(Young Romance #13 – #16, Young Love #5 – #6)
My discussions of Young Romance and Young Love were left off in Chapter 5 after which I then spent the next three chapters on Simon and Kirby’s two western romances titles Real West Romance and Western Love. Returning to Simon and Kirby’s purer romance titles, Young Romance was starting its third year. Previously Young Romance and the newer Young Love were both bimonthlies on an alternating schedule so that one would appear on the stands each month. With the Young Romance #13 issue (September 1949) that title would now become a monthly. The house ad announcing this new schedule declared there were three and a half million readers. An exaggeration? Perhaps, but this was the golden age of comics and readerships were much larger then found today. Taking Young Romance to monthly schedule clearly indicates that Prize was doing quite well with that title. Since the deal with Prize provided Simon and Kirby with a percentage of the sales, the creative duo were receiving great financial benefits. There was competition, however, as September 1949 was well into the start of the love glut.
For whatever reason, Jack Kirby was not that prolific during the period covered in this chapter (September to December 1949). The covers for YR and YL were all photographs and so Jack would not be providing any covers. Kirby would supply a single story for YR #13 to #15, two for YR #16, and none for YL #5 or #6. His diminished presence in YR and YL was also true for the other Simon and Kirby titles (Headline, Justice Traps the Guilty, Real West Romance and Western Love). While Jack may not have been his usual prolific self he still was an important contributor to the two romance titles. Kirby would provide the lead story for Young Romance and while these stories may not have been as long as some from the past they still had the highest page count compared to any others in the same issue. So while there were two artists that provided more stories then Jack only one of them actually drew more pages. For the record Jack did 5 stories and 58 pages for the 6 issues. Unlike the case found in previous chapters of “The Art of Romance”, or even “Its A Crime”, I conclude that Kirby did not provide layouts to any of the other artists in these issues.
Jack provided great splashes for all the lead stories for YR #13 to #16. All made use of the motif of a character introducing the story with the word balloon forming the title. All lead stories were meant to suggest provocative themes as can be seen by their titles alone (“Sailor’s Girl”, “Runaway Bride”, “Back Door Love” and “Dance Hall Pick-Up”). Today they might seem tame but in the late ’40s they would be considered risque. I have chosen two of them as examples not only because they are the best but also because of their contrasting nature. The splash for “Back Door Love” shows a couple on one side, a large word balloon/title, and three overlapping panels crowded into another corner. The panels are not the beginning of the story, but rather provide examples of the shameful love and its emotional price the woman has to pay. The couple was inked in the standard Studio style with abundant picket fence crosshatching and drop strings (see my Inking Glossary for explanations of my terms to describe inking techniques). This was overlaid with much relatively fine simple and more complicated crosshatching; techniques not commonly found in Simon and Kirby art. The inking is meant to provide the couple with a nighttime setting which is enhanced by the colorist blocking them out in a light blue. While the woman’s face turned to the viewer (I do not understand why many do not find Kirby’s woman beautiful) the man’s remains concealed in the shadows; all in keeping with the mystery of their relationship. Not much in the way of action, but one of Kirby’s more interesting splashes nonetheless. However there is a “but”; while some like comic art with a lot of detail work, I generally do not. I find all the crosshatching in this splash gives the figures a hard edge, almost like they were carved out of stone and are not flesh and blood. A small detraction from what was otherwise a masterpiece.
Shame was the theme for the splash of “Dance Hall Pickup” as well, but its similarity to the “Back Door Love” splash pretty much ends there. This time it is the man’s turn to be found in a shameful relationship. Nothing mysterious here, everything is in full lighting. The woman’s low cut dress, fake flowers on her belt, costume jewelry, and false eyelashes clearly mark her as the type of woman a gentleman would be uncomfortable with bringing home to meet his mother. Of course the story will reveal that the somewhat trashy appearance of the woman really hides a warm and loving heart. The inking for this splash is truly a text book example of Studio style inking. It has all the typical hallmarks; lots of picket fence crosshatching and drop strings along with an abstract arch shadow and shoulder blots for the man. No fastidious brushwork here, each stroke is boldly marked; straddling the boundary between working with others for indicating the shadows and maintaining an independent existence. Most fans are attracted to his action scenes but for me this is Kirby at his best; telling a complete story with just some simple gestures and some abstract marks.
I cannot leave this splash without pointing out the hanging curtain in the top corner. It serves no logical purpose. The windows in the back are complete bare, so why is that drapery hanging from the ceiling in the middle of a dance floor in front of a pillar? It is a mistake to look at Kirby art, or any comic book art, as if it was an attempt at rendering a truly realistic image. Elements are added for their suggestive power and how they provide visual interest. The hanging curtain is a motif that Jack will use often.
The largest contributor to YR #13 – #16 and YL #5 and #6 was Bill Draut. Bill did twice as many stories compared to Kirby (10 vs. 5) and 10 more pages (68 vs. 58). Bill’s strength was his clear visual story telling and his effective use of body language. The simplicity of faces drawn by Bill did not lend itself to a wide range of emotions. Perhaps that is why Draut was very careful in the poses he provided his characters. Upturn faces could portray admiration or wonderment. Thrusting the head forward and providing clenched fists would reveal a person’s anger. In the splash for “The Wolves of the City” you do not need to read the story to realize how demure and proper the lady on our right is. Hands folded on her lap and eyes cast down tell it all. Her friend has her hand on her hip, the way her head pushed forward, and even the way she holds her cigarette shows she has a harsh and sharp personality. Despite the similar profiles, she presents quite a contrast to the mother figure from the second story panel.
The third most prolific artist for the issues cover in this chapter was possibly Bruno Premiani. I say possibly because none of the work this artist did for Simon and Kirby was signed and none of it compares well with work done for DC that has been credited to Premiani. Either the attribution of this work to Premiani is wrong or he adopted a different style for romance compared to his superhero comic book art. Whoever the artist is, and for now I continue to refer to him as Premiani, he was one of the more talented individuals to have worked for Joe and Jack. Bruno first showed up in Young Love #4 (August 1949) and would provide work to the S&K studio until December 1950). During that period of a little over a year, Simon and Kirby would include about 25 stories by Premiani. For the issues covered in this chapter, Bruno did 6 stores (one more then Kirby) for a total of 48 pages (much less then Jack’s 58 pages). One of the stories supplied by Bruno was even used for the all importing lead story (the “For Handsome Men Only” shown above). It is easy to see why Premiani was used so often. Although his woman are perhaps a little plainer then some other studio artists, they (and the men as well) seem to radiate an emotional energy. Like Draut, Premiani could make effective use of body language as well. The hands on the hip and face in profile as superficially similar to Draut’s pose in “The Wolves of the City”. But by pulling the head back and thrusting one leg forward, Bruno makes his protagonist much more alluring. In the second panel the lady ostensibly uses her hand to keep her scarf in place but the gesture is actually part of a physical withdrawal from a disappointing blind date.
There were a number of other artists who contributed to these issues of YR and YL but nowhere nearly as much as Draut, Kirby or Premiani. One was Vic Donahue who we have seen in previous chapters of “The Art of Romance” both for the standard romance as well as the western love titles. Vic’s work for the issues covered her has diminished and is restricted to three “Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic” features. These are all short work of 2 or 3 pages long. There is no more I can add to my previous discussions of Donahue; his woman are attractive and Vic often provided them with a tilt to the head. Vic was careful in the inking of hair and he sometimes filled shadows with fine simple hatching. Aspects of the Studio style inking also show up in his work. The page above shows drop strings (panel 1 and 3), shoulder blots (panel 3), an abstract arch shadow (panel 6) and picket fence crosshatching (panels 4, 6 and 7). I am still undecided whether this was Joe or Jack stepping in as art editor to strengthen up the work. Alternatively is may have been Vic adopting portions of the Studio style. Joe Simon has described the inking of Kirby’s pencils as being like a factory line involving many different inkers. Although I cannot point to any specific work by Kirby that Donahue could have inked, as one of the more minor but still talented artists continually employed by S&K Vic certainly was a candidate to help in inking.
Another minor contributor, or rather an artist team, that we have seen before was Al Eadeh and John Belfi. The work is unsigned and my attribution provisionally, but I believe Eadeh and Belfi did “For Sale: One Dream”. While talented, Eadeh and Belfi were still among the lesser lights of the S&K studio.
Signatures found in three comics (Young Love #4 and Justice Traps the Guilty #17 and 19) have allowed me to identify one of Simon and Kirby’s studio artists, George Gregg. Since then I have spotted an unsigned work in Western Love #1 and here I can add two more. Even without a signature, Gregg’s style still stands out. His art has a sort of stylized cartoony edge to it and frankly a touch of primitivism. Gregg’s often provides his characters with distinctive, but varied eyebrows. The leading ladies frequently have a pinched look to their faces. While “The Love I Didn’t Want” is no masterpiece, it is still nice to be able to assign a name to some of work produced by the Simon and Kirby studio.
Young Love #6 (December 1949) “My Promise”, art by George Gregg with help from Jack Kirby in splash panel
“My Promise” is another unsigned work by George Gregg. The Jack Kirby Checklist includes the splash as being done by Kirby. While it is true man was clearly done by Jack, the rest of the splash and the story panels were by Gregg alone. This is another example of Kirby acting as art editor stepping in to help the all important splash. I believe the man in the splash was inked by Jack as well, but he is deliberately working in a simpler manner to blend in better with Gregg’s inking. Careful examination, however, will show that Jack’s brush has a subtlety that was beyond Gregg’s capabilities. The over sized ear in the second story panel was a mannerism that Kirby often fell into, particularly on work done before he went into military service (for Timely and DC). This suggests that Gregg may have been using old Simon and Kirby comics as source material for swiping.
Young Love #5 (October 1949) “Too Many Boy Friends”, art by Ann Brewster
New to Simon and Kirby production is the artist Ann Brewster. S&K must have like her work because they used her first submission, “Too Many Boy Friends”, as the lead story for Young Love #5. I am not sure that “first” is the proper description. I do not believe there were any earlier works for Simon and Kirby but I am unaware of any other works by Ann from this period either. In 1955 Ann would provide a number of stories for the Prize romance titles during the time when Joe and Jack were trying to get their own publishing company, Mainline, going.
When I previously discussed this splash, I thought that this might have been delivered as pencils and inked in the S&K studio. That conclusion was largely due to the presence of Studio style inking throughout the story. However, I no longer hold that viewpoint. There appears to be at least two inkers involved. One, Ann herself, working with a fine brush and another inker, probably Joe or Jack) working with a broader, more loaded, brush. The Studio style inking was probably added later to strengthen the art.
Another new team to appear was John Guinta and Manny Stallman. Fortunately the work is signed because I am completely unfamiliar with John Guinta’s work. Manny Stallman has done his own penciling for Simon and Kirby primarily in the crime titles (not yet covered by my serial post “It’s A Crime”) but also in Western Love #1 (July 1949). “The Life of the Party” is the only story that I know that they did for S&K but perhaps more will show up.
The art for Guinta and Stallman’s “The Life of the Party” is good, but I am particularly impressed by the splash panel. It actually is two splash panels as neither of the top panels belong to the story proper. Floating heads are not used often by Simon and Kirby but they do occur. However I do not recall any of theirs approaching the avalanche of heads as produced here by Guinta and Stallman. I particularly like the way they spill from the right panel into the left with the gutter bisecting two heads. While I attribute most of this to work to John and Manny, I wonder about the single head at the center bottom of the panel. It is the only head without hair and the uppermost contour looks decidedly unnatural; almost as if it was cut from some other work. I cannot help but wonder if that one head was actually done by Jack Kirby. Perhaps, though, this is due to the inking with its aspects of Studio style. This was probably done by either Joe or Jack as most of the story is inked in a different style. Again the presence of places with Studio style inking in the story probably is due to Joe or Jack stepping in to strengthen the art.
Young Romance #16 marked the return of an important artist Mort Meskin. Perhaps return is not the proper word as a little over a year ago he had appeared teamed up with Jerry Robinson. In the same month of December 1949 Mort also appeared in Real West Romance #5. Joe Simon has described in his book “The Comic Book Makers” the difficulties Meskin faced overcoming the artist’s equivalent of the writer’s block. However once this problem was passed, Mort became the most prolific of the Simon and Kirby studio artists. There were periods when he out produced Jack Kirby (no small feat) despite the fact that Mort would do all his own inking while Kirby often was inked by others. During his career, Mort was much admired by many of his fellow artists including Jerry Robinson, Joe Simon and Steve Ditko. Unfortunately today he is largely overlooked among comic book fans failing even to be voted into the Will Eisner Awards’ Hall of Fame. Partly this is due to the stylized drawing that Meskin adopted. Also a lot of his later work was done for Simon and Kirby romance titles; a genre not much appreciated among today’s fans. Perhaps the most important reason was that Meskin dropped out of comics in the late ’50s and afterwards avoided any contact with fans. However Mort was one of the best graphic story tellers from the golden age of comics. Meskin’s skill in presenting a story is easy to overlook due to the unobtrusive methods he used. Probably the only thing I can say against Meskin as an artist was that his work sometimes suffered from his efforts to produce lots of work.
The splash page for “His Engagement Ring” uses a layout that Meskin typically preferred; two thirds of the page for the splash panel with two or three story panels at the bottom of the page. It is a common layout used by many artists but different from the layout most frequently used when teamed up with Robinson which had a vertical splash panel with two story panels on the right side of the page.
The December issue of Young Romance was released just a few months prior to the peak of the love glut. The rise in the number of romance titles in such a short period was nothing short of dramatic. The decline following the peak was almost as rapid when publishers found that there just was not enough room on comic racks for all the new titles.
Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)