Category Archives: Belfi, John

It’s A Crime, Chapter 9, Not The Same

(Justice Traps the Guilty #9 – #12, Headline #35 – #38)

This chapter will cover the Prize crime comics from the period March through November 1949. Both Justice Traps the Guilty and Headline were bimonthly titles. The other nominally crime title, Charlie Chan, had been discontinued after February. Simon and Kirby were also producing Young Romance at the start of this period as a bimonthly but switching to a monthly in September. The first Young Love was released just prior to this period in February and would be a bimonthly throughout the time covered by this chapter. The western romance titles came out during this period; Real West Romance in April and Western Love in July. They were both bimonthlies. Thus at the start of this period Simon and Kirby were producing 4 titles and by the end 6 titles. Most of the titles were bimonthlies and I find it more significant to count bimonthlies as half a title. Using that counting technique at the start S&K were producing 2 titles and by the end 3.5 titles.


Justice Traps the Guilty #9 (April 1949) “This Way to The Gallows”, art by Jack Kirby

As is generally the case when discussing Simon and Kirby productions, Jack was the primary artist during the time covered by this chapter. This is however a little misleading as Kirby only supplied 5 stories with 38 pages out of a total of 43 stories with 325 pages. While not quite at Kirby’s level, other artists supplied significant amount of work. John Serevin did 5 stories and 32 pages; Vic Donahue had 4 stories and 30 pages and Warren Broderick may have done 4 stories with 31 pages.

A trend that started earlier was continued; Jack’s splashes for the crime titles no longer seemed to have the impact that they did with the earlier issues. Part of this due to all of the splashes now being half pages splashes, but part was the result of the art itself. This may not have just been a declining interest on Kirby’s part; it is possible that he was toning down the violence because of the criticism that crime comics were receiving at this time. Whatever the reason, if you want to see great Kirby splashes from this period you have to look at the romance titles where Jack was turning out some of his best splashes.

Headline #37
Headline #37 (September 1949) That is Jack Kirby in the cover photograph. An uncropped version of the photograph shows that the policeman was actually Joe Simon.

Jack also supplied 4 of the 8 covers, and the covers that Kirby did were all excellent. Starting with Justice Traps the Guilty #11 (August) and Headline #37 (September) the crime titles began to use photographs for their covers. A similar change over occurred for the romance titles; Young Romance with issue #13 (September); Young Love seemed to start it all with issue #2 (April). The western romance titles (Western Love and Real West Romance) were both introduced with photographic covers. Simon and Kirby’s involvement in the crime photographic covers is shown by the presence of Jack himself in one of them.


Headline #37 (September 1949) “The Accusing Match””, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s declining contributions to the crime titles is even greater then the numbers indicate. That is because this chapter covers a transition in these titles. While Jack contributed to Headline #35 to #37 and JTTG #9 to #11, he would provide no work for Headline #38 or JTTG #12. “The Accusing Match” would be the last Kirby crime story released until Simon and Kirby published Police Trap. A drop in Bill Draut’s contribution to the crime genre comics was noted in previous chapters. Bill’s last crime story, and the only for this chapter’s time period, would be “Willie the Actor” from JTTG #9 (April). Draut’s drop in from the crime genre was not a reflection about his art in general because he still played a leading roll in the standard romance titles as well showing up often in the western romance comics all of which were produced by Simon and Kirby. Other artists who worked for the Simon and Kirby studio also stopped appearing about this time in Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. I will touch on this subject as I review some of these artists and at the end of this post draw my conclusions.


Headline #37 (September 1949) “Death of a Menace”, art by Vic Donahue

Vic Donahue’s provided 4 stories and 30 pages which is a surprisingly high number relative to Jack Kirby. He is one of the Simon and Kirby studio artists that would disappear from the crime titles. The last work that I know of appeared in JTTG #12 (October). Donahue appears in Simon and Kirby production often enough during this period that I consider him among the second tier of studio artists (along with John Severin, Leonard Starr, Bruno Premiani?, Jo Albistur and Ann Brewster).

Donahue art during this period is consistent with what I have presented before. Traces of the Studio style inking are found sporadically in Vic’s art. Note the abstract shadow arc in the splash panel, the drop string on the back of the car seat in story panel 1 and the picket fence crosshatching in the second panel (see the Inking Glossary for explanations of the term I use to describe inking techniques). I am increasingly becoming convinced that in Vic Donahue’s case, the presence of Studio style is due to Joe or Jack coming in afterwards as an art editor and strengthening Donahue’s work.


Headline #37 (September 1949) “The Artistic Swindler”, art by Bruno Premiani?

Bruno Premiani first appeared in a Simon and Kirby production in August (“Two-Timer”, Young Love #4). The story “The Artistic Swindler” that appeared in the following month was Premiani’s only crime genre art for Simon and Kirby. Bruno only worked for Joe and Jack until December 1950 but during that time he was an important contributor. Although he would not appear in another crime genre, he would be used for all other Simon and Kirby productions.

Perhaps I should explain (for those readers who have not read my previous explanation) why I provide Bruno Premiani attributions with a question mark. The Simon and Kirby stories whose art I attribute to Premiani are all quite similar and easily recognized. The problem is none of them were signed. Crediting of this work to Premiani is based on the credits found in the trade back “Real Love”. Unfortunately that publication does not explain the reason for the attribution. Bruno Premiani is also credited with work at DC but that work looks very different then the art for Simon and Kirby. While none of this means the S&K studio artists could not have been Bruno Premiani, neither is there good evidence to support that attribution. Until I find some way out of this conundrum, I will continue to indicate by uncertainty by adding a question mark to the Premiani attribution.


Headline #37 (September 1949) “One-Man Posse”, art by John Severin and John Belfi

Another prominent artist during this period was John Severin who contributed 5 stories with 32 pages of art. He would, however, appear in all four Headline comics covered by this chapter as well as JTTG #11 (August). He would also show up in JTTG #14 (February 1950). Severin’s appearance in the Simon and Kirby comics seems somewhat sporadic, but unlike some of the other S&K studio artists, his contributions to the Prize crime comics seems to continue after this period. I am unclear exactly when it started, but Severin was an important artist for Prize Comics Western. As far as I can tell, outside of producing a couple of covers, Simon and Kirby had little to do with that title.


Justice Traps the Guilty #10 (June 1949) “Counterfeit”, art by John Belfi

Many of John Severin’s art at this time were signed. The signature often included the inker and that was almost always John Belfi. I gather Belfi was primarily an inker and “Counterfeit” from JTTG #10 is the sole example of pencils by John Belfi for a Simon and Kirby production. Because his pencil work is not very often seen I thought I would include an image. Frankly John Belfi is not one of the better artists that worked for Simon and Kirby.


Headline #36 (July 1949) “Shoe-Box Annie”, art by Warren Broderick

Warren Broderick was one of the lesser artists of the Simon and Kirby studio. Yet he did a surprising 4 stories and 31 pages for the crime comics covered in this chapter. His last crime story seems to be “Hijackers” in JTTG #11 (August). However he normally does not sign his work and I have only fairly recently identified him. I have made an examination of some of the following Prize crime comics and so far failed to detect him. However he seems to have only rarely was used for the Simon and Kirby romance comics. So he is not a good example of the transition that seems to be occurring in the crime titles.


Justice Traps the Guilty #10 (June 1949) “Death Played Second Fiddle”, art by Manny Stallman

Manny Stallman work for the Simon and Kirby studio has an interesting aspect. I have previously presented examples by Stallman (It’s A Crime, Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 and remarked at the time that they seemed to be done in two different styles neither one of which was a good match for what Stallman did at Atlas a few years later. Yet a third style is evident with “Death Played Second Fiddle”. This style seems particularly crude compared to the art that I previously shown.


Headline #35 (May 1949) “The Golf Links Murder”, art by Manny Stallman

If the presence of three styles by Manny Stallman was not bad enough, “The Golf Links Murder” is done in yet another style. This one is done in a manner that does look similar to Stallman’s Atlas work. Note in particular the almond shaped eyes. Similar eyes can be found in older work as well (The Captain Aero Connections) I believe the existence of four distinct styles over such a very short period of time is good evidence that Manny Stallman was providing work to Simon and Kirby most of which was actually drawn by ghost artists.


Justice Traps the Guilty #11 (August 1949) “Amateur Hypnotist”, art by Dick Briefer

Dick Briefer makes a surprise appearance in this chapter. Well it was a surprise to me. Briefer is mostly known for his work on Frankenstein but we previously saw him supply work for some Charlie Chan issues. Now to the work that he did for Simon and Kirby can be added “Dutch Joe Cretzer’s Other Business” (Headline #36, July), “Amateur Hypnotist” (JTTG #11, August) and “The Nightmare Murder Mystery” (JTTG #12, October). All of the work that he did for Simon and Kirby was unsigned and these three examples are more realistic then what he did in Charlie Chan. But enough of his stylistic tendencies are present to leave little doubt that he was the artist. In the example page shown above note the triangular head give to the man in the splash, the shallow depth to the face of the man on the left of the first story panel, and the small head of the man with the blue suit in the same panel. Dick Briefer’s appearance in these Prize crime comics and work done at the same time for other publishers was undoubtedly due to the cancellation of Frankenstein after issue #17 in February 1949. Frankenstein Comics would resume, with Dick Briefer, in March 1952.


Justice Traps the Guilty #10 (June 1949) “Confidence Man”, art by Bernie Krigstein

The story “Confidence Man” was signed B. B. Krig in the splash. I must admit that I did not realize who it really was until I went searching to the Internet for Krig. I quickly found that B. B. Krig was actually Bernie Krigstein. In fact I had missed an earlier unsigned work by Krigstein (“First Great Detective”, JTTG #8, January 1949). These are the only two works by Bernie for Simon and Kirby. I do not know if part of the reason for that was the transition in the Prize crime comics that happened at this time. Krigstein had a great style for crime stories, but I doubt that it would have been very effective for the romance genre. Whatever the reasons for his short stay at the Simon and Kirby studio, it was certainly a shame he was not around longer as he went on to do some great art for some other publishers and especially for EC.

When the Simon and Kirby’s Young Romance first came out it primarily used Jack Kirby and Bill Draut as artists. After that initial period, the artists used for the romance comics would largely be the same ones used for the Prize crime genre as well. The core artists for Simon and Kirby around the time covered by this chapter were Jack Kirby, Bill Draut, Vic Donahue, Leonard Starr and John Severin. I would include Manny Stallman, but as I mentioned above he appears to be using ghost artists and thus sorting out the unsigned work is problematical. Bruno Premiani? was an important S&K studio artist who started working for Joe and Jack just at this time. Mort Meskin was an even more important studio artist who started just after the period covered by this chapter (December). Kirby’s last crime story was for September, Draut’s was April, and Donahue last was October. Starr never did much crime and his only work in that genre appeared in February. Severin does not follow the same history; he would do a crime story in November 1949 and again in February 1950. Severin would later become an important contributor to Prize Comics Western. Bruno Premiani started working for Simon and Kirby during this time period; he would only do a single crime story (September) but would provide a lot of work for the romance titles for the following year. Mort Meskin would arrive shortly after the period covered in this chapter. While initially Mort would only work on the romance titles before long he would provide occasional stories for Headline and JTTG and would do so for the rest of stay with Simon and Kirby. So to summarize there were 4 artists (Kirby, Draut, Donahue and Premiani) who stopped providing crime stories during this period and 2 (Severin and Meskin) who continued to work on the crime titles.

However it was not just a question of the important S&K studio artists there were also a number of minor, mostly unidentified, artists as well. These minor artists were used in the romance titles but only in limited amounts. In the crime they became more commonly used especially after the S&K studio artists were no longer providing art. They are particularly abundant in the crime titles during the period covered by this chapter where the artist for 13 out of the 46 stories have not been identified. Two other stories have signatures (Dick Rockwell on one and Nicholson and Belfi on the other) but otherwise similar to the unidentified artists as being lesser talents. If Nicholson and Rockwell are included, these artists account for 103 pages of art out of 325 total.

In the first story of Real West Romances #3 (August 1949) there is a label with the declaration: “Produced by Simon and Kirby”. This label would then appear on the first story of nearly every Young Romance, Young Love, Young Brides, Black Magic and Strange World of Your Dreams until near the end of 1954. Some have mistaken it for a claim that Joe and Jack drew that story, but it really meant that Simon and Kirby put together the entire comic. The “Produced by Simon and Kirby” label never appeared in any issue of Headline of Justice Traps the Guilty.

The interpretation that I draw from all of this is that at about this time the Prize comics would begin being made “on the cheap”. That is that the pay rate given to artists working for these titles was lowered. The new pay rate could no longer attract the better artists. Artists like Bill Draut, Bruno Premiani, Vic Donahue and Jack Kirby had work they could do for the Prize romance comics where the pay rate had not changed and Jack had a share of the profits. As for Mort Meskin, he was so prolific that to pick up extra money beyond what he could get from the S&K studio he would accept the lower page rate for the crime titles. Perhaps the same was true for John Severin. Lowering the costs of producing a title was a strategy that Prize would repeat in the future.

But if the Prize crime comics were now being cheaply made, were Simon and Kirby still producing them? That is a question that is harder to provide a satisfactory answer. The lack of the “Produced by Simon and Kirby” label might suggest they were not producing the crime comics. But when the use of photographic covers was dropped for the crime titles, Jack Kirby provided cover art for 7 issues over the period from September 1950 to February 1951. My tentative conclusion is that in 1949 Prize directed Simon and Kirby to produce a cheaper version of the crime titles. By October or so they had achieved that end but continued to be involved in the production of the titles. Because Headline and JTTG were now inferior comics, Joe and Jack purposely left out the “Produced by Simon and Kirby” label. This was the state of affairs until early 1951 after which Simon and Kirby’s involvement in the Prize crime comics completely ended.

Chapter 1, Promoting Crime
Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title
Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves
Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real
Chapter 5, Making a Commitment
Chapter 6, Forgotten Artists
Chapter 7, A Studio With Many Artists
Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective

Chapter 10, The Master and His Protege
Chapter 11, The New Team

The Art of Romance, Chapter 9, More Romance

(Young Romance #13 – #16, Young Love #5 – #6)


Chart of the number of romance titles from September 1947 to December 1950 with the period covered in this chapter marked in blue.

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.


Young Romance #15 (November 1949) “Back Door Love”, art by Jack Kirby

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.


Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “Dance Hall Pickup”, art by Jack Kirby

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.


Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “The Wolves of the City”, art by Bill Draut

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.


Young Love #6 (December 1949) “For Handsome Men Only”, art by Bruno Premiani?

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.


Young Romance #14 (October 1949) “Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic” page 2, art by Vic Donahue

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.


Young Love #5 (October 1949) “For Sale: One Dream”, art by Al Eadeh and John Belfi?

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.


Young Love #5 (October 1949) “The Love I Didn’t Want”, art by George Gregg

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
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
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.


Young Love #6 (December 1949) “The Life of the Party”, art by John Guinta and Manny Stallman

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 (December 1949) “His Engagement Ring”, art by Mort Meskin

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)

The Art of Romance, Chapter 7, More Love on the Range

(Real West Romance #1 – #7, Western Love #1 – #6)


Real Western Romance #6 (February 1950) “I’m Goin’ a’ Cortin’ Ella Mae” page 7, art Leonard Starr

Leonard Starr is most known for his syndication strip Mary Perkins on Stage. He had a long career but I suspect the work that he did in romance comics probably was more important in relationship to his success with the newspaper strip then what he did in any other genre. Starr was an important artist for Real West Romance and Western Love. No single artist dominated these titles but Leonard did more work then any other artist. Not all his work was signed, but I believe he provided 10 out of the 66 stories. Now in my last week’s post I mentioned that Kirby provided significant contributions to 11 stories. I hope to be able to show in my next post what Jack’s contribution was for these stories. For now let me say that most of the stories were not fully the work of Kirby and are dependant greatly on the efforts of other artists. Therefore I give Starr more credit for his efforts in these western love titles then even Jack Kirby.

In my choice of an example of Leonard Starr’s work I decided not to use one that emphasized his talents in romance (but you can see an example of that in Chapter 5). Instead I picked one that gives a good idea of his skill at graphic story telling. In this sequence we see the progression of Marsh’s decision to defy the male members of the Bates family, his arrival ready for action, and the tense confrontation. However in the final panel the action from an unexpected quarter provides a surprise ending for the page. It really is a nice example of Starr’s own graphic story telling. I feel that this page would almost certainly have been handled differently by Jack Kirby. I am sure that Jack would have put more humor in the final sequence by revealing the brooms handler. The point is not that Jack was a better artist (he was) but that I feel that this indicates that Kirby was not involved in laying out this story. This is not a new observation on my part and I am sure that I will repeat in often in the future. I simply have not found evidence to support the contentions of a few individuals that Jack Kirby provided layouts for many of the artists that worked for the Simon and Kirby studio. That is not to say Jack did not do layouts, but I will leave an explanation of what might seem like a contradiction for the next post.

Leonard Starr can present somewhat of a challenge in recognizing his unsigned work. His drawing can vary somewhat from panel to panel. For instance generally his women have a child-like or elfin look. But then in another panel the woman’s face will have a more normal beauty. I am not sure, but I suspect this sort of variation can be explained by Starr’s occasional use of swipes. If Leonard was doing a bit of swiping at this point in his career, and I want to emphasize I do not know this for sure, it was not from Jack Kirby. Starr already seems to have progressed to his own style of comic art and did not seem to fall under Kirby’s spell.

One final comment about Leonard Starr’s work in the Simon and Kirby western romances concerns his panel layouts. The most common page layout among the various studio artists was three rows with two panels per row. Now this was by no means invariable but it did dominate. Leonard Starr would use that panel layout as well but he had a distinct tendency to break the rows into three panels per row. He would sometimes go further and vertically compress two rows so that the other row would have distinctly tall and narrow panels. Starr would at times go even further yet and organize the page, as in the example above, into two rows of three panels per row so that all the panels would have the narrow format. Other studio artists would occasionally use narrow panels, even Kirby, but none of them as frequently as Leonard Starr.


Real Western Romance #1 (April 1949) “Wild Hoses and Ornery Gals”, art by Al Eadeh and John Belfi

I have previously written about the team of Al Eadeh and Jon Belfi in Chapter 5. They had a small but important presence in the early Young Romance and Young Love issues. So far the above story is the only one that I can credit to Eadeh and Belfi in the western romance comics. It is a safe bet because it is signed. Most artists that worked for Simon and Kirby were expected to illustrate any category of story. So the fact that I have attributed 6 stories to Eadeh and Belfi from YR and YL but only one from RWR or WL is suspicious. Either they were exceptions and were predominately assigned standard romance work, or some of the work I have credited to them in YR and YL was incorrect, or there is more work to be found in RWR and WL. There are still a number of cowboy love stories that remain unaccredited but so far I do no find any of them convincing examples of Eadeh and Belfi’s work. As I wrote before, Al and John were, like most artists who worked for Simon and Kirby, talented but were not what I would call exceptional.


Western Love #1 “The Tonto Express” (July 1949), art by George Gregg

George Gregg is one of my newer additions to identified Simon and Kirby artists. In the past I have either overlooked his signature or been unable to correctly read it. To the two works I spotted in Chapter 5 (Young Love #4 and Justice Traps the Guilty #17) I have now been able to add another “Fortune In Furs” from JTTG #19 (October 1950). The newly identified piece is another example of a signature I had previously seen but until recently was not able to correctly read. This last work is important because in it Gregg depicts some of the male characters with more complex eyebrows. Perhaps this reflects an influence from Jack Kirby who frequently provides expressive eyebrows. The manner the eyebrows are drawn in JTTG #19 has a pretty good match in “The Tonto Express” and that is one of the reasons I assigned that unsigned work to George. It is gratifying to be able to attribute more art to Gregg and I suspect I will find even more, but I am getting the impression that he only did a little work for Joe and Jack.


Western Love #5 “Lilly’s Last Stand” (March 1950), art by Mort Meskin

December 1949 marked the return of Mort Meskin in Young Romance #16 and Real West Romance #5. Mort had previously provided some work to Simon and Kirby but as part of a team with Jerry Robinson. Robinson and Meskin really did not do a lot of work for S&K but what they did was at a time that when only a small group of artists were supplying art for Young Romance. With his return as a solo artist, Mort would quickly become one of the essential members of the Simon and Kirby studio, or as I like to think of it as one of the usual suspects. Although I use the term “studio artist” most who produced art for Simon and Kirby did not actually work in the studio. Mort was one of the exceptions. As Joe Simon describes in “The Comic Book Makers”, Meskin initially had trouble executing his assignments. Simon was well aware of how talented Mort really was, so first Joe tried patience and when that was not enough he asked Mort to work in the studio. There Joe realized that Mort had a terror of the blank page, and so Joe would have somebody just marks the pages up. Some have claimed that this meant Jack was doing the layouts for Mort, but Joe insists that is not true; the pencils were nothing more then abstract marks. Having overcome his artist block, Mort went on to become a productive member. So productive, that his output exceeding Jack Kirby’s during some periods. I have long believed that Meskin inked his own work. During a conversation with Joe Simon I was told how inking was done in the studio using an assortment of people, “like a factory”. But then Joe paused, and added “except for Mort Meskin, he did all his own inking”. It is nice to have such confirmation.

What an unusual, but effective, composition Meskin provides for the splash panel of “Lilly’s Last Stand”. It depicts Lilly, acting as the sheriff, breaking up a barroom brawl. Normally a fight would be given center stage, but here Mort has placed the fighters in the background. Well, calling it background is a little misleading as all the characters share a rather narrow depth that Meskin makes look natural by using a high viewpoint. There is no true background as nothing is shown beyond the fighters. One of the fighters has been knocked down to the ground while the other advances on him with menace. Across the empty space stands the second fighter’s true opponent, Sheriff Lilly. Lilly is so much in control of the situation that she casually rests one leg on a fallen barstool. We only see the back of the heads of the on looking crowd, except for one that turns to seemingly comment to another observer but really to the reader. By his statement he is Lilly’s boyfriend and thus Meskin has presented a roll reversal of the sexes, the theme of the story. During his years with S&K Mort had a distinct preference for a two thirds of a page splashes. One reason appears to have been that it allowed him to play off the splash panel with the first couple of story panels. That is true here where the story panel shows Lilly in a very feminine dress in contrast to the sheriff outfit. Interestingly Mort provides another level to the contrast. I describe the dress as feminine but the high collar effectively hides her female anatomy while the plunging neckline of her sheriff outfit neckline reveals them. Was this a suggestion that the feminine roll was actually sexually repressive? Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but that is one of the greatest pleasures reading these stories some 50 plus years later.


Western Love #1 (July 1949) “A Gal, A Guy and a Gelding”, art by Manny Stallman

Another artist we have not encountered before in The Art of Romance is Manny Stallman. Had I been writing about Simon and Kirby’s crime comics, we would have seen Stallman’s work earlier because art signed by him began appearing there starting with Headline #22 (December 1948). The attribution of “A Gal, A Guy and a Gelding” is considered tentative and is based on the general style. The fact that it is the only unsigned work credited to Manny in my database suggests that further investigation should reveal more works by him (most artists working for S&K did not sign everything they did). I would not be surprised if crops up again when this serial post returns to discussing Young Romance and Young Love, but I have not found any more of his works in Real West Romance or Western Love. Currently my database only has 8 works by Stallman with the one in WL #1 being the last.

Despite the western theme, most stories from the western love comics are typical romance stories. There is however a greater emphasis on action found in RWR and WL as compared to YR and YL. “A Gal, A Guy and a Gelding” illustrates that quite well. Stallman shows he can handle the action well enough but he clearly did not learn how to depict a fight from Jack Kirby. Jack discovered quite early in his career that the best way to present a person slugged was to have him project toward the reader; Manny has the man fall away from us. Further the slugger seems to be unnaturally leaning towards us. Still there is no question about what is going on. Since this is first and foremost a romance story it has a typical romantic ending. Panel 5 shows that Manny was better then most of the artists in RWR and WL in providing a romantic image, I wonder why Manny was not used more often in YR or YL? As I previously said, most of these cowboy love stories are really romances and as such they typically end with a kiss. I have to laugh about the ending for “A Gal, A Guy and a Gelding” where instead there is a mutual embrace of a horse. (In all fairness, this was probably determined by the script writer).


Real Western Romance #3 (August 1949) “The Cowgirl and the Sheepherder”, art by John Severin and John Belfi

I left for last another artist not previously encountered in The Art of Romance. John Severin would pencil 10 stories for the Prize cowboy romance comics, the same number as Leonard Starr. I give Starr the credit for being the most prolific of the western romance artists because one of Severin’s pieces was a single page. Still Severin was one of the dominate artists, and he also did work for the crime and standard romances comics as well. Here in “The Cowgirl and the Sheepherder” he is inked by John Belfi. We had previously seen Belfi as teamed up with Al Eadeh. John Belfi was primarily an inker but he did occasionally do pencils. In fact just a couple of months previously he penciled a story for Justice Traps the Guilty. As far as I know this is the only S&K studio story where Belfi inked Severin. I thought it might be interesting to include a sample for comparison with Severin’s normal inker.


Real Western Romance #6 (February 1950) “Six Gun Serenade”, art by John Severin and Will Elder

Although this is my first occasion to discuss Severin in The Art of Romance, I did write about some of his much later work for Joe Simon. Therefore I may as well confess up front that I am not a fan of John Severin; I find his style too dry. However when studying comic art history it is important to separate personal tastes from the study itself. I may not care that much for Severin, but that does not change the fact that he was an important artist. I will also say that Joe Simon does not share my view; Joe greatly admires John Severin. On the occasion of the recent death of Will Elder, Joe commented how talented Severin and Elder were as a team and how each would become great in their own particular art form.

It is with Will Elder that John Severin is most often teamed up with in Simon and Kirby productions. Severin and Elder are an exception among the S&K studio artists in that their work was not evenly distributed among genre. Typically studio artists were expected to be able to work on any type of story. However Severin and Elder did very few standard romance stories while as stated above they did a good number of the western love subgenre. They also did some crime stories, but by this time the Prize crime titles were no longer being produced by Simon and Kirby. It was in western genre that Severin and Elder did the most work. My knowledge of Prize Comics Western (also not produced by S&K) is not adequate, but it does seem that Severin and Elder appeared there before showing up in other Prize titles. Further John and Will became regular artists for Prize Comics Western for a number of years.

Severin’s pencils can most easily be recognized by the very wide and square jaw that he usually gave to men. The reader can see a good example of this in the first panel of the page from “Six Gun Serenade” that I provide above. However I chose this particular page to show that John Severin was not always so dry or limited to serious westerns. Here we get a chance to see a more humorous Severin. His rendition of Phil mimicking Slim’s singing in the third art panel is just marvelous. Even better is Phil’s reaction in the sixth art panel after being slugged by Slim. Unquestionably, Severin had the ability to go beyond his normally dry manner when the occasion called for it. Unfortunately there was one thing that John did not seem very successful at and that is romance. If not for the text in the captions the reader of “Six Gun Serenade” would have no idea the couple in the last panel were in love. John Severin just did not seem to have the romantic touch. That may have been fine for these western love stories, but it may explain why Severin and Elder did so little work for Young Romance and Young Love. Still I must say that although I generally do not care for Severin’s work, there are occasions like “Six Gun Serenade” where he just bowls me over.


Western Love #4 (January 1950) “Six Gun Serenade”, art by John Severin and Will Elder, along with Jack Kirby

With all the comics that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby produced over the years, it is understandable that occasionally a story title would be repeated. Even so it is a bit surprising that “Six Gun Serenade” would be reused as a title within just a month. That is not why I have chosen to include the image above. The real reason is the figure of the wounded Dirk in the splash panel. It is clearly the work of Jack Kirby. The inking of the figure and the surrounding wall also appears to have been done by Jack. The rest of the splash and the two story panels were just as clearly done by John Severin and Will Elder. This is one of those cases of Kirby stepping in as art editor. It may not be too surprising that Severin’s original version was not considered good enough. A comparison of the figure in the splash with the one in the first panel that has just about the same pose suggests what may have been the problem.

There are a number of works in Real West Romance and Western Love that I have not been able to provide an attribution. Some are clearly done by the same artist and so I hope that eventually I should be able to figure who that artist was. There are also some that look like Jack Kirby was involved. These stories and the nature of Jack’s involvement will be discussed in next week’s conclusion to the western romance 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)

The Art of Romance, Chapter 5, New Talent

(Young Romance #9 – #12, Young Love #1 – #4)


Young Romance #12 (July 1949) “The Man I Kept on a String”, art by Bill Draut

As discussed in the previous chapter, Bill Draut became the most prolific contributor to the Simon and Kirby romance titles within the period from Young Romance #9 (January 1949) through Young Love #4 (August 1949). Bill’s importance is also shown by the fact that for the first time a couple feature stories would be done by someone other then Jack Kirby. However with one exception (“The Plumber and Me” from Young Love #1) Bill’s stories would not be as lengthy as Jack’s would sometimes be. This is true even when it was the featured story which so far Jack had always made the longest in the comic. This was the case with “The Man I Kept on a String” which despite being the feature story is just 8 pages long. Bill’s splash for this feature story continued to use the device of a word balloon for the introduction caption and title. Was Bill just told to do this or was he supplied a layout? I just do not have a good answer to that question. The layout of this splash is unusual in having four story panels in two rows with the splash panel assuming an inverted L shape. Since that arrangement is not found in any other splashes drawn either by Bill or Jack it does not provide any suggestion as to who laid it out. Also not found in other splashes is the use of the diminished statue of the one of the figures as a visual symbol of his status. Although at this time I cannot decide on who should be credited for laying out the splash, I find the rest of these stories, and the others that Bill did during this period, to be told in his own manner and therefore not based on layouts provided by Joe or Jack.


Young Love #1 (February 1949) “Lady Luck”, art by Bill Draut

Since Draut had such an outstanding presence during this period, I though I would include another example of his work. The splash has an interesting design using a card of an ace of spades as a visual link to the title and theme of “Lady Luck”. The background for the splash panel is very unusual and I have to admit I really cannot make out what it is supposed to represent. Most splashes by Draut do not have such an emphasis on design. Again I am undecided in splashes such as “Lady Luck”, where design is so important, whether the layout was supplied to Bill or not. Before leaving this story I would like to point out the way Bill presents the adoring Ruth in the last panel of the page. This particular upward gaze with the head slightly tilted was another of those trademarks of Bill Draut.

This period marks a change in Bill’s art work, although I am not certain what if anything can be made of it. The story “Shadows” (Young Romance #10 from March 1949) would be the last work for Simon and Kirby that Bill would sign. Previous his signatures appeared on a good fraction of his work but it would never again be used for anything else Bill did for S&K productions. I am only familiar with very little of Draut’s work after the Simon and Kirby studio closed but I have never seen a signature on any of it either.


Young Romance #10 (March 1949) “Heart’s Desire”, art by Al Eadeh and John Belfi

Draut’s higher productivity during the period helped to offset Kirby’s declining presence but it was not enough to make up for it entirely. Especially since the team of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin were no longer contributing either. New artists, at least new for the Simon and Kirby studio, began to provide romance stories. The most important for this period may have been the team of Al Eadeh and John Belfi. Assuming I am correct in my attributions (only 2 of them were signed) Eadeh and Belfi provided 6 stories. The usual assumption in teams like this is that the first name of the signature is the penciler and the second the inker. It should be kept in mind that the division of labor was not always so complete, as for example with Robinson and Meskin where Meskin’s presence seems more then in just the inking. However Eadeh and Belfi divided up their work the same inking style was used even for the unsigned stories that I credit to them. Eadeh and Belfi’s art is not very distinctive but there are some features that help in identifying their work. Light haired woman have thin lines that do not suggest waves and curls very sensuously; often the lines of hair are almost straight even when doing a curl. The outlines for long hair vary in thickness along its length. Some men have distinctively shaped thick eyebrows.

The splash for “Heart’s Desire” has an interesting high and tilting viewpoint. This is not at all typical of their work for either splashes or the stories. I am not sure why they adopted this tilt in this case. It does allow the title and the woman’s soliloquy to occupy the top of the panel leaving the rest with an unobstructed view. In any case it serves to make the image more interesting. I feel that the artists that did work for Simon and Kirby were usually the better ones in the business and that includes Eadeh and Belfi. They certain provided professionally done work and knew how to graphically tell a story. I do have to admit though that they really are not among my favorite S&K artists. Al Eadeh is probably best known for work he did for Timely/Atlas. John Belfi seemed to have worked for a number of outfits sometimes as penciler and other times as inker. Both Eadeh and Belfi are included in David Hajdu’s lengthy list in “The Ten-Cent Plague” of artists who did not continue working in comics “after the purge of the 1950s”.


Young Love #2 (April 1949) “Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic”, art by Vic Donahue

Another new artist for the S&K romance comics was Vic Donahue. During this period Vic would draw four of “Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic” a short feature, usually 2 or 3 pages long, that appeared in both Young Romance and Young Love. Although Donahue was new to the romance titles his work had previously appeared in S&K crime comics starting with Headline #32 (October 1948). Vic would be associated with Simon and Kirby for a period of about three years but he never seemed to achieve much prominence in their productions. Sometimes Vic signed with his full name with a distinctive long line after the “Vic”, other times he would only use his first name but kept that long line. Donahue can best be recognized by his attractive but not overly beautiful woman. The slight tilt of Nancy Hale’s head in the first panel above shows up from time to time in Donahue’s women. It appears that, like most S&K studio artists, Vic generally did his own inking. Much attention was paid by Donahue in the rendering of hair. At times Vic used a pen to shadow an area with very straight fine lines as can be seen on Nancy Hale’s hand in the first panel of the image above. Donahue also occasionally used picket fence crosshatching or indicate shade by strong simple hatching with a brush. While both of those techniques are typical of the Studio style of inking, Vic did not use any other brush methods from that style.

There is one interesting exception to Vic Donahue as only an artist for the Nancy Hale feature during this period and that is the featured story for Young Love #4, “In Love with a Memory”. Jack Kirby penciled and inked the splash panel while Donahue drew and inked the bottom two panels as well as the rest of the story. The story matches Vic’s Nancy Hale work and does not seem to be based on Kirby layouts.


Young Romance #11 (May 1949) “Big City Girl”, art by Leonard Starr

A number of individuals did work for Simon and Kirby who would go on to become famous comic artists. I am not saying Joe and Jack discovered these artists but they did seem to recognized talent even during its early stages of emergence. One of these is certainly Leonard Starr. Leonard only appears in one story for the romance comics that I am covering in this post but was also appearing at this time in the western romances that I will be covering in a separate chapter. The first page for “Big City Girl” is laid out with a vertical splash with two story panels on the right side. This is not a splash page layout that Jack used at this time so once again I do not believe Joe or Jack did layouts for this story. Starr is good with his visual story telling and his woman are attractive but neither compares with what would come later when in 1957 when Starr create his syndication strip On Stage (later called Mary Perkins On Stage). That strip is currently being reprinted.


Young Love #4 (August 1949) “My Strange Fear”, art by George Gregg

An unexpected benefit of preparing for this blog post was the detecting of a signature that I had previously overlooked. There on a book spine of the splash for “My Strange Fear” is the name Gregg. I had already seen a similar signature on a story from Justice Traps the Guilty #17 (August 1950) “Best Seller” but I was never able to make out the correct spelling. The signature in “My Strange Fear” is very clear and I am certain that the artist must be George Gregg. Since this is a very recent discovery for me, I do not yet know how much a part Gregg will have in Simon and Kirby productions but since his other signed work is from a year after “My Strange Fear” there is a good chance more work will be found. Some of the eyebrows are very distinctive in “My Strange Fear” so it should not be hard to recognize George’s work even when a signature is lacking. Gregg is another of those artists found on Hajdu’s list of the ’50s purge victims.


Young Love #4 (August 1949) “Two-Timer”, art by Bruno Premiani?

What can I say, sometimes I make mistakes. I had previously included “Two-Timer” in a post about John Prentice as the first work that he did for Simon and Kirby. At that time I recognized that the style was not typical of Prentice but felt that he had not yet matured into his final style. Later I came to realize that there was a body of work from August 1949 through October 1950 that was pretty consistent and distinct from John Prentice’s work which would not appear in Simon and Kirby productions until April 1951. Unfortunately none of the art by this earlier artist for Simon and Kirby was ever signed. Two stories by this artist were reprinted in “Real Love” where they were credited to Bruno Premiani. I do not know whether this was by Richard Howell, the editor of that book, or either Mark Evanier or Greg Theakston who are credited with supplying information. Nor do I know what formed the basis of that attribution. Because in cases such as this my motto is trust but verify, I have given some cursory examinations of some other comics attributed by Permiani, Tomahawk and Doom Patrol. Frankly nothing I saw convinced me that they were by the same artist. The material for DC is distinctly simpler, with much sparser inking, and the eyebrows of women are more arched. There are artists that adapt their style in relationship to the subject or genre they are working in and perhaps that is the case here. There is an excellent biography of Bruno Permiani which indicates that Bruno, born in Italy but had immigrated to Argentina, was in the U.S. during this time. For now I will be using the Premiani attribution but with a question mark to indicate my personal uncertainty.

Whether he is was truly Bruno Permiani or not, I have come to admire this studio artist greatly. Premiani only did work for Simon and Kirby for a little over a year but he contributes a fair amount of material (20 stories by my count). Bruno works in an illustrative style similar to that of John Prentice (hence my original confusion). The two can most easily be distinguished by their women; those by Prentice have a sophisticated beauty with slightly longer faces while Permiani’s women, although still attractive, are somewhat plainer with relatively straight eyebrows. Bruno had an ability to truly animate his subjects. Without using excessive poses or melodramatic rendering, Premiani’s people just seem to radiate their emotions.

I have not commented on every individual cover or story in this serial post; however I review everything for the titles belonging to a particular chapter. I try to remark on any of my attributions that might be different from credits supplied by other scholars, particularly the Jack Kirby Checklist. For those who are interested in my attributions of work not included in the serial post itself, I have added checklists for Young Romance and Young Love to the sidebar. I will be expanding these lists as new chapters The Art of Romance appear. I would prefer any comments about my attributions to be placed in the chapters of The Art of Romance where they are less likely to be overlooked.

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)