Category Archives: Simon, Joe

Speaking of Art, Joe Simon’s Hector Protector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of Art, Young Love #66


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, inks by Bill Draut? and Jack Kirby

Joe Simon’s collection includes the original art for an unused cover. I do not believe that this cover art has every been made public before and once again I have permission from the Simon estate to do so here. Although subsequently crossed out, the notation in the upper left indicates it was initially intended for Young Love #66. This work was created during a difficult period for Simon and Kirby. Joe and Jack had launched their own publishing company, Mainline, with Bullseye #1 (cover date July 1954). But Mainline quickly became in trouble as its distributor, Leading News, entered into its own difficulties. By the time of Young Love #66 the former Mainline titles would be published by Charlton, notorious for their low payment to their artistic creators.

While previously Jack Kirby had provided the pencils for almost all the cover art for the titles that Simon and Kirby produced, his contributions during the Mainline and subsequent period was very limited. In particular the covers for the Prize romance titles were done by other artists such as Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, John Prentice and Bob McCarty. Joe Simon’s drawing of any comic book art was even more limited. Basically Joe and done no actual pencils since the Stuntman and Boy Explorers titles failed in 1946 except for 48 Famous Americans (a J.C. Penny giveaway from 1947). So Joe and Jack’s involvement in this cover is quite unusual.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils by Joe Simon, inks by Bill Draut?

The art is a bit of an construction on the illustration board that Simon and Kirby preferred. Only the foreground young couple were executed on the original illustration board. They were penciled by Joe Simon however the inking does not appear to be his. I am not certain but the brushwork looks like it was done by Bill Draut. The final results does look like a cross between the styles of the two artists.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955)

Another layer was added to the illustration board; a larger piece on the left side and a smaller one on the right together covering the former background. Unfortunately the larger piece has been almost completely covered up and cannot be examined. The smaller piece was also covered up but the glue (probably rubber cement) has subsequently failed. That is the part that is shown above. Regrettably it does not seem sufficient for determining of an attribution and I would not want to hazarded a guess.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955)

The third layer is also in two parts; a larger left piece and a smaller right that pretty much match the shape and size of the underlying pieces. However they two pieces are of different paper. The right piece seems to have been tracing paper with white-out applied to make it more opaque. The art work consists of little of a couple of pencil lines depicting drapery.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The more substantial third layer from the left side was drawn and inked by Jack Kirby. Kirby is well known, and rightly so, for his action drawing but here we have as simple yet warm portrayal as one could hope to find.

It is simply no longer possible to determine what the background was for the initial work on the illustration board. A small area of white-out remains that covers some inking indicates that there was some sort of background. What little can be seen of the second layer suggests a poorly constructed fence, perhaps a street scene from a poor neighborhood. The final layer has hanging drapery, maybe a wedding chapel.


Young Love #66 (August 1955), pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

The back of the original art has two Comic Code Authority Approval Stamps; one dated March 2, 1955 and the other March 8. But note that both are approval stamps and  therefore the rework was not due to any rejection from the Comic Code. The changes appear to be an effort to improve the cover but in the end they decided to use a cover created by Mort Meskin. While I find the Simon and Kirby cover interesting I believe it was the correct decision. The Meskin cover is just a wonderful one with the contrast between the casually dressed teenager and the fancifully attired couple that she is daydreaming about.

Harvey Horror: Alarming Tales #1

Harvey released a new title, Alarming Tales, with a cover date of September 1957. This is the same month that Black Cat Mystic #59 was released. Both titles covered the same genre, horror and science fiction. In fact the cover story for Alarming Tales #1 (“Donnegan’s Daffy Chair”) was originally intended to be used in Black Cat Mystic #59 (as shown by the original art for an used cover). Since both titles were bimonthly publications, it was unusual that they would have the same schedule. Normally such similar comics would alternate months (such as Simon and Kirby’s Young Romance and Young Love did). The original art for the unused cover of Black Cat Mystery #59 has a July cover date so perhaps the original intent was for alternating months but something delayed it.


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

I had previously credit the cover art for AT #1 to Joe Simon alone but I now realize that the art is a “Frankenstein” made from different pieces of art. It was not that unusual for Joe to piece together different art (see Cover for Alarming Tales #2, My Third Attribution Attempt). In this case that lower portion came from art that Jack Kirby drew while the upper portion was done by Simon. I suspect that the original art that Kirby made included a figure in a fly chair very much like the one in the actual story. That is the way that the unused cover for BCM #59 was done. That included goggles that covered the figure’s eyes. Such an depiction would fit the story but Joe probably felt (and I agree) that the cover would be more dramatic with the full face exposed. The portion of the art that Simon did was done on a craft tint board with irregularly shaped dots that sometimes is referred to as a mezzotint pattern. Lines were then “inked” over this with a pen to provide interesting dotted lines.


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Contents”, pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

It appears that except for the lettering the contents page was created entirely by stats from parts of the book. Simon and Kirby did not do use stats to create comic pages very often while they had their own studio but apparently Harvey either had a stat camera or used a service bureau to provide copies. I love the way the images of Donnegan’s chair are woven through the contents page.


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Cadmus Seed”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Scientifically engineered humans sounds like something out of more recent newspapers. However the Simon and Kirby story never mentions DNA or cloning. The structure of DNA had been discovered by this time and it’s importance was well known in the scientific world. But science fiction had not yet caught up with science fact. Nonetheless “The Cadmus Seed” is a delightful story with a mildly humorous ending.


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Logan’s Next Life”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

“Logan’s Next Life” is the only story in AT #1 that could be describe as belonging to the horror genre. Since is consisted of only two pages it was not that much of a contribution to AT #1. Most of the stories from the Alarming Tales and it’s companion title Black Cat Mystic could best be described as science fiction. But despite being in the minority horror stories would still play a significant part of these titles.

The art for “Logan’s Next Life” was based on an earlier story named “When I Live Again” that had appeared in Black Magic #13 (June 1952, see Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5). The original story was penciled and inked by Bill Draut. While Kirby was known to do an occasional swipe, such extensive swiping for a single story would be rare. One example would be “Invisible Irving” from Fighting American #5 (December 1954, see A Simon and Kirby Swipe). Another example of an extensive Simon and Kirby swipe appears to be “Deadly Doolittle from Fighting American #6 (February 1955, see Fighting American, Jumping the Shark) but in that case it was Joe Simon doing the swiping.


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Fourth Dimension Is A Many Splattered Thing”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

This story was included in a recent post concerning Kirby’s use of extra-dimensional traveling (Jack Kirby’s Trips to the Fourth Dimension).


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Last Enemy”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

This story has longed been recognized as a prototype for Kamandi title that Kirby did for DC from 1972 until 1976. The most significant change is that while except for the protagonist, humans were completely absent from “The Last Enemy” they were present in Kamandi but usually as nothing more than speechless animals. But otherwise the theme of talking animals taking over the world was common to both. Frankly I do not recall how this change was explained in Kamandi, but in “The Last Enemy” it was the results of an atomic war. While that is a perfectly understandable explanation for the lack of humans it is not clear how the change in animals occurred.


Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Donnegan’s Daffy Chair”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Oddly the story featured on the cover of AT #1 was the second shortest in the book. Stories from Black Cat Mystic and Alarming Tales were pretty consistently five pages long but “Donnegan’s Daffy Chair” was only four.

A Joe Simon Video

Helping the Simon family has put my work on the next Titan addition to the Simon and Kirby library behind schedule. When there just does not seem enough time life seems to have a way of just making matters even more difficult. Most of my writing for this blog is done during my lunch hour at work but recently I have had to put extra time on my job as well. I hope things will settle down to a more reasonable pace in the near future which will allow me to return to my more regular posting.

In the mean time above is a video of Joe Simon taken by Desert Wind Comics. Joe did signings for Desert Winds. I believe this video was made about a year before his passing.

Joe Simon’s Yearbook

Joe Simon graduated Benjamin Franklin High School of Rochester N.Y. in 1932. Like most American high schools, the graduating class had a year book.

Joe’s artistry was recognized in his yearbook entry along with a fair list his activities. His entry was large enough that it extended into that for the person below. While this was not that unusual it did mean that there were other students who had a smaller entries (otherwise there would not be enough room on the page).

Joe was on the yearbook staff as well. That is him second from the right in the bottom row.

A page was devoted to class prophecy, of which I only show the first paragraph. There he is right at the top of the list. To my knowledge Joe never selected anyone as the prettiest model in New York but he did become a renowned artist. The comic book industry had not started at this time so the art career that he eventually became famous for was not considered.

A page in the back of the yearbook titled Rogue’s Gallery was devoted to small photographs of students when they were very young. Joe’s parents were be no means rich (actually rather poor) so this was not Joe’s personal pony. Rather the pony belonged to the photographer who charged to take such photos. There is no question that this is Joe Simon as he was the only Joseph of the graduating class whose last name began with a ‘S’.


Enlarged Image

It is obvious from his yearbook entry that Joe did quite a lot of artwork while in high school. His family still possess some examples of this work. However Joe’s earliest published cartoon appeared in the back of his yearbook. The original art for this work still exists in Joe’s art collection but the image above is from the yearbook. The individuals depicted (obviously not portraits) are all members of the graduating class. Perhaps these were personal friends of Joe’s because most do not seem to have a prominent roll in the graduating class. In particular, Sidney Yates entry is the yearbook is rather short. The one exception is Wayne Boniface who was the class president.

The different sections of the yearbook were opened with a page containing an illustration executed by Joe. The art was influenced by the Art Deco movement popular in the not too distant past. All the art is in shades of gray and the forms are all simple. Much effort was made by Joe to provide interesting compositions. While the art may appear very different than what Simon would produce years later for comic books, already present was an emphasis on interesting layouts. The printer liked the art so much that he paid Joe for its use in other yearbooks.

Blue Bolt Covers


Blue Bolt #1 (June 1940), art by unidentified artist

As previously discussed, Joe Simon’s creation of the feature Blue Bolt occurred somewhat earlier than the cover date of Blue Bolt #1 would suggest. Joe supplied it to Funnies Inc. a shop run by Lloyd Jacquet that put together comic books for other publishers. Blue Bolt was just one of a number of features that Simon created for the shop. But apparently Jacquet and Novelty Press must have seen some special potential in Blue Bolt and used it as the title feature for a new comic book. Had that had been the intention all along it would be expected that Simon would do the cover art but since that was not the case we cannot assume he drew the cover. There are reasons to believe that Simon was not the cover artist and little to suggest he was. To my knowledge only the eyes of the Green Sorceress look like they might have been done by Simon. However many comic book artists found difficulty in getting eyes to sit properly on a face viewed from an angle. Otherwise none of the figures look like any other art that we can more confidently attribute to Joe. The Green Sorceress’ hair seems tamed in comparison to Simon’s depiction in the story. The dragon does not resemble the monsters in the story either. Blue Bolt’s cape lacks the distinct zigzag contour found in the story although Simon would abandon this device in future issues. Blue Bolt’s helmet includes a lightning bolt emblem that is missing from the story art. The gloves and boots have a three dimensional presence that Simon generally avoided and specifically did not use for Blue Bolt. Finally the composition is very untypical of Simon particularly the lack of any background elements causing Blue Bolt to float. It is hard to escape the conclusion that despite what some have claimed the cover art for Blue Bolt #1 was not done by Joe Simon.

Jacquet’s shop had a number of comic book artist which could have been called upon to draw the cover. Perhaps the most famous were Carl Burgos and Bill Everett but I think it can safely be said that the style of the cover art does not match either of these two artists.


Blue Bolt #2 (July 1940), art by W. E. Rowland

Fortunately the next Blue Bolt cover was signed so there can be no question that it was drawn by William E. Rowland. The cover art for BB #2 shares some features with that for BB #1. In particular the more three dimensional aspects of the gloves and boots as well as the lightning bolt design on the helmet. I feel that the Blue Bolt’s face looks similar in the two covers. However Rowland goes even further in giving the gloves and boots a real physical presence. Further he has added details to the gloves that were missing from the BB #1 cover such as the lightning bolt and small circular shapes and lines that border the opening of the glove. While I would not rule out that Rowland was the cover artist for BB #1, I do not find the similarities strong enough to convince me that he was.


Blue Bolt #1 (June 1940) “Page Parks”, art by W. E. Rowland

The signature on the cover of BB #2 is particularly valuable because I doubt that Rowland would otherwise have been credited for the art. Apparently Rowland only worked on comic books for a few years (1939 to 1942) and even during that period he did not seem to do a lot of work. I have discussed one story by Rowland from Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) previously (Ted O’Neil). Frankly it was a rather unfair comparison of his take on the feature with Simon and Kirby’s. The purpose of the post was to highlight how radical Simon and Kirby’s work was compared to the work by more typical comic book artists even at this early stage in their career. Blue Bolt #1 also has a story drawn by Rowland and a scan of a page is provided above. Rowland is a good comic book artist, better than most contemporaries, but judging from the work I have seen so far it is hard to understand why he would have been selected to provide cover art. Whatever the basis for that decision it turned out to be a good one because Rowland’s cover art is rather nice and far superior to his story art.


Blue Bolt #3 (August 1940), pencils and inks by Joe Simon

It was only with the third issue that Simon had his single chance to provide the cover art for Blue Bolt. Much could be said about the technical problems with the art. The cloth folds are a confusing mess and the perspective of the forward leg is not quite accurate. But these and others faults are nothing more than nick-picking that do not significantly distract from the cover’s impact. The figure of Blue Bolt was swiped from Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon (see Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 4, Footnote) but Joe has infused the figure with excitement. Simon also uses a low viewing angle so that Blue Bolt can tower over his supporting soldiers. It is a effective depiction of an attaching force coming through some mountainous pass.

There was a time that some attributed this cover art to Jack Kirby but nowadays there is general agreement that Simon drew the cover. Perhaps the most convincing evidence that Kirby did not draw the figure is the somewhat problematic nature of the perspective of Blue Bolt’s leg, Kirby’s use of perspective was always very convincing. While it is now known that Kirby did sometimes use swipes I have never seen an example of Jack swiping from the same source more than once. However this twice use of Raymond’s Flash Gordon running figure would not be unusual for Simon.


Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940), art by W. E. Rowland

Blue Bolt did not appear on every cover of the comic that bore his name. The next appearance of Blue Bolt was for issue #5 and once again Rowland has the honors. While this cover shares some stylistic features with the one Rowland did for BB #2 there have been important advances as well. Blue Bolt’s glove and boots have an even more exaggerated three dimensional look. The figures have become more massive and muscular and the inking finer and more detailed. While Rowland did a good job on the cover for BB #2, this one is a masterpiece.


Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

Issue #7 marked Blue Bolt’s final cover appearance during the Simon and Kirby run. It would be Jack Kirby’s only Blue Bolt cover. While not a bad cover it was not one of Jack’s finest either. I feel much of the blame comes from the action portrayed. Jumping out of a plane just does not have the impact of, for example, attempting to stop a bomb from exploding (as seen in the cover for Champion #10, August 1940). The rather unimpressive aircraft do not help either. I am not sure what they are meant to be since they lack propellers or jet engines. Rocket planes?

Joe’s Dedications

I believe that I was digitally restoring comic book art before anyone else. I say that because I began when consumer scanners first became available. Having my own personal scanner opened up new possibilities. Previously I had used Photoshop to work on my fine arts printmaking. I would have to take my photographic slides to a commercial lab for scanning. It was inconvenient and expensive. After a week or so I would get back a Photo CD. These were special CDs for storing the scans, at the time there were no drives that could burn a standard CD. This was fine for slides, especially since I had no other choice, but having old comic books scanned by a commercial lab was completely out of the question. But when scanners became available to consumers I quickly realized their potential for comic book art restoration. Printers were a different problem as there were few color printers available and they way too expensive. Even the black and white laser printer I bought was a huge investment. But once I assembled these devices I began working on how to use Photoshop to restore the line art from the scans.

After some of what I would describe as trial work I started an ambitious project, to restore the line art for all the Simon and Kirby covers. When I look back I cannot believe decided to do that project. Not only would it require an incredible amount of work but also I did not have all the comics in my collection. It took a long time but I persevered. When I had restored all the covers I bound them by hand into books another time consuming project. In the end I had 24 sets of books (each set consisting of two volumes). Half of these went to Joe Simon for the help he supplied and because, well he was Joe Simon. Some sets went to various people for the scans they provided and a few went out as gifts. A lot of the covers were under copyright protection so it was never my plan to sell any copies and I might add I never have. I have no idea what these books are worth on the market because apparently the recipients valued them so much that none of the books have ever been offered for sale.

With those volumes completed I began to think of my next project. I was a little unhappy about only restoring the line art because comic books were meant to have color, or at least the comics during the period that Simon and Kirby were producing them. Fortunately by then color printers had become affordable. So I decided to begin restoring Simon and Kirby work in full color. This time restoring all the Simon and Kirby stories was not considered an option. It would be great if I succeeded in restoring everything but that would be way too many pages to accomplish in any reasonable amount of time. Once again I would hand bind restorations into books. The books would serve more than a personal purpose, we would use them to show publishers what could be done in the way of reprinting Simon and Kirby. This time I would only make two copies of whatever I restored, one for Joe and one for me. In exchange for his copy Joe would provide mine with some art. This was done on the end paper of the book. Now if Joe had just added pencil sketches there would be no problems since mistakes could be erased. But Joe liked to work in color which meant there was little that could be done with any errors.


Bullseye volume

What I expected Joe to provide would be the standard character sketches that comic book artists do all the time. Joe did just that sort of thing for the Bullseye book basing his piece on a drawing that Jack Kirby had done.


Boy Commandos volume

While the Bullseye was a more traditional character drawing, all the others that Joe did incorporated elements of humor. Not necessarily of the side-splitting variety but you can tell he just was not satisfied with just providing a sketch.


Manhunter volume

Surprisingly Joe drew Sandman in a book of Manhunter stories. The accompanying texts suggest that this was not an accident.


Sandman volume

With Sandman appearing in the Manhunter book it is not too surprising that Manhunter appeared in the Sandman book. Once again the text indicates this was deliberately done.


Foxhole volume

A soldier appears in the Foxhole volume but the text imply that this is not just any soldier but is meant to be Jack Kirby. All of Joe’s sketches were done on the end paper at the front of the book except this one which was done on the inside cover.


Foxhole volume

The Foxhole contained two sketches; a colored one on the inside cover (shown earlier) and a pencil sketch on the opposite end paper. This was the only book that got this double treatment as well as the only one dated. Usually Joe got the spelling of my name correctly but here he adds an extra ‘c’.


Duke of Broadway and the Vagabond Prince volume

Years before the current debate about growing disparity between the rich and the 99%, Joe provided his irreverent solution, “Eat the Rich” indeed.


Newsboy Legion volume

Joe sometimes commented about how one youthful character would with minor changes be transformed into another.


Headline volume

I am not sure why Joe put Captain America in a book of crime stories. Perhaps he felt that his humor was not appropriate for the crime genre? But I am not one to complain about getting Captain America art from one of his creators.


Stuntman and Boy Explorers volume

I inadvertently put the cover on upside down for one of Stuntman and Boy Explorer books. Needless to say I was very annoyed at myself about this but there was no way I was going to give the flawed volume to Joe. With his art Joe turned this defective book into something special.


Win A Prize volume

Uncle Giveaway offered prizes to the readers of Win A Prize Comics. Here Joe jokes that money is just paper but there was none left because it all went to Iraq. Joe was a lifelong Republican but he did not like Bush and he felt the Iraq war was a mistake. I believe Joe was still the kind of Republican that was not that unusual when he was younger but today is pretty much extinct, a least on the national level, that is a moderate Republican. Joe was very proud of the work he did to support John D. Rockefeller and similar Republicans.


Alarming Tales volume

A personal favorite because here I am depicted in the company of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.


Black Magic volume

Nobody would describe Joe as little and nobody that actually knew him would call him nasty. I never met Jack but nasty does not seem appropriate for him either. While not literally a portrait as far as I know this was the last time Joe drew himself with his old partner Jack.

I made a few more reprint volumes that Joe never added art to. I do not remember why that was but I am sure it was not due to any reluctance on Joe’s part. These final volumes were made about the time that negotiations had begun with Titan to reprint Simon and Kirby material. I think we both had other things on our minds. Now I treasure the volumes that Joe did provide his art and humor.

Early Joe Simon and Flash Gordon

The most certain way of spotting a comic book swipe* is, of course, to find the earlier version that from which it was swiped. But it is possible to recognize a swipe even when the original has not yet been found. Deviations in art style or level of detail in the art is one method that can be used to suggest that swiping has been used. Repetition of a particular image is another.


Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) “Phantom Bullet” page 9, pencils, inks and letters by Joe Simon

An early assignment for Joe Simon (released only one month after his earliest published work) was “Phantom Bullet” for Timely Comics. Note the despairing female in the second to last panel from page 9. Actually there is little in the art to suggest that this is might be a swipe. Perhaps only that the woman’s pose seems not to match very well to the action. However such a defect could easily be excused since Simon had just begun to learn his trade as a comic book artist. His previous experience as a staff artist for a newspaper did not overly prepare him for the special requirements of sequential art.


Wonderworld Comics #13 (May 1940), pencils and inks by Joe Simon

When Simon became editor for Fox Comics he would draw the cover art. The same damsel in distress shows up on the cover of Wonderworld #13. The Wonderworld figure is a close match for the one in Phantom Bullet but by no means identical.


Flash Gordon (February 4, 1934), art by Alex Raymond

So at this point nearly the same figure appears on two occasions. While this is not proof that the figure was swiped it certainly is strongly suggestive that it was. The proof came when I recently noticed a panel shown above from the newspaper syndication strip Flash Gordon. Simon was a big fan of Raymond’s Flash Gordon (as well as Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant). Other swipes by Simon from Flash Gordon have been previously reported (Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 4, Footnote) so the fact that Raymond is the source of the female figure is not totally unexpected. Still it is nice to have confirmation on a swipe that was already expected based on its repeated use. The biggest surprise is that date of the Raymond original, February 1934, six years prior to Simon’s swipe. It is possible that Simon and kept a copy over the years but it is also possible that he had picked up a reprint book. Raymond’s Flash Gordon was very popular at the time and reprints the publisher Whitman had released at least one volume in 1940.


Wonderworld Comics #13 (May 1940) art by Joe Simon
Flash Gordon (February 4, 1934) art by Alex Raymond
Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) art by Joe Simon

Above I have scaled the figures to the same dimensions for an earlier comparison. It can be seen how much of the damsel in the Wonderworld #13 cover was copied from Flash Gordon. Even much of the detailing of the folds and shadows of the woman’s dress are shared between the two. Not surprisingly the figure from the Phantom Bullet panel has less details but even in it some of the folds of the dress were copied from Raymond’s work. While the similarity of both of Simon’s version to the Flash Gordon original are too close for anything other than swiping, they are not so close to suggest anything other than a hand drawn copy. There was a time on the defunct Kirby-list where some claimed Simon used a copying device such as an overhead projector. They may all seem very similar but when I tried to overlay one drawing over another there were so many differences that the resulting overlay was too confusing. As an example compare the female’s buttocks. They are much longer in the two drawings by Simon than they are in the Raymond original. Such mistakes would are quite typical of hand drawn copies but would not be expected to be found in a copy made with the aid of a mechanical or optical device.


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

One of the first pieces of comic book art that Joe Simon ever did was the cover for Silver Streak #2 (January 1940). One can question the anatomical accuracy but nonetheless it is a great cover full of energy and interest. Again by itself there is nothing in the cover art that glaringly suggests the use of swipes. However familiarity with Simon’s art style suggests that the gun firing hero might, just might, be a swipe because of the amount of detail provided for the anatomy.


Blue Bolt #1 (June 1940) “The Human Lighting Streak” panel 4 of page 6, pencils, inks and letters by Joe Simon.

Not long afterwards Simon created Blue Bolt. Actually as I discussed in a previous post (In the Beginning, Chapter #1, Blue Bolt #1) the origin story for Blue Bolt may have been created earlier than its cover date indicates. The same female figure appears once again although under more general circumstances the green sorceress would not be described as a damsel in distress. But while usually a villainess she would periodically become in need of saving by Blue Bolt. Once more repetition suggests the use of a swipe.


Flash Gordon (April 22, 1934), art by Alex Raymond

Earlier I believed that this second female image was little more than an altered version of the first. However on reviewing the material in preparation for this post I concluded that there must be a different source for the second figure. However considering the great similarity between the two figures I believed that the Alex Raymond was also the source of the second swipe. I then did more searching and found the source of the second female figure in the Flash Gordon strip from April 22, 1934.


Blue Bolt #1 (June 1940) art by Joe Simon
Flash Gordon (February 4, 1934) art by Alex Raymond
Silver Streak #2 (January 1940) art by Joe Simon

AgainI have matched the original and the two swipes as closely as possible. While sharing some even rather small details the two Simon images are not exact copies of the Raymond original.

Flash Gordon is once again going to be reprinted this time by two publishers, IDW and Titan. IDW’s first volume is already out and Titan’s is scheduled for release in March. I am sure that many more sources for Simon’s swiping will be found in these volumes.

Footnotes:

* I find “swipe” to be an objectionable term because of the connotation of theft that it is based on. There is no similar expression in the fine arts where no one would describe Michelangelo’s Moses as being a swipe of Donatello’s St. John the Evangelist (as shown in Kirby Swipes from Simon). However the term swipe is so entrenched in discussions on comic books that it must be accepted.

In the Beginning, Chapter 9, More Moonlighting


Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt #7 continues the Simon and Kirby collaboration in its purist form, that is with Jack doing the pencils and Joe providing the inks. The only other feature from December that showed such a degree of collaboration was the Black Owl from Prize Comics #7 which I will discuss below. Both of these features were done while moonlighting. As we will see below the features created for their regular gig at Timely were not quite the same joint effort.

The enlarging World War II, romance, betrayal, spies and assassins are just some of the elements of this engaging story. Simon and Kirby were not satisfied with telling a simple confrontation between a hero and a villain they had to put in as much as possible. Ten pages hardly seemed enough to fit all that they included. It does not seem that Blue Bolt had any significant impact on the rest of the comic book industry of the day but it should have.


Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) Blue Bolt page 8 panel 1, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson (horizontally flipped image)

Sure Blue Bolt was science fiction but that did not mean that the hero always used a ray gun. Previously Kirby had a penchant for dramatic slugfests but now he began to take that art to a new level.

I present the above image in reverse…


Captain America #1 (March 1941), pencils by Jack Kirby

as I want to highlight that roll Blue Bolt played in laying the groundwork for a future hit. Captain America would appear on newsstands just three months later.


Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) The Black Owl, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon?, letters by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt was not the only moonlighting job that Simon and Kirby produced for December they also did Black Owl for Prize Comics #7. Joe and Jack would end up doing a Black Owl story for three issues which I discussed previously (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl). All three stories were reprinted in Titan’s “Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” (shameless plug). The Black Owl was not a Simon and Kirby creation and I really do not know much about previous appearances of the character.  But of course Simon and Kirby added their distinct touch if in nothing more than the story and art.


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

Howard Ferguson provided the lettering for the Black Owl story. I have previously provided the lettering samples for Ferguson’s Prize Comics #7 but I have since made a correction and some additions to it. A recap of the more useful features would seem in order. The most useful trait for identifying Ferguson lettering is the little vertical stroke attached to the upper end of the letter ‘C’. Another useful trait is the very shallow hook for the letter ‘J’ but unfortunately that is not a common letter. Some other traits are less useful but still should be noted particularly the way the upper portions of the letters ‘P’ and ‘R’ predominate over the lower portion. The letter ‘S’ is similarly often affected by a predominate upper portion but there is some variation in this feature. Another trait is found in some but not all ‘N’ is the manner that the left vertical stroke is sometimes tilted downward to the left somewhat. Perhaps not as useful than the letter ‘C’ but certainly easier spot is Ferguson’s special handling of the first letter in captions (examples are provided above). I believe all these traits (except the special ‘N’) were retained by Ferguson the rest of his career. I plan to review his entire career after I finish this serial post.

In is at this time that in my opinion Ferguson’s lettering has gone from good to great. This is not due to form of his letters which has changed only a little from previous work. Rather it steady and firm hand used and the spacing and legibility of the final results. Ferguson’s work is not mechanical but neither is it overly variable.

Besides an improvement in quality, the lettering differs from what was done not that long ago for Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940) by three changes.

I have previously pointed out the special handling of the first letter in captions. Such enlarged and specially formed letters are similar to the first letter of chapters often found in older books. The analogy is not perfect but it is close enough that I have decided to adopt the name given to them, drop capitals (or drop caps for short). Drop caps were used by other comic book letterers but Ferguson began using a special version where the letter is created a negative space in a black field such as the two final examples in the image above. I shall refer to these as negative drop caps. It was the introduction of negative drop caps that is one of the things that distinguish Prize #7 from Blue Bolt #5. But there appears to be two flavors of negative drop caps. The first that appeared in Blue Bolt #6 and the Terry Vance feature from Marvel Mystery #13 (both November 1940) had vertically oriented letters. Later in Blue Bolt #7, Prize Comics #7 and the Human Torch and the Terry Vance features from Marvel Mystery #14 (all December 1940) Ferguson introduced negative spot caps that were tilted.

The second change in Ferguson lettering concerns the letter ‘G’. In Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940) and earlier Howard constructed the ‘G’ with a small horizontal element on the left side of the bottom of the character and does not extend to the right. In Prize Comics #7 and the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #14 (both December 1940) Ferguson extends the small horizontal so that it appears on both the left and the right side. Interestingly Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) uses the old form of ‘G’ for most of the first page of the story while otherwise using the new ‘G’. The old ‘G’ is used in BB #5 (October), BB #6 (November) and the Terry Vance stories from MM #13 and #14 (November and December). As mentioned both forms of ‘G’ appear in BB #7 (December). Only the newer ‘G’ appears in the Human Torch of MM #14 (December).

The third change involves the form of the letters ‘I’ and ‘J’. Ferguson’s older form for these letters excluded any horizontal elements while the newer form did. While the letter ‘I’ is common enough, horizontal strokes are not supposed to be added when the letter is used with others to form a word. Unfortunately the isolated use of ‘I’ and the use of ‘J’ are not too common. The old form of ‘I’ and ‘J’ appear in BB #5 (October), BB #6, Terry Vance from MM #13 (November) and BB #7 (December) with the new forms used in PC #7 and the Terry Vance feature of MM #14 (both December).

With these three changes in Ferguson’s lettering it would seem possible to sort out the relative order that Ferguson lettered the work appearing in the months from October to December. Regrettably it turns out that no ordering is possible that will satisfy all three criteria for all cases. The few cases of lettering by Ferguson from later periods suggest that perhaps he was not consistent in his use of ‘G’. Hopefully this question will be answered as my review progresses.


Marvel Mystery #14 (December 1940) The Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby,

The Vision became a regular Marvel Mystery Comics features with his second appearance in MM #14 (December 1940). As in the previous issue, Kirby would provide pencils, inks and letters for the Vision story. Even today the Simon and Kirby Vision is a largely neglected feature and at that time it was very much overshadowed by the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. (This story was reprinted in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”, another shameless plug).

Lettering by Howard Ferguson also appeared in Marvel Mystery #14 in the Human Torch and the Terry Vance features.


Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940) the Human Torch “Introducing Toro”, pencils by Carl Burgos, lettering by Howard Ferguson

As mentioned in the previous chapter, Timely did not release a Red Raven #2 issue. Instead that titles mailing license was used instead for a new title, Human Torch Comics #2. That the first issue was numbered 2 has brought about confusion to the numbering of the title even back when it was released. I have added “(1)” to the issue number to indicate it is actually the first issue. The cover is dated as Fall 1940 which means there might be some question as to what month to assign it. However Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) and #14 (December 1940) have house advertisement for the Human Torch #2(1). The MM ads provides a release date of September 25. Normally comics are cover dated about two months after their release so it is seems appropriate to assign HT #2(1) to December.

This issue has been reprinted in the Golden Age Masterwork series. Unfortunately Marvel did a horrendous job re-creating it. I have discussed this previously (The Human Torch #2) but I feel I need to emphasize here that the reprint volume is useless for anything beyond a casual reading. It is simply not possible to use this reprint book to examine the art or lettering. Luckily I will be using scans from the original comic in my discussions here.


Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940) the Fiery Mask “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses”, pencils and inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson

The Fiery Mask was one of Simon’s earliest creations having first appeared in Daring Mystery #1 (January 1940, Daring Mystery and Joe Simon BK (Before Kirby)). Another artist drew the character for Daring Mystery #5 (June 1940) but Simon returned with Kirby’s help to provide the Fiery Mask for Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940). Simon worked on the Fiery Mask one last time for Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940). I periodically get asked, but I really feel this was a solo effort because I cannot find any sign that Kirby had anything to do with this Fiery Mask story, “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses”. Simon’s comic book art improved rapidly so that even though only a short period had past the art style for HT #2(1) Fiery Mask story shows it was definitely drawn when Simon became editor at Timely and was not some older inventoried story from when he first started working in comics. Still it would be nice to provide a more accurate date for the story as it theoretically have been done a few months earlier and inventoried or it could have been drawn later specifically for the HT #2(1) issue.

Fortunately the lettering Howard Ferguson did for the story may provide a clue. As mentioned before Ferguson’s work had been undergoing development during this period. The Fiery Mask story lacks negative drop caps and uses the older form of the letters ‘G’, ‘I’ and ‘J’. Therefore I believe it must have been done no later than the work for Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940). It likely was originally intended for Daring Mystery #7 which possibly was meant to be released in October or November but that publication of that issue was delayed until April 1941. Or alternatively it might have been meant for Red Raven Comics #2 which should have come out in October but that title got cancelled. But in any case the Fiery Mask story was done earlier than the Human Torch story in the same issue as that story was lettered by Ferguson but with the tilted negative drop caps, the new ‘I’ and ‘J’ and mostly using the new ‘G’ all of which suggests a December date.

In the Beginning, Chapter 8, A New Title


Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson and Joe Simon

Blue Bolt #6 is the second feature to include Simon and Kirby credits. Once again Kirby provides the pencils while Simon does the inking. Although it is not known who wrote the script, the story has the special Simon and Kirby quality that already was very different from the standard comic book fare of the day. Now the green sorceress is joined by Marto, a man with enlarged head and an atrophied body who uses a special mechanical device to overcome his physical limitations.


Famous Funnies #76 (November 1940) Lightnin’ and the Lone Rider, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Kirby seemed to have a fascination with advanced beings with large heads. The earliest prototype appeared in a western feature that Jack work on called Lightnin’ and the Lone Rider. Actually this feature had been appearing in Famous Funnies at the same time as Blue Bolt #6. The Lone Rider was initially developed as a syndication strip back in late 1938 to early 1939 (Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 1, Lighting and the Lone Ranger). However it appears Kirby returned to the feature sometime later. Exactly when is uncertain but I believe it was while Kirby was still working for Fox Comics (Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 3, Moonlighting). However based on the art style I believe it was done before Kirby started working with Joe Simon and therefore outside the current discussion. However the recent appearance of the large headed adversary in Famous Funnies may have inspired Kirby to create an updated version for Blue Bolt.


Tales of Suspense #94 (October 1967) pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Sam Rosen

It is surprising how some ideas seem to lay dormant for years before Kirby would return to them. If there was another appearance of the Marto character I do not recall it. But in 1967 Kirby returned to the theme when he created Modok. While the background stories were very different, the similarity between Marto and Modok is too great to be require much discussion.


Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940), letters by Howard Ferguson

The first six pages of the Blue Bolt feature were lettered by Howard Ferguson. The seventh page has some lettering by Ferguson but most of the page was lettered by Joe Simon. The style of the letters has not change at all from examples from the previous month. The use of circular or square shapes attached to the first letter of captions is also the same as what has been seen earlier. One new feature in Ferguson’s repertoire is the use of other abstract shapes with the first caption letter such as the oval and double square show above. The most interesting addition is the rendering of the letter as a negative space on a circular black field such as the ‘C’ and ‘M’ shown above. This simple but elegant design was the most effective design that Ferguson adopted. Unfortunately Ferguson had no control on how the colorist would handle it. When a separate color was added the letter would stand out. But without that special color addition the design becomes more abstract and harder to read as a letter. Unfortunately the colorist failed to apply a separate color to many of these negative letters in Blue Bolt #6.


Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940), letters by Joe Simon

Joe Simon did the lettering for most of page 7 and all of pages 8 to 10. Here Simon does a more careful job at lettering but the basic form of the letters remains the same. As mention previously the ‘W’ that Simon used is very helpful in spotting his work and while not quite as distinct his ‘M’ is useful as well. There still are occasional little elaborations that Simon uses like the ‘S’ and ‘R’ shown above. The lettering for page 9 seems particularly well done. Also found on that page are special first caption letters, something Simon normally did not do. While unusual for Simon, the use of open letters (which allow the addition of a color) was also done by other letterers. However Joe places one ‘B’ as a negative letter on a black circular field. This must have been a response to what Ferguson was doing in the same story. Simon’s design is not as abstract as Ferguson’s but it still an effective device.


Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) The Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

In the previous chapter I mentioned the unusual lack of Kirby art in the Timely comics for October. The one explanation I provided was that Kirby might have done some art for Red Raven #2 only it was never published due to the abrupt cancellation of that title. Here I will suggest another (but not necessarily conflicting) explanation. Kirby might have been busy creating a new feature as in this month Marvel Mystery #13 debuted “The Vision”. The pencils, inks and letters were all done by Kirby. The only thing that suggests that Simon was involved (other than as the editor) was the motif of the Vision being able to appear from smoke of any kind. This is similar to the power of the Flame, a Fox comics feature, who could transport using fire as a portal. While Kirby had worked for Fox Comics he had nothing to do with the Flame. Simon on the other hand was not only the editor for the comics that included the Flame but had also drew the character on some of the covers.

As I mentioned Jack did the lettering for the Vision story. Kirby’s lettering was unchanged from the last time we saw it (Red Raven #1, August 1940 see In the Beginning, Chapter 5). Ferguson provided lettering for the Terry Vance feature from MM #13 in a style that matches his work in Blue Bolt #6.