed and perhaps it was in that capacity that this story is credited to him.


Chamber of Chills #24 (July 1954) “Grim Years”, pencils? and inks? by Manny Stallman

The Simon collection includes work by Manny Stallman. I attribute the work to Stallman with some trepidation. Stallman provided signed work for Simon and Kirby productions but when that art is carefully examined it becomes obvious that four different artists did the penciling (It’s A Crime Chapter 7, Chapter 8 and Chapter 9). Apparently Stallman was using ghost artists to pencil the work that he would then ink and often sign as his own. The work by Stallman from Joe’s collection was not created for Simon and Kirby but rather for Harvey Comics. Unfortunately it was unsigned and the pencils done in yet another style so the attribution is very provisional. But whoever penciled and inked the work the final results are rather nice.

Artists like the ones discussed in this post do not get much recognition these days. That is a shame because they really were talented artists. Now I do not want sound disdainful of contemporary artists because there is a lot of great comic book work being produced today. But let us face it, not all of them are superstars. But I am sadden that original art by secondary contemporary artists sell for much, much more than that by earlier artists. That despite the fact that relatively little of the work of the older artists has survived. It is obvious that most of today’s fans really have little interest in older original comic book art. If the reader is a collector of original art that does not share this low opinion of older work, keep an eye on the upcoming Heritage auctions as I am sure some great deals can be made.

* flats – Proofs of the line art printed on sheets in the same way finished comic book would be.

Life’s a Sandy Beach

Sorry but no there will be no regular post this week. My electricity was out from Monday until Friday so I had been unable to prepare anything. I consider myself fortunate in that my neighborhood received little physical damage from storm Sandy and my power has been out only for a limited time (I work with people whose power will not be restored for some time). But it does remind you of those things you take for granted.

I should have another Speaking of Art post next weekend.

Speaking of Art, Joe Simon’s Hector Protector

Hector Protector was dressed all in green;
Hector Protector was sent to the Queen.
The Queen did not like him,
Nor more did the King;
So Hector Protector was sent back again.

This, Like so many other nursery rhymes, may seem like nonsensical verse. One theory is that Hector Protector was based on a Richard, Duke of York from 15th century England. I really cannot say how true that theory is but I can say that Joe Simon was aware of the nursery rhyme and based some of his advertisement work on Hector Protector. Joe once told me that he also called the character something like Forester Bill but whenever I found a name applied to the character it was always Hector Protector.

I had previously briefly discussed Hector Protector (Joe Simon’s Career in Advertising) where I provided some examples of layouts that Joe made in preparation for publication. The work Joe did was for Mechanics National Bank which I believe was located in New Jersey. I have never actually seen the published results but that is not too surprising because it would likely have been used as advertisements in small regional newspapers.

All the finished Hector Protector art was executed in color. This despite the fact that all the layouts I have seen made for black and white publications. At the time Joe had his own stat camera so that it was easy for him to prepare art for black and white publications but and color work had to be handled by others.

For the most part, Joe did not apply text to the actual artwork presumably as this allowed for repeated use of an image with different text. The art would be used to advertise a bank so it is not hard to imagine what sort of text might be applied to art like the one shown above. I am sure it would promote getting loans from Mechanics National Bank.

A chipmunk with all the nuts he saved was another natural image for use in a bank advertisement.

Others are a little harder to deduce what the accompanying text might be like. All the Hector Protector images share a similar sense of humor. Not sarcastic as Joe might use for Sick magazine but similar in other respects.

Perhaps my favorite of the Hector Protector art although I wonder if younger viewers would know about rabbit ear antennas. I am not sure if the Captain America image is was part of the original creation or added later. Today Marvel would not tolerate such a usage. I remember them successfully suing a restaurant from either Ireland or England that called itself Captain America. But Marvel was not so such a financial juggernaut when Joe was creating this art (probably in the 70’s) and the advertisement would have been very regional and therefore not likely to attract the attention of the Manhattan located comic book publisher.

New York Times Advertisement Section (November 27, 1966) by Joe Simon

It is a little bit out of place among the Hector Protector art, but I have one last example of Joe Simon’s advertisement work. This was the cover to an advertisement section of the New York Times. Joe used to have a framed example of the actual publication hanging up in his apartment but I do not believe I ever got a chance to scan the published version. However it was printed in color and except for the yellowing of the paper was a good match to the original art.

Speaking of Art, Simon and Kirby’s “Remember the Alamo”

Simon and Kirby were a brand name during the golden age of comics. Their fame began with their creation of Captain America and continued for many years. There are a number of reasons that Simon and Kirby work was so admired and influential but they can be summed up by saying Joe and Jack produced great comics. One thing that often made Simon and Kirby comics so distinctive was their fantastic double page spreads. Not that every comic produced by Simon and Kirby included a double page splash but those spreads were created throughout their years of collaboration (and Kirby would continue to do them form many years after). Nor were Simon and Kirby the first to create double page splashes. The Ka-Zar story by Ben Thompson from Marvel Mystery Comics #11 (September 1940) is the earliest that I am aware off. Joe Simon was the editor of Timely comics at that time so he was certainly knew of the Ka-Zar splash which may have prompted him along with Jack to produce more exciting double page splashes in Captain America Comics.


Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged View

It would be hard for me to pick the very best double page splash that Simon and Kirby ever produced. But that does not mean that they were all equally good. I personally would include “Remember the Alamo” among the choice few of the best Simon and Kirby wide spreads. The pencils are first rate, the inking superb and it has a well designed composition. The only drawback is that the original art is a bit confusing because mass of fighting figures. However Jack drew with the knowledge that the final work would be colored which totally clarified the published image.

The art is laid out in two tiers with the largest fighting figure and Clay Duncan forming the center axis. While the figures in the upper tier are spread out across the top, those in the bottom occupy the center. The bottom left is filled by text which is balanced on the right by a relatively empty scene with a darkened sky.


Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the top left)

The left side of the fighting scene is dominated by the Mexican soldiers while the more informal Texas militia fill most of the right. But this is not an absolute division because combating figures from both sides are found throughout the top. Kirby preferred his fighting as up close and personal, so while many figures hold pistols or rifles few of them seem to be actually ready to be fired. Instead the combatants brandish swords or knives or just grapple with one another.


Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the top right)

The right side includes a frontier man about to strike a Mexican soldier with his rifle. A similar pose would be used for the cover of Western Tales #32 (see Happy Birthday Jack Kirby and Chapter 4 of The End of Simon & Kirby although in the later I incorrectly attributed the art to Joe Simon, the correct credit is pencils by Jack Kirby and inks by Mort Meskin).


Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the top center)

Another Texan visual dominates the center of the upper field. His head bandages and his clothing tattered he has seized a Mexican’s rifle while preparing to finish off his foe with a knife. As I said Kirby liked his battles up close and personal. The inking for the entire piece is just marvelous but the center area provides a showcase of a Jack’s energetic brush. Yes all the drop strings and picket fence crosshatching (see my Glossary) serve a purpose of providing form to the figures but the brush strokes are so bold that they also take on an abstract life full of its own rhythms and movement.


Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the bottom center)

All the action depicted on the top of the splash is shown to be the imaginary viewing of a tale told by Clay Duncan in the bottom of the splash. The rest of the Boys’ Ranch crew listen with rapt attention. What boy from the 50’s would not day dream of being part of that scene.

While Simon and Kirby did a number of double page splashes few have previously entered the hands of private collectors. The only one I am aware of is shown on that great web site What If Kirby. That may be about to change as Heritage will be auctioning off much of Joe Simon’s former collection in the coming months starting with an auction on November 15 and 16. Among other great art, the first auction will include double page splashes from what would have been Stuntman #3, Adventures of the Fly #1 and #2 and the “Remember the Alamo” splash (see Heritage’s art by Simon and Kirby).

Joe’s Birthday

Birthdays are supposed to be occasions of celebration, but for me this one carries a sad undertone. Today, October 11, Joe Simon would have been 99 years old. But his was a good life and his work touched millions, so still there is also something to celebrate.

At 5:15 pm Friday, Oct 12, there will be a memorial panel for Joe at the New York Comic Con (location 1A01). Panelists will be Jim Simon, Paul Levitz, Mark Waid and Angelo Torres. Carmine Infantino is also listed but the last I heard it was uncertain if he would appear. I certainly hope he does because not only did Carmine work with Joe on a couple of occasions, they would frequently telephone one another right up to Joe’s passing.

Speaking of Art, The Other Jack


Sick #23 (September 1963), art by Jack Davis (original art)

Joe Simon had a large art collection. It might be expected that most of it would consists of work that Joe did himself or were drawn by Jack Kirby as part of their long collaboration. While Joe owned a fair amount of art drawn by Kirby it still amounts to a small fraction of the total collection. Over his career Simon worked with a lot of artists and work by many of them were in his collection. One that Joe particularly liked was Jack Davis. Joe would say that Jack Davis was as great an artist in his specialty as Jack Kirby was in his. Davis was probably most famous for his covers for Mad magazine but he did cover art for other satirical magazines as well with Joe Simon’s Sick being one of them. Joe’s collection has a number of the Sick covers that Davis creates, all of them quite wonderful.


Smokey the Bear poster

Sick was a knock-off of Mad and featured the same irreverent humor. Public icons were frequently subjected to a humor that many adults of the day would find objectionable. Of course that was the whole point. When I was young Smokey the Bear advertisements were quite common but he has since been retired. Although a bear, he had a friendly face not like the toothy bear with an evil grin found on the cover of Sick #23. There he was accompanied by Huckleberry Fink. Huckleberry Fink was the mascot for Sick while Alfred E. Neuman had the same role for Mad.


Sick #23 (September 1963), art by Jack Davis (back of the original art)

The back of original comic book art sometimes has interesting art but that found on the back of the art for Sick #23 seems something special. It appears to be an uncompleted cover art for a humor magazine. The size pretty much matches the image that was actually used for the Sick #23 cover and there is ample room at the top for the magazine title. The barroom scene includes three wonderfully characterized figures. It is really quite nice but to be honest I do not understand what is supposed to be the point. Perhaps that is why the art was abandoned. Typically the humor of a cover by Jack Davis is quickly comprehended without the need for thought balloons or any text. That quality is lacking for this unfinished art and is probably the reason the work was suddenly terminated. But there was no reason to waste the cost of the paper so the opposite side was used to create the more successful cover art.

The Wide Angle Scream, The Unpublished Stuntman

Some years ago I wrote a serial post called the Wide Angle Scream  where I discussed the various Simon and Kirby double page splashes that were published over the years. I did include one Stuntman double page splash that had not been published (Terror Island) but there were two others that I did not discuss. Actually it is a not quite accurate to say these wide splashes had not been published as they were included in Joe and Jim Simon’s “Comic Book Makers” (colored, I believe, by Greg Theakston) and more recently in “The Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” (colored by yours truly). At the time I did not have scans of the original art and “Terror Island” was the only spread that I had a reduced size copy of. Now I would like to return to these unpublished Stuntman splashes as a crossover with my serial post Speaking of Art.


Stuntman Comics #3 (intended) “Terror Island”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged view

As mentioned above, I had discussed the splash for “Terror Island” previous but a few comments about the original art seem appropriate. This splash is missing a heading at the top of the page. One probably was present as there appear to be stains left by rubber cement. The Stuntman logo is a recent addition as the original also fell off. But most noticeable about the original art is the damage found along the margins of the illustration board. In Joe Simon’s autobiography “My Life In Comics” he writes:

The spreads had been kept in the attic where they suffered decay at the hands of the weather and damage at the paws (and teeth) of marauding squirrels.

While I am sure that this original art, and the splashes for “Jungle Lord” and “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” spent some period in an attic, I doubt that the damage that they show was due to squirrels as I found no sign of marks from teeth or claws. Rather I believe that the heated conditions frequently found in attics has left the illustration boards brittle. Comic book collectors are familiar with the brittle pages sometimes found in golden age comics caused by the presence of acid in the newsprint paper. The illustration boards that Simon and Kirby used probably did not have as much acid as found in comic book newsprint but there seems to be enough that these art boards typically yellow with age. In the case of the Stuntman original art the heat has accelerated the detrimental effect of the acid making the boards brittle. Most of the damage occurs at the corners which would be expected since that is where the boards are most likely to hit up against more unforgiving objects. The boards are not actively crumbling but must be handled with care.

I should also mention the Stuntman Comics issue number I have assigned these pieces to. Simon and Kirby only used double page splashes in the centerfold of the comics. That way there would be no problems aligning pages properly with the rather primitive publishing methods used for comic books of the day. Only two issues of Stuntman ever reached the newsstands. A third issue was mailed to subscribers but it was much reduced in size and contents. Most importantly the third issue did not use a wide splash. The three unpublished Stuntman wide splashes would have appeared in Stuntman Comics issues #3, #4 and #5 if not for the unfortunate sudden cancellation of the title. I have assigned the different splashes to the intended issues based on completeness of the art. The splashes for “Terror Island” and “Jungle Lord” were both completed. However on “Terror Island” has story art at least some of which was completely inked while the story art for “Jungle Lord” on received outline inking without any spotting. As we will see the inking of the splash for “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” was never finished and therefore it was worked on last.


Stuntman Comics #4 (intended) “Jungle Lord”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged view

Like “Terror Island” the inking of “Jungle Lord” appears to have been completed. Only a small area in the lower right corner seems to have only received outline inking. The board is stained in this area so it seems that originally a square piece of paper or stat covered the area until it was lost when the rubber cement failed. The Stuntman logo is a new addition to replace the original which also seems to have become detached.

Previous Stuntman double page splashes had been visually complex but in “Jungle Lord” Simon and Kirby have distilled it to the essentials. Or as essential as could be expected with five main characters. A dramatic fight scene between Stuntman and a gorilla is balanced with a humorous scene of a skinny individual in a Tarzan suite carrying off a similarly clad Sandra Sylvan while below the ironically named Don Daring bridges the two. While visually complex would be done in the future (“Social Night in Town” and “Remember the Alamo”) simpler designs like this one would dominate.


Stuntman Comics #4 (intended) “Jungle Lord” close-up, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

All the unpublished Stuntman double page splashes had terrific inking, not surprising since Jack was doing his own spotting. But in my opinion “Jungle Lord” has the best inking of the three. Jack used his blunt brush in a free but controlled manner that is just marvelous to behold.


Stuntman Comics #5 (intended) “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged View

Clearly Kirby was working on “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” when Simon and Kirby received the news that Stuntman had been cancelled. Three of the figures appear to be fully inked, one (the Tumbler) may be almost but not quite completed (mainly work is lacking on his left forearm) and two only have outline inking. Stuntman figures large, probably the largest figure in a splash that Kirby ever drew during the period he partnered with Simon.


Stuntman Comics #5 (intended) “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” close-up of Lash, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Standard inking procedure for Simon and Kirby was to first provide simple line inking. Because Kirby’s pencils were pretty tight this task could be assigned to a less talented artist. It is interesting to compare the lined inked Lash with an unfinished Boys Explorer page that did not progress beyond the line inking (Jack Kirby’s Austere Inking). The lines found in the Boys Explorer page show little variation in width almost as if they were made from wire. On the other hand the lines used to construct Lash show variation in thickness line as compared to line and also along the length of a line. The difference is not great but it does suggest a more talented hand did the line inking for the Stuntman #5 splash. Although it is hard to be certain, but I believe that on this splash Jack did the line inking himself.


Stuntman Comics #5 (intended) “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” close-up of Stuntman, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The figure of Stuntman is almost certainly complete, it is hard to imagine how anymore spotting could be applied without having a detrimental effect. While the spotting does not have quite the bravura brushwork as found in the “Jungle Lord” splash it can still take the breath away.