Category Archives: Breifer, Dick

In the Beginning, Chapter 4, Red Raven #1

Red Raven #1 (August 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, layouts, inks and letters by Joe Simon

It is not surprising that Joe Simon became Timely’s first comic book editor in August 1940 (cover date, the calendar date would be around February or March). After all he had been working with that title for Fox Comics so he certainly had the credentials. Fox was a small publisher that had recently started up with an output limited to comic books while Timely was a larger outfit with a variety of publication formats who wanted to take control of and expand their comic book line. Just the place to provide better opportunities and probably a financial boast as well. What is surprising is that at that same time Simon managed to get Timely to release a new comic book title, the Red Raven.

The cover was penciled by Jack Kirby however the layouts were probably provided by Joe Simon. This conclusion is supported by a cover with a similar theme that Joe did for Science Comics #5 (June 1940). Further the Red Raven #1 cover has an unusual perspective. Simon had used similar unusual and distorted perspectives for the covers for Science Comics #5 and Blue Beetle Comics #3 (July 1940) (for both see Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 3, Working for the Fox). While previously Kirby had not done anything similar. The Red Raven covers is a swipe from Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant (Jack Kirby, Fanboy) which both Joe and Jack followed.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “The Red Raven”, pencils by Louis Casenueve

The artists that have been identified with work in Red Raven #1 did not seem to have previously worked for Timely. This is not surprising because before Joe Simon’s arrival as editor Timely comic books were put together by Funnies Inc. run by Lloyd Jacquet. Joe was expected to create a comic art bullpen for Timely and therefore would likely use artist not affiliated with the Funnies shop. The choice of the artist, Louis Casenueve, to draw the feature story is a bit surprising. Did Joe think Casenueve was a better artist than Jack Kirby? I doubt it. In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe tells how Kirby did not immediately follow him to Timely but instead continued at Fox. Joe said it took three months for Kirby to come to Timely however the evidence seems to indicate otherwise. The last Blue Beetle strip that Kirby did for Fox was published on March 9, 1940. Syndication strips are usually created only a week or so before publication. Comic books however have a longer period between creation and release. Further the cover date is actually advanced to indicate when it might be removed from the newsstands. All together the cover date is expected to be dated five to six months after the work began. This means that the first comic books that Jack would work on after Fox would be cover dated August or September. I therefore believe that Joe was correct about Jack staying at Fox but not a few months but instead a couple of weeks or so. Therefore when Joe started working on Red Raven #1 Jack may still have been working at Fox and available only on a moonlighting basis. Simon may have assigned the feature story to another artist and by the time Kirby transferred to Timely it was too late to change artists.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “The Red Raven”, letters by unidentified letterer

The lettering for “The Red Raven” feature story uses the same double line border for captions as had been seen in the Blue Bolt #3 story that appeared the same month. As mentioned previously, some have stated that this was trait that was characteristic for Howard Ferguson.

Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl” letters by Howard Ferguson

However I do not believe Ferguson lettered “The Red Raven”. Above is an early but very typical example of Ferguson’s lettering. Note the differences between the two in the letters ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘Y’. The letterer for Red Raven also had an unusual ‘E’ with unequal arm lengths. There is a bit of variation but generally the shortest is the upper arm and the longest the middle one. I have to caution that the earliest lettering that I do attribute to Ferguson differs from the Black Owl example that I have provided. For instance it lacks the small vertical stroke on the letter ‘C’ that was characteristic of Ferguson. I will provide examples when I return to this subject in a future chapter.

Blue Bolt #3 (August 1940) letters by unidentified letter

I repeat above the lettering for Blue Bolt #3. Note the differences between ‘G’, ‘J’, ‘M’, ‘W’ and ‘Y’. Since there were both published the same months these certainly were done by different letterers.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “The Human Top”, pencils and inks by Dick Briefer

Dick Briefer had previously worked at the Iger and Eisner shop (Jumbo Comics) at the same time as Jack Kirby so perhaps that was the association that gave him the opportunity to be included in this comic. In a few months Briefer would create his first Frankenstein story (Prize Comics #7, December 1940, The Early Frankenstein of Dick Briefer) so this story gives a view of his style before Dick began his more cartoon-like approach began. The lettering for “The Human Top” is unlike that found in any of the other stories included in Red Raven so perhaps it was lettered by Briefer himself. Briefer provided initials on the last page of the story.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “Mercury in the 20th Century”, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby did two stories for Red Raven #1. The first, “Mercury in the 20th Century”, was an early example of a mythological theme. Kirby would return to the use of mythology frequently in the future. The story was written by Martin Bursten (the correct spelling should have been Burstein). It is unclear how closely Kirby followed Burstein’s script as in later years Simon and Kirby often altered scripts that they drew. Certainly Kirby had the opportunity since not only did he do the pencils but he also did the lettering. The inking on the first page appears to be Kirby’s as well but the rest of the story looks like it was inked by another artist). I believe the other inker was Joe Simon. If my inking attribution is correct this would be the first story drawn by Kirby and inked by Simon. Simon inked Kirby’s pages for Blue Bolt #3 but Jack only contributed three pages to that story. Together they seem to mark a change in the working relationship between Joe and Jack. Probably not yet a full partnership but different than the relationship between an editor and an artist.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “Comet Pierce”, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Kirby also drew “Comet Pierce” which was the first piece to bear the Jack Kirby name. This story’s science fiction theme is so similar to others that Kirby had previously done that the suggestion is that he was involved in either the plotting or the writing of the script. The inking is consistent throughout the story and I am pretty certain that it was inked by Kirby himself. Jack also provided the lettering.

The question is should “Comet Pierce” be considered Simon and Kirby creation. There is no way that this can be answered with any certainty. Joe Simon was the editor of the comic and therefore likely provided some input to the story as well as those done by other artists. However so far I can find no definitive evidence that Joe’s involvement in “Cosmic Carson” was any different from that of any editor. So while Joe and Jack were working together I do not consider this a Simon and Kirby story.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) Magar the Mystic, “Re-Creator of Souls”, art by unidentified artist

The lettering for each story in Red Raven seems different and the Magar the Mystic story is no exception. I suspect that most if not all the stories were lettered by the same artist who drew it. This was not that unusual during these early days of the comic book industry and Joe Simon had just arrived at Timely and likely had just begun putting an artist bullpen together. Perhaps the Red Raven story is an exception as the lettering seems more professional than the rest of the stories.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “Eternal Brain”, art by Robert Louis Golden

Robert Louis Golden initialed the last page but in later years he seemed to have dropped using Robert. Golden was another former Iger and Eisner studio artist and therefore perhaps another Kirby connection. Golden would do a few stories for Simon and Kirby in 1948 (Its A Crime Chapter 7 and Chapter 8). His drawing style for the Eternal Brain story agrees very well with a Captain Aero story he did a couple of years later (The Captain Aero Connections).

Interesting Dick Briefer Work

I am rather busy and have little time for exploring the Internet, but there are some blogs that I try to periodically check out. Booksteve’s Library is one of them and there I recently found the post Rare Dick Briefer Non-Comics Art-1942. Booksteve inserts a You Tube video of Rumpelstiltskin as performed in the Playette Theatre. The Playette Theatre was the invention of Larry Wise and Dick Briefer. It is a little toy theater in which illustrations can be inserted. The illustrations were done by Briefer and they are just wonderful. They are narrated by Ben Wise (son of one creator and nephew of the other) and although it is not an Academy Award winning performance it makes for an enjoyable experience. Ben Wise has a You Tube page which includes five other Playette Theatre performances. It is so great that Ben Wise has saved these treasures and provided them as videos.

Art of Romance, Chapter 37, Some Surprises

(January – June 1959: Young Romance #98 – #100, All For Love #12 – #14, Personal Love #9 – #11)

Young Romance #98
Young Romance #98 (February 1959) “Secret In My Heart”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Kirby provides four stories for two issues of Young Romance (YR #98 and #99). I believe Jack inked three of the stories himself as well as the splash page for the fourth story. It is hard to be sure because some of the old inking techniques such as arched shadows (Inking Glossary) do not show up often. Further the other inker, who I believe was Marvin Stein, was doing a pretty good job matching Kirby’s work.

Note the tilted image in the first story panel. This is a bit unusual for Kirby but then again Jack was always trying something different.

Young Romance #99
Young Romance #99 (April 1959) “Man Wanted” page 2, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Above is an example of the great graphical story telling Kirby was doing during this period. Jack’s drawing style has taken on a more abstract quality. Note the eyelids of the woman in the second panel. They really are not natural or realistic but are very expressive nonetheless.

Young Romance #98
Young Romance #98 (February 1959) “A Husband for My Sister” page 3, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Marvin Stein

While I believe the splash page for “A Husband for My Sister” was inked by Kirby himself, the rest of the story does not look like his inking. Perhaps the most obvious difference is the shadow inking found in the first panel of page three. The inker obviously had a poor understanding of the shape of the head. Particularly grievous is the shadow around the eye of the woman. Nor would one expect the man’s lips to catch the light as it does here. I have never seen Kirby do this sort of thing but I have seen Marvin Stein do similar unnatural handling of shadows (“Tragic Circle, JTTG #75, Criminal Artists, Marvin Stein).

Young Romance #99
Young Romance #99 (April 1959) “Fair Game”, art by Paul Reinman

Paul Reinman was used often during this period, providing five stories for Young Romance. His abundant appearance in Young Romance and absence from All For Love and Personal Love is another indication that they titles were produced by different editors.

Young Romance #98
Young Romance #98 (February 1959) “Made in Heaven”, art by John Prentice?

I am not sure what to make of “Made in Heaven”. The art superficially resembles that by John Prentice but is no where nearly nicely drawn as was typical for John. At this time Prentice was primarily working on the syndication strip Rip Kirby but he may also have been doing some work for DC. Was this Prentice quickly dashing something off or was it some other artists copying John’s style? Like I said, I am not sure but I will deffer my opinion until the next chapter when I will have further examples to examine.

All For Love #14
All For Love #14 (June 1959) “Lost Paradise” page 4, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

Marvin Stein only did a single story during this period. Stein had begun working for Cellomatic in 1958 so presumably his comic book work was done during his spare time. Perhaps this explains his the increasingly looser style that Marvin was using. Still “Lost Paradise” is a graphically well told story.

In the previous chapter I mentioned an unidentified artist who, like Stein, used a rather blunt brush. I wrote that this unknown artist liked to provide very thick outlines in parts. Well it looks like Stein has adopted that style as well. I still believe they are different artists because of the very different manners they drew woman.

Personal Love #10
Personal Love #10 (March 1959) “The Ties That Bind”, art by Ted Galindo

Ted Galindo’s attractive work continues to show up frequently in All For Love and Personal Love. Would you call this a splashless story or one with just a reduced size splash? An unusual panel layout for Galindo or any other artist doing work for the Prize romance titles.

Personal Love #11
Personal Love #11 (May 1959) “True Devotion”, art by Joe Orlando

I would have saved myself much effort had I noticed before the signature on the splash for “True Devotion”. There as clear as day is Joe Orlando’s full signature. Even the letters J and O are executed in the same manner that he used on cover art for All For Love, Personal Love and Justice Traps the Guilty. No question about it all that cover art was done by Joe. Orlando was no longer providing covers but he was now drawing full stories. Besides “True Devotion” there are two other unsigned stories from this period. Considering the quality of the covers Orlando did, it is not surprising how excellent the story art was.

All For Love #14
All For Love #14 (June 1959) “Love Walked In”, art by Dick Briefer

Unlike Orlando’s “True Devotion”, I had previously seen the signature on “Love Walked In” but I had misread it. So I was rather surprised when I reviewed it for this post to find the correct reading was clearly Dick Briefer. What a pleasant but unexpected find. A fortunate one as well, I doubt I would have identified Briefer as the artist without the signature. I have never seen romance art by Dick before and he does it surprisingly well. Once you know it was done by Briefer you can pick out some of his traits, particularly Briefer’s love of asymmetry. But the style on a whole is a lot more conservative and realistic than typical Briefer art especially compared to his Frankenstein.

Personal Love #11
Personal Love #11 (May 1959) “Something To Remember You By” , art by Dick Briefer

Briefer also did two unsigned pieces during the period so I could not resist including another example. I really love what he does with these stories.

I thought Dick had pretty much given up work as a comic book artist after Prize’s Frankenstein was cancelled in 1954 (a casualty of the Comic Code). The GCD only lists reprints for him after that date. “Who’s Who” has him as a non-comics freelancer from 1956 to 1960, followed by advertisement art (1960 – 1972) and fine arts (1962 – 1972). But now we know he did not completely abandon comics.

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 Early Frankenstein of Dick Briefer

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “Frankenstein”, art by Dick Briefer

Prize was reinvented when Simon and Kirby arrived in 1947. Before long old titles were transformed (Headline comics went from action hero anthology to a crime comic), new titles added (Justice Traps the Guilty and Young Romance) and other old titles discontinued (Treasure and Wonderland Comics). Even Prize Comics was transformed into Prize Comics Western. The only original title that was unaffected by all of this was Frankenstein. This odd comic book did not belong in the horror genre but was actually a humor comic. Even more unusual was the fact that Frankenstein Comics was the work of a single artist, Dick Briefer (although he signed the initial issues as Frank N Stein).

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “Frankenstein” page 7, art by Dick Briefer

But Briefer’s Frankenstein did not start out as humor, or even in its own title. The first appearance was in Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) and it was a true monster feature. The feature borrowed heavily from both the original novel by Mary Shelley and the Hollywood movie. On some occasions the monster seemed intelligent as in the novel and he seeks to take revenge on his creator for the dismal existence he, the monster, must endure. But his revenge does not consists of killing his creator instead the monster leaves him to live in order to see the suffering that his creation will inflict on mankind. Violence was not unusual this early in the golden age of comics but even so mayhem caused by the monster seems well above what typically occurred in comics. For instance, when the monster runs along a crowded Coney Island beach he literally leaves a trail of human victims.

Prize Comics #8
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) “Frankenstein” page 8, art by Dick Briefer

Dr. Frankenstein did try to fight back and destroy his creation, but to no avail of course. One attempt was to create Croco-Man however as seen above that was not successful either.

Prize Comics #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “Frankenstein”, art by Dick Briefer

Physically the comic book version of the monster resembles the movie version with the most glaring difference being the distorted and highly placed nose of Briefer’s monster. There are times that Briefer’s monster seems to share the movie version’s limited intelligence.

Frankenstein did not appear in Prize Comics #10 but reappeared in issue #11. However this time Dick Briefer would drop the humorous alias and sign with his true name. Frankenstein would appear in each issue of Prize Comics until PC #68 (after which the title became Prize Comics Western). Somewhere along the line Frankenstein went from a monster genre to humor and would get its own title in 1947. It was a long run from December 1940 to January 1949 (Frankenstein Comics #17). Frankenstein Comics would reboot and run from March 1952 to October 1954 and again Dick Briefer would provide the art. During all that time no other artist did a Frankenstein story for Prize. I do not know if that is a record but it sure is impressive.

Jumbo Comics

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) Jumbo, the mascot

Will Eisner and Jerry Iger teamed up in 1936 or 1937 to become one of the first studios to provide complete comic book packages to publishers. Previously comic books were largely reprint compilations of newspaper syndication strips. Years later Will Eisner said that he believed there would not be enough syndications material available to meet the rising demand for comic books and so there would be a market for new material created specifically for comic books. That may have been true but one of Eisner and Iger’s packages Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) published by Fiction House was actually composed of syndication strips. I have no idea on how many of the strips from Jumbo Comics #1 had previously appeared in newspapers but at least some of them had been printed in the British magazine Wags. Others may have truly been new creations but in a format showed that they were meant for syndication strips.

Jumbo Comics certainly lived up to its name as it was printed in what is called tabloid size (10.5 by 14.25 inches). Except for the cover, no color was used. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of color, the paper used came in two tones; one the normal “white” and the other dyed a pinkish color. (I have removed the page color from all images presented in this post.) All pages followed the same format. There would be a title panel that would normally occupy the entire top of the page although sometimes a single story panel might be included. Below would be three or four rows of panels with three panels per row (occasionally two panels would be combined to form a longer one). While there would be three or four pages provided for each title, all pages would have the same format including the title.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Hawks of the Sea” by Will Eisner

Will Eisner was very conscious about the small size of his operation. While Eisner was involved in many aspects in the making of the strips found in Jumbo Comics but, his name appears on none of them. However, in the title “Hawks of the Sea” is credited to Willis Rensie; Rensie is Eisner spell backwards. This is years before his famous work on the Spirit, but here Eisner is already an accomplished comic artist. Note Eisner’s dramatic use of sifting perspective. As we will see, a number of the artists appearing in Jumbo Comics who would later achieve great fame but none of them supplied art at that time with quite the quality as found in “Hawks of the Sea”.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Bobby” by Jerry Iger

“Bobby” is credited to S. M. Iger, but surely that must be an alias for Jerry Iger. Iger was supposed to have been the salesman of the Eisner & Iger partnership, but here he shows how talented artist he was as well. Or it would if we can be sure that this piece was actually done by Jerry. In an interview (The Jack Kirby Collector #16) Eisner said that Iger was not a good artist but he could letter. Was this sour grapes about a former partner or realistic evaluation? I have no way of knowing. It all depends on whether “Bobby” was really done by Iger.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Peter Pupp” by Bob Kane

Bob Kane was a high school friend of Will Eisner, so his presence in Jumbo Comics is not surprising. Batman did not debut until May 1939 so Kane almost certainly did not yet have his studio of ghost artists that he became famous for in later years. I have always found the earliest Batman art, presumably done by Kane, as stiff and rather unappealing. Because of that “Peter Pupp” is quite a surprise. Granted it is of the funny animal and not the hero genre but it shows a suppleness totally absent from Batman. Mickey Mouse would seem to be an obvious inspiration for this strip. I particularly find amusing how the villain’s minion sports Mickey Mouse ears.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby has said that his first published comic book work be for Wild Boy Magazine, although I do not believe anyone has been able to confirm that. The earliest work that can be confirmed is probably “The Count of Monte Cristo” which appeared in the British magazine Wags in March 1938. These Kirby strips were used again in Jumbo Comics #1. The name Jack Kirby was one he adopted later while his birth name was Jacob Kurtzberg but in this strip he signed his name as Jack Curtiss. By any name this was a far cry from the work Jack would do in just a few years. Even though Kirby’s art would progress much further, his art in Jumbo Comics shows that he already was a very gifted artist, better then most of his peers.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” by Jack Kirby

Jack also drew “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” this time under the name Curt Davis. While “The Count of Monte Cristo” was based on the book by Alenandre Dumas, the Dr. Hayward strip was all new writing. It is hard to be sure, but the plot seems to be similar to those Jack would write later and so I credit the scripting here to Kirby as well. Without the classic trappings of “The Count of Montet Cristo”, Jack seems quite comfortable both in art and script with the more science fiction story of Dr. Hayward. A handsome hero, a mad scientist and body switching it all provides a setting for a morality tale about good versus evil.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Wilton of the West” by Jack Kirby

It would seem two strips were not enough for the already prolific Kirby as he did a western as well but this time without signing it. It is here that we can see that while Kirby had a way to go before he reached his full potential, he already had developed his predilection for slugfests. The smashing blow depicted in panel 6 is done in a manner far from his signature style but it still embodies Kirby’s enthusiasm. He may not have mastered his use of exaggerated perspective but look how Jack has in panel 7 the hero bend at the torso while thrusting his face forward so that no neck is seen. It is the beginnings of a pose that would become Jack’s trademark.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” by Mort Meskin

Of all the strips present in Jumbo Comics, the most enduring was “Sheena Queen of the Jungle”. It would eventually dominate the long running Jumbo Comic (1938 to 1953) as well as achieving its own title. Sheena even became a television show (1955) and a movie (1984). The title block credits Sheena to W. Morgan Thomas but this was just one of the pseudonyms adopted by Will Eisner to hide the small size of his studio staff. For the Sheena strips in the Jumbo Comics the artist was Mort Meskin as can be seen by the signature in the final panel. This is the earliest published work by Meskin that I am aware of. While not as polished as Will Eisner or Jack Kirby, Mort’s art already has an energy to it. Look how he composes the figures of the armed natives in panel 6 all on the left side of the panel and on the right in panel 8. Over and over in these strips you can see Meskin’s concerns about how to graphically tell a story. It may be the start of his professional career, but Mort already had his own unique vision.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer

It is hard to recognize some of the artists appearing in Jumbo Comics when you are only familiar with their later work. This is especially true with the first strip of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer. What makes this particular strip so unlike some familiar work by Briefer is mainly the detailed pen work so different from the simpler and more fluid inking found much later in Briefer’s Frankenstein. One thing to note is that while the other artists reviewed in this post had adopted a very grid-like panel layout, Dick’s use of caption boxes and panels breaks from that familiar rigid pattern.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer

The fine inking was abandoned immediately after the first strip and the results make it much easier to recognize Briefer’s participation. I choose to use the fifth strip but in terms of technique it does not differ from the second. But what a great page! While Dick is no longer using the same captions he still deviates from a grid panel layout. Note how the fifth panel was extended vertically down into and how the last panel really is two panels in the same boarder separated by a caption.

There are other strips in Jumbo Comics #1 done by talented artists that are unsigned. Considering the pretenses Eisner maintained of a larger shop there is a good possibility that they some were made by Eisner himself deceptively adopting another style. Or perhaps assigning the finishing or inking to a different artist. I am sure Eisner provided direction to all the artists working for him but I am just as certain that did not include laying out the art. Each of the artists reviewed here had their own unique manner of graphically telling the story which would not have been true if they were working from layouts. It is amazing to see so much talent, albeit in its earliest flowering, in one comic book. Jack Kirby would be also included in Jumbo Comics #2 and #3 for his work on “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” and “Wilton of the West”. Mort Meskin would work on “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” even longer (at least until issue #5). Bob Kane and Dick Briefer would also make further appearances. Eventually Jumbo Comics would abandon its oversize format and adopt a more standard comic book content but for a while it was a most unusual comic book.

Prize Comics Western, a Rough History

Ger Apeldoorn’s comments to chapter 9 of “It’s A Crime” led me to search Prize Comics Western for examples of artists that had also worked for Simon and Kirby. Because of that search I have decide to post a rough outline of this western title. It is rough because I only have access to a little more then half the issues. The biggest gap consists of three missing issues (PCW #86 to #88, March to July 1951). So while it is quite probable that I may miss some artists it is unlikely that any of them played an important part in the title’s history.

Prize Comics Western #74 (March 1949), art by Al Carreno

Prize Comics started as a superhero anthology in March 1940 (cover date). However the popularity of superheroes was in a decline in the late 40’s. Probably spurned on by the success of Simon and Kirby’s crime and romance titles, Prize Comics was renamed Prize Comics Western with issue #69 (May 1948). The primary feature was Dusty Bellows which was a typical, if nondescript, western genre piece. One of the recurring backup features was the Black Bull. While the hero had a western theme, his costume really makes him look like a typical superhero and a bit out of place in the western genre the title had now adopted. Another regular backup was the Lazo Kid.

The earlier issues of PCW would use Al Carreno as the primary artist. Carreno would do the art for the cover and the lead story as well as generally providing a backup story as well. It was Al that was most often called on to work on the title’s main feature, Dusty Bellows. Al Carreno was a competent artist but I have to admit I am not particularly moved by his work.

Prize Comics Western #71 (July 1948) “Bullets at Salt Lick”, art by Dick Briefer

Other artists besides Al Carreno would appear as well. As Ger indicated in his comment, one of them was Dick Briefer. Besides “Bullets at Salt Lick”, Briefer also did “Rod Roper” (PCW #69, May 1948) and “Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit” (PCW #77, September 1949). Due to the gaps in my collection, it is quite possible he did other stories as well. Briefer was most famous for his long work on Frankenstein, but as seen in my serial post, It’s A Crime, Dick also did some work for a period for Simon and Kirby. Briefer’s work for S&K appeared in Charlie Chan, Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty from October 1948 to October 1949 which was slightly later then his work in PCW.

Prize Comics Western #70 (July 1948) “Rocky Dawn and Windy Smith”, art by Warren Broderick

Another Simon and Kirby artist that appeared in PCW was Warren Broderick. So far I have only found one example of his work in this western title but it a good match for the works that Broderick did for Simon and Kirby. There are 11 stories I credit as having been drawn by Warren they are all from the crime titles Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. Broderick was involved in only one romance story (“Mother Said No”, Young Romance #7, September 1948) and even then only as an inker on Kirby’s pencils.

Prize Comics Western #73 (January 1949) “The Black Bull Saves the Ranch”, art by John Severin

The first appearance of John Severin in PCW was with issue #73 (or possibly #72 since I do not have that comic). This was some months before the first work that he did for Simon and Kirby (Headline #35, May 1949). In the early period of PCW, Severin only did backup stories and he did not sign his art. But once he arrived he did seem to be a consistent presence in Prize Comics Western.

Prize Comics Western #75 (May 1949), art by Jack Kirby

Most, if not all, of the covers for the early period of Prize Comics Western were done by Al Carreno. The one exception that I am aware of was the cover for PCW #75 which was done by Simon and Kirby. What can I say, while I find it hard to be enthusiastic about Al Carreno’s covers, the one drawn by Jack is a gem. When a gunfight is depicted on a comic book cover it is usually either the moment before the fight begins or it would show the actually fight. Here Kirby shows us the aftermath, or nearly so as the Senorita is just about dispatch the sole surviving enemy. This is very fortunate for Dusty Bellew as he has already turned his back to his fallen foes. Dusty does not have any obvious injuries but the way his right arm hangs suggest he might have been winged. But even if he is physically unscathed, his expression shows that the fight has left him wearied. Pathos in triumph, Jack has depicted Dusty as an unconventional hero. Jack Kirby would draw the cover for PCW #83 as well but it was no were near as effective as this cover.

Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949) “Bullet Code”, art by Mart Bailey

Like most of the comics published by Prize, PCW switched to photographic covers with issue #76 (July 1949). More importantly there was a change in contents. Al Carreno no longer provided work and his place as lead artist was taking by a new comer for the title, Mart Bailey. As part of the change, the lead story became a movie adaptation. I suspect it was because of the movie adaptation that Bailey was used. While Al Correno could draw well I doubt that he was able to achieve the type of realism Bailey showed in these movie adaptations. I am not saying Bailey’s realism was better art but it probably was more acceptable to RKO. The use of movie adaptations was not long lasting, the last one may have been “Stage To Chino” from PCW #79 (January 1949). However Mart continued used as the primary artist and his artwork was no longer quite so realistic.

Prize Comics Western #85 (January 1951) “American Eagle”, art by John Severin

Issue #85 started the third period for Prize Comics Western. American Eagle was introduced as the new main feature. From this point American Eagle would be on every cover and always was the lead story. Generally there would be at least one backup story, sometimes more, on the American Eagle as well. John Severin had appeared in PCW for some time but now he became the lead artist. It was a position he would retain for much longer then his predecessors Al Carreno and Mart Bailey. Bailey continued doing some backup stories for a few issues before disappearing from the title. John Severin had also worked for Simon and Kirby but not after having attained the position of lead artist for Prize Comics Western.

Prize Comics Western #85 (January 1951) “The Prairie Badman”, art by Marvin Stein

Another artist who had also worked for the Simon and Kirby studio began providing art for Prize Comics Western during this period. Initially Marvin Stein did various backup stories but he most commonly drew the Lazo Kid feature. In his interview with Jim Amash, Joe Simon describes “trading” Stein. Besides his work for PCW, Marvin also became the primary artist for Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty.

The period with John Severin as the primary artist came to an end with issue #113 (September 1955). A short period followed where Marvin Stein became the primary artist. However, unlike before this did not mean that Marvin did all the covers and lead stories.

Prize Comics Western #115 (January 1956) “The Drifter”, art by Mort Meskin

It was during the fourth period that Mort Meskin began doing some backup stories for Prize Comics Western. Of all the artists that had work on PCW, Mort is certainly the one with the greatest ties to the Simon and Kirby studio.

Prize Comics Western #118 (July 1956) “Liberty Belle”, art by Ted Galindo

Another artist with Simon and Kirby connections who appeared during the fourth period was Ted Galindo. Ted even did the lead story, “Liberty Belle” for issue #118. Galindo did a piece for Foxhole #4, but most of the work he did for what might be called Simon and Kirby productions came after the breakup of the studio.
The fourth period was short and it marked the end of the title with issue #119 (September 1956).

There are a number of artists used throughout the history of Prize Comics Western that I have not discussed here. The number of stories they provided were limited, I have not been able to identify them, and their artistic talents were limited.

In his original comment that prompted this post, Ger wrote that Vic Donahue was one of the artists common to the Simon and Kirby studio and Prize Comics Western. I did not encountered Donahue in the search I did on my PCW issues. I asked Ger to double check and he has not been able to find him either. I am not sure that even the combined collections are not complete so there is still the possibility that Donahue did work on PCW.

One artist, who shows up in Prize Comics Western that I have discussed yet in my serial post, It’s A Crime, was Moe Marcus (“Buffalo Stampede”, PCW #92, March 1952). While Marcus appeared in Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty he did so during the period that these titles were not produced by Simon and Kirby. “Buffalo Stampede” was inked by Rocco “Rocke” Mastroserio. Rocke is most widely known for the work he did for Charlton.

At this point it might seem that there were a lot of comics artist that work on Prize Comics Western as well as on Simon and Kirby productions. However there were more Simon and Kirby studio artists that, as far as I have been able to determine, did not work on PCW. Important studio artists like Bill Draut, John Prentice, Vic Donahue, Leonard Starr, Bruno Premiani?, Jo Albistur and Ann Brewster. There are some lesser S&K studio artists as well such as A. C. Hollingsworth, Charles Nicholas, George Gregg, Manny Stallman and Al Eadeh. Conversely, two of the primary artists for Prize Comics Western, Al Correno and Mart Bailey, never worked for Simon and Kirby. John Severin did work for both, but by the time he became primary artist for PCW he was no longer providing work for Simon and Kirby. I have already written about Joe Simon’s statement about trading Marvin Stein. Mort Meskin was an important S&K studio artist and he provided work for PCW as well. But the work Mort did on PCW was largely done after he stopped working for Simon and Kirby. Actually it is a little surprising that Mort did not supply work earlier then that as he had provided such work for Headline and JTTG when these were not produced by S&K.

The handling of Prize Comics Western seems very different from Simon and Kirby productions. As described above the history of PCW the title was very much defined by the primary artist. During each period it was the primary artist that supplied the covers, did the lead story and at least one backup story as well. Jack was the primary artist for Simon and Kirby productions. If there was a cover to be made it was almost always done by Kirby. But Jack would only dominate the contents of a new title. After the initial launching period of a title, Kirby would not dominate the contents so much and a variety of artists would be used. The type of handling of Prize comics Western was similar to that used for Frankenstein Comics and, as we will see in a future chapter to “It’s A Crime”, the same reliance on a primary artist would be adopted by the crime titles as well.

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

It’s A Crime, Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective

(Charlie Chan #1 – #5; June 1948 to February 1949)

During the period covered in last chapter of It’s A Crime, Simon and Kirby were also producing another title, Charlie Chan. This title was not a pure crime genre comic but instead was based on a successful movie character. Deriving a title from the movies was out of character with either Simon and Kirby or Prize Comics, neither of which would otherwise use such licensed material. In this case it was probably due to the fact that Joe and Jack’s lawyer, Fleagle, also represented the estate of Earl Derr Biggers, Charlie Chan’s creator. I last discussed this title in a post a little over two years ago (Charlie Chan & Carmine Infantino). I should warn the reader that while that post includes images that I will not be repeating here, some of my opinions have changed.

Charlie Chan #1
Charlie Chan #1 (June 1948) “Charlie Chan” by Carmine Infantino (signed)

In a Jim Amash interview (The Jack Kirby Collector #34) Carmine Infantino describes taking on the Charlie Chan job despite the fact that he was already getting enough work from higher paying DC. He did so for the sole reason that the job offered the opportunity of working along side of Jack Kirby and Mort Meskin. Carmine specifically says that he did not do any other work for Simon and Kirby and that he never inked Kirby’s pencils. Although there was a time that I thought these statements may not have been accurate, that was due to some confusion over work that I now believe was actually done by Warren Broderick. At this point my opinion is that Carmine did not do any work for Simon and Kirby outside of the Charlie Chan title. Most of the art that Infantino provided was for Charlie Chan feature, although he did draw some backup stories as well.

Two of the stories from the first issue of Charlie Chan (the one shown above and “Land Of The Leopard Men” that was included in my previous post) have splash pages inked in the Studio style. The inking for the above splash is particularly elaborate. Previously I felt that this inking was done by Carmine himself, but I no longer believe that. Instead I feel this inking was probably done by Joe Simon. Unfortunately some current book projects that I am working on preclude my having enough spare time for a careful examination of Joe’s inking until sometime in the future. (While this is regrettable for this blog, the results of the book projects should be appreciated by Simon and Kirby fans.) Without such a study my inking attribution must be considered very provisional, but I will say that these splashes were not inked by Jack Kirby.

Charlie Chan #1 (June 1948) “The Train Robber’s Last Trip”, art by Carmine Infantino

Above is an image of the splash page to a non-Charlie Chan story by Infantino. It provides a good contrast to the Studio style inking previously shown. Carmine’s brushwork found in this page, and on many other story pages, is very different then what is seen in the Studio style splash pages. Of particularly note are the distinct methods of inking cloth folds. While it is conceivable that Studio style techniques such as picket fence crosshatching could be applied over earlier inking by Carmine, the different cloth fold inking suggests that is not the case. (see the Inking Glossary for explanations of the terms I use to describe inking techniques) Infantino’s inking of the Studio style splashes, if he did any at all, would have been limited to the outlines and not including any of the spotting.

Charlie Chan #2 (August 1948) “The Vanishing Jewel Salesman”, art by Jack Kirby (first panel) and Carmine Infantino (all the rest)

Jack Kirby drew the covers for all five Prize issues of Charlie Chan but he did not provide anything for the interiors. That is with the sole exception of the splash panel for the page above. It almost seems inappropriate to describe this panel as a splash since it is barely larger then the story panels. However the splash panel provides a preview and does not belong to the story proper. The odd shape of the panel suggests that Jack provided his contribution after Carmine had already finished the story. Despite the diminished size and lack of any action, Kirby has made an interesting scene by depicting the crisis moment; Charlie Chan’s wisdom has once again deterred his number one son from a rash move but will it be enough to save them from an armed and very aware opponent? Kirby’s inking is very reminiscent of the much later Severe style but we have seen other earlier occasions when he adopted a simpler inking style when appropriate.

Charlie Chan #1 (June 1948) “The Weasel of Wall Street”, art by Bill Draut

Carmine Infantino provided four stories for issues #1 and #2. This left only a single backup story by another artist. For Charlie Chan #1 this story would be “The Weasel of Wall Street”, by Bill Draut. At this time Bill was the second only to Jack Kirby in terms of the amount of work used by the Simon and Kirby studio so his presence in Charlie Chan is not surprising. Bill Draut tends to get overlooked today. There maybe some justification for the neglect of some of his work after the Simon and Kirby studio closed. At that time Bill modified his style to conform more closely to the type of art popular during the silver age of comics. Unfortunately, in my opinion, he lost more then he gained. But while working for Simon and Kirby, Draut produced some fine material. Look at the cast of characters in this splash. Each is individualistically portrayed and each tells their own story. It was because of work like this and his dependable nature that Bill did so much work for Joe and Jack.

Charlie Chan #2 (August 1948) “Hocus-Pocus Hearse”, art by H. Colden?

While Bill Draut was not a surprising choice for a backup story in Charlie Chan #1, the artist for “Hocus-Pocus Hearse” for issue #2 was. I identified a single story by this artist in the last chapter of It’s A Crime. There maybe more of his work to be identified, but I am pretty sure that he was never supplied a significant amount of art for the Simon and Kirby studio. There is no reason, however, to believe that the these backup stories were commissioned specifically for use in Charlie Chan. Rather they were likely just selected from the crime stories being produced at that time and could just as easily have ended up going into Headline or Justice Traps the Guilty. However the appearance of this artist in Charlie Chan came about, he still was a good choice. This splash actually gives a better idea of his style then the one I used in the last chapter. Note the faces he draws are square and massive.

Charlie Chan #2 (August 1948) “Hocus-Pocus Hearse”, signature of H. Colden?

When I reviewed the splash for “Hocus-Pocus Hearse” for this post I immediately recognized the artist and quickly turned to the last panel of the story to see if it was signed. Sure enough there was the same signature, only this time isolated from the rest of the image. I can see that my suggestion of H. Colben was clearly wrong. That looks like an ‘O’ not a ‘C’ and a ‘d’ not a ‘b’. There is also another letter in there. But I still cannot make any sense out of it. Perhaps some reader might want to try to come up with a suggestion?

Charlie Chan #3
Charlie Chan #3 (October 1948) “Charlie Chan”, art by an unidentified artist

Carmine Infantino did all the Charlie Chan stories for the first four issues, except for an untitled story from issue #3. In this I differ from my previous posting on Charlie Chan because there I included the above splash page as an example of Infantino’s work. This particular page does not offer much for or against attributing the art to Carmine. The inking looks like Studio style inking but we have seen other splashes where that was done and that might mean nothing more then Infantino was not the inker.

Charlie Chan #3 (October 1948) “Charlie Chan” page 9, art by an unidentified artist

So I have added an image of a story page. Interestingly the use of picket fence crosshatching continues throughout the story, something not seen in any of the work in Charlie Chan by Infantino. But again this could mean nothing more then someone else inking the work. What really sets this story apart is the style used for drawing the faces and the general means used in the graphical story telling. I have no idea who the artist was, other then he was not Infantino, but I wish I did. This was a very talented creator. This was, however, the only appearance of this artist in Charlie Chan.

Charlie Chan #3 (October 1948) “Keri Krane”, art by Dick Briefer

Charlie Chan #3 introduced two new features. Well perhaps one was not truly a feature being more of a genre. Issue #3 had “Hilly Billy” and “Cassidy the Movie Cop” was used in CC #4. Both of these were humor stories apparently by the same artist. Gag cartoons were not that unusual in Simon and Kirby productions but usually they were limited to one, or at most two, pages. In these cases they are 4 and 5 pages long.

The other feature was “Keri Krane” about a female owner of a detective agency. At a glance this might be mistaken for another humor genre feature. While there are humorous elements, it is by no means a gag cartoon. What it is a unique blend of crime and humor unlike anything else that I have seen in a crime comic book. For those not lucky enough to have read this gem perhaps it can best be explained by comparison of another more famous feature by the same artist, Frankenstein. When Dick Briefer first started Frankenstein it was a true horror feature but at some point it was changed to a more humorous one. Briefer had developed one of the most unique drawing styles. His drawings are deceptively in their simplicity but capable of a wide range of expression. Briefer’s Frankenstein must have been successful because he had a long run on it from Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) to Frankenstein #17 (February 1949). Further Frankenstein was the only Prize title that survived the arrival of the Simon and Kirby team. Dick’s appearance in Charlie Chan Comics at this time maybe related to the approaching termination of the Frankenstein comic. Frankenstein Comics would resume, with Dick Briefer as artist, with issue #18 (March 1952) and run until issue #33 (November 1954) when it was one of the fatalities resulting from the newly introduced Comic Code.

Charlie Chan #5 (February 1949) “Floating Mine Racket”, art by Manny Stallman?

The backup features used in Charlie Chan #3 and #4, including Briefer’s Keri Krane, were dropped for issue #5. A standard crime backup story was used to take their place, “Floating Mine Racket” by Manny Stallman. What a great splash this is. The use of floating debris and the whirlpool to form the title was undoubtedly inspired by similar compositions by Will Eisner for The Spirit. The layout with three story panels floating above and slightly overlapping the splash panel is unlike anything else seen in Simon and Kirby productions. The art has a quirky style to it that I find very appealing. There is only one problem, despite the signature this story was not done by Manny Stallman! Or at least not the same artist that signed other stories in Headline and JTTG as Manny Stallman. The style is so distinctively different that there can be no question in my mind about this. I do not know enough about Manny Stallman’s career to provide a certain answer to this enigma. I mentioned previously that Stallman’s S&K work had a style distinct from what he later did for Atlas. But “Floating Mine Racket” is even further removed from Stallman’s Atlas work. Stallman also did a couple of stories for Simon and Kirby with John Guinta. The inking of the Guinta stories seems to agree with most of the Stallman S&K work. The inking of “Floating Mine Racket” does not match the inking on the Guinta pieces. My current conclusion is that “Floating Mine Racket” was done by some artist doing ghost work for Stallman. As for the rest I will continue to credit them to Manny but there is still the possibility that he only did the inking over yet another ghost artist. This problem obviously needs further investigation.

Charlie Chan #5
Charlie Chan #5 (February 1949) “Murder On Ice”, art by Dick Briefer

While working on Charlie Chan in the Simon and Kirby studio during the day, Infantino continued to draw for DC at night. It was a grueling schedule and it took its toll. Carmine did great work but the decline in quality from the first Charlie Chan issue until his last is obvious. In the end it was too much for him and Infantino called it quits. Carmine would only draw a single Charlie Chan story for the fifth issue, “The Fox of Paris”. The other three Charlie Chan stories would be taken over by Dick Briefer. The Briefer attribution may seem surprising because it is for his work on Frankenstein that he is best known. For Charlie Chan, Dick has adopted a relatively more realistic approach then what he had used for Frankenstein or Keri Krane. A yet even more realistic example of Briefer’s art can be seen with a page from Uncanny Tales #19 (April 1954) provided by Atlas Tales. Despite his more realistic drawing and the more serious nature of the feature, Briefer’s off-beat humor tends to insert itself into the Charlie Chan stories. What could be incongruous then a skeleton dressed in a suit skating with an old lady at the Rockefeller Center rink? The skeletal figure in the splash for “Murder on Ice” does not actually appear in the story, but presented with such a delightful piece of art, who cares?

Charlie Chan #5 (February 1949) “Murder On Ice” page 2, art by Dick Briefer

The splash page, as fine a work of art as it is, really does not provide the best example of why the Charlie Chan stories from issue #5 should be credited to Dick Briefer. It is to a story page where Briefer’s hand is most evident. Dick had a distinct tendency to provide heads with a triangular form as can be seen in the Keri Krane page whose image I had provided earlier. A similar, if not so exaggerated, shape can be found in the heads on the story page shown above. The Briefer’s style for Charlie Chan retains enough of caricaturistic traits as to make it very special. There is no real humor in this page but the drawing style gives it a particular appeal. Dick’s forte may have been humor, but as can be seen his graphic story telling was top notch.

Charlie Chan #5 (February 1949) “The Dude Ranch Hold-Up”, art by Dick Briefer

I also wanted to include an action page. Briefer shows he can handle action just as well he could humor. Dick Briefer’s Charlie Chan stories really are a testament to what a great artist he was. However Charlie Chan #5 would be the final Prize issue. Years later Simon and Kirby would sell the idea to Charlton. Actually these later Charlie Chan comics could more accurately be called Joe Simon productions as Jack Kirby’s contribution seems limited to creating the cover Charlie Chan #6 (June 1955), the first Charlton issue. Some have suggested that this cover might be left over material from the Prize run. The inking of that cover is done in a blunt manner typical of what is found toward the end of the Studio style. Even the drawing looks more typical of Kirby’s work from the mid 50’s. The cover includes the presence of Burmingham Brown; a character who never appeared in the Prize Charlie Chan comics but played a very visible part in the Charlton issues. I therefore confidently conclude that the cover for CC #6 was created specifically for the Charlton comic, perhaps initially as a presentation piece used for pitching the idea to Charlton. Most of the titles that Simon and Kirby did for Charlton were carryovers from their failed Mainline publishing line. The former Mainline titles each would only last for one or two issues with the exception of Foxhole where a third issue was produced without Simon and Kirby’s involvement. Surprisingly Charlie Chan, using all new material, would last longer for a total of four issues.

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 9, Not The Same
Chapter 10, The Master and His Protege
Chapter 11, The New Team

Dick Briefer Checklist

Last update: 1/19/2009

    s:  = signed
    a:  = signed with alias
    &:  = signed Simon and Kirby
    ?:  = questionable attribution
    r:  = reprint

Charlie Chan (Prize)
     3    Oct  1948    8p "Keri Krane"- (Keri Drane)
     4    Dec  1948    8p "Keri Krane"- (Keri Krane)
     5    Feb  1949   11p "The Antique Burglar"- (Charlie Chan)
     5    Feb  1949   10p "Murder On Ice"- (Charlie Chan)
     5    Feb  1949   11p "The Dude Ranch Hold-Up"- (Charlie Chan)

Frankenstein (Prize)
   s 7    May  1947       [cover]
   s 7    May  1947    9p "Silas Grunch Gets His"
   s 7    May  1947   10p "The Strange Love of Shirley Shmool"
     7    May  1947    5p "The Curse of the Flying Dutchman"
     7    May  1947    5p "The Lorelei"
     7    May  1947    9p "Pins & Needles"

Headline (Prize)
     36   (v.4, n6)  July 1949    8p "Dutch Joe Cretzer's Other Business"

Jumbo (Fiction House Magazines)
   s 1    Sept 1938    5p "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
   s 2    Oct  1938    4p "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

Justice Traps the Guilty (Prize)
     11   (v.2, n5)  Aug  1949    6p "Amateur Hypnotist"
     12   (v.2, n6)  Oct  1949    7p "The Nightmare Murder Mystery"

Prize (Prize)
   a 7    Dec  1940    8p "Frankenstein"
     49   Jan  1945    8p "Frankenstein"
     63   Mar  1947    8p "Frankenstein"
   s 66   Oct  1947       [cover]
     66   Oct  1947    9p "Frankenstein"
   s 67   Dec  1947    8p "Frankenstein and the Yogi"

Prize Comics Western (Prize)
     69   May  1948    8p "Rod Roper"
     71   Sept 1948    8p "Bullets at Salt Lick"
     77   Sept 1949    5p "Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit"

Red Raven (Timely (Marvel))
   a 1    Aug  1940   10p "The Human Top"